Women are faced with discrimination in many different cultures and societies. In this year when Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, events like the Female Takeover grow in even more significance than in previous years.
Some would say that compared to the lives of women in countries such as Pakistan, where Malala is from, British women have nothing to complain about. But I have lost jobs to men with less experience or skills (it ticks a box labelled equality), and struggled to list 5 female local artists on the spot.
How embarrassed I was when I met Yssi Wombwell, a local singer/songwriter, on a visit to the Female Takeover. As female members of Browse Magazine, with an office based in the maze that is The Warren, Megan and I were grateful to be invited into the workshops and to see what was being offered to the young people; a category neither of us fit into anymore.
Amidst interviews with guest tutors Yssi, Laila, Donna and Sarah, we spoke with the young women who were attending the selection of workshops. We watched them pick up the microphone or the drumsticks for the first time, and develop their skills in preparation for the Final Performance on the Friday. We discussed with them the discrimination they had faced, and the ways in which to overcome this. Megan was able to evaluate how she has overcome confidence issues when performing live, explaining how she had to demonstrate enthusiasm when all the while wishing she had a guitar she could hide behind. As the less musically gifted of the two, I discussed how confidence has been crucial in both my teaching career and recent journalistic endeavours. Interviewing one person or a band of six is equally terrifying, as is standing before a classroom of 30 or more teenage faces.
I hope that we were able to show that the skills developed in these workshops are essential in all walks of life, and in whatever occupational path you take.
A project aiming to tackle the inequalities forced upon women aspiring to be involved in the music industry, the performance did not separate the male from the female. The audience was an even mix of gender, and there was no negativity. There was an aura of understanding and acceptance, outlined by the enthusiasm which those ready to perform had conjured.
Conversation from a collection of young people and volunteers filled the café of The Warren, as we sipped cups of tea and hid from the cold, damp weather outside. I sat beside one young girl who talked to me about the cost of living in the city centre, and opposite a young mother and her less than cheery baby. Laila and Yssi, stood before the stage chatting about work and boyfriends, attempts to quit smoking and general life topics. No woman was above another woman, regardless of confidence, occupation or role within the Takeover.
And so when it was time, Laila, dressed in brightly coloured leggings with what I think was a unicorn on one leg, stepped up from the crowd and started the event. Her natural charisma and the bond she has forged with so many of the young women, created a natural quiet as Yssi and Emily stepped up to perform first. Emily on vocals an Yssi playing guitar, they played their own version of Etta James’ ‘At Last’. The line “a dream that I call my own” summed up the efforts of The Warren and their guest tutors. Music is a dream so many people have, and for so many women it feels lost in the expectation to put motherhood first or to let the guys stand at the front of the stage.
For the following hour or so, I made notes and took photographs of the different singers and performers. Whether they were voicing their own lyrics or someone else’s, the message was strong: “Go on and try to tear me down … I will be rising from the ground”.
No matter what we face, as women we have to find strength in each other. Society has been embedded with an outdated view of women. The only way to break down the barriers, is to rise from the ground and knock them down together.
You can read my full review of the Final Performance as well as bio’s on the guest tutors in next week’s issue of Browse Magazine Hull.