Ladyfest Goldsmiths: Day Review

Ladyfest Goldsmiths: Day Review

Those who have read this site before will know just how much I love a good Ladyfest. It has the power to rejuvinate, provoke and re-engage us with what’s really important (namely those feminist ideals that we somehow lose sight of  during the complications of everyday life). As one Uplift commenter said of Ladyfest London 2008; ‘I feel I’ve got my priorities straight again!’ Exactly! So last week, just as the snow began to melt, I found myself trying to contain my excitement as I sat on the train to New Cross for Ladyfest Goldsmiths.

Although only on for one day, Ladyfest Goldsmiths looked set to be a bit of an extravaganza and so it didn’t take much to convince a couple of Ladyfest newbies to come along with me. On arriving at around 1pm we were keen to listen to some poetry in the Common Room, or perhaps to the ‘Women in Contemporary Music’ talk in ‘The Stretch’ bar area but unfortunately there were no signs that either were happening. Instead we found ourselves welcomed by the sounds of Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone and other such feisty female pop hits coming over the PA. Perhaps I’m just an old stick in the mud but this felt a far cry from the usual Ladyfest soundtrack of ‘empowering female music’. Feeling slightly perplexed we turned to the sugary goodness of the cake stall.

Aah, the humble cake stall! Present at every Ladyfest event I’ve ever been to (no, I don’t think that’s an over-statement), it has powers far greater than anyone could ever anticipate. The cake stall is an oasis for flagging, festival weary feminists in search of a sugar kick. They are also a great bonding tool for vegans, as recipes for the ever so difficult egg-less delicacies (it’s all about whipping the mixture right before baking, apparently) are shared. Of course we could over-think the simple cake stall and wonder whether we are kitsch-ifying and making light of the fact that generations of women before us had no choice but to bake, cook and be judged by their culinary creations. We could also argue that we are reclaiming a simple skill and, in doing so, glorifying feminine craftiness and simultaneously sticking it to The Man (no need for Starbuck’s muffins here!). But none of that matters really when you consider that a cake stall is such a fabulously simple and effective way to raise money for the Ladyfest’s charity of choice, which in Ladyfest Goldsmiths case was the Poppy Project, a London based charity which provides support for trafficked women.

Other organisations were savvy enough to get in on the baking action too. At the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Stall the biscuits came with a reminder to give our breasts a little TLC – that’s ‘Touch, Look, Check’, folks!

Such lovely biccies were the perfect accompaniment to the afternoon’s acoustic music set that included Australian Jane Woody singing some rather sweet romantic songs. The quiet space and intimate audience must have made Woody feel slightly self conscious but her embarrassed sneer each time she introduced yet another ‘love song’ only made her performance more endearing.

After a good old helping of loves lost, loves found and loves who really shouldn’t have so many songs written about them because they were actually ‘a bit of a wanker’ we had time to peruse the zine stall.

The zine stall is yet another gem in the Ladyfest crown. Women have a lot to say, a lot that needs to be heard, but often in the mainstream media these voices can be drowned out. Thank goodness, then, for self publication and sisters doing it for themselves! Ladyfests, and other feminist events, tend to be the main time when I can connect with women’s words. I came away with some lovely publications; Wah!, Razz My Berries, SuperSweet and Shebang, as well as Ladyfest Goldsmith’s very own zine-cum-programme of events.

Speaking of women in the media, my two friends and I had been eagerly awaiting Frances Morgan’s (of Plan B magazine) talk on women in music journalism. We were worried that, like other things we’d tried to attend, this would be cancelled or perhaps hidden or rescheduled (we were still none the wiser as to why things kept eluding us!). Although late (travel problems, blame all that blimmin’ snow!) Morgan did arrive and gave a great talk about female writers and their role in mainstream music publications. It was brilliantly eye opening, and really deserves it’s own post, so I will write this up soon!

After Frances Morgan’s talk had finished we hung about for a while in The Stretch, half waiting for the schedualed Art Talk to start and half contemplating eating more cake. Once it was obvious that nothing more was going on in The Stretch (the order of events listing had the Art Talk down as T.B.C, after all) we thought we’d head down to the Common Room to listen to Comedian Rosie Wilby. But once in The Common Room, the funny lady and accompanying Ladyfest crowd was nowhere to be seen. Feeling a little confused once more, and wondering what on earth to do with the next 3 hours or so, there was nothing for it but to head to the nearby Amersham Arms.

Over a bowl of delicious double-cooked chips the three of us discussed the day so far. It had definitely been confusing. Why had we missed so many things that we’d wanted to see? Was it that everything was running a bit late and we had become impatient and given up too soon? Was it that things had been moved to other rooms or that, as non Goldsmith’s students, we were simply lost? Perhaps everything listed on the bill as ‘to be confirmed’ had never been confirmed, we just don’t know.

It’s worth bearing in mind at this point that Ladyfests, by their very nature, are DIY festivals. Often they are the a first opportunity for people to have a go at organising a big event and the learning process for that group of people is as important as the event itself. It’s no wonder, then, that Ladyfests are not always hitch-free.

One other thing that had us scratching our heads was the lack of any specific Ladyfest related art exhibition at a Ladyfest run by an arts college. Whilst it’s not a pre-requisite (nothing is when it comes to Ladyfests!), many Ladyfests do feature an art exhibition or film screening showcasing the work of women. So it did seem strange that, at a college where there must be a wealth of young female talent, no such talent was on display.

I also bemoaned the fact that there were no discussion groups in which to bond with fellow feminists after heated debates over porn and the like, but perhaps I was alone on that one!

With a strange day behind us and an evening of music ahead we came to the realisation that this Ladyfest was all about the music. Ladyfest’s can become whatever the organisers make them, that’s just part of their beauty. As a student union event it’s hardly surprising, then, that Ladyfest Goldsmiths looked set to focus on an evening of live music so that their hard working students could relax, be entertained, get drunk and have fun after a long day of college. Wanting in on some of that action we headed off to the New Cross Inn to take in some quirky boy-girl duos.

Read more in Ladyfest Goldsmiths: Evening Review, coming soon.

I’ve illustrated this article with one of the promotional images for Ladyfest Goldsmiths. The awesome logo was designed by Indi Davies.

By: Sarah Barnes, 12.02.2009 | Comments (0)
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