Camilla Cancantata

colour photo of Camilla smiling while playing her accordian, in front of a background of trees.‘I came to feminism quite late, towards the end of my twenties. Having been sacked as ‘the worst trombonist in the West End’  (I’d only been playing for six months and couldn’t reach the high notes) i joined the Sisterhood of Spit – the wonderful women’s big band that inspired so many other women to play brass and be raucous. Some time after that i went to Greenham, the start of a lengthy, formative, and unsettling process. I had spent two years after university listening to and recording folk music in Hungary and Romania, and the fireside singing at Greenham, with its direct relationship to daily life, had the same quality of intimacy, spontaneity and intrinsic meaning that i had missed and craved on return to the West.

I’d already had a career of sorts, as a musical director and composer of theatre music, and had been involved with free improvisation since i was a student. I valued experimentation, and rejected the Western Classical tradition with its divisions between audience/performer, player/played. But the Greenham experience was massive and disorientating. Even though i was only part-time, even though the only action i took part in failed before it had even started, even though it was not always harmonious and there were bitter disagreements sometimes – i felt that all the women there helped to create something quite extraordinary, unique, and uniquely important. That was why we were able to resist the endless evictions – it had its own irrepressible life and energy. It was very hard  after that to find anywhere to fit in or feel at home emotionally, culturally or politically. For ten years i could not write music – giving precise instructions seemed so hierarchical, so much part of a cultural tradition that perpetuated inequality – i could not bear to do it. Instead i travelled, searched for womens’ community and connection,  joined a women’s circus going to Mexico and Nicaragua, set up music and theatre workshops on an estate in Peckham where a friend of mine felt we were engaged in revolution … toured Italy as half of a feminist duo busking on tuba and ukulele … spent many solstices with dear friends from Greenham who had moved to the country in Ireland, to a place of peace and solitude.

colour photo of Camilla, blowing into the 'wrong' end of her trombone

Camilla while in ‘Contradictions’, photo courtesy Maggie Nicols

When i finally settled into living in one place – a flat in London – for seventeen years (never thinking it would be for so long) i did begin to write music again. And i love the focus, the total concentration required – in fact, am probably at my happiest when truly absorbed in composing. But it’s not enough, i never wanted to restrict myself to that, but have always sought ways of sharing the act of making music with others, and different others – through group improvisation, teaching, singing together, improvising with musicians from different cultures (Indian, Arabic). i also rediscovered my voice,  the power of political/satirical songs and the potential of music theatre and opera.

Now i live in a place where there are regular ‘folk music’ sessions in pubs, and though the music, with its mainly bland harmonies and melodies, sometimes bores me (so many tunes sound the same…) i love the informality and inclusivity of a session, even though it’s sometimes dominated by men with guitars and needs some subversion. Meanwhile i can develop my own music and song, and work on bringing music to unexpected places, and unexpected music to other places … But the call of the buzzard, the rhythm of the gossiping jackdaws, the wind in the trees or the roar of the river in flood – these sounds are worth more to me than any human music. Nothing i or anyone else can produce will ever equal those sounds – and yet, i do believe that playing and  singing, being part of a musical process, even if mainly listening, brings us all together and closer to the wonder and possibility of life on Earth – if we can only open our hearts and minds. Two close friends, from different parts of my life, died this year, and both their dying and the celebrations of their lives were intertwined with music. It seemed so natural and so fitting, a way of re-affirming the continuity of life and death of which we are part, and our shared community, however brief, with all that exists.’ ~ December, 2010

‘Kneeling down, bishop’s prey, lives to starve another day. Higher purchase, lower pay, Blessed be the working day. Crusade, Crusadist, Crucify, Constitution of contrition keeps supplying ammunition. Holy wars and matrimony institute unjust hierarchy.’  ~ Blessed Be the Working Day, a round by Camilla written and sung at Greenham


Canaille late 1980s ~ 1990s

Front and back covers of a black and white flyer in German advertising Canaille's gig at the 1991 European Festival of Improvised Music in Frankfurt, illustrated with a photo of a woman with hands on hips, throwing her head back and laughing.

