Expected Women’s History Museum Unveiled As Tribute To Jack The Ripper (For Parallel Magazine)

Earlier this week, feminist societies and women’s groups but also, understandably, the general public, were outraged to find that a proposed museum celebrating the historical women of East London and the suffragette movement was opened as an establishment dedicated to the life and crimes of Jack the Ripper. Not only were Londoners disappointed at the failure to celebrate the work of women, who are so rarely represented historically, but this “sick joke” actually replaced those plans with a venue commemorating a man who serial murdered female sex workers.

The site, just a few hundred metres from the Tower of London, was referenced in planning permission paperwork as “the only dedicated resource in the East End to women’s history” and approved by Tower Hamlets council earlier this year. So local residents were clueless about the change of plan until the second the front of the building was unveiled. Details of planning documents created last July actually included pictures of suffragettes and 1970s Asian women campaigning against racial murders around Brick Lane. Contracts stated “The museum will recognise and celebrate the women of the East End who have shaped history, telling the story of how they have been instrumental in changing society. It will analyse the social, political and domestic experience from the Victorian period to the present day.” The fact that this drastic change was not even mentioned up until the point of unveiling, suggests that even the owner and contractors were aware of firstly the controversy of their turnaround and secondly, the inevitable backlash that would develop. People have taken to Facebook and Twitter to express their anger and it has been reported that the Tower Hamlets mayor will boycott the museum from when it opens next Tuesday.

Film maker and Cable Street resident Julian Cole was quoted by The Guardian summarising the situation; “You propose a museum celebrating the achievements of women and then it turns out to be a museum celebrating London’s most notorious murderer of women. I don’t have any objections to a Jack the Ripper museum, it’s a commercial enterprise like the London Dungeon and Jack the Ripper walking tours, but what I’m miffed about is the fact that we seem to have been completely deceived, in a way that is rather unpleasant.” And his final comment, describing the development as “unpleasant” is particularly poignant, not only is it unpleasant to replace a much needed celebration of female lives with the celebration of violence against female sex workers, but it actually insults and degrades women.

Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, a former diversity chief at Google and the man behind this venture, is blatantly telling women that the brutal murder of female sex workers is far more relevant and interesting than their stories and successes. London is packed with walks, tours, exhibitions, museums and general references to Jack the Ripper, Google alone can tell you his victims have provided half of the city’s tourist attractions. But if you wish to find an attraction celebrating or informing tourists on the female history of London, you may have your work cut out. An entire museum, small as it may have been, dedicated to the lives of East London women and the suffragette movement would have been the first of its kind. Considering how forcefully women have been pushed out of history, their stories left unrecorded and their feats quashed and deemed insignificant, it would have been a significant and necessary step forward into a present day that is beginning to understand the concerns and needs of marginalised genders.

Jemima Broadbridge, a London campaigner, pointed out that the Cable Street area is actually home to many activist groups and if anything “is known for Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens not Jack the Ripper.” Resident Jenni Boswell-Jones added “I don’t think anybody in the area is against enterprise and somebody doing something new and exciting, but Jack the Ripper has nothing to do with Cable Street. Cable Street was the home of the anti-fascist march in 1936, that’s what it’s known for. The Ripper murders took place on Batty Street and the Spitalfields area.” We live in an era when activists are trying more than ever to reduce the encouragement of male violence. The media, including video games and films but also general misogynistic portrayal of women, is working against these groups and the continuous rise of lad culture has only added to a twisted perception of women. Women who are associated with sex work, or even those who are simply more sexually active than others and considered ‘easy’ or slut-shamed, are somehow perceived by patriarchal standards and rape culture as subhuman. People are led to believe that these women are inviting violence and degradation by the distortion of their portrayal within our society. So it follows that the least a London businessman can do is not clutch desperately at straws in the tourism industry and drag an unpleasant and exhausted piece of history from its geographical origins to an entirely irrelevant location for the sake of capital.

To make matters worse, Palmer-Edgecumbe attempted to excuse himself by claiming the museum would operate from the perspective of Jack the Ripper’s victims, explaining “It is absolutely not celebrating the crimes of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place.” He basically decided against plans to celebrate the massively unrepresented history of London women, replaced these plans with a celebration of gender and sex based violence before trying to justify it with the ultimate example of victim blaming. The fascination with crimes like this and the profit they allow creates a celebration of the most unpleasant parts of our history and gives longevity to misogyny and gender based violence. This is made even worse by the fact that victims of crimes like this are considered wholly or even partially to blame when that is never a valid point. The people who are working to modernise our society in such a way that women and sex workers in particular are no longer degraded in this way, are being held back by this focus on capitalism and androcentrism rather than historical representation.

