Set up in August 2017, Woman Srsly is a new creative, performance-led platform organised by choreographer Grace Nicol. The underrepresentation and undermining of women in the creative industries is a constant struggle across every discipline of the arts, particularly noticeable to Grace within dance and performance. Consequently, Woman Srsly offer support, a network of advice and most importantly a platform for its contributors to do what they want to: perform.
Since launching last year, Woman Srsly has run three events featuring 12 female-led performance companies including its own “resident movement girl band,” The Yonis! At the start of a new and exciting year for the platform, below we have a chat with Grace on Woman Srsly’s motives, aims, dreams and how you can get involved.
Why did you decide to set up Woman Srsly?
It’s widely acknowledged that a glass ceiling exists for women across all types of workplace scenarios, preventing many from being taken seriously and flourishing in leadership roles across the board. I felt a need for a space that champions, platforms and provides a network for female-led performance, especially from under-represented women, and so I created one.
The idea for Woman Srsly came from my own first-hand experiences within the dance world. An example of this was, when discussing the gender debate, choreographer Akram Khan recently said, "we should not have more female choreographers just for the sake of it”. Although this has kind of blown over, it illustrates my experience of the dance world very clearly (and I’m sure other artists’ experiences in their own disciplines). Firstly, it is kind of a non-statement; of course we should not have more female choreographers just for the sake of it. Secondly, it disguises the real issue that female choreographers exist but they are not being given equal access to the same platform as their male counterparts.
I think that these kinds of statements come from a fear of having to make room for others and therefore, perhaps, losing thinly spread financial resources or the status and power of being a successful artist. It is not just people who identify as male who do this. We are all guilty of it sometimes. This is why I think the best solution at the moment is to create more spaces, more platforms, not fight for singular, female spots but instead, to use the words of Discwoman: truly try to “amplify each other”. I am happy, therefore, to offer the platform as a small contribution within my field and create a space where female artists are able to support each other, challenge norms, take credit, and take risks in a safe and supportive environment.
What are your aims and dreams for the project?
The main aim of the project is to create a platform for female-led performance work and open a discussion about gender imbalances within performance. Given that my own choreographic work explores ideas of female gender binaries, I felt that it was important to the ethos of my practice to try and make a difference in terms of promoting notions of equality. I wanted to further reflect these ideas in the selection of the artists for the shows, therefore, I invited artists from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to join a selection panel to choose the work that is performed, including: Holly Beasley-Garrigan, Valerie Ebuwa, Isis O’Regan, Claudia Palazzo, and Alice White.
My hopes and aims are to continue to learn and grow from each platform and to get better at making the experience for the artists and supporters as useful as possible. I hope that the networks created by the platform and the artists involved continue to grow to create more support for female-led performance. There are more factors than just being female that hold artists back. I hope that we can amplify those voices more.
I realise that the idea for the platform is complex and, of course, like everyone else I’m still learning. What I envisaged was to have clear aims for the project and to try and be as inclusive as possible. It’s all about learning and evolving and creating a platform to support underrepresented people to share their work and experiences.
Can you tell us more about representing artists who currently feel under-represented in leadership roles?
The notion of creating support for people who feel under-represented within leadership roles comes from the too frequent demand for women to work harder and be more competent than their male counterparts. When we are granted that space and opportunity, it often feels like it is at the expense of/in competition with other women.
This lack of space affects confidence and makes us less likely to apply for jobs or push ourselves into leadership roles. It is important to identify this need and to create a space where women feel like they can take the opportunity. The notion of leadership also comes from the desire to create a space where we, as female performers and makers, can feel a sense of autonomy over how our bodies are represented, presented and looked at. It is also about intersectionality and trying to create a platform for everyone who might feel under-represented.
I don’t feel that Woman Srsly can affect all this change on its own! It is important to also recognise the need for funding bodies, institutions and the performing arts media/ critics to acknowledge the roles they have to play in this as well.
What creative disciplines does Woman Srsly include and how can people get involved?
The platform is a live scratch night so we mainly have dance, theatre, comedy, cabaret, film and often, interdisciplinary work. We try to programme performance from a variety of disciplines and are working hard to reflect and celebrate diverse female voices. The word “celebrate” is really important here: we want to create a space that is challenging but also exciting, fresh and fun. We encourage female artists from all backgrounds, experiences, identities, ages and performance disciplines to apply to our platform.
The next platform will be in April 2018 with a call out for work in February. People can get involved by going to our website, popping us a cheeky email or coming to our events and having a chat.
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