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Festival Republic relaunches gender-balance initiative

Festival Republic has announced the relaunch of its development programme for female and gender-expansive artists, on International Women’s Day.

ReBalance, which initially launched in 2017, is a year-long initiative designed to address “challenges along the new music pipeline journey while providing crucial, tangible support to emerging talent,” organisers said in a press release.

The programme is designed to provide opportunities on both the stage and in the studio. Beneficiary acts will receive dedicated studio time, mentorship from industry leaders, a year-end showcase, and a guaranteed Festival Republic event performance in 2025.

“We’ll be investing in emerging artists, offering practical support at a pivotal stage in their careers”

Studio work will be “led and/or assisted by a woman or gender-expansive professional,” in an effort to both diversify the recording environment and provide opportunities for production professionals.

“We’ll be investing in emerging artists, offering practical support at a pivotal stage in their careers. This includes providing them with tools, connections and a commitment to a festival booking at one of our events,” says Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic.

The six UK-based acts for this year’s class are Mary O’Donnell, Sprout, Bebeluna, samxemma, cruush and Red Ivory.

The relaunch of the initiative, which ran for three years before being paused due to the pandemic, comes during a period of heightened focus on misogyny in the UK music industry.

National lawmakers recently reported that the industry is a “boys’ club” with women facing intersectional barriers including racial discrimination.

“Women’s creative and career potential should not have limits placed upon it by ‘endemic’ misogyny which has persisted for far too long within the music industry,” says MP Caroline Nokes, Women and Equalities Committee chair.

Across 50 of Europe’s leading festivals last year, 90% of headlining performers were men, according to a study by IQ and ROSTR. Artists across the complete lineups also skewed male, with 35% of artists being female and 1% non-binary.

 


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Q&A with NEC Group’s Allie Bishop & Lily Tomkins

To mark International Women’s Day, IQ catches up with senior event manager Allie Bishop and event manager Lily Tomkins, to find out more about their day-to-day in the (predominantly female) events management team for NEC Group’s Resorts World Arena and Utilita Arena Birmingham.

What does your day usually look like?
Allie Bishop: Every day is different! But generally, I make sure the wider event management team have the time, resources and training they need to be able to deliver successful events. I also have my own event workload, which involves getting as much information as possible out of a tour, then translating it into an event that will fit safely and successfully into our buildings. Day-to-day this requires a lot of liaison with different people and departments to ensure everyone is working to the same information and objectives. I tend to find myself getting involved in wider projects too, offering operational input into projects that improve our customer journey.

Lily Tomkins: My role is split between planning and utilising information and being the duty manager for shows during the open period. When advancing shows I receive details from the client which is disseminated to our internal arenas teams to ensure the show can be run successfully. As a duty manager you are responsible for the safety of the public during the show, helped very much by the security event manager and event safety representative.

“Following Covid, it’s taken a long time for workers to fully return to the industry, and with events coming in quickly there are still gaps in experience across the board”

How did you start working in the events industry and more specifically for the NEC Group?
AB: I joined the NEC Box Office straight from finishing university, selling tickets in the contact centre. That was 16 years ago! I spent around 10 years in various roles there, before moving over to the event management team around six years ago.

LT: I started in events by volunteering at local festivals and events. Whilst completing a master’s degree in live events at Birmingham City University, I made invaluable contacts during Event Week Live – the NEC Group’s work experience programme for degree-level students – and then as a member of its subsequent Elite mentoring programme, which led me to this role.

What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
AB: I enjoy problem solving and coming up with different ways of doing things. We’re given great opportunities in our position to challenge the norm and come up with new ideas and solutions, which is very satisfying.

LT: I love the production side and seeing what goes on behind the scenes to put a show together.

What can be the most challenging aspect of your job?
AB: Following Covid, it’s taken a long time for workers to fully return to the industry, and with events coming in quickly there are still gaps in experience across the board, with people often juggling a lot more. Our role has become a lot more reactive as opposed to proactive, which for people who love to plan, can be difficult.

LT: I’ve not been in the role long so learning all aspects of the job has been quite challenging and finding my way around each arena! Also remembering everyone’s names…

“I think arenas have led the way when it comes to bringing on board new talent into operational roles, regardless of gender”

Is there a project or particularly rewarding moment you can highlight?
AB: It’s always rewarding to enjoy the ‘calm before the storm’ – usually a five-minute window between the show being built, but not yet being open to the public. It’s just a snapshot view of the work you’ve put in over the last few months to get it to where it is.

LT: I found the first event I planned and managed last August most rewarding as it felt like a rite of passage into the team!

What is your favourite thing about working in a team of women?
AB: We’re a tight-knit team that always looks out for each other. If someone has had a rough day on a show or with their workload, there will always be someone who will offer to help in whatever way they can.

LT: The team are very supportive of each other as we all know how demanding the role can be, so we all look out for each other.

