The past few years have seen full conviction for more gender equality in Nottingham’s gigging scene. Fan Club – the hosts of monthly, all-female line-up shows in some of the trendiest venues around the city – have a sacredly unapologetic way of making space for female communities in the predominantly male live music spaces that perpetuate tired, sexist stereotypes. A recent article by Kirsty Diaz on the punk rock ‘cool girl’ highlights how sexism in these spaces can be more insidious than the insult of the fan girl, or the female musician assumed to be too technically inept to manage her sound check. The live music space itself operates as a struggle for ownership of identity and credibility that isn't defined by gender.
Every year, there’s a growing number of high profile artists addressing these issues in the music industry, but UK Music and Diversity Survey results for 2017 continue to show a staggering gap between men and women, with particularly low representations of BAME populations. If the Women’s March earlier this year taught us anything, it was not that mainstream liberal feminism is alive and well, but that female community is important, necessary, and empowering only when it is inclusive and representative of many different voices.
We are incredibly lucky to see a dedicated and talented group of female promoters and musicians in Nottingham who are involved in diverse events that showcase and embrace all experiences of womanhood across social and racial boundaries. Their shows are often in collaboration with local, non-profit organisations and a perfect example of how female communities can be a way to engage different types of social action, by acting as a meeting point to exchange ideas and share perspectives.
Rattle are not for the faint-hearted. But, if you’re looking to branch out from your lad-rock comfort zone, do consider giving them a go. A percussion duo doesn’t always bring to mind a fastidious, edgy, intellectual symbiosis brought into the world via The Pet Shop Boys, but Theresa Wrigley and Katharine Eira Brown have proved that there’s a gap in the market for their unusual get up. The pair have gone from the fringes of Nottingham’s underground, experimental scenes to support slots with both Animal Collective and Julie Ruin at the end of last year.
No list of musical women from Nottingham is complete without mention of Harleighblu. We’ve crowned her the midlands “Queen of Soul”, and she’s got a stage presence that’s a combination of both mesmerising tenderness and sheer badassery. In November 2016, she dropped album Amorine in collaboration with LA producers Starkiller; an album that gave her a new platform of recognition as an innovative artist bringing a sci-fi update to old school soul. Harleighblu recently played a sold out show with D’Angelo at Jazz Café Camden, and will be headlining The Soundcrash Funk and Soul Weekender in May.
This five-piece are known for their loud, irresistibly fun throwbacks to some of the best grrrl sounds that came out of the nineties. Considering Babe Punch only started up in 2014, extensive touring and live shows have earned them a die-hard fan base of woke kids with body positivity zines practically splitting the seams of their backpacks. Catch them next playing with The Orielles and Cherry Hex at the Chameleon Arts Cafe in April. Bring glitter and your inner Tina Belcher.
This singer-songwriter is an effortless talent. Our Yaz was making tunes in her bedroom for time, before being encouraged to play in Notts live music night Acoustickle, where she turned heads with her stripped-down-yet-stirring vocal style. Lacey is one of Gilles Peterson’s Future Bubblers – an arts council-funded talent discovery project which earned her some much deserved attention. She’s since collaborated on some beautifully soulful electronica with producer Warren Xclnce, and performed with a number of rising artists, including Nottingham’s Harleighblu and production duo Congi. With an EP in the wings this year, Lacey is one to keep an eye out for. Check out this live performance of From a Lover at Nottingham Contemporary.
We’ve described Ronika as “disco-queen-in-chief”, “electropop princess”, “midlands Madonna”, and all of those things still apply. Following the success of pure eighties escapism Selectadisc, she’s back with some banging new material on Lose My Cool; a record that's bringing LA palm trees to the grey, nondescript skylines of London where she’s now based. The new record has less eighties teen-dream fandom vibes, and a decidedly more chilled out feel, with elements of funk and nineties r ‘n’ b influences. Our Ronika is so cool, she’s even turned down opportunities in order to keep creative control over her music and stay true to her DIY ethos. Be our mate, please.
If you’re looking for the ultimate good time feels, it will be in a cosy space with a laid-back acoustic set from Lisa Hendricks. The reggae/soul singer-songwriter was a finalist at Britain’s Got Reggae last year and has also played Future Sound of Nottingham and Nottingham World Music Festival with her fabulous backing band, Project-US. Her latest single, Long Distant Lover, is out now on iTunes.
Putin and the Dolphin
This duo are perfectly charming, despite the images of Russian bare-toothed, soviet-revivalist kamikaze dolphins you might conjure. The pitch perfect harmonies on songs like 21st Century Girls and the very obvious musical chemistry that resonates between two best friends is just the medicine you need for those grey days and lonely nights. The pair have just started recording a whole bunch of new songs for their first album, but here’s hoping they’ll continue to include their minimal acoustic cover of Once Dance in future sets.
This woman is a kaleidoscope of talent. A designer, illustrator, singer-songwriter, and choir director, heavily involved in the Nottingham Black Archives projects and the local spoken word performance collective, Mouthy Poets. Her poetry is fun, inventive, transcends boundaries of genre and expectation. Very much like The Gang Of Angels Choir she directs – an experimental acapella-style outfit who are known for their cover songs from a multitude of genres. Check out their cover of last year's Mercury prize nominee, Skepta.
You Want Fox
This pair are hard to ignore. Former members of The Smears – a Nottingham punk legacy who didn’t beat around the bush when it came to addressing sexism in the music industry – You Want Fox entered the scene with an agenda in 2015. Equal parts lipstick pouts and knife fights, they’re most aptly summed up as Be Your Own Pet meets Melvins. Their debut album, You Can’t Sit With Us packs a punch with tracks like Bad Girls and Winging It strutting some dirty bass lines, fuzzy garage punk vocals, and protest drums. Brand new single Liar Liar has just been featured on BBC Introducing.
After noticing a lack of multicultural events in the city, promoter Rastarella Falade decided to start Cultural Vibrations: a non-profit organisation with a powerful mission to break down social and racial barriers through music. Falade has been at the forefront of Black History Month, hosting a number of events that are focused on building bridges between communities. Interactive dance and music groups and Jamaican family cooking skills workshops form part of a History of Immigration project with YMCA Digital. Be sure to head down to Cultural Vibrations next acoustic event, celebrating Midlands women in music for International Women’s Day.