Photojournalist Chloe Jackson-Nott recently completed a project on women in music in Wales, about the lack of women in the industry and how we can address it. Take it away, Chloe!
My photography mainly focuses on music. There aren’t many female music photographers around, so within my work I wanted to photograph and talk to women in other parts of the music industry: whether that be, in a band, solo artist, radio presenter, photographer or enthusiastic gig-goer.
I found eight young women in different parts of the industry. They all do different things within it, and they agreed to speak to me and allowed me to photograph them.
Firstly, Daniele Lewis is a singer-songwriter from New Quay, West Wales. I stumbled across her at Sŵn Festival when looking through the schedule for female artists. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to speak to her on the day but I did see her perform and she has a lot of friends and family around supporting her. Her performance had a calm vibe to it but at the same time you could see all of her enthusiasm and that she loved being up on stage.
I then spoke to Fenne Lily just before her show at Sŵn Festival in Clwb Ifor Bach who had travelled from Bristol to perform in Cardiff. She has strong views about how to get to where you need to be in the music industry and how you need to fight your way to the top, especially being female.
Before I started to find women to talk to about this, I knew I wanted to speak to Katie Hall from Aberdare as I have worked with and seen her band Chroma play live multiple times. She’s incredible. When she performs, she’s lost in performance – she doesn’t care what other people think about her. She’ll be dancing around the stage, giving enthusiastic facial expressions. You can tell she is very passionate about her music and take advantage of being the lead singer of a band with two other male members. She’s a great role model for young girls who want to make it big one day in music.
I also spoke to Dani Hewitt from Treherbet and Samantha Bull from Aberdare who volunteer with Young Promoters Network where they have worked with many women, including myself, who want to take the next step in music. They realised that all of the girls were coming to them for advice noticing that there were no other female role models for them, so decided to create a community called WOMEN (Women of Music Events Network.)
I then went to the students of all music courses at University of South Wales and found Ellie Strong from Cardiff who aspires to be a successful drummer, which is someone I had yet to come across so jumped at the chance to speak to her. She performs at Café Jazz every Monday to practice her skills and perform to a small crowd. Finally, I was asked to photograph two radio presenters from Dragon Media at University of South Wales who happened to be both female so spoke to them to get a different view as they were not in a band or aspire to be artists.
Women of Wales in music
Samantha Bull, 26, Aberdare, W.O.M.E.N
“There aren’t enough women in the music industry, progress is being made but it is slow. There is so much could be done and must be done to counteract the inequality that we as women face in the industry. From the culture that surrounds us and society it has been ingrained in us from a young age that all girls are in competition with each other. Take that thought and push it out of your brain. We need to come together and start supporting each other and celebrating each other’s achievements.”
Dani Hewitt, 26, Treherbet, W.O.M.E.N Cofounder
“There are a lot of men working in the music industry that I could look up to but not a lot of women that I could identify with and follow in the footsteps of. I volunteer with the Young Promoters Network and a lot of the girls starting coming to me and looking up to me to help them. It became a community where we supported each other with developing skills. As there aren’t a lot of female role models, I decided that I should be one for now for young girls who want to achieve their dreams and goals.”
Fenne Lily, 18, Bristol – Singer
“I think there are enough women in the music industry but not women who are actually doing what they want to do, because it’s quite easy to see a girl with an acoustic guitar and tell her she’s can be the next ‘Taylor Swift.’ I think it should cater to women more instead of having men setting up their career and choosing for them. I’ve been brought up by a lot of music as I was attending festivals at a young age so I knew this is definitely what I wanted to do with my life and have decided to build a career out of it. If it’s something you want to do, don’t let society’s opinions stop you.”
Danielle Lewis, 21, West Wales – Singer
“In the 10 years I have been performing live from school, my local scene at home, playing in Australia to moving to the city in Cardiff, I have seen a lack of women in music in all areas of the industry from playing to sound engineers and producing. It still seems to be a very male orientated business and as a female artist myself I have felt looked down at numerous times. I recently recorded my latest CD with a female producer for the first time and she herself agrees on the shortage. I do think we are becoming more aware of this and I look forward to a new wave of more females in the industry.”
Katie Hall, 21, Aberdare – Singer
“There are definitely not enough girls in the music industry. It shouldn’t be the defining feature of you band that a girl is the front woman. There are so many talented and inspiring musicians that are girls. I think the way to inspire more girls to work in the music industry is to shatter that glass ceiling that’s oppressing women everywhere. The way we do that is challenging promoters attitudes towards women in bands so they give them more gigs. We need to inspire girls from a young age to get involved or pick up an instrument, and support the women who are currently involved in music to reach their full potential as artist.”
Ellie Strong, 20, Cardiff – Drummer
“I think there’s a common misconception that there aren’t a lot of women, but there are plenty of women in music; just not enough making grungy rock and shredding guitar! But then there are some gems like jazz and rock drummer Cindy Blackman, currently killing it in the band Santana.. I think what the current women in the industry need to realise is that ‘music’ isn’t a term to be taken lightly; it’s not always about image, which seems to be the case nowadays. So my advice to singers is that they should listen to Jill Scott’s raw vocals instead of whatever is in the charts, and to instrumentalists – keep doing your thing. Prove that we can do it just as well as the boys.”
Niamh Doyle, 20, Cardiff, Radio Presenter
“I believe that there are a few women who are extremely big at the moment, but that’s only a fortunate few. The advice I would give is to keep up their YouTube platforms, as this is a platform where anyone; gender, age, or race is welcome and as it is such a large platform, it is accessible to everyone around the world. We are also at a time in our lives where society is beginning to change the status levels between men and women; women are beginning to become more noticed and taken seriously. My final advice to women would be to never give up and to just keep their end goal in mind.”
Rebekah Price, 22, Cwmbran, Radio Presenter
“Music is an incredibly important thing in my life. I’ve always loved talking about it, listening to it, as well as making it. But I will admit that there has been times where I have stood back and questioned whether realistically, as a woman, I would be able to move forward in the industry. Negative thinking I know, but this was partly because I’d recently become aware of the gender divide within music festivals. When we look at festivals in particular, which essentially provide a platform for a large collection of artists and musicians, we can see that typically there is only a small percentage of female acts being seen.”