Creating more diversity in the Cork arts scene

People have said ‘you’re only liked now cos you’re a girl in the band’
Creating more diversity in the Cork arts scene

Musician Abbey Blake, who co-founded the Angry Mom Collective, whose goal is to create more balance in the arts industry for women, non-binary and LGBT+ artists.

A new non-profit organisation in Cork — whose goal is to create more balance in the arts industry for women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ artists — is looking for feedback from people ~involved in the sector as to what changes they would like to see.

The Angry Mom Collective is hosting a coffee and chat event at the Pink Moon Café today to discuss their plans with anyone interested, and to find out what people would like to see from the collective.

The organisation was founded by musician Abbey Blake, who is a guitarist for local band Pretty Happy, along with her brother Arran Blake and friend Andy Killian.

She is passionate about music but, through playing gigs, she soon found there was a gender bias in the industry.

“I’m so lucky that I have two sound lads behind me in the band that will fight for my corner and make sure I’m good but I can imagine there are other girls who are worse off,” she told The Echo.

“I’ve been talking to other people and asked,’how do you find being a girl [in a band]?’ and I’ve heard stories where people have said to them, ‘ah you’re only liked now cos you’re a girl in the band’, that kind of thing.

“You’re a musician, it shouldn’t be this thing about gender, it should be you’re a musician, you’re there for the music.”

Donagh Sugrue of Teletext Records had raised the idea of an all-women gig to celebrate Irish women in music, but Abbey felt something more than a one-off event could be even more beneficial.

After getting hassle while trying to pack up in a venue she had performed in with Pretty Happy, she felt it was time to take action

“A few months ago I was being kicked out and it was after a gig,” she said.”I was clearing up my gear and a bouncer said, ‘you have to get out’. I explained I was just grabbing my stuff and he said I had to leave, it was bands only.

“I told him I had just played in the gig and said I’m not leaving my guitar and amp here. Arran had to come over and explain that I’m in the band.

“He [the bouncer] then said sorry as if it was nothing, after Arran had to come to my defence.

“And it’s always happening. Some gigs were bad and I just couldn’t get over it. Honestly, I’d think; how is this still going on?”

Not wanting to limit it to just the music scene, Abbey brought in others to help cover all angles of the arts industry.

This resulted in Caoimhe Coleman, Ellen Franklin and Shirley Lam joining the team.

Each member has a background in the arts and media and all feel a gender imbalance exists that needs to be corrected, starting in Cork.

The main objective is to eliminate any stigma towards and discrimination of women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ artists. But it’s also to create a community for them to network in and bring people together.

“I didn’t want to just limit it to just music, I know some women in arts and know what it can be like with the industry where women have to work twice as hard to progress,” Abbey explained.

“I realised it’s in all art forms basically and there’s such a cool arts scene in Cork. So I just wanted to make a community of artists more than just music, that’s why I wanted to bring the girls on as well.”

Angry Mom Collective has received a lot of support since starting their social media campaign, with people in the industry telling them that it has been needed for some time.

“I think loads of people have had this idea, I know I’ve had it for a good two years but no one has taken steps to do it,” Abbey said. “I was lucky when I contacted Shirley, Ellen and Caoimhe and they’ve just been brilliant.

“People have been great saying this is really needed, that it’s a great thing. It’s a good representation and people also like the fact that we’re trying to be really inclusive.”

This afternoon, the collective will be hosting a coffee and chat event at the Pink Moon Café on Washington Street. It will be the first time people have a chance to say how they feel the collective can help them.

Speaking about the event, Abbey said: “Basically this is just a coffee and a conversation, we don’t want to start anything without getting feedback, it’s a chat to see what people want, what do they think of what we’re doing and how do they think we can improve and help them.

“I want to support people, so if there are people starting off and they’re nervous doing soundchecks and stuff like that and won’t get their voice heard, I would go with them and make sure they get whatever help they need.”

She also sees an opportunity to enable more networking between different artists.

“I also want to start a sort of directory of musicians and connect people as well,” she said. “There have been so many people that have come to me saying we need more girl groups or LGBTQ+ people in music and have a celebration of that. I want to connect people like that, so to use it as a bridge of communication as well.”

Running solely on donations, the plan is to put all funds raised back into the Angry Mom Collective and local charities.

“We are going to have donations and fundraisers but this is going to be totally non-profit for us, we don’t want to gain from it,” Abbey said.

“Even if we do profit from anything it will all be going back into the collective. If we do have excess money, it will go towards local charities.”

While the main issue is the poor treatment towards women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ artists, it doesn’t mean men are not welcome. The point of the collective is there for anyone who feels they need support:

“Anyone who’s suffering or feels they’re not getting their voice heard in the arts community, we’ll help them,” Abbey said. “it’s so inclusive, we’re not ever going to turn anyone away.”

The Angry Mom Collective’s Coffee and Chats event takes place at the Pink Moon Café this afternoon at 3PM.

The event is free but it’s advised to claim your ticket in advance https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/coffee-chats-tickets-58920417555

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