In many ways Ireland punches above its weight when it comes to dance music. Struggling against restrictive licensing laws, exorbitant rents, harsh drug policies and a general ignorance of electronic music and clubbing by those in officialdom, the scene is still kicking. However, you could go out every weekend and never see a woman djing. James Beggan chats to two collectives changing all of that.
EVE began with a basement party in the South William Bar. Those involved had discussed the idea and the lack of women out DJing but hadn’t acted on it before August 2015. Jess tells me:
“I wanted myself and my friends to be given a chance to show that we were worthy of the music ‘scene’ in Dublin – when you’re first starting out as a DJ – whether male or female, it’s very hard to get yourself noticed, especially in a small city such as Dublin where most nights already have their fill of residents.”
The scene can be intimidating and those who take a step further to pursue their passion can find it difficult to get a hearing. Gash Collective is another initiative aiming to change it up. Gash was started on International Women’s Day by Cork based producer ELLLL. Motivated by her own experience and that of others, she told us:
“It’s been my experience that women in Ireland are both underrepresented and underestimated in electronic music. I was getting more and more frustrated with the massive gender gap in event lineups. Negative and undermining attitudes towards women in the industry in general.” The situation in Ireland isn’t unique and a look at festival and club line-ups or label rosters across the world doesn’t make for pleasant reading. ELLLL spoke of how some international groups influenced her:
“Discwoman have definitely been influential and the success of other collectives across Europe too, Siren in London, Apeiron Crew in Copenhagen etc. The Female Pressure organisation was also a big inspiration behind the collective. The support and solidarity you get from being part of a network like that is very encouraging.”
Of course line-ups are only the most visible part of the problem, having support structures and space to hone skills and taste is a huge benefit of a collective. For Jess: “EVE has provided the girls who have played for it so far with more confidence in themselves as DJ’s. It allows us to explore our music properly and mature as DJs as we go along. Eve provides girls with a comfortable environment where they are able to take control of the nights that they are playing at which I think in itself is a confidence booster.” ELLLL also has similar hopes for those involved in Gash Collective. Along with creating a community and doing gigs to showcase the talent out there, she wants to pass on the skills needed to get started.
“I want to set up DJ and production workshops to encourage girls to get involved. The numbers of girls involved in production and music technology in particular are worryingly low. Similar women’s initiatives have shown great solidarity and approached me to work together with them to host events/workshops in the future.”
Developing an alternative infrastructure along with a more welcoming scene and increased visibility is vital. However with that visibility, promoters are prone to propagating, as Nightwave and Lauren Martin have cautioned, the “Female DJ” gimmick. Collectives like Eve and Gash play a part in creating a new audience and expanding the scene, while also preventing others detracting from their ability. To that end, ELLLL says:
“I’m working on getting a series of mixes off the ground focusing on different DJs, producers, promoters etc. There’ll be a feature about each person relating to their music and what they’re up to on the GASH website too. We’ve also got a once a month radio show starting on Radio na Life (last Saturday of every month).”
The response to both collectives so far as been really positive, however, there is definitely room for improvement, as Jess says: “I think that more females still need to get booked to come to play in Dublin and I think that more girls should be given chances to prove themselves at the bigger gigs in the city. It’s quite a daunting prospect getting up in front of a room of people to play music – which is already a very personal thing. But I think it is even worse for a girl as there seems to be this stigma attached to female DJs of ‘can they do it?’ and ‘oh my god it’s a girl DJ’ when someone takes the time to look up and see who is providing the music.”
Perhaps with new groups pushing the boundaries and demanding change, the makeup of Ireland’s dance music scene is already shifting. Eve themselves have begun a ‘takeover’ in the Opium Rooms hosting an all-woman line-up. For Jess,
“This is a huge achievement – we have gone from practicing in our rooms to playing in one of the biggest clubs in Dublin in just under a year.”