GIRL want to bring equality through sound | Soundspace

GIRL want to bring equality through sound

GIRL, soundspace, belfast, venus dupree, marion hawkes

“What I don’t get is that it’s just music. Would you not watch something on TV because it’s a female director? If you enjoy something you enjoy it, regardless of gender. Everyone listens to music. All we’re doing is playing music.”

Sweat trickles down my cheek as I climb the stairs of The Pavilion on a very sticky Tuesday evening. Euphoric sound rebounds off the walls of the second floor as my eyes are met by two females standing behind the decks. Introductions are made, we grab a drink and sit down.

I’m here to chat to Marion Hawkes and Claire Hall on their new venture GIRL.

The concept is one born out of several elements. There is, obviously, the inequality element. It won’t be a shock to anyone to learn that the music industry is extremely male orientated, however, that isn’t the only reason behind the birth of the GIRL. Marion and Claire simply love music.

Marion got into music thanks to vinyl and Pete Tong’s radio show. This, alongside an obsession with underground magazine Jockey Slut, became a recipe for a passion that would never cease.

Claire began running nights in Edinburgh and was part of an indie outfit named Third Man Theme. Most of the events she organised were band orientated, but she began running a club night with a friend called Sean.

“We named it Go Bang after Arthur Russell’s track and we did them in little places like The Red Barn Gallery. Through DJing at those nights is how I met Marion actually. I had no idea, but Marion really liked our stuff at Go Bang, so we were like, who the fuck is Marion Hawkes? She likes all our stuff!”

As we sip our drinks our attention turns to inequality. Of course, as mentioned earlier, this is not the only source of inspiration for GIRL, but it remains an issue that must be addressed. Claire first experienced personal inequality within the music industry as part of Third Man Theme.

“I noticed it when I was in the band. We did this amazing gig at Radar one night. It was the first night we’d had proper monitors and a proper soundsystem so we went for it. Then the review came out and it just focused on the guys. I remember taking it really personally and thinking it’s cause I’m not doing anything, but then I realised that even within that band scene it was boys watching boys and boys being inspired by boys.”

Now, an important point. More than often when gender discrimination within the music industry is spoke about it is assumed that it’s people working in the industry that are responsible for the discrimination. Whilst this is true in some cases, Marion points out that everyone she has worked with has been extremely supportive; it’s another segment of the industry that are provoking inequality.

“I haven’t experienced it myself from any of the guys that I work with or are in our circles. I think it happens more in general. It’s more the general public that don’t take you seriously. All the guys I work with are very supportive and they give you your dues, but I think in general people are quite shocked to see a girl DJ’ing. Guys don’t really get critiqued on the way they look. A lot of male DJ’s aren’t stunning, but then guys will nerd out on their mixing and the technical aspects, but why not do that for girls too?”

GIRL, soundspace, belfast

One point that comes to the surface is the lack of a real female role model. The younger mainstream audience tend to idolise people like the Kardashians. Maybe that’s generalising a bit, but you see my point. There isn’t a lack of real female role models, it’s just the gaze is fixed on these fake gods like Sauron’s eye on Frodo when he puts that god damn ring on his finger.

Nights such as this are always met with an uneducated response. No doubt many people will look at the name and assume its some extremist feminist event where, if a man were to walk in, he’d have his head removed from his shoulders quicker than one of Henry VIII’s wives. Well, you’d be wrong.

The aim of GIRL is simple. Great music in a safe space.

Marion explains, “We aren’t setting out to try and inspire anyone really. It would be nice if someone came up and asked if they could possibly play at some stage, because we want to see more talent coming through. We’re not exclusively, crowd wise, going to be women only. We’ve got a good reaction though. A club space can be a bit crowded, grabby and threatening.”

Claire echoes Marion’s point. “We want to create a safe space really, not just for women, for everyone. We’re pro-equality.”

“I want to create a space where people are thinking about music, not just coming out to get fucked up. I want people to say ‘aww yeah they played that track!’ There are a few elements to it, but yes of course it’s a safe space for everybody. Queer, female, whatever.”

The pair mention a few female names that they think are doing well in the industry, such as Armagh DJ Holly Lester. It warms me to see two people so inspired and determined to create an environment where a woman can go on stage, play what she wants, and not be hassled; not only for themselves, but for other female DJ’s too. It’s a collective effort through gender to create a more positive habitat.

As our time together reaches its final few minutes our attention turns to what we’re all there for. Music. Claire explains that they’ll be playing music that they “react to” and music that’s been a source of inspiration over the years.

Marion’s musical range is something to be admired. Even the mere mention of certain artists, such as Black Madonna, transports her back to the kid choosing Jockey Slut recommendations at her local record store. The passion is so visible that you can almost see the flame.

She informs me, “I’m really excited to do this one, because it’s the launch and I can’t wait to let loose on the decks, but at the same time I can’t wait to do the next one and do the warm up, because I feel like a lot of my best tunes are really quite mellow.”

Claire’s musical brain also comes to the forefront as she explains how excited she is to blast out some high energy disco tracks. Claire refers to voguing, a style of dance used by those of the gay and transgender African American communities. In the documentary Paris is Burning you can see the form of escapism that the community used; necessary to get through the harsh environment that exists only just outside the front door. Claire’s DJ alias is intertwined with the extravagance of the House Ballroom Community of New York. ‘Venus Dupree’ is a tribute to NYC Ballroom culture, combining the names of legends Venus Xtravaganza and Paris Dupree.

And so, our time together comes to an end. As I walk down the road, crossing the River Lagan, I ponder on the discussion that we have just had. As mentioned earlier, the name GIRL may give off an anti-men vibe, but the reality of the venture could not be further from the case. This is simply two people who want to create a safe space, and enjoy some quality tunes while they’re at it. The musical knowledge that stems from Marion and Claire astounds me. It’s clear why they’ve chosen sound as the core element of their concept, because it’s what we’re really all there for.