Do you feel there is a gender imbalance across the live events industry as a whole and if so, do you think enough is being done to address it?
AB: Looking out on the arena floor at 6am for a load in, often you’re one of a handful of women who make up the 100-plus people there to get the show built. It isn’t always the case though, and there are certainly more female reps, touring personnel and security than there were a few years ago. I think arenas have led the way when it comes to bringing on board new talent into operational roles, regardless of gender.

LT: I have been fortunate that most of the teams I have worked in have been mostly female-led and I have never felt held back or discriminated against as a female in any of my roles. However, I have found that when you hit a more senior level within an organisation these roles can often be predominantly male-led. I do think more industries are acknowledging this now and making changes where possible.

 


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Backstage Pass launches #spotlightonher campaign

Netherlands’ Backstage Pass initiative has launched the #spotlightonher campaign for International Women’s Day to shine a light on female crew members.

Set up by award-winning tour manager Lotje Horvers in an effort to increase diversity and inclusion in the Dutch live sector, Backstage Pass is collaborating with a variety of platforms on the scheme.

Artists and venues are encouraged to post a video or photo of the women in their crew on their social media accounts, using the #spotlightonher hashtag.

“During the pandemic, while being unable to tour, I have been keeping busy with a variety of things, including mentoring young women looking to break into touring and learning more about diversity and inclusion,” explains Horvers, who has worked with artists such as Robyn, Fever Ray, Röyksopp and The Knife.

“The campaign is meant for artists, suppliers, venues and festivals to use their socials to put the women on their tech crew in the spotlight”

“One of the things I did was set up a not-for-profit in the Netherlands, Backstage Pass. We are launching an international Women’s Day campaign in collaboration with Soundgirls, Women in Live Music, She is the Music, Diversify the Stage and many other platforms.

“Basically, the campaign is meant for artists, suppliers, venues and festivals to use their socials to put the women on their tech crew in the spotlight, with the goal of reaching other girls and inspiring them for their future careers. ”

The campaign mission statement is as follows: “Representation and visibility are an important step towards diversity and inclusion. To inspire, encourage and empower girls to find and follow their dream of working in live music, we invite artists to introduce the women in their (stage) crew on their socials for International Women’s Day on 8 March. After all, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see!'”

 


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Naomi Pohl elected MU general secretary

On International Women’s Day, the UK’s Musicians’ Union (MU) has confirmed that Naomi Pohl has been elected as the first female general secretary in its history.

Pohl has worked full-time for the MU – the leading organisation for musicians in the UK – since 2009, spending the past three years as deputy general secretary. Previously, she served as the Union’s national organiser for recording and broadcasting.

Pohl, who succeeds Horace Trubridge in the role, will be responsible for the administration of the MU’s affairs nationwide in partnership with the MU’s elected executive committee.

“I am delighted and humbled to have been elected to the role of MU general secretary,” she says. “It means a great deal that musicians across genres and disciplines have put their faith in me and I want nothing more than to deliver for them all.

“Thank you to all members who engaged with the election process, took the time to vote and who reached out to me directly with feedback about the Union. I also want to acknowledge our fantastic activists, staff and officials; I couldn’t hope to work with a more dedicated and passionate team of people.

“To all those who didn’t vote for me, I hear that you want change. The Union is here for every musician, and I hope it can be a unifying force as we take on many challenges collectively – please reach out.”

After the toughest imaginable two years for musicians, there is plenty of work to do”

Prior to the MU, Pohl was assistant general secretary at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

“After the toughest imaginable two years for musicians, there is plenty of work to do,” she adds. “We can improve pay for our employed and freelance members post-pandemic, tackle the impact of Brexit and fix streaming. We will also ensure we meet the objectives set out in the MU Equality Action Plan, in the UK Music Diversity Ten Point Plan, and we will continue our vital work to eliminate discrimination and harassment from the industry.

“In order to secure the future of the profession, we will also launch a new music education campaign and move arts funding back up the Union’s lobbying agenda during my term. I know these are issues that really matter to musicians.”

The general secretary position is the most senior post in the organisation, which was founded in 1893 and consists of more than 32,000 members. The electoral process consisted of a series of meetings in all six of the Union’s democratic regions and a comprehensive postal ballot of all members.

Trubridge, who served in the role from 2017-2022, adds: ‘It’s been an honour and a privilege to lead the Union for the last five years, ably assisted by Naomi and assistant general secretary Phil Kear.

“I have had the pleasure of promoting Naomi up through the ranks and I am delighted to hear that she has won the election to become the MU’s very first female general secretary.”

 


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International Women’s Day: Live biz marks IWD 2021

Companies and associations from across the live music business have celebrated International Women’s Day (8 March) by paying tribute to inspiring female staff members, executives, performers and role models.

