This Is An Anarcha-Feminist Takeover

On Tuesday I had my first solo art exhibition opening night. I didn’t officially invite any press, so it was fairly quiet, but enough folk came that I felt reassured by my poster and social media advertising.

I sold two embroidery pieces on the opening night and some zines and merch (there’s badges, bracelets, postcards, and various other things). I read a little bit of poetry, but it wasn’t really the right atmosphere and I felt a little awkward imposing myself audibly on people when I was already subjecting them to my visual art.

Anyway, here’s some photos. The exhibition is on at the Fine Roots Gallery in the basement of the Forest Cafe on 141 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh until October 2. I’m hoping to hitchhike down tomorrow to check on the show and do some filming for Zine There Done That with Fergus.

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A Chat With Sofia B

Singer-songwriter Sofia B performed at Pandora Fest women’s music festival last month. Ana Hine, editor of Artificial Womb, caught up with her.

 

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Sofia B (left) with her girlfriend Riya at Pandora Fest

 

How did you enjoy Pandora Fest?

Aside from the vomiting from motion sickness on the way up to Scotland and the rain, I actually had one of the best days of my life! The array of acts, the combined efforts of everyone who put it together, the scenery and the general ambience was incredibly cool and unique. The local food and drinks vendors were super lovely and had great quality food and everyone in attendance was remarkably skipper considering the weather. Definitely looking forward to next year!

Can you give us a bit of background about yourself?

My mum is Venezuelan and my dad is Lebanese. I was born in London, but we moved to Caracas when I was 3-months-old and then moved back to London when I was five after things started to get politically unstable in Caracas and day to day life became increasingly more dangerous. Living in London exposed me to a multi-cultural hub of musicians, but I decided to explore the United States and was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music to study songwriting. After graduating, I found myself in NYC and wrote my latest album In The City, about one of the toughest breakups of my life.

You released In The City, your second EP, last year. Can you tell us a little more about the record?

As I mentioned briefly before, it was written while I was living in NYC. I decided to record the songs in Beirut, where my father lives, as I wanted to connect with my Lebanese roots and take advantage of the immense talent one can find there. We recorded with producer Raed El Khazen and my dad is playing lead guitar on ‘Ice Cold Love’ and ‘Hurricane’.

There’s a track called ‘Soldiers’ on it, about a friend. Can you say a bit more?

Absolutely. My best friend Avery Nejam, was diagnosed with IBD (irritable bowel disease) a few months after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s while I was in Boston at Berklee. We crossed paths then and sort of became inseparable since, especially because she is an artist/illustrator. We’ve collaborated on my song ‘Friendly Little Ghost’ about being diagnosed with Crohn’s and she made the most amazing artwork for it.

And what exactly is Crohns disease?

Crohn’s is an auto-immune disease that creates inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause you to lose organs.

Why do you think it’s important to be ‘out’ – as it were – about your condition?

The main reason I want to raise awareness as an androgynous woman about Crohn’s disease, is because of the day to day hardships I encounter. The stigma around stomach problems and going to the bathroom are messed up enough as is and you feel like you can’t properly communicate your condition without being judged. I also want people to realise that even though you can have a disease that can hold you back sometimes, you can channel your frustrations into art. It’s what gets me through it, anyway.

How does having Crohn’s affect your ability to tour? Is there anything that fans or venues could do to make things easier for people who have the condition, or something similar?

It affects my ability to tour because, realistically, accommodation and comfortable means of travel really lessen the burden and possibility of getting sicker. I’m on immune suppressants that basically make me susceptible to everything. Honestly, the only thing that makes things easier is if there is a clean bathroom with soap and toilet paper and I’ll be fine. I don’t really like to make too much of a fuss about these things.

You spoke, when we met, about how living with Crohn’s means that you’ve chosen not to transition or take testosterone. Are you able to explain a bit more why that might be the case?

Honestly, taking testosterone at this stage in the game would be like adding fuel to the fire. I already inject myself with Humira, a drug that has led me to be in remission with Crohn’s disease. It has its side effects already and the possibility of having to inject more chemicals when I’m scared of needles as is? Yeah, no thanks! Plus, I don’t think hormones makes you more of any gender.

Has being butch or masculine presenting affected your musical career at all?

Absolutely. If I’m most honest, I think that presenting as masculine makes people think that I want to be an emblem of strength and masculinity. I don’t really care what I represent to people, the goal is purely to spread good music that people relate to, whoever I am. Artists celebrate the spectrum of emotions, I just so happen to be mixed race, queer and a woman. Being butch/masculine presenting has shown me the privileges I should have when I don’t “pass” and the ignorance that still exists.

