Offbeat 17/Offbeat Women’s Big Band 1984 ~ 87

Al Rider, tenor sax; Angele Veltmeyer, sax; Ann Day, drums, percussion; Diane McLoughlin, sax; Di Davies, trumpet; Gill Baker, sax; Gwyn ?, vocals; Jessica Palin, congas; Judy Couthino, guitar; Louisa Lasdun, flute, arranger, composer; Mandy Budge, trumpet; Pat Tell, piano; Renee ?, trumpet; Ros Davies, trombone; Sarha Moore, sax; Shirley McCaw, trombone; Sonia Davenport, bass; Yolanda Armstrong, trombone

Poster using yellow bubble letters saying 'Offbeat 17' on a blue and white photo of band posing in a road which leads off into the distance behind them, playing and/or smiling, with their instruments. Women playing brass instruments standing in back rows, guitars and percussion in front.

Back page of advert for the band. Black and white with text in the middle. ' Offbeat 17 is an 18 piece all women's big band, Formed in 1985 to provide a workshop and performing focus for women musicians, the band has evolved an unusual and varied repertoire. Original adn arranged works ranging from Latin, swing, through funk and jazz, we are versatile, our skills encompass arranging, composing, teaching and creative musicianship.' 'Financially assisted by the GLA.' Pictures of the band members' heads, smiling at one another, frame the text.Publicity flier, black background and pink lettering saying 'Offbeat Women's Big Band. Exotic, funky, foot tapping extravaganza. Catch the swining moods.'Flier, pink background, black text diagonally written. 'Women Alive and Kicking, "Madonna in Slag City", an epic piece of all female theatre, Offbeat Women's Big Band, Bar, Hot Food, Disco. £4/2. Camden Centre, London WC1.'

Flier, black background with yellow and pink lettering, 'Piccadilly Splash! A GLC Night Out that could change your working life! Sat 9 March, feat. Amazulu, Anita Dobson, The Wandsworth Warmers, The Offbeat Women's Big Band, The Mint Juleps, Tracey Anderson. £3/2 union members/1 unwaged. An abundance of Trades Union information available.'

Black and white typed information about employment rights, health and safety issues, equal opportunities, sexual harassment. Encouraging union membership and information about relevant organisations that can help.

1986 GLC Piccadilly Splash flyer

Black and white flier with details of forthcoming events at 'Rackets', including Janice Perry, The Common Thread Readings, Impromptu, Siren Theatre Company, Ova, The Offbeat Women's Big Band, Women's Party at Rackets, Discos. Women only. The Pied Bull, Angel Islington.'

Black background, pink writing, 'Women's Night Out! Deb'bora & Friends, Gilly, Offbeat Women's Big Band, Tracey Anderson at the Drill Hall Arts Centre. Women Only.'

Black background red lettering for IWD show, presented by Alternative Arts, 8 March 1988, featuring Kit Hollerbach, Hot Doris, Hattie Hayridge, Carol Grimes, Jan Ponsford and the Alligator Choir, Sensible Footwear, Linda Smith, Sea Monster, Eithne Hannigan, Ellie Wilkie, Terri Carol, Patti Bee, Mudra Danz Theatre, Wendy May DJ, Academy of Indian Dance, Offbeat 17, Barbara Stretch, Jessi Harling, Bridgit Bard, Women's Street Band. 7.30 Hackney Empire benefit for Hackney women's groups, Open event, everyone welcome. £5/3.'

White background, brown and red letters, 'The Best of Comedy and Musical Cabaret' picture of a spotlit microphone with stars. 'Every Friday at the Old White Horse, Brixton.'Handwritten, crowded black and white flier, listing all the acts taking place at the Old White Horse, Brixton, over a 6 week period. Featuring Janice Perry, Kit Hollerbach, Morris Minor and the Majors, Offbeat Women's Band, Some Like it Hot and many others.

Handwritten, crowded black and white flier, listing all the acts taking place at the Wood Green Trade Union Centre, featuring Offbeat Women's Big Band, Janice Perry, John Dowie, the Skint Video Show.

Handwritten, crowded black and pink flier, listing all the acts taking place at Cricklewood, featuring Offbeat Women's Big Band, Janice Perry, John Dowie, Skint Video.


Olulu Olulu

Bradford mid-1980s

‘Hi, about 1985- 1986 I was part of a womens music collective in Bradford. We were named Olulo Ololu. I’ve been trying to find out if there is any record or info about this. We got funding for a sound system and learnt how to set up our own gigs (sound engineering stuff). It would be great if there is anyone around that can help with my enquiry. Thanks, Rachel’

Can anyone help Rachel with her enquiry? Please let us know!


Out of the Blue

Ann Day, drums, percussion; Alison Rayner, bass; Deirdre Cartwright, guitar

Jazz trio Advertisement for London Lesbian And Gay Centre women's gigs, including Out of the Blue. Black silhouetted women's shapes on white background.

