Women putting women centre-stage
Organiser of Lady and Trans Fest explain the politics behind the event
Some of the organisers of this weekend’s Lady & Trans Fest at Seomra Spraoi in Dublin with Muesli the dog. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.
In a room at Seomra Spraoi, Dublin’s “autonomous social centre”, four young women are creating posters and flyers while a scraggily-haired dog wearing a bandanna lies across a couch. The dog is called Muesli.
“So he’s a hippy dog,” I say.
“He’s a punk dog,” says Zoe Doe, one of the organisers of this weekend’s Lady & Trans Fest. Ladyfest is a punk-influenced, feminist music and arts festival that has taken place across the world, always run independently by local volunteers, ever since the first was held in Olympia, Washington, back in 2000.
Ladyfests have been sporadically held in Ireland. My wife was involved in organising one in 2004, and I played some music at it with a mixed gender band. The main aim is to foreground women in music and the arts. The current organisers, who have no connection to the previous group, have added Trans to the title and are including more LGBT issues in the mix.
“[Some feminists] haven’t always been inclusive of transgender people,” says another organiser, Indigo (she prefers not to give a second name), who is drawing an intricate logo as she talks. “So we wanted to make sure it was really trans inclusive.”
“One of the nice things about Ladyfest,” says Sarah Malone, a third organiser, “is that depending on the individuals involved it comes out in different ways. Each one is different.”
There’s a buzz of activity around the place. Upstairs a banner is being completed. At one point volunteers go to collect pallets from a nearby market to build a stage. “A lot of us are coming from DIY standpoints and want to make it quite DIY,” says Indigo. “Some people call Ladyfest, La-DIY-fest.”
Being inclusive is what it’s all about. “I’ve found myself at a lot of festivals and gigs that are really male dominated,” says Malone. “Even in progressive, revolutionary, anarchisty type spaces like this [she gestures around Seomra Spraoi] things can fall to women without people noticing it. If you’re not mindful of it women do end up making the tea and doing the cleaning and looking after the kids. I don’t think it’s out of badness, it’s just the way society is put together so without consciously recognising and working against it, it can happen.”
Zoe Doe stresses there are straight, male volunteers helping out. “A lot of dudes are like, ‘f**k yeah, I’ll do childcare! F**k yeah, I’ll do cooking!’ It’s really exciting.”
There’s been both a resurgence of feminism and a swelling LGBT pride in recent years. The Lady and Trans Fest organisers broadly see themselves as part of that. The recent Panti-gate controversy and abortion campaigns politicised many young people, says Sarah Malone. “I got involved with pro-choice stuff and through that ended up realising how interconnected everything was. I ended up getting more politically and socially aware. I think people are paying attention to these issues a whole lot more.