Blog: Both Sides Now participants

Four female musicians who took part in Both Sides Now, a musical residency alongside Beth Orton in Manchester, write about their experiences as a second programme in Leeds is announced

Hero image

Both Sides Now’s Leeds musical residency will take part in March under the guidance of Shiva Feshareki, winner of the 2017 British Composer Award for Innovation. Emerging female artists from Leeds and the surrounding area can now sign up for the five day residency of collaboration, improvisation and experimentation, culminating in the performance of new pieces at the Sounds Like This Festival in Leeds on 12 March. Participants need to apply here before 11 February. Here four women from the Manchester residency tell us how they got on.

Chloe Foy

I am a singer-songwriter based in Manchester and I also happen to be female. Being female in the music industry comes with its challenges, and that’s why the Both Sides Now programme is a much needed initiative.

I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in the first residency for female musicians led by Beth Orton. I arrived on the first day and immediately felt that I was among some of the best talent around – where had they all been hiding?! No time was wasted and after introductions we set about shaping our song ideas. I found myself working with a talented harpist, a composer, a multi-instrumentalist and some incredible vocalists. I was constantly inspired by the other artists around me – how they approached the situation, how they wrote their own songs and how they contributed musically to the week. Naturally, it was a pretty intense process and I think we all agreed that we felt drained at the end of each day, having put a lot of energy into creating entirely new songs.

Beth gave artistic guidance and encouraged us to try things we might not have otherwise – she spotted things in people they hadn’t spotted in themselves. She enabled people to work together to create something new but was firm with guidance when needed, and it was interesting to be able to see an established artist’s processes at work. Reflecting back on the week, it was a joy to be given a platform to shout about how good we all are and to feel inspired and encouraged by one another’s endless talents. As an artist, it’s helped me to be more receptive to collaboration and to new sounds, and it’s opened up my world to a bunch of brilliant women. We’re already talking about getting together to continue the process, both as a group of musicians and as new friends!

Ola Rae (Charlotte Barber)

I started this residency with expectancy, excitement and maybe a touch of nerves too, running over in my mind what may or may not unfold. From the get-go it felt like a friendly and easygoing space that wasn’t competitive. Beth herself even said to us on numerous occasions: “This isn’t a talent contest and it isn’t the performance of your life – just concentrate on the process.”

The next few days were spent working in small groups and shifting around every few hours, either working on our own material with the other artists or working on their material, reimagining and rewriting what was into whatever it was going to be. There was no preciousness – we had created an open platform to bring ideas to the table. Throughout the week the songs were broken down and rebuilt. They took on new leases of life and many different forms. I felt very privileged to get this insight into songwriting.

As we got to the last day and the Both Sides Now launch, we felt wholly under-prepared and under-practised for any type of performance – we had still been making changes to songs the evening before. Beth again reiterated that this was just a showing of what we had achieved and not to put too much pressure on ourselves (note to self – not the performance of your life, Ola!). The gig itself was very inspirational. It felt so amazing to be a part of this celebration of women in music and the performance seemed to be well received, however under-prepared I had felt.

Having had the opportunity to work with such a supportive group of women who were gracious and so giving in their talent was such a wonderful thing and knowing that we all want to carry on working together in some form is really special. Personally I came away with so much more than a new version of a song – I came away with new ideas, inspiration and all importantly a new tribe of totally awesome female musicians!

Ray Gibson

This was one of the first collaborative experiences I have been a part of and, although I’ve worked alongside other musicians and artists in bands or for short films, I have never had the opportunity to work intensively with other female musicians before.

It was a fast-paced, intense and exciting project. The residency provided intensive collaboration and music making in a nurturing and inquisitive environment. I feel so grateful to have been surrounded not just by amazing female musicians but by the technicians, photographers and visual artists who helped make the residency feel like a professional, encouraging environment. On the final day it felt as though all of our efforts had come together and it was thrilling to have our ideas and music showcased at the Old Granada Studios as part of the Both Sides Now launch. I believe that these residencies and opportunities for female musicians to work together are vital to the encouragement and development of music, and to women considering a career in this industry. The residency, in my opinion, set up a space where we could be honest about what it means to be women in the music industry.

Although our experiences are different to a man’s, they are not lesser and the way we work and manage our identities are valid. I found it refreshing to have a platform to debate and discuss music and the issues we face as women without being shot down or dismissed – something not everyone has the opportunity to experience.

Francesca Pidgeon

Being a part of this residency has been very rewarding for me, both musically and personally. It’s not often as a musician that you are allowed – or allow yourself – to sit and just play with ideas, knowing that perhaps nothing will come of them, despite the fact this is often where the best songs come from. On this residency we were encouraged to sit with our ideas, without the focus being on the end product, and explore the multitude of ways that the music could take us.

The opportunity to collaborate with a group of other female musicians you respect is sadly a rare one, and this was probably the aspect of the week I enjoyed most. As a professional musician I have a large network of collaborators, and though I admire them musically the vast majority of them are men. It was inspiring to spend a week with female musicians, technicians, composers, arrangers and artists to remind myself that there are some seriously talented women out there, and I feel like I came out of the week with a whole new set of heroes.

As a woman in music I know that Both Sides Now is such a worthy and essential project. There have been too many times that I’ve gone into a music shop only to have the staff address my male friend, too many times that a sound technician has asked my male bandmates about my effects pedals and too many times that I’ve been objectified by men watching me perform. Sitting onstage with 13 other accomplished female musicians made me feel secure and more able to deal with everything that you have to fight against as a woman in music. I’m so happy that even more women will get to feel stronger after taking part in residencies like this.

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Blog: Both Sides Now participants

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.