You are here: Music-making for girls and young women IWD 2019

Jan Mares

by Jan Mares

Grants & Learning Officer at Youth Music

In a previous blog from March 2018, we talked about the gender imbalance in music. Whilst there are still far fewer women than men engaged in the music industry, some interesting changes are happening.

Many major music festivals have actively pledged to achieve a gender balance, a number of private businesses (such as Red Bull and Spotify) are doing their bit to promote greater gender diversity in music, and some voluntary organisations have introduced female-only programmes to nurture the talents of young female musicians.

However, the music industry is still unrepresentative of the UK’s diversity and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to miss out. Below are some of the projects we’re currently funding which are working with female communities of artists, technicians, engineers, producers and publishers to support the change.

While part of the problem is the lack of visibility and the portrayal of women in the scene, grassroots encouragement and education is key to inspiring women to get involved with an industry that might otherwise be too intimidating.

Piper (18), from the Sessions project run by AudioActive in Brighton.

Soft Touch Arts – NoteAble

Soft Touch Arts in Leicester are delivering all girls’ sessions as part of this programme, having found that many young women were reluctant to get involved in mixed sessions, and also because they had a stream of referrals from support agencies looking for provision for girls interested in music.

The sessions allow young women (including those from the traveller/Romany community) to work together to develop confidence, building up to taking part in mixed sessions and performing live. These young people don’t always feel comfortable accessing ‘mainstream’ services because of prejudice, leading to social exclusion and lack of engagement in learning.

Yorkshire Sound Women Network - Wired: Music & Tech for Girls

YSWN deliver a music technology education programme across Yorkshire, enabling girls and young women to develop creative music technology skills and gain confidence by learning alongside expert women music leaders. The project supports those who may have limited access to such opportunities in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities or through living in areas of social and economic deprivation.

The organisation plans to establish two music technology clubs for girls and young women, one in West Yorkshire, and one in South Yorkshire. They’ll also collaborate with Yorkshire-based music industry companies to create six placement/mentorship opportunities for young women in the region, as a means of supporting diverse progression routes in music.

Music Fusion – Music Lab

As part of this three-year project, Portsmouth-based Music Fusion run ‘Infinity Sessions’: music workshops for young women, designed to empower them whilst building their confidence, resilience and musical ability. Last year a group of young women from the project performed to an audience of 5,000 at the Royal Albert Hall!

The Beautiful Ideas Co – Bangin’ Pans

Bangin' Pans builds upon the previous 'Beautiful Music Collective' project, also funded by Youth Music.

Working with a range of partners, The Beautiful Ideas Co is running a series of female-led workshops and events along with a training, mentoring and placement programme. The project aims to create more music-making opportunities for girls and young women, and to platform emerging female professional musicians and those working or hoping to work in the music industry across Salford, Manchester and Liverpool.

Generator – WeCreate

A partnership programme with Roundhouse and Brighter Sound, to improve girls and young women’s musical skills and confidence in self-expression. The project will support them to become more ambitious and develop the qualities, character and capabilities to pursue new artistic and professional opportunities.

It’s offering girls and young women in London, Newcastle and Manchester the chance to take part in 12-week workshop programmes (with guest leaders including Mercury nominated singer/songwriter Nadine Shah and producer Ben Hillier), roundtables, residencies and festival performance opportunities, as well as gaining Bronze Arts Award qualifications.

GemArts – East by North East 3

Building on the success of their previous Youth Music funded projects, Gateshead-based GemArts have expanded their programme to provide more opportunities for young people from BAME, asylum seeker, refugee and wider communities. This programme also includes more opportunities for young women, to address the gender imbalance that exists nationally.

As a female rapper I have faced barriers due to my gender and therefore know that it is invaluable to a young person’s confidence to be free to try things without fear of judgement.

Kay Grayson, music leader, GemArts.

WILD Young Parents’ Project – Music Makes Me Happy

This project runs music groups for young mums living in deprived and rurally isolated areas of Cornwall. Their ‘Music Makes MUMS Happy’ work includes music skills, music leadership and personal progression for young mums. They also run a young mums’ choir.

WILD Young Parents Project was named as the overall winner in the 2018 GSK Impact Awards, which celebrate excellence in charities that improve health and wellbeing in their communities.

Girls Rock London

Girls Rock London (GRL!) is a project aiming to achieve gender equality in the music industry and ensure that all girls and young women get the chance to make music. Following a series of ‘rock camps’, the project has launched an 8-month follow-up programme to ensure that the young women who took part can continue building on the personal, social and musical skills they’ve already developed.

The aims of the project are to empower girls and young women – regardless of previous musical experience – to write and perform music, and to build self-confidence.

Girls Rock London is now part of the Nesta New Radicals List 2018 – a list that showcases 50 radical-thinking individuals and organisations changing the UK for the better.

Girls Rock London
Photo by Yulia Hauer for Girls Rock London.

Pan Intercultural Arts – Amies Freedom Choir

This project provides singing workshops for young women in London who are transitioning to independent living after being trafficked into the UK for prostitution or domestic slavery.

Using source material from the participants’ background cultures, the young women work together to compose songs and develop their own repertoire for recording and performance.

The project aims to “help participants overcome isolation, shame and trauma to be proud young musicians with ownership of their work.”

Brighter Sound – Both Sides Now

Manchester-based Brighter Sound recently launched a programme to support, inspire and showcase women in music across the North of England, called Both Sides Now.

In partnership with music technology organisation Charanga, Brighter Sound are developing a set of digital music education resources for schools, Music Education Hubs and other education settings.

They hope the resource will embed women in music as part of the curriculum, and normalise the role of women in the music industry into the everyday thinking of all students aged 9-14.

Joanna singing

Joanna’s story

14-year-old Joanna wasn’t sure what to expect when she walked into a music studio for the first time. But after taking part in the Here Come the Grrrls project, she’s learned new skills and now feels confident about pursuing a potential career in music.

*Many young people have gender identities beyond ‘male’ or ‘female’. Two years ago we changed our data collection to reflect this. The proportion of participants being reported as identifying as transgender or non-binary increased from 0.1% in 2016/17 to 0.3% in 2017/18 (33 and 89 participants respectively). (The evaluation forms are filled out by project staff, so they may not always know a young person’s gender identity or feel it appropriate to ask.) You can read more in our latest Impact Report.