Established in the early 20th century, International Women’s Day (IWD) is held annually to commemorate the achievements of women, as well as to draw attention to ongoing issues around gender equality and women’s rights. Among the live music organisations participating in IWD 2021 are LIVE, the new umbrella organisation for the UK live music industry, which ran the #LIVEtogether campaign on social media, spotlighting female members of its constituent associations.

The LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) profiles included members of including the Concert Promoters Association, Association of Independent Festivals, Music Managers Forum, Production Services Association and more.

Using the hashtag #WomenToTheFront, LIVE member Music Venue Trust and its members will, throughout the week, highlight the work of women “who are vital to the grassroots music community”.

Music Venue Trust (MVT)’s head of events, projects and communications, Sarah Claudine, explains: “It’s incredibly important to Music Venue Trust to be using International Women’s Day 2021 as an opportunity to celebrate the women who play such an important role in the UK’s grassroots music industry. We are very proud to have so many remarkable women contribute to MVT, from our core team and coordinators to our board of trustees and patrons, and know that this diversity is reflective of the changing face of the wider live music community.”

MVT recently announced six new patrons, all women working in the music industry: rock duo Nova Twins, Welsh post-punk trio Adwaith, DJs Moxie and HAAi, singer-songwriter Kerri Watt, and booking agent Natasha Gregory (née Bent).

“From tour managers to merchandise sellers, venue owners to sound engineers, and members of my own band, I’ve experienced first hand the heart and soul that the women in our industry put in to live music,” says Watt. “I see my colleagues as role models, giving younger women the confidence to get more involved in live music and work within an industry they’re really passionate about.”

“It’s incredibly important … to be using IWD 2021 as an opportunity to celebrate the women who play such an important role in the grassroots music industry”

Similarly running content throughout the week is Liverpool Sound City, which is hosting a slate of IWD-themed programming both on its Facebook page and its dedicated Guesthouse streaming platform.

Today it streamed a Keychange-presented showcase featuring emerging female artists on Guesthouse, while a Keychange conference co-hosted by the Sound City Facebook page included panels on the gender gap and equality initiatives and a keynote interview with Keychange ambassador Kate Nash. More content is planned through Friday.

Sound City MD Rebecca Ayres says: “International Women’s Day is an important day in the calendar in terms of both lifting women into the spotlight and promoting awareness around the gender inequality that still exists in the music industry.

“But the fight for greater equality needs to be constant and, indeed, for Sound City, the commitments we have made as the lead UK Keychange festival are year-round commitments, with gender equality being a key aspect of our festivals, conferences and training. We look forward to celebrating women in music on International Women’s Day and beyond.”

“We need more women executives and female artists on our rosters”

Live Nation France chose to recognise its female staff with a special video, titled Les Femmes de Live Nation, which premiered on Instagram TV, while its UK sister company worked with Swedish singer-songwriter Zara Larsson on a free IWD live stream premiering at 7pm GMT:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjMG8lTxS_o

At West End theatre operator LW Theatres, a special feature, ’West End Women’, shines a light “on some of the stars who run the show”.

The company, which operates celebrated concert venue the London Palladium, also revealed it has changed the traditionally masculine titles of its production jobs to gender-neutral equivalents, with master carpenter becoming head of stage engineering and dayman ‘first grade electrician’:

For Australia’s Mushroom Group, IWD provided the perfect opportunity for the women of the company to pay tribute to its late founder, Michael Gudinski, who was known as an advocate for women in live music.

“I did the first Australian Go-Gos and Bangles tours in the ’80s. That’s when I realised that, on the road, the girls were no different to the boys,” he recalled last year. “It further encouraged my belief that we need more women executives and female artists on our rosters.”

“He just gave women a go,” remembers Australian broadcaster Jane Gazzo. “Everyone says they have a Michael Gudinski story because he had time for all of us,” she told ABC Radio. “We’ve all had a piece of our heart ripped out this week.”


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Why young women are the future of construction

It feels odd to me that more women aren’t involved in an industry as interesting and challenging as construction – according to official statistics, women only account for 12.5% of the UK industry today.

This isn’t just a man’s job and, although I haven’t encountered any major obstacles during my career because I am a woman, there’s clearly something going on if construction is still so dominated by men.

So, after the first International Women’s Day of this decade, I think it’s important that we encourage the young women of today to become the future of this important industry and take advantage of the career-defining opportunities available to them.

I’ve led teams delivering some of this country’s most iconic projects, including the O2 Arena and the new Wembley Stadium. And today, in my role as executive vice-president of development and construction at The Madison Square Garden Company, I have the extraordinary opportunity to deliver state-of-the-art venues that represents the future of live entertainment: MSG Sphere.

We are currently building MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, and we’ve also announced plans to build a second MSG Sphere in London, pending planning consent and other approvals.

