Interview: Martha Hill on her 'Women are Mint Festival'
Festival season is just about to kick off, and the North East music scene has much in store for us this year, including a new festival in Newcastle’s cultural heart Ouseburn Valley.
Women Are Mint celebrates female musical talent from the 10th to the 12th May, with a female led line-up, music workshops, yoga sessions and even delicious food!
We wanted to know more about this truly inspiring festival so we spoke to Martha Hill, local alt-pop musician and one of the festival’s organisers, about gender equality, sexism, quotas, and the importance of role models...
How and when did the idea of Women Are Mint emerge?
“Women Are Mint was initially put together by myself and Ali Pritchard of Alphabetti Theatre. We ran four events, each showcasing a local female musician, and then there was a discussion afterwards on a topic of the musician’s choice. It was a really interesting and powerful series of events and I wanted to take it one step further.”
What or who has inspired you to initiate a festival featuring women musicians?
“There’re so many amazingly talented women in the North East at the moment, and I wanted to celebrate that! I also wanted to try and balance the books by booking an entirely female line-up.”
Have you ever experienced any injustice, inequality, or sexism at gigs or festivals, or as a woman musician in general?
“Who hasn’t! The entire foundations of our society are sexist.”
According to the BBC, women are widely underrepresented on festival line-ups, and some say quotas can make a difference. What’s your opinion on that?
“Obviously quotas aren’t ideal. The ideal is that naturally everyone would have a fair chance and a fair mind. However that isn’t the reality, and I can’t see a better way to challenge that other than through quotas. If a 50/50 line-up is demanded, then a 50/50 line-up will have to be supplied, encouraging more equality within the industry.”
In the 1990s the Riot Grrrl movement intended to emancipate women and aimed to inspire more girls to pick up rock instruments and form bands. Today, rock camps for girls have a similar philosophy. How important do you think role models are for young girls, who are thinking about getting into music?
“Role models are important for everyone, we all need to feel inspired and empowered, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, religion, anything that may set us apart.”
Ladyfest is a global festival organised by and for women and trans-women, which aims to provide a safe and sexism-free zone, where women can support and inspire each other.
What are your thoughts on festivals such as this and did you have similar goals in mind when putting together your festival?
“Every festival should aim to provide a safe and sexism-free zone. This isn’t just about creating a safe space for women though; it’s about creating an equal space for everyone. Everybody benefits from equality, and Women Are Mint festival aims towards equality.”
Do you have any long-term ambitions regarding your festival, or future projects in mind?
“I would hope to make it an annual event! I have a few other ideas in the pipeline as well...”
Are there any similar projects in the North East or in the UK that you would like to give a shout out to?
“Noisy Daughters by Tracks in Darlington is on the 17th of May, which is an all female event.
There’s also WMN happening at head of Steam on 28th April. Both these events are celebrating and showcasing incredible female talent!”
Is there anything else we should know about your festival, or is there anything you would like to share about your own musical exploits?
“Women Are Mint festival is a music event spanning across three days (10th-12th May) featuring workshops, performances, stalls and face-painting from incredible NE women.”