The inside of the Canaille flyer for the Frankfurt Festival of Improvised Music. Text in German lists performers including Maggie Nicols, Lindsay Cooper, Pinise Saul.The outside of a black and white flyer for festival gigs in Frankfurt with photos of bands Canaille and No Rules OK

The inside of a black and white flyer for festival gigs in Frankfurt with photos of ten Canaille members, info in German.A 1979 newspaper article on Canaille, with black and white photos of performances and an interview with Maggie Nicols, headed 'Wir sind nicht zufallig Lesben. Das hat mit Autonomie zu tun.'

1079 German interview with Maggie Nicols, continued.

Cover of programme in green, black and white, entitled Musiciennes Innovatrices

Festival International de Musiciennes Innovatrices, Montreal 1988, programme cover

Entry for Canaille in programme of Festival Musiciennes Innovatrice, Montreal 1988, black and white photos of members playing. text descriv=bing Canaille as 'not a band but a gathering together' of innovative female musicians.

Canaille info from Festival de Musiciennes Innovatrice, Montreal 1988

Review of Canaille headed 'Men will play second fiddle at music fest.'

Canaille review, Montreal Gazette 1988

A review of Canaille headed 'European quintet can stir up mischief if it's women in jazz.'

Canaille review, Montreal Daily News, 1988

An unfavourable, sexist 1991 critique of Canaille.

A 1991 critique of Canaille …

Canaille replied to a male critic's sexist review.

… and a response


Carol Grimes and the Iguanas 1984 ~85

Angele Veltmeyer, sax; Ann Day, drums; Carol Grimes, vocals; Frances Knight, piano; Gail Ann Dorsey, bass

A page of ads for 1985's International Women's Day London events including 'A woman's celebration' at the Drill Hall, with artists' names listed on a background of musical notes: Carol Grimes and the Iguanas, Maggie Nicols, Terri Quaye, Penny Wood, Fungetti Trio, Annie Whitehead, Virgina Betts. Plus other ads including a 'multi event' in west London featuring Abacush, Sista Culcha, Theatre of Black Women, illustrated by a drawing of a Black woman playing a conga drum.

International Women’s Day events listing, March 1985, City Limits

Fragment of a page from New Musical Express with a listing for Carol Grimes and the Iguanas at the Rosemary Branch pub, London N1.

New Musical Express listings, 1984
Cover of programme for a Variety Evening from Hackney Leisure Services Arts and Entertainments Division held at Stoke Newington Town Hall. Featuring Carol Grimes and the Iguanas, Shikisha, Elaine Loudon. Front cover announces event, back lists future events: Asian Cultural evening, London Community Gospel Choir.

Cabaret Against the Cuts, Hackney, programme cover 1985

Right hand side page lists performers: Carol and The Iguanas, Shikisha, Elaine Loudon. Right hand page describes how ratecapping and spending cuts threaten public services and says 'We believe Arts and Entertainments is a service well worth defending. We hope you agree and give us, and the Council, your support.'

Hackney Cabaret Against the Cuts programme, 1985, inside pages

Black and white flyer decorated with musical staves and notes, advertising a Carol Grimes and the Iguanas gig at the Rosemary Branch pub, Islington. 'A benefit for the Women's Retreat Centre Fund.'

An ad for 'Here We Go - a benefit for women in mining communities,' held during the miners' strike, at Piccadilly Theatre, 25 November 1984. Text asks attendees to bring donations of cash and Christmas toys. Illustration of two smiling women at a table with crockery and cutlery, white and brown design. Names of performers handwritten on background include Carol Grimes and the Iguanas, Peggy Seeger, Julie Walters, Annie Whitehead, Pauline Black, Prunella Scales.

From Spare Rib issue 149, 1984

Spare Rib 149, 1984
Spare Rib's review of the 'Here we go' benefit for women in mining communities on 25 November, 1984, at the Piccadilly Theatre during the miners' strike says ten thousand pounds were raised. One photo shows Robyn Archer playing guitar and Annie Whitehead on trombone on stage together at the event; second photo shows a large group of women on stage linking hands.

Spare Rib 138, 1984

Positive Spare Rib review of a Carol Grimes and the Crocodiles gig at the Crown and Castle pub, Dalston, by Jill Dawson.

