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girl playing guitar
Encouraging girls to create music |Image: Sianne van Abkoude
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Girls Rock! in Adelaide

Adelaide is known for producing powerhouse musical women like Sia Furler, TKay Maidza and Jen Cloher. Now the international Girls Rock! movement is coming to Adelaide to up the ante.

Girls Rock! is encouraging girls across the world to make music.

In Australia, only 20 percent of songwriters are women and only 21 percent of the top 100 songs played on Australian radio last year were female solo or all female artists. The statistics can be sobering but the good news is progress is being made, albeit slowly, and the local industry is supporting progress on multiple fronts[i].

Girls Rock! started 20 years ago in the USA and has since spread internationally to locations as diverse as Tokyo, Iceland, Edinburgh and throughout Australia. The program helps show girls they have a place in the music industry. That there is a place for them to tell their stories and make a lot of noise. It is seeking to challenge the restrictions placed on girls from the industry and the girls themselves.

Participants playing keyboard
During the Girls Rock! program, participants form bands | Image: Sianne van Abkoude

This July school holidays, a five-day Girls Rock! program will be held at the Elder Conservatorium of Music with a finale showcase performance on 20 July. Girls Rock! is open to female, trans and non-binary people aged 10 to 17. It’s an intensive week of mentoring, skill development and confidence building, and it challenges the ideas of who is welcome or who belongs in music.

Hannah Fairlamb, co-director of Girls Rock Adelaide! says, “There are a lot of assumptions when it comes to girls. Being loud is not very ladylike. Girls are expected to be quieter, more sensitive and more submissive. Boys are expected to be boisterous and loud. This translates to expectations in the music industry.”

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The impacts filter down to what we see today, from what programmers think people want to hear (some festival programs have few, if any female performers, check out @lineupswithoutmales on Instagram) to inclusion in “best x” musician lists (Rolling Stone’s recent top 100 guitarists of all time lists only two females). [ii] [iii]

Two girls playing electric guitar
Experience playing an instrument is not a prerequisite | Image: Sianne van Abkoude

The Girls Rock! Adelaide program is one piece of the puzzle addressing the gender imbalance in music, helping to build the essential foundations and inspire a new generation of performers in a supportive environment. Participants learn (or continue to learn) an instrument, form bands, write songs, and take part in a series of presentations and workshops relating to all things music-related. The program is also breaking down assumptions that you need an inordinate amount of experience – you can can play in a band if you haven’t had formal lessons or have played an instrument for years and years.

Hannah says “You can see an incredible change from the beginning to the end of the program and participants even surprise themselves revealing capabilities of what they can achieve in such a relatively short period.”

Band with three girls playing to an audience. Two are singing, one playing guitar.
The final Girls Rock! Adelaide showcase is on July 20 | Image: Sianne van Abkoude

What do the girls think? There is lots of praise. One participant said Girls Rock! was “the best time in my life.” And it’s not just the young people who are reacting passionately. Hannah says that seeing the girls’ experiences can also generate strong responses from the mentors. One said, “I wish this was around when I was a kid – a supportive community wanting me to succeed.”

One thing’s for sure, there’s going to be a whole new wave of musical inspiration in Adelaide this July when this group of girls are rocking the city.

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If you or someone you know is interested in applying for the Girls Rock! Adelaide program, you can get all the details here. Applications close 27 June, 2019.

If you’re not into music making but you love hearing new musical talent, you can see the Girls Rock! Adelaide final showcase on 20 July.


[i] https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/by-the-numbers-2019-the-gender-gap-in-australian-music-revealed/10879066

[ii] https://www.academia.edu/7689943/Rock_n_Roll_Girls_Gender_roles_in_Rolling_Stone_Magazine

[iii] https://www.academia.edu/15561292/All_the_girls_in_town_The_missing_women_of_Australian_rock_cultural_memory_and_coverage_of_the_death_of_Chrissy_Amphlett

Rebecca Moyle-Croft

Rebecca Moyle-Croft

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