The last few years has seen the discussion around women in music come to the fore with it being highlighted quite how few female artists appear on festival line ups and how few women have influential roles in the music industry (and therefore I realise the irony in me writing this) so, for International Women’s Day 2023, two of Guernsey’s top performers decided to put on a showcase of some of the island’s female musical talent, as well as including poetry and visual arts in the event at St James.
Having originally been intended to take place in the venue’s cafe there was such interest in the event that it was moved into St James’ main hall and the team from Kooky Events and Tiger Lily Flowers had done a great job of decorating the stage and space to give a unique feel and showcase some of the art as the tables, set up ‘cabaret style’, quickly filled after the doors opened.
The live performances spanned quite a range of styles, and started with a debut live performance from Teresa Stoakes who read three of her poems inspired by the increasingly popular pastime of sea swimming.
Given it was her first time reading any of her writing to an audience she was unsurprising somewhat nervous but this really didn’t come across in her delivery and she dealt with any nerves by bringing the audience along for the journey with her while the poems were very warmly received as they painted pictures of the island’s coastline and the thoughts that come to mind while out in the sea.
A last minute change in the line up meant that the music began with classical pianist Ellen F taking the stool at the Steinway and, while I admit to being entirely unequipped to really discuss her music in detail, her performance was once again spectacular.
Combining her own pieces with others, she brought a modern and somewhat minimalist style to the instrument and created something that was as captivating with its sounds as it was astonishing with her playing and the energy with which she performed it, finding a balance between what one might expect from a classic performer and something more of an emotional sensibility so to catch her live again was an undeniable treat.
With the bar set about as high as it possibly can be I’ll admit to being concerned how the following acts would fare but, thankfully, everyone brought such different things to their performances it didn’t feel like such comparisons were really possible and the following artist, Rachel Dawson, is one I’ve been following for a while but hadn’t seen for some time so was particularly looking forward to.
While combining covers with her own songs, compared to last performances I’ve seen Rachel focussed far more on original material and it all sounded great ranging from fun country style tunes to more thoughtful, typical singer songwriter stuff, ending on a new one that is due to come out as a single in the near future and rounded off a good set on a high.
One of the event’s organisers, Eloise Fabbri, was up next.
Rather than playing with her band she opted for the more stripped back approach of just piano and her vocals and, rather than doing both at once (of which she is more than capable), she had drafted in Charlie Sinclair to tinkle the ivories.
This gave her performance a lot more freedom and, unsurprisingly, she embraced it fully moving seamlessly from soulful jazz-y sounds to things approaching hip-hop to big singalongs which began to up the energy in the hall nicely.
After making quite the impression at last November’s Nocturne event Kiya Ashton (this event’s other main instigator) and Hollie Thorne once again teamed up.
Playing each other’s songs and adding extra vocals and other bits to them they once again sounded terrific taking their similarities and adding their own aspects to create some contrasting sounds to what you might expect from the songs with ethereal acoustica and hints of grunge and 90s indie merging into a terrific whole.
To bring the night to a close things couldn’t have taken much more of a left turn as Ukuladeez (and two of their Ukuladee-boyz) took to the stage and delivered a set that fit the bill perfectly for the theme of the night packed with wit, fun, meaning and great songwriting in the way that only they can.
While songs like Car Park and Speak French are truly hilarious, and it’s always great hearing them with an audience who hasn’t before, they also have their serious side but found a perfect balance of the two here and even an interruption from Ellie Mitchell’s baby couldn’t derail them as they brought the night to a close in suitably celebratory, meaningful and undeniably female fashion.
While this event only showed off a taste of the female talent making music and art in Guernsey it served a great purpose in showing the breadth of styles being created by women in the island, while the format of the event was something a bit different with a real showcase feel of shorter sets and a taste of the artists hopefully whetting the appetites of many to explore them and others further and I hope this can become a regular thing (and it could be replicated for a multitude of reasons, though let’s maybe not have an International Men’s Day showcase, shall we).
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