Spare Rib 138, 1984

Carol Grimes’ prolific subsequent and current work continues apace (and, like that of other artists documented here, can be followed via her website), and includes:

Colour photo of Janette Mason, Carol Grimes and Najma Akhtar, with ad for a 2004 gig providing 'an opportunity to hear three of the most important and inventive women in UK contemporary music perform together.'An ad showing Janette Mason and Carol Grimes posing with hats on, for a gig 'Alive at Ronnie Scott's' jazz club.

Poster with blue and green background illustration of a swirling vortex. Large black text reads 'charybdis Vortex Foundation Big Band.'C

The cover of Carol Grime's album 'Mother' features her face, eyes closed, with a dreamy expressionA four star review of Carol Grimes' album 'Mother,' from Mojo magazine, described as 'a genre-defying offering from one of Britain's finest, if under-rated, singers.'

“So here I am in the 21st Century. I have two children, Sam and Kasia Rose, much music still to make and listen to, and hopefully many more adventures around the corner. I wish for Peace on Earth, an end to the destruction and pollution of this Earth and an end to the mindless cruelty of Wars in the name of religion, greed and ignorant prejudice.” ~ Carol Grimes


The Caroline Gilfillan Band 198?

Ann Day, drums; Barbara Stretch, vocals; Caroline Gilfillan, vocals; Dinah Jeffrey, vocals; Jude Winter, synth; Julia Doyle, bass (1); Rosemary Schonfeld, guitar; Vick Ryder, bass (2)A black and white flyer featuring a portrait photo of Caroline Gilfillan smiling, with a spiky hairstyle and large dangly earring. Text reads 'Songs for the eighties straight from the heart' and lists members. A space is left blank for writing gig info.


Cast Iron Fairies

Hilda Ellis, Jackie Freeman, Jane Ralley,  Viv Acious, and various others at different times, including Babs Millington and Ruth Novaczek (also in Abandon Your Tutu) Yvette, Julz and Caroline.

Four members of Cast Iron Fairies in recording studio, playing guitars and bongo drums and wearing earphones. Microphones and a large bass drum also shown.

Photo (c) Andy Minnion

Five members of Cast Iron Fairies in a studio, listening to a recording playing back, smiling, laughing or looking thoughtful.

Photo (c) Andy Minnion

Black and white photo of two of the Cast Iron Fairies, Babs on left playing a drum kit and hand-held percussion instruments and standing behind a microphone, Jackie playing guitar and smiling. A large batik backdrop wall-hanging made by the band shows a large figure of a seated woman.

Babs and Jackie playing at the LMC, with a CIF-painted backdrop

Photos of Cast Iron Fairies in studio by Andy Minnion include Jane, Viv, Hilda, Yvette, Julz and Jackie

Cast Iron Fairies gigs (1981-2): Leeds Fringe Festival, Rock against Rock at the Pied Bull – Putney, London Musicians Collective – Camden, Fire Benefit at the Tunbridge Club, Star Club – Birmingham, Caxton House, Venture Centre, North Kensington (benefit for Golburne Children’s Festival), “Kitch ‘n Sync” at the I.C.A., “Women Live” at London University Union and the Starlight Club, Berlin – “Internationalen Frauen-Fest”, Palais am Funkturm, Women’s Centre benefit at Lambeth Town Hall.

A City Limits magazine listing recommends the 'Frying Tonight' event at the London Musicians Collective which features Cast Iron Fairies and Kazuko and Co '(unpredictable Japanese pop theatricals.)' 'The Fairies transform their surroundings with paintings, dangling fairy puppets and lavish layers of costume and a variety of instruments played with little regard for the rules.'

City Limits listing May 1982

'Women in Comedy, Cabaret and Rock' present 'Kitsch 'n' Sync' at the ICA Theatre London 'as part of Women Live 1982.' Over several nights in May, as well as Cast Iron Fairies, performers include Margo Random, Feminist Improvising Group, Guest Stars, Sitting Ducks, Gymslips, Amy and the Angels, Au Pairs, Nadia Kapiche and the Mistakes. Names of artists listed on background of black dots on white paper, illustrated with a drawing of a saxophone.

