Review: Louder Than Words Festival

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The music/literary Festival, Louder than Words, returned for its fifth year this month. Our culture editor Jess Stoddard reviews the highlights.

Louder Than Words Festival returned to Manchester this month, featuring a packed program of high quality events co-curated by Jill Adam and John Robb.

Taking place at Manchester’s iconic Principal Hotel, the festival offered a wide selection of Q&As, panel discussions and workshops, featuring Jah Wobble, Paul Morley and Celeste Bell, as well as disco parties in the evening.

From Campus to Mosh Pit: Bank notes for musical notes – this writing panel discussion presented the fundamentals of making a career out of music without doing the “hard graft”.

Chaired by Louder’s Simon A. Morrison, current students and published music journalists, the event discussed the idea of “the elephant in the room of music journalism”: Monetisation.

Touching on the training students receive at university to artist autobiographies, this esteemed panel featuring Professor Martin James, Lucy O’Brien, Matt Parker gave the audience an insight into their own journeys, opinions on the music journalism industry and how it’s changing.

This interesting and insightful discussion focused on the fact that you aren’t going to get anywhere in the journalism industry as a whole if you don’t put yourself out there and be a bit cheeky – you can’t be afraid to be the person to go up and “ask the questions”.

It also offered insights on the different sectors of music industry and they ways to make money in them and encouraged the audience to send their work to professionals and get feedback and criticism in order to learn and improve.

Black Female Voices: Shaping the sound of Manchester Music

This years MDMArchive guest panel ‘Black Female Voices: Shaping the sound of Manchester Music’, focused on the hidden voice of black female artists in shaping the sound of music in greater Manchester.

This session featured a panel of black women in the music industry discussing their experiences and included TV producer and radio presenter Karen Gabay, writer and performer Melanie Williams, performer and collaborator, Yvonne Shelton, DJ, electronic producer and performer Henrietta Smith-Rolla and singer, writer and creative activist Ruby-Ann Patterson.

They explored the idea of stereotypes and stigma that comes with black women in the music industry and gave the audience an insight into the racism that exists in the industry.

The panel also spoke positively of the opportunities they have had and experienced, and how they have and are continuing to shape the industry today. With the performers and producers being described as “barrier breaking”, this sessions revealed the daily struggles with identity black female artists face.

Regularly described as being “pushed into a bracket”, the women all agreed that they are type-cast, with the style of songs they sing. 
With Manchester described as a very encouraging place for music, the panel expressed they felt more and more able to change the pre-perceptions of a black female performer – not just being the singer, but also the producer, the collaborator and writer.

This subject and issue is important to me because as a plus size and comic performer, I was always shoehorned into the comic roles and “fat-friend” roles, rather than ever getting the opportunity to play the leading lady, just because I didn’t “look right” or “it’s not a funny part, you’re good at funny”. If people don’t start breaking the barriers that are put up in front of them, the world will never change or grow.

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Jess Stoddard

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