The Frida Kahlo of Irish traditional music: Karan Casey’s call to action on the subject of Women in ITM
I’ve been a fan (and acquaintance) of Karan Casey for many years. For many reasons, I felt the urge to repost Karan’s recent Facebook message - particularly for the trad musicians and fans that aren’t on social media. She raises an important issues, and relates to a post a year ago here on the mustard https://thesession.org/discussions/40232. Karan has invited the reposting of this message and urged coversations to be had, so I thought it appropriate to submit it here.
P.S. Some of her ideas are in the very initial stages of development, but that’s what I like about the post. It’s an invitation to the community. The conclusion also spoke to me.
————————- Original Facebook post by Karan Casey ——————————
“I am my own Muse.” Frida Kahlo
Happy New Year.
So as some of you know I took the plunge the other night at a gig in Liberty Hall and spoke out about
how what it is like to be a woman in Irish traditional and folk music. I was the only woman performing out of 16 artists. The rest were men. I have to say I was kind of terrified beforehand but so proud of myself afterward.
The response from the audience and since has been just overwhelming. So it seems that many of us, women and men, are aware of this situation and actually want to do something concrete about it.
Anyway in the heel of the hunt I announced that I would be organising a festival and a series of conferences
around the country celebrating women in traditional and folk music. I asked for help. I need to follow up on this now! I am hoping and thinking that ye might like to help? Since last weekend I have been having A LOT of very intense conversations with many of the women and men who would like to see a sea change.
I believe that one of the greatest strength within the traditional musical community and by extension the folk world lies in community action. We won’t achieve long lasting, deep change without working from the ground up. I would like to avoid tokenistic measures. We need to keep the pressure on. There is plenty of talk out in the air at the minute, it is in the zeitgeist.
What do ye think?
Some of the initial ideas; Writing, singing, playing a creative response to all of this? Organise a day of musical events raising money and awareness around women’s issues in folk music that can be used to finance and support long term objectives and change. Advocate for properly paid gigs around the country celebrating women and organised on a local scale? And then to have bigger gigs in the various cities, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Derry and Dublin? The folks at Liberty Hall said they would like to help out so that is perhaps a possibility? The other notion was to have a series of talks where women and men could get together and try to tease out these issues? Maybe in the colleges as they could cater for talks and gigs? Mentoring schemes?
And approaching and meeting with the various festival directors, arts council folk, IMRO, and venue operators… etc. Fighting for gender balanced committees and decision making.
Also this Sunday 28th, I will be up in Dublin. There is a meeting in Jury’s Hotel Lobby, opposite Christ Church at 12, noon. It is just a start. We are OPEN to all ideas, particularly creative ones. And of course stressing ALL genders are welcome and we celebrate diversity as always.
I do think for us to achieve anything though that we need a focussed and thought out plan. What do we actually want to achieve?
For myself to be very clear, I am not looking for a favour here and I am eminently qualified to have this conversation. I have seen it all and have had enough.
Lads ye need to shape up. Ye need to cop on and stop ignoring the needs and rights and musical opinions of women as your fellow workers. I am advocating for equality for women performers, I am stressing that the gross injustice in the lack of a gender balance needs to swept aside and a radical overview of how we actually root out inequality needs to be addressed.
Thank you to everyone who came up to me and supported me after the gig, it meant a lot to me.
Thank you also for offering to help, here is your chance to do just that!! Thank you for all the supportive emails over the past few days, I can’t manage them all now so am handing over to a committee! If you would like to offer your services in any way you can, please do.
Please share this, head off and organise a gig, play a tune, more importantly throw away those hoovers and sit down, or if you are lucky enough to have a small child in the house, sit down with them have a cup of tea and a chat and sing a song with them. Teach them that this creative space and world we live in is worth fighting and singing for, that in the world of the imagination everything is possible.
Keep up the hearts.