Girls Rock Dublin: the all-girl music camp taking a stand against sexism

“Giving a girl an electric guitar and telling her to turn it up as loud she wants sends a message,” says founder Rossella Bottone

A week on from International Women's Day, it's clear that a single day's acknowledgement of women's rights is not enough. It's an everyday campaign. From festival bills with very little female representation and white men in board rooms claiming they are "endangered species" to Robert Glasper reducing women's enjoyment of jazz from the creative and intellectual to the involuntarily physical - a particularly snobbish and knobbish form of sexism.

So, there’s still a lot of work to be done for an entire half of the human population who are more than capable of appreciating music on a creative level and making it too.

One of the ways in which it’s been proven to encourage young women to express themselves through music is through girls-only workshops and classes. That idea has seen the establishment of Girls Rock Dublin, inspired by similar non-profit organisations around the world which puts on music camps for girls in more than 100 cities.

Irishwoman Maebh Murphy of the band You're Only Massive started camps in Berlin, where she lived, and a Dublin one soon followed.


Rossella Bottone, who plays with the all-female Dublin punk band Fierce Mild, a band who sing about women’s rights and equality, saw the appeal of Girls Rock Camp while volunteering in London at a camp aimed at the ages 11-16 and wanted to help bring it here.

“I was blown away by how the campers opened up and responded to the experience. As Boston camp founder Nora Allen-Wiles once put it, ‘Telling a group of girls that they should be confident can feel like an abstract concept, but giving a girl an electric guitar and telling her to turn it up as loud she wants sends a message.”

First Dublin Girls Rock Camp in June
The first Girls Rock Dublin will take place in June and is open to 20 young women aged between 18 and 24. The programme will include music tuition, collaborative workshops and practical stage experience in a non-competitive encouraging environment.

“Young girls with a passion for playing music are usually outnumbered by their male peers, both in camps and in social contexts, and this discourages them from exploring their own talents and expressing themselves freely,” says Bottone. “In a rock camp for girls, that imbalance is simply not there, and that creates an equal and safe environment in which to create.”

To help encourage the participants, the camps are all run by women across teaching, sound engineering and backline tech in order to show, by example that “there’s no such a thing as ‘a man’s job’ in music”.

Five days of female-only music workshops
Over five days, the campers will form a band, write a song, learn how to play it and perform on a stage in front of friends and family.

“The Instrument Carousel” on the first day will involve the campers learning a simple popular song on different instruments so as to try out playing a keyboard guitar, bass or drums (even if they are already proficient).

“The Instrument Carousel is just one of the exercises used to help the campers step outside of their comfort zone,” explains Bottone. “It helps to minimise the fear of making mistakes – of course they will, and that’s part of the fun.”

Over the course of the week, campers will be helped by active female musicians in the Irish music scene, including Naoise Roo, Maija Sofia, Bitch Falcon and September Girls, while a women in music history workshop will look at female artists who helped break down barriers in music in the past or changed conceptions - artists such as Kim Gordon, St Vincent, Joan Jett, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey and Beth Ditto.

In the name of inclusion and diversity, two scholarships are available to applicants with low income, who specify it on their application from March 24th.

“We encourage applications from people from underrepresented minority groups, those who identify as LGBT, queer and non-binary, as well as women from different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and physical ability,” says Bottone.

And if you think Girls Rock Dublin is only for rock musicians, think again.

“Rock is in our name, but the movement supports all the ways girls want to rock out, whatever that means to them,” says Bottone.

“A girl who might have never played an instrument up until a week before, will find herself on a stage, playing her own song with her own band. Once you experience this, you know that the possibilities are endless, and this goes way beyond music.

Girls Rock Dublin opens its applications on March 24th and takes place in Sound Training College from June 27th to July 1st 2017. On March 24th, a launch gig will take place in The Grand Social, Dublin, featuring AE MAK, Susie-Blue, Alien She and Extravision.

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