Kitsch ‘n’ Sync ICA 1982

Poster for the Cast Iron Fairies and Kazuko event, 'Frying Tonight' at the London Musicians Collective, shows a woman wearing a tee-shirt saying 'fuck art let's dance' (last word guessed at as partly obscured) with mouth wide open eating from a table of cupcakes.

‘Frying Tonight’ at the LMC

from Spare Rib, April 1982


The Castrators 1976 ~ ?

Angela Risner, guitar; Budgie Carroll, bass; Louise ?, keyboard; Tessa Pollitt, guitar


Cats Cradle 

Ann Day; Julia Doyle; Maggie Nicols; Nony Ardill; Ruth Marshall

The group formed in the early 90s, comprising musicians who had been in many bands during the 70s and 80s ~ their CD provides a chance to hear these women

One Move Ahead © Cats Cradle

Your Rules © Cats Cradle

A publicity photo, in tones of blue, of the Cat's Cradle members lying in a circle with their heads at its centre, hair splayed on floor, smiling, text saying 'Cats Cradle' and contact phone number.

Cat’s Cradle publicity

'Cats Cradle play tunes; sing songs; play rhythmic grooves; improvise freely both within and outside musical structures. All the music is original, both individual and group compositions.' This side of the flyer also gives some biographical info re the band members.

Cats Cradle publicity info

The cover of the Cats Cradle album of thirteen tracks is a lush collage of seashells, sequins, seaweed and starfish. Its production was helped by funding from Arts Council England and Eastern Arts Board.

Cat’s Cradle CD cover


Chard Festival of Women in Music 1987 – 2003

‘Celebration’: a film of the 1990 Chard Festival of Women in Music, Somerset, produced and directed by Jayne Chard of Hummingbird Films. Newly-digitised in 2013, the film features song, dance and drumming from Shikisha, jazz from the Guest Stars, the first European women’s orchestra performing a specially commissioned piece composed by Eleanor Alberga and conducted by Odaline d la Martinez, housework shanties from the Ranting Sleazos, performances at older people’s residential homes, women’s and children’s music workshops, singer-songwriter Julie Felix, the Female Intuition band, Bristol band Meet Your Feet, a drum kit duet by Crissy Lee and Sue Hewitt, a Women in Rock talkback panel discussion … and more!

‘The Women in Music Festival is no ghetto. It aims to bring women into the mainstream’ ~ Naseem Khan, The Independent ~ read more on http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/sisters-who-dont-play-second-fiddle-1349541.html

Girls Rock On! For a report on the Chard Foundation for Women in Music’s groundbreaking young women’s band project click here: eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/13158/1/girls-rock-on-report-re-order-sml.pdf

‘Chard Festival of Women In Music’a report by Ann Kearns published in the February 1995 ILWC Journal http://www.iawm.org/articles_html/Kearns_Chard_Festival.html


The Chuffinelles 1980s

Developed from Sheffield Popular Theatre Group

Linda Smith, Margaret Barraclough, ?


Clapperclaw – London

Rix Pyke, Caroline John and Rae Levy.

Clapperclaw was mainly a 3 woman show comprised of Rix Pyke, Caroline John and Rae Levy. Their first show was a collection of songs on a socialist/feminist theme written by themselves or taken from other sources. This was highly adaptable and light weight – not politically light weight – but they could commute by bus or tube to the venues and perform an acoustic set.

‘History is no place for a lady’

The three members of the group stand in a triangle as part of a performance. Black and white.

Photo copyright Toomas Anderson Stockholm (l-r) Rix Pyke, Caroline John, Rae Levy

Songs such as ‘Class Struggle Widow’ ‘Good Old Maggie Thatcher’ ‘The blackleg miner’ ‘Bread and Roses’ ‘The Diggers’ Song’ ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and ‘The Girl with the Spanner in the Pocket of her Pants’ would be performed.

‘Ammersmith Bridge’

Three members of the band perform in front of a crowd. Black and white. The image includes the back of the audience's heads. Rae is jumping in the air and plays the banjo. They wear vibrant costumes.

