Equality in Music: PandoraFest

PandoraFest is a music festival in Scotland that debuted this past summer in order to put a spotlight on female artists. I talked to Caroline Daalmeijer, one of the festival organizers about how Pandora Fest got started and why it matters.

Pop Culture Puke: How did Pandora Fest start?

PandoraFest: PandoraFest came about because Jammenique, the festival’s other organizer, and I wanted to showcase female musical talent across as many genres as possible, as well as to launch a unique, intimate festival experience in Central Scotland. 

As lifelong musicians and festival-goers ourselves, we were only too aware of the challenges that face female musicians when it comes to being recognized for their art. In 2015, a Guardian article came out which highlighted that 87% of acts playing at British festivals were entirely male. This resonated with us on an incredibly personal level and we thought “Right, it’s time we do something about this.”

PCP: Why is it important to bring an all female music festival to Scotland?

PF: PandoraFest is pro-female rather than exclusively female, which means that while the acts performing are either female or female-fronted, you’ll certainly see guys both in the crowd and as part of the bands. Our aim is to convey a strong pro-female message while still maintaining an inclusive and welcoming environment to people of all genders. 

But as for the importance of a pro-female music festival, we felt that as women in the creative industries, we kept on coming up against the same barriers. While it might be acceptable for a woman to be a pop or country singer, in genres like heavy metal or jazz, there is still a lot of stigma against women performing and being successful. We want women in music and the arts, particularly young women, to know that they aren’t alone in wanting to do these things and that there’s a community of like-minded creative women already out there who believe in them!

PCP: What was the first ever PandoraFest like? Is there anything you’re going to do differently next year?

PF: The first PandoraFest, to our delight, was a great success! There was an incredibly positive, supportive atmosphere throughout the entire festival and we heard from a lot of the audience and performers about how much they had enjoyed themselves. The team behind DunCarron Medieval Village were fantastic and gave the festival a completely unique, inimitable atmosphere. There were also plenty of outlets for food, drinks and all sorts of fashion items.

Suffice to say, the first ever PandoraFest was a hit and everyone involved had a brilliant time! Next year, we’re aiming for a two-day event, with more great acts and an expansion on the female DJ front.

PCP: Which performers were the highlights of the festival?

PF: I was particularly wowed by Vodun, who are an Afro-Psych and Voodoo-inspired prog rock band. Their performance and stage presence were powerfully energetic. Being Dutch, it was also a delight to see Mathilde Santing who has been knighted for her achievements in music and is a true icon, having won many award and collaborated the likes of Todd Rundgren – with her emotive, dynamic performance, it’s easy to see why.

PCP: What was the turnout for the festival/approx how many people came?

PF: We saw around a thousand people at PandoraFest and will be able to host even more next year!

PCP: What can we expect from the next PandoraFest? 

PF: Next year we’re hoping to continue showcasing as many genres as possible, over two days rather than one. We’d like to continue with the dynamic but intimate feel of the debut year, with even more to do and see. Without losing the vibe that made the day so special, we’re hoping to scale the festival up somewhat for its second year.

We received so many applications from incredible artists this year, which made our selection process very challenging; having two days to showcase female-positive acts will mean even more of an opportunity to see the best of what the women in music have to offer from all across the world!

PCP: How would you describe Scotland’s music scene and how are you hoping it will change in the future?

PF: Scotland is known for the quality of its music scene – the local music scenes here have birthed iconic acts like Garbage, Chvrches and Biffy Clyro. The country is a real hot-bed of talent across all genres and it’s a privilege for us to be able to work with exceptional established and up and coming artists. We’re hoping that in the wake of events like PandoraFest, we’ll be seeing more break-through artists in genres where women haven’t typically been visible, such as prog-rock, electronica and experimental jazz. At the end of the day, the music is what matters first and foremost: when great music can be enjoyed without a focus on the artists’ gender, regardless of the genre, we’ll have achieved something!

Follow PandoraFest on Twitter.

Image courtesy of @PandoraFest

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