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.”



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.


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.


Kath and The Kicks


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

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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.


(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
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


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.


.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.

That’s The Nature Of The Underground

I scrawl a message on a bathroom stall wall
You don’t know it’s me, but you know it’s a girl like you
You write back and a month later I see it
I see you.

I mention your words in a zine I write with my friends
They agree that the message is worth repeating
I ask you to contact me if you’d like to say more
Elaborate with me.

At a zine fair in a different city you come up to the stall
Flick through the booklets, see a photo of your wall
And you see me, you see me, you see a girl like you
You give me a couple pounds and say nothing.
I don’t know it’s you.

A friend links me to a blog post review of my zine
Amongst the kind words about formatting and the poetry within my pages
You mention our bathroom conversation
I realise it’s you, see your face on your bio rising in my mind
Connecting with the shy girl seen from behind the fair table.
We are the same kind.

Next time I’m peeing in the bathroom stall
I write a thank you note to you for the nice review
I’m so grateful that you picked up a copy, glad you liked it
Please contact me and write something for it.
Read this.
I see you.
Girl like me.

(c) Ana Hine

Grace Petrie: Whatever’s Left

whatever's left

Whatever’s Left by Leicester-based protest-singer Grace Petrie and her band The Benefits Culture is an album to pop into the CD player as you drive to yet another anti-cuts protest.

Almost five years after releasing her album Mark My Words – criticising the coalition government and their brutal response to the London Riots in the summer of 2011 – this effort casts an eye over the state of England under sole Conservative rule. Made during the General Election of 2015, Whatever’s Left tackles the unpaid internship culture, benefit shaming, homophobia & just how difficult it is to keep campaigning for basic human rights year after year.

“For me a lot of the initial wave of really invigorated activism covered in Mark My Words had died down, and this had just become our reality,” explains Grace. “You had the student activists graduating and finding that the job market is terrible, people living the reality of these policies. It was incredibly demoralising.”

In response to that feeling, Grace and the band (Caitlin Field and Jess Greengrass) wrote ‘If There’s A Fire’ and several other tracks on the album such as ‘Workshy’ and ‘The Long Game’, which serve as moral-boosters for a disillusioned left-leaning fanbase.

Aside from the macro-politics, the album also covers questions of love and social etiquette. For instance, in ‘Overheard’ Grace sings:  “Your tongue slips and my throat sticks and our friendship is just so sensitive. Racist jokes from funny blokes. You know some folks are just so sensitive. And I wish I could tell you why the things that you say make me afraid. Yeah, long live the PC-brigade.”

In this way, she takes an everyday occurrence of being the audience for ignorance and hate and analyses why she feels unable, sometimes, to call it out. Such a track is made to resonate and is part of the reason Grace’s fanbase is known for its loyalty. At the small gig in Leeds where we caught up with Grace, an audience member interrupted a song after the line, “I’m just trying to make you love me,” by shouting, “We do!” And it’s easy to see why. Like on previous albums, the tone of Grace Petrie’s song-writing here is humble and honest – taking the listener by the hand and teaching a little empathy.

For many of the tracks, the hope is that their relevance will fade as progressive politics becomes more mainstream. When discussing this idea, Grace references an older song of hers, ‘Farewell To Welfare’ (which helped cement her reputation as a protest signer), and says: “The situation that the song describes, I long for it not to be relevant. For it still to be happening after all these years is heartbreaking.”

Here’s hoping that music like this makes a difference.

.Ana Hine

You can buy Whatever’s Left at for £10. Grace Petrie and The Benefits Culture will be performing at Latitude and at L Fest this month.