Instruments ranged from guitar, banjo, accordion, clarinet and fiddle to washboard, teacup, hoover and electric keyboard and bass guitar in the later show ‘Ben Her’. Ben Her was a complete re-write of history from the beginning of time to the present day – but this time including women and ordinary people. It had such all time favourites as ‘History is no place for a Lady’ ‘Hammersmith Bridge’ and ‘Too many Useless Erections’ a song about architects.

Handmade and handwritten clapperclaw poster. The tag line says 'songs socialist and satirical.'

‘Too Many Useless Erections’

Two photos of the band. The first includes Caroline and Rae leaning next to each other at the centre of a stage. The scenery for the performance is visible in the background of the image. The second image is of Rix holding her foot.

Between 1977 and 1981 they performed up and down the country for benefits and conferences, in working men’s clubs and upstairs in pubs, festivals such as Hood fair in Devon and The Festival of Fools Tour 1978. They hardly ever earned more that £15 for a gig until they went to Sweden and Iceland in 1980 and came back rich. They dissolved in early 1981 and have become the solution and not the problem. – Rix Pyke, 2012.

parody of the film poster for Ben Hur. Includes illustration of statue of a woman riding a chariot into battle.

Review of Ben Her in The Mercury, 24 May 1979. The headline says 'Herstory Lesson'. The review says the show is 'delightfully cheerful, exuberant and uninhibited. Includes picture of the performance.'

‘Wanna be in my hoard?’

The three band members stand on stage in the middle of a performance. They wear wacky costumes. Behind them are a stage of instruments and banners (writing not decipherable)

Rae Levy performs bass on stage. Black and white photo.

Black and white photo of the band performing music. Caroline plays a tea cup, Rix plays a washboard and Rae plays a mini banjo.

Another picture depicting musical performance. Caroline plays a clarinet, Rix a violin and Rae a banjo. The venue looks like a community centre.

The band perform, wearing vibrant. The performance looks energetic and fun. Rae plays the violin, the band are singing.


Clea and McLeod 1985-1991

 London/Glasgow based band

The two women standing on Ladbroke Grove tube station platform with double bass and drumsticks, both wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan 'By any means necessary' made famous by Malcolm X.

Clea and McLeod at Ladbroke Grove station

Clea McIlraith (lead vocals) and Cinders McLeod (double bass and harmony) met at Dartington College of Arts, Devon, then moved to London where for 5 years in the late 80s and early 90s they played the London cabaret circuit, toured Britain & Europe, and cut a record, Beyond our Means, on Billy Bragg’s Utility Label. Armed with double bass and ‘expertly conterpointed voices that get under every skin in the room’ (Melody Maker), they started out playing in living rooms (which they still do because they see it as the equivalent of working man’s clubs for many women). Since then they have played pubs, clubs, theatres, nightclubs, streets, festivals, winebars, parks, shoppping centres, trains & backs of lorries, weddings, community centres, girls’ toilets, folk clubs, jazz clubs, cafés & beaches, from Glasgow to Penzance, from Cardiff to Crete. Although this is their first time on vinyl, they’ve been heard on Radio One’s Woman’s Hours, Irish women’s private radio, Cornish fishing boats, the hippy convoy, Breakfast TV and on Scottish and Canadian radio stations. Their songs are about heroines and heroin, the other side of the coin, calling on people, riots and women shoplifting, the price we pay for war, how we censor our desires, who’s in and who’s out, domestic brutality, making claims, the real thieves and murderers, what we don’t want to be when we grow up, music as a source of freedom … ‘And they do it all with style, charm and wit’ – Glasgow Herald.

2 flyers, both advertising poetry and  music events held at Covent Garden community centre, organised by Apples and Snakes, Collaged design.

Flyers for Apples and Snakes gigs

‘…Clea & Mcleod came to a somewhat rowdier reception than they might have wished for. But armed only with string basses and voices…the two women held the attention of all but the most desensitised for a full 45 minutes with songs that confirmed the City Limits assessment – challenging and hard-hitting.’  – John Peel, The Observer

'Two fierce women and a double bass' - black and white poster photo of the two women, with info on a gig held at the Canal Cafe in west London, c. 1986

Poster for one of the duo’s first gigs, c. 1986

‘Clea and McLeod – currently one of the most original and challenging acts on the acoustic scene, they firmly believe in being as uncompromising as possible. Their music comes across as an emotional brew of jazz and gaelic folk, but it’s the positive message and delivery that really sets them apart from the coffee bar poets and bar room protesters of the troubadour renaissance’  – Len Brown, NME

Who Killed Clara?


