Women at the heart of empowering Lincoln art movement

Two Lincoln artists have founded a women’s creative networking group as a way of challenging what they see as a male dominated arts scene in Lincolnshire.

Sarah Hughes, a musician and Gemma Baker, a spoken word artist from Lincoln, founded Women in the Arts (WITA) in February 2018 to create a platform for female artists across Lincolnshire to come forward and showcase their talents.

The pair said the group was founded out of frustration with being the ‘token women’ at gigs and open mic nights.

“We wanted to create a nice supportive environment in the arts and creative sector in Lincoln that didn’t seem to be there. We are both creatives and can find it quite challenging sometimes,” said Gemma.

“When you go to open mics or gigs, it can be quite male dominated and we wanted to find out why and address this.”

WITA is currently an entirely voluntary project, with the only funding coming from events put on by the group and minimal social media marketing.

“We run it on virtually no budget, the only money we have coming in is through events but we give that money to the artists who perform,” said Gemma.

“Our first event was a fundraiser just to try and get that initial pot of money, but a lot of it is social media. We don’t print flyers, our support comes from the community, they’ve been so supportive, we look to them if we need support or if we have events we’d like to do.

“Women in the arts has grown so fast. at a rate we weren’t prepared for. It’s just exploded.”

The pair said that they are shocked at how many women have come forward, and say that the amount of support they have received shows how much a group like WITA is needed in Lincolnshire.

“So many women have come forward. We always knew they were out there, they just weren’t visible to us,” said Gemma.

“I don’t think it would have been as successful if it wasn’t needed. The feedback we’ve had has confirmed that it’s important. We’ve had people saying “I’ve never felt support like this in my life.’ I don’t know how many tears have been shed at WITA events, but there have been many happy, joyful tears.”

Gemma and Sarah with their first ever stage prop, Larry the Lamp. Photo: Emily White for The Lincolnite

Local arts organisations and charities have also come out in support of Women in the Arts. Events such as Joefest and Sonophilia have provided WITA with a platform to showcase their artists.

“Lots of groups have helped us out. Joefest were great this year and they’re really interested in getting us involved in the festival next year. Sonophilia, which we’ve just done, are obviously very supportive. Siren radio have also been great,” said Sarah.

“We’ve been working with lots of festivals to address the gender balance in line ups for events and all the festivals we’ve worked with have responded really well, either equally programmed, or near or above. We look for role models, so if you see women up there on stage, doing what you want to do in your local community, it gives you that feeling that you can do it too.”

The group are open to women across Lincolnshire who are either in the arts, or would like to support women in the arts and is free to join. There are bi-monthly tea, cake and meet events for networking, craft and chat meets at the Mint Lane cafe and a monthly Sarah’s sessions hosted by co-founder Sarah Hughes. Bi-annual showcases are also held which bring together all the collective talents of the group into one event.

“We’ve had dance, comedy, poetry, performance art and burlesque. We’ve had someone on a bed of nails with a breeze block on her stomach with ‘patriarchy’ written on the side, which her husband then smashed.”

“We’re open to all talents really – anyone and everyone is welcome to join.”

Gemma and Sarah at the Sonophilia Battle of the Bands event earlier this month taken from their Facebook page.

The next event will be the WITA Halloween event featuring two female fronted punk rock bands which will be held at the Liquor Bar on October 31.

“We’ve sold about half the tickets and we have half left. There will be a costume competition and we’ll also have a cauldron,” said Sarah.

WITA will also be hosting a number of stalls on the weekend of the Christmas market in the Mansions of the Future building to provide a free platform for local artists to share their work.

“This year has moved so quickly that we want to put all our energy and effort into making what we already do as good as it can be and doing it well. After the Christmas market we’re going to have a break, and then we’ll see what ideas start brewing,” said Gemma.

“Next years showcase will be bigger and better.”

More information about the group can be found at www.womeninthearts.co.uk and tickets for the Halloween event can be found here.