Keychange - pic Marianne Ubaleht
I am one of the Keychange fellows chosen as one of the UK’s female innovators in music. My work (Hellion Trace) fuses movement, music and technology and ranges from live tap and vocal looping shows with LED Dresses to large scale city spectacles, where I make industrial construction cranes do synchronised dance routines for audiences of thousands. I commission composers for almost all of our projects, and develop new innovative tech for live events. And until I was completing my application for Keychange I hadn’t realised I was still part of the problem. All our commissioned composers, music tech and software designers were men. After this weekend in Tallinn I have no excuse for this happening again.
Last week, for the outstanding Tallinn Music Week (rated 5 stars by the Independent), I joined 59 extraordinary women who have been picked from across Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Sweden, Spain and the UK.
Innovators and Creators
Keychange has brought 30 innovators (from IP Lawyers, PR experts to producers), and 30 creators (gangster rap, dancehall, folk, DJs and pop included) together. Over the course of the year we’ll each be attending different partner festivals to speak, perform and basically cause a ruckus as we prove that the female talent pool is far too strong and vocal to be ignored any longer.
We’ll be attending Reeperbahn, Way out West, The Great Escape, Iceland Airwaves, Mutek and BIME - all partners festivals behind the brilliant 50/50 parity initiative which over 60 festivals (including the BBC Proms) have signed up to. If Tallinn Music Week is anything to go by you should be making sure you see any Keychange artists and speakers programmed - you won’t regret it.
Akua Naru - pic by Sandira Blas
Tallinn Music Week
You should also go to Tallinn Music Week. Spread out across the most surprising range of cinemas, nightclubs, car parks, concert venues and converted factories the festival probably presents one of the most diverse and eclectic line ups: from Gangster rap, horror rap hip hop, high femme dancehall, Estonian Folk (who can resist a love song to a Reindeer?), sultry Icelandic Pop with lyrics that resonate and tracks to dance to. Fancy some Punk meets Nick Cave? What about a rave in a carpark? Or the hottest afro-funk? New classic compositions? Spanish beach-pop?
By the way: only one of those contributions wasn’t from a Keychange artist. Can you figure out which? Still not programming a gender balanced line up? Then listen to this Keychange playlist
Conference on Cultural Impact
Alongside the festival they ran a superb two day conference exploring cultural impact. I don’t know of many music festivals where the President of the country gives an eloquent and engaging keynote, that they’ve written themselves?
During the conference the Keychange participants were whisked off for meetings and extraordinary honest conversations with everyone from Helen Sildna (Tallinn Music Week) to Paulina Ahokas (Tampere-talo). The speakers were generosity personified: in their time, their openness and their grace and it felt like these women were a reflection of Keychange participants.
Suzi Wu - pic by Jess Partridge
Equality and Diversity
My heart was set on fire though, by our own conversations about what we, as Keychange participants wanted this experience to be. It takes guts for a room full of women who only met two days ago to talk frankly about what equality and diversity really could be - how do we understand and face up to our own unconscious biases to make sure this movement becomes about inclusive equality? What’s our own version of the inclusive rider? How do we inspire and support others, and create a worldwide network beyond our 6 countries?
I felt buoyed by the collective chutzpah and had one of those very empowering realisations, that with the help of the Keychange partner festivals, we have the knowledge we need to change this industry. I heard sounds, voices, lyrics and compositional styles that are missing from the festivals I attend. I saw myself represented on stage finally and not in a tokenistic way, and I was amongst a crowd of women who weren’t playing games.
Then of course, there was dancing till 4 am with shout outs to Keychange across a room of 1,000 people, which led to brilliant video journals like this by Almu Palacios.
Personally - Keychange has already been a catalyst - and we’ve only just started. And my Tallinn Music Week Anthem: well Gnucci all the way.
Gnucci - pic by Maxie Gedge