becky atkinson

Brighter Sound is a cultural producer of creative music projects in Manchester and the surrounding area. They have a particular interest in ‘the spaces that exist between what is already on offer’ and so work with a diverse group of people from babies to the elderly, emerging musicians to absolute beginners. When I undertook the placement in January, the Brighter Sound team were preparing a series of female centric projects under the title ‘Here Come The Grrls’ which would span until 2018.

The programme was formulated as a response to alarming figures surrounding gender discrimination and segregation in the music industry. PRS for Music report that out of over 95,000 members just 13% are women. Brighter Sound had noticed too in their own practice that the number of female applicants for places on their music making courses comprising just 1 in 4 and so initiated the ‘Here Come The Grrls’ season to support young female musicians to believe in their potential, participate creatively ad explore the possibilities of a career in music. The first event of this series that I would work on was part of the Wall of Sounds Artistic Directors series whereby folktronica singer-songwriter Beth Orton led a week long residency with 14 emerging female musicians from across the UK. The musicians were from an eclectic range of musical backgrounds and they collaboratively wrote 12 very different tracks over the course of 4 days under Beth’s guidance, performing the new tracks at a Friday night gig hosted at Band on the Wall where Brighter Sound is based.

My work involved helping to document the week on social media as well as producing a programme for the finale event. The programme included edited versions of all the participant’s biographies, Beth Orton’s biography and a quote from the Chief Executive of Brighter Sound. Additionally, on the Friday whilst rehearsals were underway myself and a colleague were responsible for interviewing all of the musicians about the songs which they were collaborating on. We then composed liner notes for each of the songs as they all had fantastic stories behind them, either about what had inspired them or about the collaborative writing process out of which they were born.

Speaking to the participants was particularly insightful as all agreed that having a female only residency was clearly important but also stressed that it was a pity a programme of events like ‘Here Come The Grrls’ should be so significant. The overarching message coming from the musicians was that women and men participating equally in such programmes should be the norm and that Brighter Sound’s work encouraging women to be seen and heard should be a stepping stone towards this. Yet the project was not just about putting a spotlight on women in music but also about the process of collaboration and how this can be a challenging but highly rewarding process. Again speaking to the musicians many often worked in relative isolation and so producing music with others practitioners who worked in such varied mediums and genres in just a week pushed them out of their comfort zone and encouraged them to re-evaluate their own practice.

Watching the participants write, rehearse and perform together was truly inspirational and typical of the important work that Brighter Sound do in Manchester and the surrounding area to connect people and encourage creativity and freedom through music.

You can watch a short video about the residency at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a03PIhzY798

For more information about Brighter Sound and their exciting programme of events and courses visit:

http://www.brightersound.com/

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