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jul/29/museum-billed-as-celebration-of-london-women-opens-as-jack-the-ripper-exhibit – For more information on the proceedings of the museum.

Girlcon 2015 (for Parallel Magazine)

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Last weekend (25th-26th July) London’s first Girlcon took place. It’s organisers (Anna Hill and Kara Stanton) aimed to create a space for positive discussion surrounding gender-based issues and arranged a programme of events from panels to film screenings. The event was aimed at ‘young women, teenage girls and non-binary folk’ with the intent of ‘building a supportive community and having fun’ and took place at the May Day Rooms on Fleet Street. Girlcon included workshops on poetry and self-care and talks from amazing people like Soofiya Andry who recently launched a ‘zine on periods with the goal of breaking taboo and educating people. Panel topics ranged from girls in literature and black feminism to Youtube and ‘selfies’.

Considering how much people of marginalised genders are pushed aside, it’s incredibly important that spaces like this are provided from which people can empower and inspire each other whilst working to eradicate social injustice through activism. This is particularly true for the younger generation, who in not yet being at university or in work and their own space, may find it even more difficult to seek a community in which they can feel comfortable. Aiming Girlcon at younger girls and non-binary people and providing panels which cover topics that are acutely relevant to this demographic, just increases its value even further.

The values and goals of the event, as listed on their website, certainly encompass this ethos, pointing out that ‘as girls we are often pitted against each other’ creating competition, when in reality we need to support each other against pressing feminist issues. Providing a specific code of conduct for attendees to read beforehand allowed the organisers to create a space for ‘frank and informative discussion’ about issues that affect our everyday lives, in a non-academic format. Girlcon promoted inclusion and encouragement of creativity, with female fronted music performances each evening as well as craft based workshops to help young people express themselves and relax.

The event has been mentioned all over social media in the last week with people reporting that it was a roaring success. It seems to have had the desired effect of encouraging young girls and non-binary people to feel comfortable with their gender and sexuality, whilst providing a friendly and supportive community where people made friends for life. Twitter users have described the weekend as ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘an insanely happy, mutually supportive place’, asking friends they made there to add them on Tumblr and Snapchat.

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H Beverley of Royal Holloway’s Feminism Society and subsequent #Uglygirlsclub member, was invited to speak on the activism panel and selfies panel as well as taking part in the ‘Big Sisters’ event to offer advice on sexuality and sex. As I was so disappointed to be unable to attend Girlcon, they were kind enough to let me quiz them on the event in order to get a proper idea of what sort of space it was.

H at Girlcon
H at Girlcon

How much did you enjoy Girlcon and did it act as a good space to meet a variety of interesting people?

 It was brilliant! GirlCon was one of the loveliest and safest spaces I have ever been in. I met so many kind and interesting people, along with seeing lots of friends. The space was so comfortable that everybody quickly felt like they were old friends.

 Can you give a brief explanation of the event and its aim?

GirlCon was an event that was about celebrating young women and non-binary people and building a safe and supportive community. The idea for the event came from the novel Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Do you think the organisers will hold it again next year?

I hope they do and I would certainly be willing to help them to try and make this event be possible again.

Can you give some examples of the panels they run? Which panels did you speak on?

There were panels on Self-Care, Poetry, Black Feminism, Make-up, Zines, Witches, Fangirls, Religion and Body Positivity. I spoke on the panels about Activism and Selfies and I was also one of the “Big Sisters” that gave advice on sex and sexuality.

Can you give a brief summary of the topics covered on each one?

On the Activism panel we talked about what it is like to be a young woman in activist spaces and the perception that online activism is “slacktivism” which of course we all thought was rubbish. On the Selfies panel we talked about how selfies had shaped our perceptions of identities and our relationships with our bodies.

Would you recommend the event to people, who would you recommend it to most and why?

 It was a really fulfilling experience. I definitely would recommend this event to anybody that had the chance to go to this or something like it. There was so much love and solidarity from everybody there it was beautiful.

Contact at http://g1rlcon.tumblr.com/ or grrrlcon@gmail.com

Women’s Equality Party Will Field Candidates In Next Year’s Assembly Elections

“We expect to be fielding candidates in next year’s Welsh assembly elections.” Newly elected leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker is feeling determined and confident after telling BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement that the party would be taking a non-partisan approach to elections.

