A Question of Equity - April 1990

Submitted by root on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 17:44

Women in the Arts

4. WORKS BY WOMEN: a) Music cont.

iii) Folk cont: There were 34 folk nights within the period in question.

12 were given over to traditional works. 11 performers were women and 37 were men which must to some degree mean that the songs which represented women's interests were in the minority.

8 evenings were given over to singer/songwriters. Of these 8 were men (some performing as duos) and 2 were women.

The other 14 evenings were given over to a mixture of traditional works and people's own work. In most cases it wasn't known who in the group wrote the works however, 2 groups were all female and 3 groups were all male and in the case of one of the mixed groups it was known that the writer was a woman. Within the remaining groups there were 8 women and 15 men.

From this we know that on at least 5 (14%) evenings the programme consisted of works by women compared to 9 (26%) evenings where works by men were presented. In addition we can say that the predominance of men within the traditional area and within the other groups would mean that of the remaining 20 evenings the majority would be male orien­tated.

Folk may not be an area in which women have achieved parity but it is certainly an area in which women do better than they do in either classical music or jazz. However we are here only talking about white women - overall there were 104 performers and they were all white and, as far as I know, all able-bodied.

Perhaps it is only to be expected that an area specialising in British folk music would attract mainly white participants - in which case this raises the question of a parity of subsidy for folk music of other cultures.

In some ways jazz is just that - jazz incorporating both folk music with black roots and black American classical music. But jazz, as we have seen, does not on Merseyside provide a platform for the works of black women - indeed it scarcely provides a platform for the works of black men since only 4% of the players were black. And even when works were being played whose original creators (whether known by name or not) were black, they were being interpreted by white players.

The one area of black music which receives a significant subsidy is that played within the Carnival and the events associated with it. I do not have the information to comment on the authorship of the music in terms of gender but overall it should be noted that the Carnival involved some 101 free-lance workers - all of whom were black - and of which 15 (that is 15%) were women. This does not reflect the contribution made by women to Carnival - it is women who make many of the costumes, help with the floats, prepare food and so on. However, as can be seen from the free-lance figures above, the contribution made by women is largely unpaid.