PandoraFest is a new music festival with a clear remit to celebrate and promote women in music. It’s also the first festival of its kind in Scotland, and it’s already created its own momentum as an international event. 1320Radio caught up with PandoraFest organiser Caroline Daalmeijer in an exclusive Q and A about the thinking behind PandoraFest, and why it is so necessary.
PandoraFest is clearly a reaction to a lack of equal opportunities for female perfromers on the live music circuit. It’s hard to believe that this sort of under-representation is what modern audiences want. Why do you think promoters and venues are ignoring women in music, particularly at festivals?
Women in Music is still a sub genre, in the same way that Ska or Punk are. It’s accepted to see women do well in pop and country, but when they stray out of those boxes they basically get ignored. Our preferences are unconsciously loaded by the entertainment media that surrounds us. But if you attend Pandora Fest, the next festival you’ll go to will look odd, because it has no or very little women artists on the lineup. That’s the balance I want to redress. Festival booking committees are definitely biased towards male bands and artists.
Lady Gaga didn’t call the music industry a ‘boys club’ for nothing recently. I know of a female award-winning artist who was invited to submit to a big name festival; she was told by a female selection panel member that though she was good; but hers wasn’t the style that was looked for. Not getting into names, but it was one of the major UK festivals. The bands that appeared on stage that year were all male.
The same resistence exists towards female artists with strong messages or politics: can you imagine a female Bono or Bob Geldof, of that calibre, at that level? We can!
But I’m very keen to point out I want actual equality, men are not excluded from either the PandoraFest stage or the audience, so you’ll see mixed bands and everyone’s welcome to attend. At the end of the day, it’s about good music and good music should be enjoyed by all.
I think there is a point to the furore that arose recently when Glastonbury announced their Women Only venue and stage. It’s not that I don’t understand where such a space stems from, and I while I sympathise with the urge, you simply can’t strive for true equality while excluding a whole gender. That cuts both ways!
The programme is diverse, but it does seem to favour bands with a bit of attitude! Is there a deliberate emphasis on rock acts for example, perhaps to underscore those areas in music where female performers find doors closing in their faces?
We worked hard to represent as many genres as possible and are proud to host jazz, punk, folk, acoustic, rock, industrial, pop, fusion, metal, classic rock, country and experimental artists, as well as DJ sets.
But you’re right, there are some seriously fierce females on the bill. That was not deliberate: our call for submissions invited literally every female artist of any genre to apply.
Sometimes it was circumstance: several PandoraFest artists are travelling from the US to perform but for one South American band and several African artists logistics simply got in the way this year.
And you are absolutely correct when it comes to certain areas in music being shut to women through pure bias: The main reason we were inspired to create PandoraFest is because we all are, or have been, musicians ourselves. We have experienced first-hand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the obstacles thrown in front of women in music.
I’ve been a session singer for most of my life. I’ve played in various bands and travelled across the world as a backing vocalist. I am ‘lucky’: singing is a culturally accepted craft for a girl to pursue, which is preposterous in its limited viewpoint. A woman who chooses to be, say, a prog-rock bassist, faces a different challenge entirely…
It’s interesting that this ambitious festival has a strong international flavour right from the outset. Was that always your aim, or did PandoraFest quickly become an event that women everywhere really wanted to be part of?
That is exactly what happened! When we opened up for submissions, we hoped of course to get a wide response, but we didn’t quite anticipate those South American and African applications, plus more! It was immensely gratifying and frustrating all at the same time, as we decided on a one-day festival for our launch year. This involved some very long listening sessions, followed by some brutal and regretful pruning.
The response in general has been brilliant, there have been many e-mails just to express appreciation for the initiative and the hope PandoraFest does well; there has also been tremendous goodwill and flexibility from the performing artists, the staff of Duncarron Medieval Village and music media outlets.
It would be fantastic to make PandoraFest an annual recurrence in the Scottish festival season. We are putting in a lot of ourselves, not just ideologically but materially as well, since we did not get funding this year. It’s a real labour of love and we hope to at least inspire other festivals to re-evaluate their line-up criteria.
We hope to inspire festival goers not to settle for cookie-cutter fare on their live circuit, to think outside the box and be vocal about what they expect and hope to see.
Going to a festival should be an exciting, fun and memorable experience for artists and audience alike; so as organisers we made sure to never lose sight of that.
However, if there are girls and young women in the PandoraFest audience who may awaken to the possibility of getting into music as more than just a hobby, through the positive example of great women musicians on the stage, our work is done!
PandoraFest takes place on Saturday 16th July 2016 at Duncarron Medieval Village, 27 High St, Kincardine, Denny FK6 5JL 10:30am til 12:00am. No age restrictions.
Duncarron is the complete reproduction of a fortified village from the early Middle Ages of Scotland. It is the reconstruction of a typical residence of a scottish Clan Chief from the early part of the last millennium.
Photographs top to bottom: Courtesans, Vodun, Allannah Moar, Mathilde Santing