Sophie Walker, new leader of the Women's Equality Party.
Sophie Walker, new leader of the Women’s Equality Party.

“We will work with other political parties where they want to work with us and, where we see that other political parties are adopting our goals and taking on our agenda, then we would consider joint candidacies with them.”

The feminist group is now in its fourth month of existence after it was created by broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and journalist Catherine Mayer. It is the fastest growing political party in Britain, having already gained interest from 30,000 people in the UK.

Sandi Toksvig, co-founder of the party.
Sandi Toksvig, co-founder of the party.

Ms Walker pointed out, “We’ve picked the perfect time to launch a political party because of the number of proportional representation elections coming up in the spring.” She went on to explain that the party is in the early stages of planning its strategies moving forward and is discussing with its members which seats to target.

The party held its first meeting back in June, after which Helen Walbey, chair of the Cardiff and Valleys branch, commented that it is not a “single-issue party”. She also shared with the public the ethos of the Women’s Equality Party by pointing out that research has shown “when women have equality, everybody in society does better.”

All party leaders appear very positive, stating that they intend to field candidates in the coming year and believe they have a good chance. This should form a strong grounding going into 2020 and as Sophie Walker concluded “who knows what the political field is going to look like by then”.

#LiveFearless with Bodyform

Live Fearless Ribbon

This year Bodyform re-launched its #LiveFearless competition which aims to bring women together by inviting them to share what scares them, and what empowers them to overcome those fears. Royal Holloway University London (RHUL) Feminism Society is excited by the opportunity to get involved and asked for self-defining women to take part in a video discussing what fearlessness really means.

A group of us got together to chat about what Live Fearless means to us individually and the conversation that grew was both inspiring and fascinating. What stood out most was that each of us experienced varying levels of fear and needed the necessary courage to overcome it.

As students we are intensely familiar with nerves, anxiety and the major consequences these can have on a person’s life, given the pressure that young people are put under in relation to career aspirations and academic success, amongst other things. At the same time, we are lucky enough to have grown up without facing the fears experienced by young women living in countries at war, or in cultures where they have limited rights and far less freedom than us.

The conclusion we came to is this:

Fearlessness is a relative concept.

We talked about times when just getting out of bed in the morning feels like a major achievement, or when minor things like hurtful comments from other people or a fear of being judged seem to control your entire life. Each of us have our personal battles and coping mechanisms. By talking openly and candidly about them we’re hoping to support Bodyform in a bid to encourage women to take inspiration from each other and share their own stories of facing their fears – whatever that means to them.

The campaign asks women to share a picture or video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a short caption summarising their story. The comfort we found purely through making this video and confiding in each other has helped begin to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and other types of anxiety or fear by encouraging women to support rather than criticise each other.

We want to create a sense of community similar to the incredible worldwide support we received for our recent #UglyGirlsClub project. It’s crucial that we maintain this community, using the modern power of social media to bring us together and help each other through rough times.

I’m personally a big fan of the #LiveFearless campaign and what it stands for. Having struggled with anxiety since my first year of university and knowing so many people with similar experiences, I think it’s a brilliant way to help women take strength from each other and find the courage they deserve.

Bodyform’s Live Fearless campaign is a fun and engaging campaign with a very important message, that could become something much bigger and help make fewer people feel alone in their fears.

Watch our video below and share your own story with Bodyform at http://bit.ly/1Ruc1aA to help create an online community of inspired women and become part of a fantastic cause. Upload a picture or video of your fearless moment for the chance to win the grand prize Trip Around the World. Plus, weekly £100 ASOS vouchers can be won. You can also post your entry to Twitter with #LiveFearless and @bodyformUK.

Bodyform LogoProduct of the year logoBodyform Roll.Press.Go pack shot

So What’s The Deal With Record Store Day?

Researching this piece was particularly interesting for me as I’d actually not heard of Record Store Day until it crept up on me and covered my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Held this year on April 18th, I was surprised to find it’s an annual occurrence and began in 2007, founded by a group of record storeowners. As someone who is massively into music (you may have guessed from the ‘Music Editor’ title), often gets teased for being ‘that hipster that owns a record player’ and still cries soft tears of despair when I remember my Ipod classic got stolen, I’m thrilled to hear that a day of promotion for record sales exists. The day includes live performance from various artists and exclusive releases of limited edition vinyl and CDs. Each record store that gets involves basically holds a party, celebrating the culture of music and bringing together likeminded people. Marc Fayd’Herbe, Sales Manager of Universal Music described Record Store Day as “the single best thing that has ever happened” for independent record shops.

