“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Is the truth that immediately became apparent to me when I met the Make Noise collective. Formed upon the common desire to promote visibility for women in music, to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault in music venues, and to create a sense of safety in the city of Hull’s scene, this small handful of women are not just recognising the problem – they are acting upon it.
The first of their kind in the City of Culture, dissatisfied to merely hand out leaflets to an ignorant audience, Make Noise are not waiting for change – they are the change. Holding weekly meetings at The Warren, the epicentre of innovation for Hull and emblematic of its music scene, the group have conceived their Open Event as their first milestone towards inspiring much sought-after change for women.
A representative of only a small part of Hull’s women involved in music, the Open Event was intended as a gathering to discover why they are so underrepresented in what is still a male-dominated industry and how venues can improve as a place of safety.
The ambience of the night was charmingly relaxed, warm and welcoming. Post-It Notes were passed around as everyone brainstormed what, in their view, would be the ideal gig venue, which broke the ice and set a precedent of intelligent, articulate discussions throughout the night in an environment where opinions were valued and shared. A reoccurring hope for the ideal music venue was security and management that took sexual assault and harassment seriously with an awareness on how to deal with it; instead, the current situation is staff that are uneducated on how to spot and handle such incidents, instead adopting a ‘didn’t see it, didn’t happen’ attitude that leaves victims marginalised and their experiences a mere triviality. Make Noise also created anonymous questionnaires concerning just how far these issues have affected women, and what the change they hope to see is. Based on this feedback, Make Noise are going to take action.
The Open Event featured panels, the first of which had three accomplished women in the music industry who have succeeded despite the competitive, male-monopolised nature of their work. Hanna Lutkin, a self-employed stage manager, acknowledged that “The main issue with an overwhelming lack of women in the music industry is confidence. Most women are thinking themselves as lucky for being in their position, rather than thinking ‘They’re so lucky to have me”.” Fellow panellist and stamanagerger Emily Dawson, who found her beginning at The Warren, added that “Girls are scared of girls, far more than they’re scared of anyone else. That can be something that really knocks their confidence because of what other girls think.” A member of the audience, Lindy Lou, frontwoman of Dark Magic, proposed the idea of confidence workshops. It’s only through encouraging women to feel confident in their talents that we will see a rise in females in the music industry – otherwise, there’s a risk many won’t take their ambition any further than their own bedrooms. “Once record labels sign girl bands, they won’t be able to get enough of them. It’s like when the Arctic Monkeys got big, there was a sudden rush to sign all the Sheffield bands. We just need to get to that point where enough exist and are encouraged.”
It’s all very well to discuss what’s wrong, but Make Noise want to put these thoughts in motion. Megan Roe and Iona Lane of Leeds-hailing Girls That Gig were the honorary guests of the night, who, like Make Noise themselves, are devoted to supporting and inspiring women in the creative industries. Megan pointed out, “The problem is not just a woman’s problem. We need to talk to men about this. At the end of the day, they will be our allies.” There was also the idea of having women-only gigs, with female artists and female promoters putting it together to not only utilise talent and great minds but to encourage more to stem from it. There is also talk of holding a gig for International Women’s Day – keep tabs on that one. Perhaps the greatest thing about Make Noise’s Open Event was how incredible it felt to be in the midst of such a passionate, creative and ultimately brilliant group of women. It is only right, for not only their sake and the sake of all women like them, but also on behalf of the evolution of the music industry that has crafted who we are today, that we should make noise. The vision we strive for is a beautiful one, and with the great minds of Make Noise behind it, not so far out of reach.
Words: Sophie Walker
Images: Ly Dang
MAKE NOISE HULL FB: https://www.facebook.com/makenoisehull/