The right to our own bodies... we deserve a choice

Ahead of a fundraising gig for Rebels for Repeal, ELLIE O’BYRNE talks to singer-songwriter Róisín Lowry about gender equality in the music business, working on her upcoming EP and supporting the prochoice movement
The right to our own bodies... we deserve a choice
Róisín Lowry.

“AS a female artist, you do, to an extent, get sexism in the music industry.”

Cork-based singer-songwriter Róisín Lowry, AKA Lōwli, performs as part of an all-female three-piece band. She will be performing at a showcase fundraising gig for Rebels for Repeal, the recently founded Cork pro-choice group.

Although she says the general climate for female musicians has improved in the last couple of years, Róisín and fellow band members Aileen Wallace (drums) and Fionnuala Diskin (cello) think there’s still a way to go.

“I think the three of us would agree that there’s still a difference between the genders in the music industry,” she says.

“People are starting to become aware that festival line-ups are mostly male-based; it’s been brought to people’s attention in the last couple of years. There’s pressure on bookers to book female acts and I think that’s really good for female musicians’ confidence, that they can be booked as headline acts and play festivals.”

Having released a single, Fallow, last November, Róisín has been working on an EP in recent months, but is very happy to take a break from the post-production process to appear at the Rebels for Repeal fundraiser, where she will play a solo set.

“I was really interested because I’ve always supported this movement anyway,” Róisín says.

“The whole band feel very strongly that we all have the right to our own body and that we deserve a choice.”

Róisín will be joined by singer-songwriter Tiz McNamara, rapper Spekulativ Fiktion, post-punk five-piece The Sunshine Factory and huge funk ensemble Quangodelic in a diverse line-up for the fundraiser.

“When I heard the line-up I thought it was amazing,” she says. “It’s great because there’s singer-songwriters, and then there’s funk and rapping, so it’s going to be really interesting for the audience.”

The UCC music graduate, who has only been performing and composing as Lōwli since early 2016, originally hails from Galway.

“I’ve been in Cork for seven years now and it’s great,” she says. “There’s a good network of musicians and bookers and you do get to know the industry here fast enough because everyone knows each other quite well. But I might be looking at moving on in the future. In the next year I might go to Dublin, or abroad.”

Keeping the focus of the first fundraising gig for Rebels for Repeal firmly on Cork-based acts was a priority for organiser Michelle Leonard.

“It was important for me to showcase Cork music,” Michelle says. “A lot of people don’t give Cork the credit for the level of creativity that’s going on; we get described as a smaller place with bits and pieces happening there, or else people will reference older bands like The Frank and Walters or Fred, but they never think of the new, up and coming bands and you don’t hear as much about them. I think that’s a shame, because there’s a wealth of talent out there.”

Having put out the call for bands willing to play the benefit gig for free, Michelle was amazed by the number of Cork musicians who wanted to get involved.

“We knew we needed five bands; we ended up with ten to choose from,” she says. “The response was huge. It’s great of all the musicians to give us their time. I know as a musician that you don’t really want to be working for free, so I think it’s amazing for them to give their time but hopefully, through us publicising the event they might get a bit of a shout in that way.”

All of the proceeds of the gig, which will take place in 250-capacity venue Cyprus Avenue, will go to the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC).

“Rebels for Repeal aren’t going to be a branch of ARC, but we will work with them to hold information evenings and public meetings,” Michelle says. “A lot of that is being done in Dublin, where they hold weekly meetings. We’re yet to have a meeting in Cork so there’s a big need for more action in Cork.”

April’s results from the Citizens’ Assembly on Abortion, despite criticisms of the assembly as biased in some quarters, were taken as a resounding endorsement of the public support for change to Ireland’s abortion laws — 64% said they were in favour of unrestricted access to abortion in Ireland up to 12 weeks’ gestation.

“I really think that the problem we have now is to get things in motion and to make sure that the results of the citizens’ assembly are carried,” Michelle says.

“The government will push back on it and put it off for as long as possible so it’s our job, and the job of anyone who wants to see this change in our world, to put pressure on them and tell them that we do want the recommendations of the citizen’s assembly taken seriously.”

Rebels for Repeal are already planning future fundraising events for Cork, including a ‘Speakeasy’ event in The Friary bar and a burlesque and jazz night in The Poor Relation.

Despite the divisive nature of the debate surrounding abortion in Ireland, Michelle says Cork people are generally open to discussion and calm debate.

“You’re going to have people come up against you with very strong opinions of their own, but it’s not about changing other people’s minds; it’s about showing that you should have the choice to make up your own.”

Rebels for Repeal fundraising gig is in Cyprus Avenue on June 8 at 8:30pm. Tickets: €10, plus booking fee via Eventbrite. Also available in the Old Oak.

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