The event is immensely popular, with the Facebook community page currently capturing 336000 followers and a huge number of major artists getting involved. James Bay tweeted ‘Finally getting round to listening to all my RecordStoreSay buys! New clear vinyl @Alabama_Shakes sounding sweet!’ and Rolling Stone were live tweeting the event including a mention of Foo Fighters ‘turning Ohio Strip Mall into an intimate stadium’. Foo Fighters fans weren’t the only ones to experience the thrill of a special intimate performance, with crowds outside Schoolkids Records in North Carolina waiting hours in advance for an exclusive All Time Low appearance. #RSD2015 actually became number one trending hashtag in the UK, as radio stations, music magazines and record companies got the word out alongside individuals and artists. The Telegraph even included Record Store Day in an article ‘9 Great Things To Do This Weekend’.

London’s biggest independent record store ‘Rough Trade East’ which I have a feeling I’ve been to before as an excitable fifteen year old, reported having people camp outside the night before, Noreen McShane, five hundred customers greeted the store’s manager as she went to open up! Some of the first collectables to sell out were Faster John Misty picture disc, Mumford and Son’s 7-inch and The 1975, with older artists like Bruce Springsteen also getting significant attention. Rae Morris even popped down to the store to pick up a Denai Moore vinyl. Exclusive releases for the event this year include; A red vinyl edition of Johnny Cash live in Prague, Bob Dylan – The Basement Tapes, Foo Fighters – Songs From The Laundry Room and The Doors – Strange Days. But top place on the Record Store Day sales chart went to Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes, closely followed by No Life Til Leather by Metallica.

Overall I am freakishly excited to find out about such a brilliant occasion albeit mourning the fact I missed out a bit this year, not only did one of my favourite new bands, Twenty One Pilots, release three live tracks for the event, but the ability of music to bring people together is really being celebrated. It’s great to know that the feeling behind music is being cultivated, with the organisers of the day reinforcing that they ‘encourage people to use Record Store Day as a way to say thank you to each other: customers to record store employees, record store folks to customers’. Not only is it definitely worth pencilling the third Saturday of April into every year’s calendar, but people should also make sure to check out the new ‘official vinyl chart’ which has been introduced on the back of the success of this year’s Record Store Day. This is massively good news for anyone, like me, who is keen to maintain the fantastic culture surrounding music, that predates the digital age.

http://www.recordstoreday.com/

http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/record-store-chart/

All a Woman Needs to Make a Difference is a National Insurance Number.

Christabel Pankhurst was four years older than me when she interrupted a Liberal Party meeting to shout about the voting rights of women. Yet at twenty years old, it’s taken until the last six months for me to develop a genuine interest in politics. I remember asking my Dad to explain things to me during the last general election, intent on sounding infinitely more sophisticated if I could reel off phrases like ‘hung-parliament’ or ‘welfare state’. Since then I’ve spent nearly three years at a university that helped foster the women’s suffrage movement, accidentally launched an international feminist campaign and experienced the politically-fuelled chaos of twitter warfare. Looking back, these were probably pretty strong ingredients to convert me from an ignorant young person who pays no attention to the political sphere. My recent education has not only come just in time but has also made me determined to see more young and particularly female voters at the polls this May.

As part of Women’s History Month (March), I’ve also been lucky enough to host Professor June Purvis and Kate Willoughby at Royal Holloway. The difference between the talks given to us by these two women, is what struck me as particularly powerful. June is a renowned historian specialising in research on women’s suffrage, having written a critically acclaimed biography of Emmeline Pankhurst. Speaking to a room of students at Royal Holloway of all places, she still managed to stun us with a fabulously articulate hour-long education on the suffragette movement. You can’t help but find your emotions stirred, especially as a privileged, white woman in modern day England, when hearing about individuals like Kitty Marion who was force fed 332 times until she begged for poison. Force-feeding was one of the most horrific things suffragettes experienced, being arrested even for peaceful protest and hunger striking in prison as an attempt to continue the fight. When I asked June to sum up why it’s important for young women to vote, she said this; ‘Young women should vote in the forthcoming general election since votes for women was hard won, particularly by the suffragettes who endured violence, even when engaging in peaceful political protest, and the torture of being forcibly fed when on hunger strike for their political rights.  To not vote is to say to all those women who campaigned so hard for the political rights we enjoy today that their efforts do not matter. They do matter. We women must make our democratic voice heard, through the ballot box.’

