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Massive International Women's Day Celebration Set For The Royal Concert Hall

26 February 20 words: Addie Kenogbon
photos: Fabrice Gagos

Addie Kenogbon chats with Nina Smith as she shares her latest project, hosting a humongous choir belting out pop-diva classics, all raising funds for Nottingham Women’s Centre...

 

What could be better than an evening of the most iconic female power anthems? How about a whole evening of iconic female power anthems accompanied by an incredible 50-piece orchestra and performed by some of the city’s best female vocals in Nottingham’s breath-taking Royal Concert Hall?

To celebrate International Women’s Day, on 8 March, Notts is being treated to a special ‘Diva’ Concert hosted by Kemet FM’s Jackie P, internationally acclaimed local singer-songwriter Nina Smith and Nottingham’s very own Limelight Orchestra.

The glittering evening will feature performances from the Nottingham Women’s Centre choir, up and coming stars, Betsey Bircumshaw and Emily Makis and current Miss Drag UK, Aunty Ginger. With classic hits from some of the biggest female singers of the last 50 years, including the likes of Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Lizzo, it’s set to be an electric night. Proceeds will be going to the Nottingham Women’s Centre to fund the valuable work it does to help women gain the confidence and skills to achieve their full potential.

Ahead of the upcoming show, we caught up with co-host Nina Smith to find out a little bit more about why this event is so special to her and what’s in store for the night.

We also popped down to their rehearsals for some snaps in the run up to the show...

Can you tell us a little about your background?
I have been recording and performing music for about 10 years now. I started off at CRS studios in Sneinton and over the years have had several music releases. In the last two-to-three years, I have been focused on my youth development label called First Light based here in Nottingham. I currently have four great local artists on my roster, including Betsey Bircumshaw and Emily Makis who will both be performing during the Diva concert.

What can we expect from the upcoming evening and the performances?
It’s set to be a really exciting evening. There are some fantastic song choices and I’m hoping people will be up out of their seats dancing and really getting involved in the female energy in the room. Although the evening is a celebration of female empowerment, both men and women are welcome to come and celebrate with us during the evening too.  

A majority of the song choices are pumped up and passionate but there are a few slower, more emotional numbers too so it should make for a really cool evening. It’ll also feature an exciting performance from the newly formed Nottingham Women’s Centre choir which has been set up to help women find their voices. It’ll be great to see their very first performance on a big stage.

Betsey Bircumshaw, part of Nina Smith's 'First Light' label will be performing with the orchestra. Photo credit: Fabrice Gagos

How did you get involved with hosting this event?
I met Paul Murphy, the musical director of the Limelight Orchestra, back in 2012 when he hosted Nottingham Rocks at the Theatre Royal back in 2013. There I performed along with similar local acts and the early beginnings of the Limelight Orchestra (before it was the big 50-piece orchestra we know it to be today). It was such a fantastic night that Paul felt more events should continue. 

Why is this event so important to you?
I’m all for female empowerment especially through music and some of the music Paul said he'd want to cover during the evening I really loved, like Kylie Minogue, Diana Ross and even the Spice Girls. Such acts played an important part in my music journey growing up and I wanted to be a part of celebrating that but to be honest, I would have gone anyway as a fan as I really wanted to see a huge orchestra play some of the most popular classics. It’s such a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day, with some of the songs promoting strong messages of solidarity and female empowerment which I think is so important.

There are three elements to the celebrations. The show is about introducing a few up and coming local female voices to the city, celebrating the best diva personalities within music and of course, supporting the Nottingham Women’s Centre and the work they do, with proceeds from ticket sales going directly to them.

Emily Makis at rehearsals for the DIVA concert. Photo credit: Fabrice Gagos

Do you think more needs to be done to get women and young girls involved in music?
Yes, I think more can be done to get young females involved as within music there are a lot of assumed roles. If a young girl goes into a studio it’s assumed she's a singer songwriter, but within this industry there is a massive shortage of female engineers and producers. For some reason young females think they only fit into one box which is to be a singer / performer but there are so many other roles they can access.

This can be seen in the line-ups of many of the major festivals too where there is often a big shortage of female artists being included on the larger stages. There’s an argument that there aren’t enough female artists to fill those slots but I believe there are, organisers just need to find them and give them that platform.

What do you think about the Nottingham music scene as a whole?
The Nottingham music scene is thriving and is the best it’s ever been. The support from those within the scene is really inspiring and there are lots of great opportunities for collaborations and events. There’s also no shortage of support for female artists here, and that’s something I’m proud to see we’re doing so well.

Tell us more about the Nottingham Women's Centre and your involvement with it...
Nottingham Women’s Centre is a brilliant charity that has been around for over 40 years. It offers services and support to women in the city, helping them gain the confidence and skills they need to achieve their full potential in a safe and supportive environment, so it was the perfect fit for an evening of female celebration and empowerment.

 The team over at the Women’s Centre also offers support with mental health and for women offenders, women seeking asylum, facing extreme poverty or escaping abuse. It’s really wonderful to be able to show our support for such an excellent local cause.

To find out more about the Nottingham Women’s Centre, visit www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com.

DIVA concert takes place at The Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 8 March.

Info and tickets.

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