This songbook cover features a hand-drawn picture of the two women singing and playing double bass or clapping. Their names are written across the bottom and 'songs and drawings'.

Cover of the books of songs and cartoons made by Cinders

‘Clea and McLeod are the perfect answer to anyone who still clings to the idea the acoustic music is a soft option. They’re heavier than metallica, and more cutting that a blowtorch. Save them for you most soul-searching moods’  – Dave Jennings, Melody Maker

Slap Me Shake Me

Shock Absorbers

How Long is the Train?

A page from the Glastonbury festival programme listing  names of performers, including Cinders and McLeod.

1989 Glastonbury festival programme

A page from Cinders' scrapbook showing a ticket to the group's performance, a backstage pass, and a hazy photo taken at the event.

Glastonbury festival 1989 scrapbook page

Handwritten notes made on a paper napkin, reminders to check gig details and with dates of  events. A sketch of a face by Cinders.

Notes and sketches made on a napkin in some London greasy spoon café in Islington.

Cartoon drawing shows a woman with a double bass saying 'thank you for not kicking my bass'  to a man.

A drawing from Cinders’ sketchbook

The two women performing at an outdoor venue, with double bass and percussion.

Clea and Cinders at the Edinburgh Festival

A policeman on a motorbike is shown telling the two women and their double bass to move on.

Clea and McLeod being moved on by police. Pall Mall, London.


Carry The Banner

Watch Clea and McCleod in this Youtube performing “Slap me, Shake me” at The Roundhouse, London. The performance was filmed on Cinders McLeod’s super 8 camera, circa 1991. Written by Cinders, and recorded on their record, the song is about love, poverty, (women’s) poverty and domestic brutality – the gritty dancethon of marriage. It was inspired by Horace Mccoy’s danceathon-depression story ‘They shoot horses, don’t they?’   

Slap Me Shake Me

you slap me shake me say you love me

slap me shake me we need the money

don’t fall asleep don’t slip away

cuz i work the night shift we both work the day

this house where you sleep is my factory

where i wait for you to come home to me

i measure your footsteps i stare at your feet

as we drag through the dirt to the beat to the beat to the beat

beat i’m beat

we’ll lean on each other, dance for our lives

lean on each other we’ll try we’ll try

romanticize being buried alive

the weight of your body the weight weight weight of our lives

they say we live they say we love together

they say we live they say we love together

but how long how long can this go on

slap me shake me leave me alone

they say we live  they say we love together

so we try to be friends, two lives one wage (your wage)

we share the housework (love me) or do we share the cage

we’re undersold a penny a pound

you say it’s better than nothing but still i’m bound

and you’re uptown

there is a diary hidden away

that tells how i murder you night and day

there must be more than working for you

there must be more than us pulling us through

they say we live they say we love together

they say we lived they say we love together

but how long how long can this go on

slap me shake me leave me alone

they say we lived they say we love together

and the keeper of the keys

walls you off from me

and charts the sounds of cries

off white dishes in heaven’s black skies

they say we live they say we love together …

and a thousand diaries hidden away

says how there must be another way

we break the dishes we scream and we shout

at a history pointing to some way out

they say we lived they say we love together

(love me love me say you love me)

they say we live they say we love together

(love me love me say you love me)

but how long how long can this go on (how long)

love me love me say you love (how long)

love me love me say you love (how long)

slap me shake me

slap me shake me

slap me shake me we need the money

we need the money yeah yeah

we need the money yeah yeah

we need the money yeah yeah

we need the money yeah yeah yeah

Lyrics to Slap Me Shake Me copyright Cinders Mcleod

A photo taken from behind the two women as they look back over their shoulders, taken in very shadowy urban location near Waterloo station. They and the double bass are in silhouette.