But as if June’s talk in itself wasn’t moving enough, about two weeks after our education on the hardships suffragettes experienced, we listened to Kate Willoughby, the founder of the immensely popular #Emilymatters campaign. The campaign has nearly two thousand followers on twitter, with support from the House of Commons and Charities like Women’s Aid; Kate works incredibly hard to encourage young people and particularly women to vote and the fact that her work is so necessary says everything. You’d really think, that considering the many turbulent years of campaigning for women’s suffrage, it wouldn’t be so hard to get female votes today. When asked the same question as I asked June, her response was this: “Don’t let anyone silence you or make you feel that your vote doesn’t matter. It does. Suffragette Emily Davison was once a student like you. She believed, as I do, that you have every right to be heard, to be equal. Our democracy is far from perfect, but if you decide not to vote, it won’t get any better, in fact it will only get worse. By registering online and then voting, not only will you be doing Emily proud, you’ll also send a message loud and clear to the next government that young women matter. And the more of you who vote, the more that government will have to listen. #Votingmatters”. It was enormously inspiring to see such passionate belief in the fact that the vote of today’s women is crucial, from a respected and well known historian and the founder of a very current campaign. It told me everything, to see that so much hard work went into securing the vote, but work is still necessary to sustain its power.

A personal example for me is my sister, who is within voting age but wasn’t even aware of how to register, in fact I’ve noticed that unless you are involved in a student environment it’s pretty hard to find the information you need. Universities including my own have launched #votebecause and other campaigns to encourage young people to vote, as only forty four percent of people aged eighteen to twenty-four vote compared to a massive seventy-six percent of people aged sixty-five and above. This is absolutely horrifying considering how important the younger voice is and how much it gets ignored, particularly with constant campaigning against education cuts and rising tuition fees. But what is even more astounding is the enormous gap that still exists between male and female voters with only thirty-nine percent of young women voting in the last general election compared to a solid fifty percent of young men. Women are massively underrepresented in parliament and very few female candidates stand, so it’s easy to see why the younger female generation are still put off, with the political world remaining male dominated and uninviting. The Telegraph published an article back in January, which even suggested the gender gap is widening when it comes to general elections, which is frankly terrifying as we near the one hundred year mark of having the vote. If you identify as a woman and are not yet sure whether to vote in the forthcoming elections, I’d recommend taking a moment to consider not only those who died and/or endured horrific torture to gain us the vote, but also the women of countries like Iraq who risk their lives by posting their ballots. What I’ve learnt in the last six months is how incredibly lucky I am to have the opportunity to vote and do so safely. The bottom line is, if women don’t vote, they can’t expect to be represented in politics or have a say in the future of our country. There are many issues specific to women, for example pay gaps, childcare, sexual harassment, FGM, domestic violence or frequency and mistreatment of rape cases, which will not be addressed unless women are politically active to push them as priorities. This is why the suffragettes valued the vote higher than their own dignity, because these problems must be acknowledged and because women are just as worthy of representation as men. It’s 2015 and almost a century since we secured the vote, it’s our job to make sure their work wasn’t in vain and to ensure that attention is paid to inequality.

So in light of what I’ve learnt this year here is a little more information;

As long as you know your national insurance number it takes five minutes maximum to register to vote here – https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (You have until the 20th of April).

This is a BBC article on where parties stand on key issues based on manifestos: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29642613.

If you trust it, this is the political compass test that a lot of people have used to make themselves more aware of where they stand and who they align most with: https://www.politicalcompass.org/test.

UKFeminista also produced these wonderful info-graphics on women’s issues in politics: http://votefeminist.ukfeminista.org.uk/toolkit/.

And of course the page for #Emilymatters by Kate Willougby which is a really helpful campaign, Kate is also particularly helpful if you need anymore information:

Qtrax – The New Company Trying to Give Music Away for Free.

