Our International Women's Day Intervention

Creative Project Leader Harry Cooper introduces the Collection’s International Women’s Day activities.

Diversity is intrinsic to our work at Sound and Music.

For International Women’s Day 2017 we have various feminist interventions and activities which we are excited to unveil – all with the end goal in mind of increasing the number of women in the collection, and making this online space a fairer, more interesting and relevant place in which to discover new music.

First up – an online intervention. One of the unique things, we are often told, about the British Music Collection is the ability to search by the gender of the composer. So for programmers keen to ensure gender diversity in concert programmes (which, in 2017 you could reasonably expect would be everybody!) it’s a handy resource.  

However, this ability to split composers by gender makes it all too easy to highlight what- in our opinion – is exactly what is wrong with the collection – it’s strikingly obvious lack of diversity. Head to our Composer Index page for an interesting visual intervention highlighting the issue. Out of the 3185 composer profiles on the site, only 13% of them are female.  For us, and most people we work with, a statistic like that is all too predictable, whilst being completely intolerable. It’s difficult to really celebrate such an asset when it portrays such serious inequality, which is exactly why we need to attract more women composers to sign up and create profiles.

We hope that if you’re looking at this as a female composer then you’ll contact us to create your own profile and be a part of addressing the imbalance. Or if anyone would like to help us populate the empty profiles of listed female comopoers- do get in touch.

We are also delighted to announce that composer/writer/performer Sarah Sayeed (Sound and Music New Voices 2016) will be curating an exhibition and series of articles for the Collection (going live in May 2017) exploring sound, diversity and internationalism told through the ears and sounds of women who have lived or created work in the UK – we can’t wait to share it with you  .

And throughout the year we will once again be hosting a series of gender diversity themed edit-a-thon events. We held the pilot event in partnership with the Feminist Library in London in September and have exciting plans for 2017 to take the project further afield – many thanks to the Ambache Trust who are generously supporting this work.

I also want to share an older British Music Collection article that I stumbled upon earlier, by composer Neil Luck. The barriers that prevent women from being able to fully embrace their talents, and to embark upon (and continue upon!) careers as composers are as alive as ever – be they seen, unseen  - ‘real’ or ‘perceived’ (of course with the point being that all of these are very, very real). Composer and clairvoyant Rosemary Brown’s life, experiences and musical gifts (however they may have been channelled) throw up all sorts of questions to do with an individual’s lived experience and I think this article shines a light on them in a very thought provoking and fascinating way. In my opinion she is one of the most fascinating women on the British Music Collection site, and like so many others, deserves wider recognition for her work.

For more context about this intervention, read Sound and Music Chief Executive Susanna Eastburn's blog here.

We will be sharing interesting stories, facts and playlists to mark International Women’s Day across our social media channels. Follow the conversation at @soundandmusic or on Facebook