What are you working on or promoting at the moment?

Currently, I’m promoting my music video for ‘Let It Go’, the last song off my album, which is available to view here.

When will you next be performing in Scotland?

Not too sure yet actually! I’m in close contact with Erin Bennett, who I’m a die-hard fan of. Her band is incredible, her songs bring me to tears every time and we are actually going to be doing a show together at The Portland Arms in Cambridge in September!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for introducing me to the zine world and for schooling me on so much stuff! Definitely still considering making one for myself to offer to new fans.

ends

Check out Sofia B’s current EP In The City on iTunes here and if you’d like to support Artificial Womb consider becoming a patron.

Pandora Fest: An Inspiration To Other Girls

IMG_7792Well, Pandora Fest needs to happen again next year. The eclectic festival, which aims to celebrate women-led music, took place last month at Duncarron Medieval Village near Stirling. Although the amount of festival attendees was small, the line-up was impressively varied and the whole event had a cozy, friendly vibe.

Many of the artists were passionate about the politics behind the event. Vodun front-woman Chantal Brown explained: “It’s needed, it’s necessary. Until things are equal, either take a seat or support it.”

The London-based three-piece have just released their first album Possession and their live set demonstrated the power of their heavy rock, afro-centric sound. “It’s a celebration of the religion of voodoo, the people who practice it and its history,” says Chantal. “The last few weeks have been really, politically, horrible – with people feeling disconnected and turning against each other. We’re trying to take it back. Saying that we’re of this planet, we’re of this world, of the same blood. Trying to get out of consumerism and shopping and have a more real experience.”

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Vodun

For all the theatrics of some of the bands, what was clear throughout the festival was how important this idea of connection was, of breaking through and having a real experience. The size of the event meant that musicians and attendees merged together, so in a way the dancing audience was also a message of solidarity – and a validation – for the act on stage.

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Lorna Thomas (bassist of Caroline Gilmour)

For example, the bassist of Caroline Gilmour – a rock star of a woman with short greying hair and a leather jacket – seemed entirely in her element; like there was nowhere she’d rather be than playing bass guitar in a field in Scotland to her slightly wet and bedraggled peers. It was increasingly inspiring.

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Kath and The Kicks

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Kath and The Kicks

The role-model element of being a woman in music was raised by Kath Edmonds, of Leeds-based band Kath and The Kicks. She said: “I always wanted to be a rock star. I was a female drummer, so I hope I have been an inspiration to other girls. I couldn’t always sing properly, but I just forced myself to do it. It’s about confidence and having a good group of people around you.”

Well Pandora Fest was definitely full of people supporting each other and the idea of women-led music. Let’s hope that it returns next summer.

.Ana Hine

Like this? Support Artificial Womb on Patreon.

The Suffragette Legacy

A woman is making rosettes in purple, green & white
For a march through a city centre in a couple nights.
“But we have the vote,” I say. “Why the rosettes?”
They explain: “It’s to honour the suffragettes.”

A hundred years ago you threw yourselves under horses.
Put letterbombs through politicians’ front doors.
Chained yourselves to walls.
We have not forgotten your call for direct action.
We are just looking for the next campaign to die for.

The anarchist newspapers proclaim you didn’t die just for the vote.
“No,” they shout. “The suffragettes wanted the liberation of womenkind.”
I sigh. What is the point of fighting for freedom. From what? Capitalism.
Insidious is the battle. Apart from terrorise what can we really do
To change our lives?

In the women’s library a former acquaintance comes up to me smiling.
She buys my feminist zine. We embrace. I see her glowing, hopeful face.
Is it noble to remember the past? Provide a refuge?
But no crèche. What use is a women’s space without one?
The problem of male children.

My hands shake as I meet the illustrator of ‘Sally Heathcote: Suffragette’.
“You inspire me,” I say. “Help me believe there’s something worth fighting for.”
She signs her business card for me. Her wife sits beside her.
Progress is being made after all.

ends

(c) Ana Hine

Crossing the picket line (a picket rhyme)

I had to leave my picket sticks behind
My spare thin planks of wood, for my picket signs
What loss. How irreplaceable.
Okay, but what if there’s a protest tomorrow?
How will I march without them?

Two years I campaigned for equal marriage.
With petitions and articles, videos and processions.
Waving banners in step with politicians.
When mental illness and homelessness and poverty are bigger issues
For our community. I do not care for the solidary of conservative MPs.

Sitting in a room watching a woman’s story be dismissed.
We all know he probably did hit her, but she shouldn’t have been drinking
So much while her underage daughter was in the house. Child services
Will have to be informed. I am not a journalist yet and there’s nothing I can do.
Contempt of court is serious. The identity of the child could become known
If names are mentioned. I see him smirking.
This is justice working?