Illegal downloading of music is somehow mildly taboo in society as a whole, which seems odd to me given that between groups of friends, young people especially, everyone I know is doing it. We are all constantly looking for the easiest and cheapest way to access music, as it’s a huge entertainment factor in our lives that appeals to almost everyone. Itunes used to be the main contender; gradually knocking out programmes like Napster, which The Guardian claims, started the ‘music revolution’ despite being created by two teenage boys. Despite the emergence of illegal sites like LimeWire and Legal ones like Spotify, Itunes is yet to die a solid death, probably down to the fact it’s designed specifically for Ipods and so many people who own one stick with the simplest process. Itunes also allows the user to actually own the file, transfer it to other locations, copy it and send it to others. Spotify is slightly flawed in that when you download tracks you can only play them on that programme and no others. Although it’s highly popular, particularly having recently set up a connection between phones and laptops to play your saved lists anywhere, Spotify remains a product that you have to pay a subscription to in order to download tracks. It has also been criticised frequently by artists complaining that the site reduces the value of music and how much people can earn for their work. But a new company is beginning to get noticed, claiming to ‘give away music for free’ whilst allowing artists to make a satisfying amount from their material. If someone could actually pull off something that difficult, it would be incredibly successful!

Qtrax was actually created in around 2006 but is experiencing a comeback having signed new contracts so is starting to make more of an appearance in the media and has only just been reviewed by The Telegraph. Its manifesto is centred on providing free music and downloads to the consumer but with a huge focus on fair profit for the artist – something that Spotify has experienced problems with. Taylor Swift for example, a hugely recognised artist, recently removed all music from Spotify and publicly announced her refusal to work with them based on the lack of profit being made from music. If Qtrax can actually pull off their claims, they could have an enormous advantage over Spotify and Itunes.

I decided to try out Qtrax for myself in order to review it authentically but before I’d even started downloading it I was faced with the big issue that it’s not yet compatible with OSX meaning only Windows users can download the programme. Already the company are eliminating a massive target audience, although I assume it’s a work in progress, similarly, their website mentioned Apple Store and Play Store apps that are to be released supposedly within the first quarter of 2015. Spotify is already very easy to access, both for listening to and downloading music on your smart phone, so if Qtrax genuinely gets round to following up it’s plans it would instantly become more accessibly to a larger audience.

The website, I have to admit I was seriously impressed by, having recently attended a workshop day on social media and website building in businesses a lot of simple but brilliantly effective elements jumped out at me. The site is a vibrant shade of purple so let’s be honest, grabs the attention straight away, it’s funny that if you go to any of the other pages they’re quite plain, whereas the homepage works really well – it’s obvious they just want to catch the attention and initially draw people in, as most companies would. It’s incredibly clear and well laid out, the font is large and key words are particularly identifiable with no chunks of text – reminding me of tips the careers service gave me on CV writing when I flailed ineptly at them. I’d swear the Qtrax site repeats the word ‘FREE’ about fifty times and the aims that the company prides itself on so much are very obviously highlighted in a little scroll shaped text box like a biblical manuscript. The company’s philosophy is ‘Artists and Songwriters need to be much better compensated for creating the music that millions enjoy’. Which in my opinion sounds great! – Particularly if they can provide free downloadable music whilst doing it. Their plan is to allocate artists an Equity Stake, which technically makes them co-owners of the business and sharers of any profit.

As for the actual programme, which I asked my housemate to download seeing as I have a Macbook, we both agreed the layout is nicer than Spotify, similar to the website, clear and easy to use, bright and attractive, it’s generally just a good experience. Its main downfall was the lack of tracks available; some more obscure artists were on there but it seemed to contain only half of the work of most, which was a disappointment. But if they are in the process of building up it’s efficiency, this could be just a short-term problem. We were sat with another friend whilst exploring it and it was interesting to find each of the three of us had a very different prediction for the future of Qtrax, taking bets on where it would be in six months time. Jack suggested it would be impossible to tell how well it will do until Spotify make some sort of comeback move to bounce back against Qtrax’s claims and reinstate itself as the top contender. Cassie was quite against it, insisting that the business model was flawed and could only make headway if the plans change, as they can’t sustain giving away music for free whilst appeasing artists. Personally, having read so much recently about the flaws beginning to emerge in Spotify, I can’t help feeling it could be on the way out, leaving a prime space for a new company, with careful development and if they can get artists on board and make enough money through advertising, I think it has potential.

It’ll be interesting to see how Qtrax expands over the next six months or so and who’s verdict was closest, but I definitely recommend checking it out even just for a few free tracks! http://www.qtrax.com/

 

The women behind the history of Rock

Today it is becoming more and more accepted for women to play just as much of a part as men in any musical genre (although I hasten to add it is still a work in progress particularly in areas like rock, dubstep, house, rap etc). However, as with most things, women had to majorly persevere to even begin to come close to this acceptance. One of the most eye opening reads of my life in terms of women and the music industry was the biography of the one and only, Suzi Quatro – a pioneer of female rock music. Quatro described the beginnings of her career, the utter disbelief of an audience faced with a female led rock band and being pelted with tomatoes or similar at various venues as well as being escorted out by three bouncers purely for her own safety at the end of a night.

