Interview: The ‘Lady Fest Paris’ team

Interviews, News - Published: 11 October 2012

Introducing: The eight young women behind the feminist, non-profit arts festival taking over Paris this October.

Paris is not short on festivals this year; Rock en Seine, Solidays, We Love Green, Pitchfork, Les Inrocks, MAMA, Fireworks, Colours, FNAC… I could go on. However, Lady Fest sticks out from the crowd for a few reasons, not only does the event promote women in independent music but the festival also does so non-profit.

Whilst record store ‘Gals Rock’ in Pigalle does a great job in promoting women in music all year round, Lady Fest is a worldwide event which started in Washington 12 years ago and now has events all over the UK, US, Europe and Australia. Paris saw it’s first Lady Fest event last year with a showcase at Cafe de la Danse (followed up by an after party at Le Motel), this time the team have made it a month-long celebration with films, live music and workshops all across the city.

The Ladyfest Paris team is made up of Caroline, Amandine, Léa, Fanny, Laura, Sarah, Julie and Audrey who all volunteer their time to put the festival on. We spoke with a couple of them to get their thoughts on the festival and the Paris music scene:

Tell us a bit about your background, how long have you been putting on shows and how did you fall into the business?
Fanny : “I’m a translator and I’ve always been interested in the women’s music scene. I lived abroad for a few years, mostly in the UK, and I found a striking difference within each country. I thought that women didn’t have as many opportunities to express themselves in the French music scene, and that’s why I chose to get involved in Ladyfest this year and organise gigs – something I’d never done before.”

Amandine : “I’ve always wanted to put on shows but never had the courage to do so, until last year, I got really frustrated seeing some of my favorite international bands touring in Europe without a Paris stop. I thought, if I really wanted to see them live, I just had to make it happen. At that time, it sounded much easier to put on a show than to book a Eurostar ticket!”

What exactly is LadyFest, what does it stand for and what can we expect from it?

Amandine: Ladyfest is an arts festival for women by women. Everyone is of course welcome to come, but the idea is to empower women by celebrating and encouraging their work and talents, in a world where men are still getting greater visibility both on stage and in the media. It seems that, for the audience, it’s normal to see an all-men band playing, no one cares and no one even notices; but as soon as we see an all-women band, we’re all like ‘Woah this is an all-women band!’. Why?”

Fanny: Ladyfest is an independent festival set up by volunteers which aims to gather female artists and to promote their work, but also to gather people in general (no matter who they are!) and share experiences. The ideas of equality, respect and unity is exactly what Ladyfest means to me. Everybody is welcome. Everybody can take part in the festival and bring their own skills and their own knowledge.

For me, the idea behind Ladyfest is to promote female artists and give women self-confidence. I think that creating is the best way to express any kinds of ideas.

Caroline: For me, the idea behind Ladyfest is to promote female artists and give women self-confidence. I think that creating is the best way to express any kinds of ideas. Sure, sometimes, you have to be in opposition, but I think creating is a better and more positive way to “fight” and express your opinions. Many people have a negative opinion of feminism, this word really scares them, because, for most of them, they don’t know what it means. Being a feminist means nothing more than wanting men and women to be equal. Ladyfest is about showing people what women can do and create and that’s a great way to change things around.

How did you get involved with Lady Fest?

Amandine : Chéri, a British student living in Paris, was surprised that Paris, as the French capital never had Ladyfest before. She tried and managed to gather a small team of feminist enthusiasts and the 7 of us set up the first Ladyfest in Paris last year.

Fanny : When I arrived in Paris, two years ago, it was quite weird that there wasn’t a Ladyfest here knowing that there were lots being organised in smaller towns across France and abroad. Last year, I was relieved to see that a few of the girls organised the first edition. By the time I was aware of it, it was too late to help them but I got in touch straight after to let them know that, if they were planning a second one, I would love to play my part in Ladyfest Paris 2012.

