Finding the Female Headliner with London's ROAR Collective
This Wednesday, we welcome the ROAR collective to Pickle for the first time. Springing up in 2015 as a direct response to the chronic lack of female representation on festival headlines, the night originally known as Finding the Female Headliner works to demonstrate that the UK is in no short supply of headline-worthy women. This monthly all-female event is part of a burgeoning grassroots movement in London that seeks to address inequality within the music industry by showcasing the capital’s finest female talent.
We caught up with ROAR’s organizer and promoter, Chloe Gamble, who took us through the night’s origins, aims and motivations. ROAR arrives at The Pickle Factory on 15th April, showcasing some of the finest contemporary neo-soul, jazz and R&B talent, including Sue Lily, Saie, and Sophie Faith.
Hey Chloe, we’re excited for our first ROAR event at The Pickle Factory next week – how would you describe the vibe of your nights to a newcomer?
The vibe I’m trying to go for is an intimate, welcoming environment with both good music and support for emerging talent at its core. I really want people to come and enjoy themselves - we also just want it to be known as a fun night out where music fans can go and watch some wicked artists; we’d like to be seen as cool night regardless of the gender of the musicians. Our talented ladies are sure to knock your socks off!
ROAR originally started out as Robomagic’s monthly Finding the Female Headliner night, what inspired the rebrand to ROAR?
The rebrand came about as we thought the name was too wordy and too difficult to remember. Plus it felt like an old name for the time we're in, so ROAR felt like a better name because of the visual simplicity and its connotations – we’re here to been seen, heard and listened to. We don’t want to simply address the lack of female headliners on festival lineups, we want the night to address inequality in the whole music industry too.
So whilst the event seems to be on finding festival headliners in particular, do you think the music industry as a whole is suffering from this same critical lack of representation?
I think across every industry there is a lack of representation for all women, music being one of the most known. Within live music, there are so many talented female artists who are making amazing music on the British scene at the moment; Jorja Smith, Mabel, Stefflon Don, Mahalia, IAMDDB, Dua Lipa, Yamin Lacey, the list goes on… but when it comes to festivals’ talent pool, you don’t see these artists on the headlines. If protomers don’t put female acts on bills that are worthy of a good slot then how will they ever get the recognition of being a worthy headliner? The public only reacts to what they can see and if we put some females higher up the bill then the audience will take it. When festival bookers come to booking a festival, I don’t want them to struggle to find female acts, I want it to be an equal playing field. And so if offering a platform to perform at events specifically designed to help them grow and reach new audiences can add to the movement of change in the industry that’s happening and is continuing to happen, then we will do it.
The backlash against poor representation in music seems to have come most prominently in the form of small, grassroots groups like your own – can you pick out some other events or organisations that inspired your own project or that you feel inspired by at the moment?
There are so many amazing companies and collectives now. Mam Sham, who did an event at Oval last week, Siren – the all-girl collective specializing in Techno, who set out to showcase female DJ's in that genre with values of ‘no bullshit to harassment’ on the dance floor. I think Gyal-Dem have been at the forefront of showing the diversity of talented women in the industry. SheSaidSo, Bristol Woman in Music Mixnights, Normalnotnovelty an all-female workshop collaboration with Redbull. I think at this point in time is just really nice to see young people making their own change because they can see nothing will change unless we all work together to bring it.
In light of this, do you feel there has been something of a sea change in the past year? Awareness seems to be growing fast both amongst the public and from a PR perspective, so have you started to witness any changes?
This year, in general, has been an important year for women, with issues at the forefront thanks to International Woman’s Day and 100 Years of Woman, and campaigns such as Me Too. Across the board it’s been a year of awareness, shedding light on the problems and moving forward to steps of improvement and equality. You can definitely see a change in the amount of new female-led nights, workshops, panels and awareness on all media platforms. I think we all want to get to the stage where it’s not a problem.
Are there any festivals in that you’d like to commend for a change in their ways?
I don’t think there any festival that I can truly say they’ve changed their ways. Change starts from the roots up, so festivals like Glastonbury, if you look at smaller areas like Silver Hayes, which is historically known for breaking acts that go on to bigger stages the next year. if festivals can show commitment to book the talented that are so obviously out there then that’s only a good thing.
You’ve spoken in the past about the assistance of the PRS Foundation, running projects such as their ‘Women Make Music’ funding scheme. Can you pick out some of the key organizations that might be helpful for women hoping to start their own projects?
PRS is a great one for getting funding for sure, and companies like SheSaidSo, who are a network for women who work in the music industry. Girls I Rate, who are a non-profit organization that aim to share knowledge throughout the creative industry. Lastly, your mates - if there’s a group of you that all share the same aim then pull your skills together and go for it!
On a similar note, what advice would you give to someone who’s been inspired by ROAR and is hoping to start a similar project for themselves?
Do it! if you think you have a wicked idea then work out the best way you can create it and just try it out, there would be no nights like ROAR if everyone just thought ‘I can’t do that, I’ll let someone else do it.’
Finally, can you tell us a bit about who you have lined up to play for us on 18th?
We have an amazing night of talent for you, South London singer-songwriter Sue Lily is set to perform. Sue’s sound is a gentle merging of Neo-Soul, Hip-Hop and Jazz; with her roots remaining firmly within Soul.
Also on the bill is the vivacious Sophie Faith, another uniquely talented singer-songwriter. She's always had an extremely positive response to her live performances that have resulted in Sophie attaining an impressive reputation, despite being yet to debut any solo material.
And lastly, we have soulful voices of 22-year-old Saie from South East London - a multitalented woman afro-soul singer-songwriter, dancer and poet.
…and BaggE, who brings her heavenly soulful voice mixed with underlining R&B tone.