What struck me most was that despite this (amongst other abuse and slamming she experienced) and bearing in mind she was as young as sixteen when she started out, she never seemed disheartened. Her determination to lead women into a musical revolution in an uptight sixties/seventies era is a fantastic inspiration and a perfect role model for young female artists heading for a more ‘masculine’ genre in our generation. Quatro is just one fine example of a woman who helped shape the music industry, I feel it’s incredibly important to once in a while look back and pay our respects to the greats. These are my top six in no particular order;

Pat Benatar

The first female artist to play on MTV, Benatar won four Grammys and during the eighties achieved two Multi-Platinum albums, five Platinum albums and three Gold albums as well as fifteen top fourty singles. Her most well known track is probably ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’ – later covered by Joan Jett. In her 2010 memoir she wrote  “For every day since I was old enough to think, I’ve considered myself a feminist … It’s empowering to watch and to know that, perhaps in some way, I made the hard path [women] have to walk just a little bit easier.”

Chrissie Hynde

Hynde has been the only constant member of ‘The Pretenders’, and collaborated on two number ones including ‘I got you babe’ with UB40. Coming from Ohio Valley, she moved to London during the seventies just in time to partake in the emerging Punk scene. The Pretenders’ hits included ‘Brass in Pocket’ and ‘Back on the Chain Gang’.

Joan Jett

Joan is often seen as the most well known ‘queen of rock’, her band ‘Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ released a number one ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ as well as other popular tracks like ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ and ‘Crimson and Clover’. She has had three Platinum or Gold albums and has always been depicted as a feminist icon. Jett is particularly inspirational in that she started up ‘The Runaways’ as a teenager, along with Cherie Currie, sharing lead vocals and writing a lot of the material. She was considered the driving force behind the band who had a film released in 2010 following their journey into the industry.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin initially sang in the band, ‘Big Brother and The Holding Company’, whose album ‘Cheap Thrills’ reached number one on the Billboard Charts in October 1968. However she then began her own band ‘The Kozmic Blues Band’ and then ‘The Full-Tilt Boogie Band’ who performed to large audiences such as the Sports Arena in San Diego. Joplin was posthumously awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by The Grammys in 2005 and in 2014 was put on a postage stamp in the US for being ‘one of the greatest rock singers of all time.’

 Deborah Harry

Best known as the front woman of ‘Blondie’, Harry also had a successful solo career and even appeared many times in film and television. With the ‘music video revolution’ of the era, she quickly became a punk icon, appearing on the front cover of ‘Rolling Stone’. In 1978 the album ‘Parallel Lines’ was a UK number one and a US number six, selling nearly two million copies. ‘One Way or Another’ continued this success for the band reaching number twenty four on ‘Billboard’s Hot 100’. ‘Blondie’ is still incredibly well known even amongst our generation and particularly aspiring young women.

 Stevie Nicks

Possibly the most well known member of ‘Fleetwood Mac’ who enjoyed enormous success, Nicks produced over forty top fifty hits with her combined solo career. Rolling Stone even named her ‘Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll’, plus as part of ‘Fleetwood Mac’ she holds a position in the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’. Their album ‘Rumours’ of 1977 sold 40 million copies worldwide and is therefore the sixth biggest selling studio album of all time. The band also achieved five Grammy nominations. Although Nicks achieved a further eight nominations in her solo career as well as ‘Bella Donna’ reaching platinum status in only three months.

Musical Time Capsules

I’ve always been affectionately teased for being stuck in a generation I never belonged to (music-wise), having never really been into poppy chart tracks growing up, my musical education began and ended with my parents’ tastes. Fortunately, there was plenty they disagreed on so this education was pretty rounded. Musically, my heart really belongs in around the Seventies and Eighties although I also adore everything from Twenties Jazz and Glen Miller to Elvis. Just before Summer, realising my intent to work toward a career in music journalism I decided it was necessary to broaden my horizons.

Slowly but surely I began my journey to enlightenment, but what struck me wasn’t so much that modern chart music isn’t half as bad as expected but more that not all new music is as far from my classic oldies as I realised. To discover that the concept of incorporating elements of older style and sound in new releases exists was both intriguing and ideal to me and I began to delve deeper.

