Various venues, Edinburgh, Sun 4 May–Sun 1 Jun
Ruby-red lips, set perms and Avon panstick. Not the traditional image of a feminist – certainly not the popular, laddish stereotype of a feminist. However, Ladyfest, Edinburgh’s first female-focussed festival, launches this fortnight with an event that promises to ‘put a fresh, feminist face on the 1950s domestic goddess’. PM Tea, a theatrical, musical event with dancing, a 1950s makeover counter and an Edinburgh Feminist Network-hosted discussion on our changing views of feminism, is setting the standard for a wry, intelligent, month-long celebration of female creativity, in every single one of its forms.
Born of the 1990s Riot Grrrl Movement, which slapped a female face onto punk rock culture, the first Ladyfest was a music festival in Olympia, Washington in the year 2000. Since then, DIY Ladyfests, non-profit, feminist-centred events which aim to provide a platform for the talents of female artists and performers, have sprung forth in cities across the world.
‘It’s as much an arts festival and celebration of women in the arts, as it is a feminist festival,’ says Marylou Anderson, one of the festival organisers, who have teamed up with Zero Tolerance, Edinburgh’s campaign to end violence against women, to build a programme of events. ‘We want to build up a visible women’s culture, as much as eradicate violence against women, so it’s an equal platform for both.’
Ladyfests have typically only run for three or four days. Why do things by halves, though? In a bid to reach as wide an audience as possible, however, a month long series of workshops, avant-garde film screenings, gigs, exhibitions, comedy nights and debates have been programmed. ‘I make milk – what’s your superpower?’, a workshop on breastfeeding, is one of the many planned events happening at various venues in the city. Incidentally, after this particular session participants will be invited to take to the streets for a spot of light guerilla stickering on the flyposters of the city. Other topics up for debate and discussion over the month include pornography, human trafficking, birthing and ‘faith in feminism’.
Appropriately, given Ladyfest’s musical beginnings, girl-based gigs will be rife and unavoidable, with the likes of ‘in-tune howler’ Kirsten Norrie set to grind out glamtronics alongside dark metallists Hockyfrilla. Post-punk starlets Come On Gang, Brummie indie poppers Kategoes and the velveteen Saint Jude’s Infirmary are also set to whip up a heady mix of indie sounds, while fans of a more folky persuasion can welcome Emily Scott, Blue Flint and Katie Stewart to the sprawling festival stage.
From screenings of Thelma and Louise to queer tea dances, from lectures on international women’s rights to communication workshops, punk gigs to performance art, the programme is diverse, wide-reaching, and ought to make sure that the repercussions of the festival are felt long after Ladyfest’s closing party. Lipstick up, hit the dance floor, and let’s change some stuff.