These things bother me. Apparently that’s a good thing.
It doesn’t mean I’m a good person though. Sitting there passively learning.
Watching suffering. How can any of us do anything?

A room full of teenagers look at me trying to explain contraception.
And a young man asks me question after question about same-sex protection.
The information goes in boxes at the side of my features.
I type out messages. Go get tested, go get tested, go get tested.

This tension. Positionality is a concept I believe in. You cannot be objective.
My prejudice bleeds through every word I write. Everything I say. Everything I
fight.
Where the enemy is. What is wrong. What is right.
I still think we must reclaim the night.

But I had to leave my picket sticks behind.
My spare thin planks of wood, for my picket signs.
What loss. How irreplaceable.
How will I march without them?

(c) Ana Hine

Equality

I’m not sure I want the equal opportunity to do what you do
Granted by whom? This attempt to subsume
These things that hold me apart, make me a threat
To the state of things.

The boundaries that once were, are falling, falling
Crumbling into the cracks in our stories
And we try to divide ourselves, but when we do
You see, you and me we’re…
Fighting the wrong battle?

Because, what is this an equal opportunity to do?
Arguing in the dirt about who is better than who
As our labour and youth are abused and used
Confused, we mistake each other for perpetrators
When we are all the victims of an oppressive system.

I think. This is several conversations at once.
It’s unclear how I feel about equal rights. To what? And why?
Who says we ever wanted mere access to the status quo
I thought the point was to change it.

Ultimately, I just want us to stop hurting each other
About petty shit like sex or skin colour
When there’s houses to build and food to grow
Things to know about how to make all our lives better.
Seems silly to strive for equality, without a level of unity
Of purpose. Some clarity about what we’re aiming for.

ends

.Ana Hine

Pandora Fest Preview

Pandora Fest is taking place this weekend, in the Duncarron Medieval Village between Stirling and Falkirk in central Scotland.

Advertising itself as ‘Scotland’s 1st music festival that supports women musicians and celebrates female music making across all genres’, the event claims to redress the gender imbalance in the live music industry.

However, the scheduling is a cause for concern. This is the same weekend that both Latitude music festival and L Fest – the lesbian arts festival –  are taking place, which doesn’t bode terribly well for the line up.

If Emmy The Great, Churches, Emma Pollock, and Grimes are at Latitude and Heather Peace et al are at L Fest, who’s going to be playing Pandora Fest?

But maybe it’s just a different part of the women’s music scene… after all, we’re not expecting Taylor Swift or Beyonce to suddenly appear in a recreated 11th century fortified village, are we?

So, what’s the line up?

Headlining are Courtesans, a triphop/doom/rock band from London, whose debut album 1917 came out in spring 2014 – with the lead single ‘Genius’ being released that autumn. While atmospheric and clearly able, they seem to be suffering from a case of style over substance. As a headline act they’re… a little uninspiring.

Vodun, a heavy soul band again from London, are much more exciting. Their most recent effort, a full album entitled Possession released this March, demonstrates an impressive level of vocal mastery from front woman Chantal Brown. There’s an element of Skunk Anansie, but also a fair dose of thrash metal. Promising.

Twin Heart from Kilmarnock are the first on the line-up to be truly local. Their EP, Progress:Decline was released seven days ago and is a satisfying piece of alternative music, reminiscent of Paramore with a bit more screamo.

Now, Sofia B is more the type of thing that we’re about at Artificial Womb. Soft, thoughtful lyrics sang over an acoustic guitar. Songs about coming out, gender politics, self-consciousness and polite anxiety. Poetry. When’s she on? For twenty minutes around 3pm? Yep. Penciled in.

Erin Bennett… is… also going to be there. Honestly, we have been trying our hardest to get on board with Erin’s album ReFlowered, written after the death of her wife, but it’s a baffling, badly crafted record. Possibly one to avoid.

There is so little online about KROW that our curiosity is seriously piqued. One for the review, definitely.

Caroline Gilmour‘s most recent EP Electric Waterfalls suggests that her live performances are worth a watch. They certainly imply confetti, light shows, glitter. We’ll see. Tight sound, somewhat Sia.

What else? Like the look of Luci MonétBugeyeEmaline Delapaix, and Erin McEvoy.

Mainly, it will be refreshing to have a whole music festival where we can actually listen to the women’s music as just the music and evaluate it without the gender of the musicians being relevant.

A review and maybe some interviews with acts will follow shortly.

.Ana Hine

Tickets are still available for Pandora Fest here.