Audrey : I was very excited to read about this festival promoting female artists so I simply applied to help the team! They were open to new people and ideas. To me, Ladyfest is about getting involved and doing things for and by women.

How much of an affiliation does the Paris festival have with the various other Lady Fests around Europe and further afield?

Ladyfest Team : We’ve learned a lot from Ladyfest London, they gave us a ‘How-To-make-your-own-ladyfest’ guide they had made for Ladyfest Ten, and we know if we ever need advice or help we can always go and ask other Ladyfest people. Each event is set up independently though and each has to adapt to its own city.

This is your second go at the festival in Paris – what’s changed since last year and what lessons do you think you learned from that event? 

Ladyfest Team : We went bigger. From a 2 day event to a whole month full of festivities, only because we had so much we wanted to show, although most of the activities and events are over the week-ends. Last year, we learned that we can’t please everyone, we have to stick to our beliefs, we need to remember we’re are an independent, DIY arts festival set up by volunteers, but that should not prevent us from trying to be as professional as we can.

How have you gone about picking acts for this year’s festival?

Ladyfest Team: We picked acts in different ways so we had a mix of both talented emerging and known bands. We called for artists submissions and received over 40 applications and we simply picked the bands who sounded the best, to us. We got in touch with bands we really liked and who we believed would stand by our Ladyfest philosophy. We re-connected with bands that were supposed to play last year but for some reasons did not. Some bands/agents got directly in touch with us when they knew we were going for another edition

Where does any money made from the festival go?

Photo by Sarah Bastin www.sarahbastin.net

Ladyfest Team : Last year, the money went to a charity. This year, we’ve decided that the profits will go to the artists performing. But first, we need to cover all of our expenses for the fest : the sexy things (printing flyers, merchandising, materials for workshops, food) and the not so sexy things (insurance, paper work, fuel etc). Then if we have some extra, we’ll give it all to the people who’ve generously offered their professional help for nothing in return (Taissa, our sound engineer, Caroline our graphic designer, Anna who illustrated the totes, the photographers etc).

How can people help out the festival?

Ladyfest Team : This festival is different from other festivals we see, as it’s all about participation. Everyone can get involved. From the team organizing the fest, to the artists performing, to the volunteers who are helping us enormously: you just have to raise your voice if you want to be part of it.

You can help by coming to the events, that would be a good start! Tell your friends about what we do, buy our sexy tote bags, suggest workshop ideas and ways to set them out, you can host a band, you can drive them to the venue, you can help us make cupcakes and scrambled eggs for the brunch at the end of the fest, you can tell friends who know journalists to say that she/he should talk about us, you can come distribute flyers with us, so many more ways to help out! Just reach out, reach out, reach out!

Last year Chew Lips dj’d a festival after party at Le Motel, is there likely to be a similar event this year?

Ladyfest Team : Yeah: loads of them! This year we invited our media partners to participate as well, by hosting their own DJ set after each show. For instance, after Diane Cluck and Laura J Martin at La Loge on October 26th, everyone should cross the street to Le Motel for a special DJ set by Gals Rock and the band Luise Pop. Some of the bands are staying for more than just for their shows, so there’s a good chance you can catch them in the audience of next evening show. Who knows what else might happen?

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Amandine : Oh that’s a hard one! Last year, seeing all those women be together and unite in the same room, being passionate about their work and arts and sharing stories… it was amazing, I cannot wait to see that again! Oh and seeing The Shondes perform, that’s something I am looking forward to as well! It’s their first time in Paris!!

Fanny: Well, honestly, everything. I look forward to seeing the artists’ work and sharing the experience with everyone who comes out. But, I must admit that I can’t wait to see Verity Susman on stage with her solo project!

Ladyest Team: Everything! So come have fun with us!

To get involved with Ladyfest email: Ladyfestparis@gmail.com

Click on the calendar below to see the full line up: