Turns out that it is also EASY to program an entire festival with women.
This comes from one of my favorite people on Earth, Josh Santospirito. Josh runs "Her Majesty's Really Great Favourite Graphical Festival" in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, once a year. This year, in programming, he decided to ignore men. Here's his post about it.
Festivale Directeur Flamboyante Josh speaking:
I've been tossing up whether to publicise this stuff, but I thought it might be positive to speak about. The truly wonderful LISTEN initiative, championed by Evelyn Morris (Pikelet) was something that I took very seriously and I thank anyone who contributed to those discussions - it was difficult and wonderful. I really enjoyed being challenged about how I think. It provoked me to think more about my obligations as a festival organiser and as a human being.
In the first two festivals, Her Maj had a focus on attempting to get 50:50 female:male ratio. 2014 and 2015 failed to get exactly that - for a range of reasons, which I don't have space to go into here. Curating with this focus was actually quite stressful sometimes; always thinking about every single individual event and adding up how many artists I had who was male, and female, and then trying to find a person of whichever gender who could help get the gender ratio closer to 50% etc. From a purely practical perspective, it was really really challenging. I was always disappointed with not getting there and I felt a bit flat after those first two festivals; from a moral standpoint I felt that it wasn't good enough.
So - for 2016's festival I chose to attempt to make up for the previous two festivals with a new tactic. I simply decided to ignore men. Suddenly - the process seemed far less stressful; with this simple but strict parameter I could just look at all the great female artists (and there are squillions in the comics/illustration world) and organise the events around each of their skills and strengths. Simply by choosing to focus on one gender, I suddenly seemed to have no problem whatsoever in programming. I applied this philosophy to the visual artists, but I still attempted to get 50:50 with the bands/musicians on stage during the festival.
Then - later on in the piece once I had the shape of a pretty good festival and some of the programming gaps became a bit obvious - I placed a couple of token males (including myself) into the program to make it "appear" more rounded.
It occurred to me several times, that this is the world in reverse.
It is EASY to program an entire festival with men, we've all seem those. It turns out that it is also EASY to program an entire festival with women. This might be well known to others, perhaps I'm a bit slow (quite possible).
Now - I hope I'm not coming across as making any out-there broad sweeping statements about gender, or festival programming ... I'm not sure that I have a enough experience to be able to yet. I just hope this provokes some thought, and perhaps others can learn from this info.
I will say that if you've placed yourself as an organiser then you do have an obligation to challenge yourself to think about these things. I'm learning, I'm learning, I'm learning. Hopefully it never stops. It's hard and it's fun.
One note about the below chart - I did not ask each individual in the festival how they identified their gender, (there were at least two trans-people in this festival and I included them in the stat that I have been informed that they identified as) so please keep in mind this limitation. The chart is purely to give you an idea of the breakdown for 2016. Also, I haven't gone back to look at the previous festivals, but to the best of my memory they were both sitting around 35-40% mark for female participants. So overall - I think Her Maj still won't have quite gotten to 50:50 (especially if the bands/musicians are included in the stats) if you looked across the last three years in their entirety.
Her Majesty’s Program
THEN RAMBLE ON TOWARDS —>>> Night On Bear Mountain, group exhibition starring Jennifer Cossins, Melissa Baldock, Jess Polanshek (USA), Jocelyn Parry-Jones, Sarah Millicent Elliott, and MORE. 6pm @ Red Parka shop windows: Criterion St.
THEN BUMBLE ON TO THIS ONE — >>> Mathers Place Soapbox BILLBOARD exhibition with Alyssa Bermudez, Tania Walker and Leonie Brialey (Leonie is also featured in the solo exhibition at Frankie’s Empire Café). These EXTRAORDINARY artworks are in Criterion Lane, Mathers Place and on the side of the Playhouse Theatre.
AND FINALLY COME TO … —>>> WIRED FOR SOUND AND VISION - The final stop on the Art Crawl Live music, live writing and live drawing, HUGE lineup 7pm till late @ The Grand Poobah, $5 entry starring…. MUM AND DAD, ALYSSA BERMUDEZ, MICHAEL BLAKE, LUISA ROMEO, JOSHUA SANTOSPIRITO, PIPER BLACK, ALEX DAVERN, THE STAN SHOW, CARVIS JOCKER