INTERVIEW: Boudica Festival

With a female-focused line up, Boudica Festival (named after the warrior queen thought to have stood her final battle against the Romans just north of Coventry) is a unique event that gives a platform to, and celebrates, the wealth and diversity of womxn and non-binary talent in the music industry both on the stage and behind the scenes.

Womxn and non binary artists have always been underrepresented in all aspects of the music industry. Low womxn representation is an industry wide problem, with a growing awareness seeing many festivals being called out for their male dominated lineups. Boudica Festival, however, seeks to change this opinion by showcasing womxn and non-binary musicians from across a wide spectrum of musical genres across three stages, including a local artists stage, showcasing the best up and coming talent in Coventry. Alongside the live music there will be DJ and music coding workshops for budding musicians as well as stalls filled with arts and crafts from local artists. A long term aim, as well as having a stellar female line-up, is to form an all womxn events crew, using the expertise of womxn sound engineers, lighting technicians and stage managers.  As well as providing a platform, Boudica Festival wants to highlight the opportunities available to womxn within the music industry other than performing.

Taking place on 19th October in Coventry, we obviously strongly agree with all that Boudica Festival stands for, especially with some of our favourite bands playing there this year! So, we caught up with the team to find out more…

Hi Boudica Festival, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?

Ellie Ball: Boudica Festival is an annual celebration of women and non-binary people in music both on and off the stage. The festival features specially curated live music over three stages celebrating inspirational female and non-binary performers from a variety of genres, alongside music workshops and stalls from local artists. In addition to showcasing female talent, we have also built an entirely female & non-binary events crew. Meaning everything from the sound to the marketing has been provided by womxn.
Sarah Morgan: For the past couple of years the festival has been supported by PRS Foundation. This year through their Talent Development Partnership Programme. 

2019 will be Boudica Festival’s third year – congrats! Can you tell us a bit about how it all started out?

EB: The festival was born out of a shared frustration towards the state of the music industry, particularly in the live sector. Our first edition took place back in 2017 in a sort of warehouse type space in Coventry City Centre. It was great! We had a selection of local and up-and-coming performers play. Last year we moved to our new home, The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum which has offered up the exciting opportunity to programme more artists across different stages. 

It’s fantastic that you’re hosting a festival specifically for women and non binary bands and artists – what triggered you to do this?

Michelle Bailey-LeLong: I got involved with Boudica as I was tired of being “the band with the women in it” or going to gigs where there weren’t any female and non-binary artists on the bill. Boudica Festival is our battle cry against that kind of programming. It’s an old problem which has yet to be fixed, so we want to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Sarah Scouller: We have had enough of the music industry being male dominated, being the only woman at a gig, going to all dayers and seeing no women on stage. We decided to create a music festival that showcases the best up and coming female and non-binary artists across a wide range of genres. If we can host an entire festival of female artists, what’s stopping the rest of the music festivals from upping their female representation on their lineup?
SM: I run a music venue and programme events in the city and had experienced sexism whereby guys had asked to speak to my ‘manager’. I was really keen to show that there are no restrictions with what womxn can do within the industry.

And how do you feel about the general lack of female headliners at a lot of big festivals at the moment?

MB: It’s frustrating, but it fuels are mission to prove that female musicians deserve the recognition. Primavera did a 50/50 lineup this year and I spent one night seeing 5 female acts back to back, it was one of the best festival experiences I’ve ever had! It’s a great example that if one of Europe’s biggest music festivals can close the gender gap then why can’t the rest? It’s proof that it can be and should be done.
SS: While it is good that womxn representation at festivals is currently a hot topic, I haven’t seen much evidence of this being rectified this year at the top UK festivals. The response from some of the festival organisers was that there are simply not enough womxn musicians out there to book couldn’t be further from the truth. The amount of womxn talent out there right now is HUGE. We are in really exciting times for music, I hope we will see this reflected in lineups soon.

Over the last couple of years, you’ve hosted some amazing bands and artists including Queen Zee, Let’s Eat Grandma, Nova Twins and Nightflowers, but has there been a particular set that’s stood out for you as a personal highlight over the years?

MB: Each act brings something so unique to the festival its really hard to say. Nova Twins smashed their set and I somehow ended up dancing on stage with them, so I obviously loved that! One of my favourite memories is the Savages DJ set where everyone was pulling out their best moves at the end of the night. Great way to end the festival!
SS: So true, the energy in that space when Nova Twins closed the festival was incredible, the whole room was moving and it was a beautiful moment seeing gals in the crowd being invited on stage to party and having the BEST time!
EB: For me, it would have to be a toss up between Hejira in 2017 and Mich Cota in 2018. Both brought really special and moving performances.
SM: Yep, every year brings something different to the festival so it’s really quite hard to decide which act stood out amongst the others. However, it’s always really great to see local artists perform alongside more established acts.

And this year you’ve got some GIHE faves playing – Ghum, Los Bitchos, Tusks… Curating such awesome line ups must be a lot of work – how do you normally go about it? Is it all based on bands/artists that have got in touch with you, or do you approach them?

SS: We have a big dream list of all the bands and artists we’d love to play. The amazing thing is that the list keeps on growing, as more and more womxn are being inspired to start bands! We all have our own musical tastes as well, which helps as we want to keep the festival diverse in musical styles, so we will meet up and share acts we are into, and if we all dig it we invite them to play! However, we are totally welcoming to acts approaching us too! 

And for any upcoming bands/artists looking to apply for festivals next year, do you have any tips?

MB: I love bands/artists who have shit loads of attitude, stand up for something and who aren’t afraid to try different things. Last year Mich Cota did amazing dancing which involved a rickety step ladder and fabric, and it was amazing and beautiful!
SS: Boudica festival is about showcasing as wide a variety of acts as possible, so we are very much looking for all types of music!
SM: Be really proactive and make sure your social media is kept bang up to date. Good music videos really help programmers to understand what a live performance might feel like.

This year you’re also launching your Music Video Competition, which invites filmmakers/musicians to submit music videos that they have worked on which celebrates womxn in front of and behind the camera – can you explain a bit more about this idea?

MB: The film and music industry are very similar and have the same struggles. As part of our film programme this year we wanted to showcase the talent of female/non binary artists in both these two male dominated industries and the music video is the bridge of the two. Music videos notoriously sexualise and objectify women who are in them, and with the rise of female music video directors we’re seeing a more authentic creative representation of female acts. Music videos are a great opportunity for filmmakers and musicians to collaborate, to have fun and to have your say. We’ve had amazing entries from all around the world and look forward to screening the top 5 during the festival.

How do you feel the music industry is for new bands and artists at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?

EB: It’s hard to say whether it’s better or worse than it used to be! There’s many more avenues for bands to go down in terms of getting noticed, be that online, live, through sync deals. However this has in turn levelled the playing field to a point where there’s almost an oversaturation of talent to compete with! I think it’s become a lot more about image than in previous years, it almost feels like artists need to have a really strong ‘brand’ in order to make it.
MB: Social media has definitely changed the game of the music industry. It’s a big part in how we programme. If you have a good online presence then it’s a great calling card.

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any particular new bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?

SS: All of the acts playing this year’s lineup! We have curated a festival of artists and bands we think are the next hot things! I would say am most excited to see the witchy post-punk gals GHUM and the garage rock/cumbia vibes of Los Bitchos, but we hope with the range of artists playing this year there is something for everyone!

Massive thanks to all at Boudica Festival for answering our questions! Get your tickets for Boudica Festival here.

Photo Credit: Adele Mary Reed

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