All tracks from Clea and McLeod’s album Beyond Our Means, on the Utility label, copyright Clea and McLeod. Photos of Clea and McLeod, courtesy of Cinders McLeod, mostly taken by Julian Yewdall, ‘who definitely took the walking away from the camera shot, the being moved on by police shot, the photo on the Glastonbury festival page, and possibly the Ladbroke Grove station shot.’ The shot of being moved on by the police was taken on Remembrance Day. ‘Clea and I were busking across from the Institute of Contemporary Arts on Pall Mall. The Queen was just down the street giving a ceremony. Girls like us were not welcome in the hood, despite the fact we were singing Clea’s song about women working in the munitions factories during WWII. The policeman told us to move on. He thought we were a security risk.’



Women and Music Conference, Liverpool, 23-25th 1976

Weekend conference which included workshops and performances in the evening.

Workshop topics included: the problem of playing collectively, electric guitars, drums, rock singing, country and western, writing music, basic song structure for songs, composing songs, handling electric equipment, sound workshop, flute, fiddle and banjo, early and eastern/ oriental sounds.

Contraband ~ York 1984-5

Members of the York Street Band remember setting up Contraband to empower women to play music.


Contradictions 1980 – to present day

Contradictions performing, playing conga drums and other percussion instruments, trombone and guitar and singing, with costumes on floor of stage.

Contradictions performing Revolutionary Times at London’s Oval House theatre.

A participatory improvisational women’s workshop which grew from the Feminist Improvising Group, which included Annalisa Columbara, Camilla Cancantata, Corinne Liensol, Debi Walsh, Donna Cunningham, Helena Blaker, Irene Schweitzer, Jackie Lansley, Jax, Jilly Jarman, Joelle Leandre, Libby Gallagher, Maggie Nicols, Pam, Penny Wightwick/Pennicello, Sylvia Hallett, Sally Beautista, Shirli Hall, Val Moon, Vanessa, Zouina Benhalla

Four members Contradictions performing, very engrossed in playing drums and singing.

Photograph copyright Sally O-J

Contradictions' manifesto, hand-decorated with whimsical drawings, states 'We improvise, we work with what women bring, songs, poems, ideas. We're clumsy trying to be more open. It's chaotic and sometimes coherent. It changes, it gets stuck. DON'T expect anything slick cos if we're worried about that we won't take risks. Most performance and artistic standards are set by men and they stop us exploring for fear of not being "good enough".'

A Contradictions manifesto

Contradictions on stage, some women picking up brightly coloured costumes, others playing guitar and drums, other instruments also in photo include cello. Handpainted screens in background.

Annalisa and Camilla playing on a rooftop, chimney in background, on a sunny day..

Val  dancing expressively, Sally on guitar and Maggie playing piano, with microphones, amplifiers and costumes also in photo.

Black and white photo of group performing with Sally on guitar, Donna in background on congas, Maggie singing. Microphones and keyboard also in photo.

Photograph copyright Sally O-J

Penni playing cello in centre of photo, Donna behind her with hand drum and Jilly playing drum kit. Hand-painted screens in background and costumes and instruments scattered around.

Orange and black flyer for the Festival of Improvised Music at the Purcell Rooms showing a woman playing piano intently, hair falling over her serious face.

Black lettering over pink and white stripes lists events over a full page, including a picket of Armagh Women's jail, Belfast; celebrations in Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Hull, Norwich and London's march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square after which a benefit social for A Woman's Place women's centre includes the bands Contradictions, The Harpies and the Mistakes.

From Spare Rib issue 104, 1981, includes IWD event featuring Contradictions, The Harpies, The Mistakes

'If anyone still thinks that getting money out of the GLC was as easy as the Daily Mail pretended, they should talk to the women of Contradictions. Here Maggie Nicols recounts the tribulations of a womens' co-op up against the bureacratic machine. ' Hand-written note on bottom says 'we never got it!' - Maggie

Bright yellow, the front cover text in handwriting gives names of three pieces performed by Contradictions - Moonfish, Madness and Revolutionary Times. Illustrated with black hand-drawing of flower design with Contradictions written around it. Back cover of abstract, jagged drawing of a woman's head. 'A women's cauldron of creations.'

For the full programme of Contradictions’ Oval House performances click on Contradictions Oval House programme


The Crimplenes 1980

Sue Borrow, Vicky Scrivener

Musical/comedy duo, appearing in 60s wigs and dressed as their name suggests


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