Ballad of a LadyFest

LadyFest Band Night. Photo: Anna Haswell

Female creativity has been celebrated in New Cross during the past week, as Goldsmiths hosted its annual ‘Ladyfest’.The event, described by co-organiser Francesca Bancarino, 22, as ‘a pop-up feminist festival’, aims to exhibit women’s talents in artistic endeavours of all kinds. Contributors from the worlds of art, activism and music come together each year to show off their skills.

Originally held in Olympia, Washington, in 2000, the Ladyfest formula has been successfully adapted around the world, with versions taking place in locations as disparate as Dresden and Singapore, each attempting to spread the word about local female creativity.

As fellow coordinator Evy Samuelsson, 26, explained, this year’s event at Goldsmiths featured a variety of different attractions. “We’ve had different workshops and talks and film screenings, and also a big band night,” she said. “The talks have been on everything: we’ve had the NUS women’s officer, and a fat activist come and talk – which was really great. We had cabaret performers as well, so we’re trying to cater for lots of different kinds of people.”

However, as Samuelsson is keen to highlight, Ladyfest is not just about having fun. It is also intended to raise awareness of the difficulties that can face women working in the worlds of art and music.

“It’s about showing that there are women in the creative industries, but also problematising it, and politicising it. It’s about saying: “Yes, but why is it that we need to have a Ladyfest? Why is it that we need to celebrate female creativity?” It’s very difficult for women to be in the music industry and the art world.”

It is this political angle that the festival’s coordinators want to emphasise to those who come to their events. Goldsmiths Ladyfest is largely organised by the university’s Feminist Society, and Samuelsson hopes that some of those who attended will feel motivated to learn more about the women’s movement.

She also believes that Ladyfest is also a great way to fight old stereotypes about feminist activism. “Feminism is a way of looking at life, and it isn’t about sitting in a room and hating men,” she said. Instead, Samuelsson and her friends believe that feelings of political frustration need not be merely negative.

“It can really be something positive. Say, for example, the issue with women in the creative industries – what do we do about this? We don’t sit around and moan about it, we do something! We have a festival at Goldsmiths! We do something fun, we promote female artists, but we also talk about the issue, and I hope that people are going to be inspired by this.”

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