As a leader in the construction industry, it’s exciting to take on the challenge of transforming a disused and unloved former coach park in east London into a state-of-the-art venue, bringing jobs and investment to Newham and to the country.

I feel strongly that the key to getting more women into our sector is to show them what’s possible

It’s perhaps a happy coincidence that the Women into Construction project was developed on the Olympic Park, just yards from the MSG Sphere site in Stratford, to address the gender imbalance in construction. It was originally created as part of the legacy of the 2012 Olympics with the aim of increasing the number of women working in construction on the Olympic Park and creating a trickle-down effect throughout the industry.

I’d like to think that a project as exciting as MSG Sphere could be just as inspiring and encourage young women who are thinking about their future careers to consider development, construction, engineering, architecture and environmental sustainability – just some of the many job opportunities that MSG Sphere would create.

I feel strongly that the key to getting more women into our sector is to show them what’s possible. That’s one of the reasons MSG is so focused on working with schools, colleges and youth groups in east London: to give today’s students a taster of the sort of work they could do at MSG Sphere in the future.

And I am proud to continually champion the many exceptional women I work with at The Madison Square Garden Company, where so many of our senior management team are female.

It is odd that only 12.5% of the construction industry is female. I believe this is largely the result of an erroneous perception that the industry is not as open to women rather than the reality.

That said, if there are barriers to women joining this profession, then we need to remove them, and I would encourage the current and future leaders in the construction industry to lean in and do this together by example, by encouragement and – most importantly – by deed.

 


Jayne McGivern is executive vice-president, development and construction, for The Madison Square Garden Company.

Kylie, Little Mix to play all-female T4F festival

LittleBrazil’s Time For Fun (T4F), the largest live entertainment company in South America, is launching GRLS!, a new two-day festival celebrating the role of women in music.

Kylie Minogue and Little Mix are heading up the event’s all-female line-up, which also features US rapper Tierra Whack and Brazilian acts Linn da Quebrada, Gaby Amarantos and Mulamba.

Curated by Brazilian music platform Popload, GRLS! is taking place on 7 and 8 March – International Women’s Day – at the Latin American Memorial in São Paulo.

Talks, lectures and workshops focusing on the role of women in culture will also form part of the event’s programming.

“Our main goal was to design a festival made by women and non-binaries, that would also lead to an all-gender debate about the role and representation of women in our culture”

“Our main goal was to design a festival made by women and non-binaries, that would also lead to an all-gender debate about the role and representation of women in our culture,” explains Paola Wescher, T4F artistic director and Popload partner.

“Women always have to try harder, impose themselves more and achieve more to be respected. We have many strong women in all sectors of the music industry, both on stage and behind the scenes, making everything happen. We want to amplify these voices and be a milestone in this regard.”

More information can be found here.

 


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FR launches International Women’s Day event

Festival Republic has announced ReBalance Celebrates International Women’s Day, a networking event for women across the live music industry, as part of the promoter’s gender equality programme, ReBalance.

The event is taking place at the 900-capacity Union Chapel in Islington, London, on Sunday 8 March, the day dedicated to recognising the movement for women’s rights worldwide.

Last year’s International Women’s Day saw pop star Dua Lipa speak at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London, who illustrated the struggle faced by young female artists trying to break into the industry.

Festival Republic is looking to combat this, with a daytime programme aimed at introducing those who want a career in the industry to women working within it. Professionals from Festival Republic, Live Nation, PRS Foundation, Academy Music Group, Sony Music, MAMA, Melody VR, Metropolis Music, the BBC, National Merchandise and Safe Gigs for Women will be in present to offer advice and deliver educational talks.

An evening performance from singer Nilüfer Yanya will follow the networking event, as well as appearances from Martha Hill and Tamzene, two artists to have come through Festival Republic’s ReBalance programme.

“We are incredibly proud of what ReBalance has achieved, so it only made sense to take the scheme further”

Launched in 2017, ReBalance is a six-year programme combatting the gender imbalance within the music industry. It offers five day’s studio time to one core female-identified band and artist each month, as well as a slot of a Festival Republic or Live Nation festival.

So far, 300 nominations have been made across six rounds, with 19 finalists performing live at The Great Escape, Wireless, Latitude and Reading and Leeds Festivals.

“We are incredibly proud of what ReBalance has achieved, so it only made sense to take the scheme further by hosting an event on International Women’s Day for those who want to meet women in the industry,” says the ReBalance team.

“Aimed at newcomers or if you’re just curious, this event is the chance to learn from the brightest stars and pick up some tips. Lack of female representation in music is an industry-wide issue, and we want to level it.”

Day tickets for ReBalance Celebrates International Women’s Day can be purchased for a £2 charity donation to Safe Gigs for Women, with evening tickets priced at £17.50. All tickets are available here.

Photo: Paul Hudson/Flickr (cropped) (CC BY 2.0)

 


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