Hudson Taylor are a great example of an emerging band whose sound is very retro, similarities can be drawn to Mumford and Sons, King Charles or even Amber Run. But for me Hudson Taylor have an older feel, perhaps I’d even reference The Beatles as some of their songs like ‘Battles’ or ‘Written in Water’ show links through lower keys, stronger rifts and even their stand out cynical tone in terms of lyrics.

On the other hand ‘Care’ sounds incredibly reminiscent of The Beach Boys, the high pitched, almost Barber-Shop harmonies and light guitar in this track are unmistakable in terms of influence. Noting that both The Beatles and The Beach Boys are Sixties boy bands despite their hugely different styles suggests this era is a major source of inspiration for Hudson Taylor. It’s clear that musical styles of even that far back are being carefully preserved if you only pick and choose the right artists.

Another band I have fallen in love with and who have recently been in the charts is Milky Chance. With a particularly folky tone, they are more in line with old Blues and Country sounds. However unlike Hudson Taylor’s pure, softer acoustic style, Milky Chance go a step further and mix this with electronic elements inspired by German DJs. In interviews they’ve referenced everyone from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Bob Marley, which clearly supports this assumption.

In contrast this idea can be applied in a wider sense to an entire genre, being introduced to ‘Electroswing’, (the name given to an emerging musical genre which combines orchestral, upbeat swing sounds of the twenties with very modern electronic elements) was an absolute revelation to me. Great Electroswing artists at the moment include Parov Stelar, ADSS and most importantly, my favourite, Jamie Berry. To my delight I found that Berry in particular expertly crafts tracks that in no way diminish the brilliance of classic swing sounds, incorporating recognisable tunes but also mixing his own but always maintaining that brilliant fun, party feeling behind Swing and Jazz.

It seems that in the music industry it’s becoming fashionable to incorporate backdated elements, almost in the same way that vintage clothing has become such a statement and so sought after. People almost seem bent on outdoing each other or competing, leading to commonly used terms like ‘hipster’ ‘indie’ and so on, as in most cases music seems to follow the same patterns and cycles as fashion. A perfect way to explain these competitive extremes is to point out how common it’s becoming to remix Beethoven and Mozart into club and house tracks, particularly prevalent in European clubs. To find that this common theme is only just emerging leads me to believe it will thrive and develop in the next decade which only makes me more excited and consequentially more keen to pay attention to it’s development and new releases.

The Fun and Games of Creating a Recording Studio from Scratch

Early this summer, my Dad asked me to help him out with some work (vague I know but that’s exactly how it was pitched to me). Bored of an empty Egham and long days working at TKMaxx, I was game for anything so agreed to attend some meetings with him. Meetings, for him, it turned out meant long afternoons in the pub – a steady supply of cider and a pretty magical pine nut salad was enough enticement for me!

Once I’d been introduced to people and had a little explanation I found i’d ended up ina team of people helping a guy in his twenties take his first steps in setting up a recording studio. The whole plan was majorly exciting to sit in on, finding the owner, Tom, had links to producers of bands like Massive Attack, Adam Ant, Newton Faulkner, One Direction, and Katy B to name but a few.

Our first session mostly involved Tom and I having had one too many ciders and close to despair over spreadsheets that made no sense to either of us with our lack of business knowledge. However the following week I was invited to the studio to look around; set in a beautiful garden at the back of Tom’s house with top of the range equipment, ‘Dragonfly Studios’ seemed ideal for any client.

From this point onwards I was sold, the project instantly became a thrilling ride into my first experiences in the industry I aspire to be part of. We talked through mixing and producing in detail – I probably learnt more about making music that day than the rest of my life put together! So far marketing and press is well underway, having been given the task of gathering contacts I’ve had chance to work with some really interesting people and editors of independent music magazines. I’ve also learnt how to conduct myself in the work environment, what to look for in advertising partners (mostly that they aren’t out to grab all your money and actually have a passion for music!) and had a chance to use my semi-creative mind for designing logos, flyers and cards.

Overall it’s been incredibly enlightening to learn the fundamentals of setting up a business in the music industry but most of all working with a team of wonderfully enthusiastic people who have both informed and inspired me. I have gained very relevant contacts who will remain crucially helpful for the rest of my career and have already taught me enormous amounts. Although this is rather a tangent, I found the whole process so inspiring as well as getting a basic feel for working in the music business (albeit from a different angle to the journalistic one I am aiming to graduate to), I felt the need to share it with likeminded people.

For anyone interested to see what I’ve been up to – www.dragonflyrecordingstudios.co.uk