 A whimsical hand made flyer for a gig at the Duke of Wellington pub, Dalston. Collaged pictures of women from the 1950s looking pensive, and text 'Why should women be the playthings of chance?' 'What  you long to know, but dare not ask.' 'What's ahead?' 'A September Saturday Night with the Hot Doris Band, four women accapella group, and Out of the Blue. Jazz, reggae and rock, with Alison Rayner, Deirdre Cartwright and Ann Day. 13 Sept, 1986. Women only.'



Jana Runnalls, vocal, 6 string guitar, clarinet, take block (bamboo ratchet), kazoo, West African drum, kplanlogo drum (Ghana); Rosemary Schonfeld, vocals, acoustic 12-string guitar, electric guitar, Juno 6 synthesizer, cabasa, Linn drum programme, kalimba, thumb piano, log drum. Additional musicians played on the following albums: Ova, Benni Lees, bass; Linda Malone, congas; Sammy, Fender Rhodes/ String Synthesizer; Out of Bounds, Josefina Cupido, drums; Alison Rayner, bass; Helen Hurden, synthesizer; additional vocals from Amazon Voices: Moira, Annie, Lizzie, Jan, Chess, Lindsay and Sybil; Possibilities, Zephyrine Barbarachild, voice, Jenny Gibbs, voice, Susy Taylor, voice, Livvy Elliot, voice and ankle bells; Who Gave Birth to the Universe, Jane Reese, keyboards; Katrina Brown, voice.

Update, September 2017: Rosemary has composed an anti-Brexit song – you can hear and see her performing it here: https://youtu.be/0UHj9sqtBDI

Ova were formed by Rosemary Schonfeld and Jana (previously Jane) Runnalls in 1976. Originally they were a duo called the Lupin Sisters,* named after the catchall surname for the people who lived in the gay squat.  The new name was coined by Sally Beautista, a musician who played in the band. Although when the band first started there were a number of musicians who played in Ova, including Maggie Nichols, Ova were predominantly a duo for most of their performing and recording career.

Hand drawn cassette cover for the Lupin Sisters 'Women Everywhere this is for you,' picture of an eye with the title emerging from its centre, and hand drawn women's symbols.

Each cassette cover was hand-drawn

Jana and Rosemary met in London towards the end of 1975. Jana had been living in Paris and was having some success as a singer-songwriter there, and Rosemary, who had grown up in Canada, had been travelling around the world before moving to London where she became involved in the squatting scene. The pair fell in love and started a romantic and creative relationship playing mainly contemporary folk songs and songs by the Beatles. In the mid-1970s homophobia was prevalent throughout society and many of their friends and family disapproved of their sexuality. Indeed, Rosemary and Jana were the direct recipients of homophobic violence when they were beaten up and forced out of their North London squat. Luckily they found a place to live with members of the Gay Liberation Front in Railton Road, Brixton, a place where radical political culture and squatting in particular, has thrived.

It was in this context the pair became fully politicised learning new words like ‘homophobia’ and ‘misogyny’, and started to use music as a vehicle to express women and lesbian positive ideas. They soon found themselves in the midst of the burgeoning lesbian and gay subculture to which they contributed.

Self Defence – Ova

Jana and Rosemary discuss the ‘dangerous’ lyrics to ‘Far Beyond the Dawn’ on radio

Picture of Jana and Rosemary running excitedly toward each other. Backdrop is a brick wall, a piece of graffiti with the word 'waste' is on the wall. Information about the album, 'Ova's first album, "Out of Bounds", released on Stroppy Cow records. Red tinted image on greenish background.

Poster for Out of Bounds

Ova played a wide range of instruments including hand drums, guitars, synthesizers, log drums, keyboards, flute and clarinet. Improvisation was a feature of their performances. Percussion and Jana’s adventurous vocal improvisations were a distinctive part of their sound. As a duo Ova recorded four full length albums, Ova (1979); Out of Bounds (1981); Possibilities (1984) and Who Gave Birth To the Universe (1988) on the feminist label Stroppy Cow Records who also used by Jam Today and Maria Tolley. Stroppy Cow was set up to encourage ‘women to make their own kind of music in their own time and space without the counterproductive pressures of commercialism. The music industry often restricts creativity by pre-determining images and roles that women have to conform to in order to be heard. The policy of Stroppy Cow Records is to encourage women to define their own musical output and to be involved in every stage of production.’

Ova perform as part of the Nottingham Women’s Festival in 1984 (please note that this is the whole documentary. If you want to see Ova they are 30 minutes in).

Red and white cover, picture of Rosemary and Jana playing guitar. Ova includes women's symbol around the 'O'

‘Ova’ album cover

Like many feminist bands of the 70s and 80s, Ova positioned themselves outside of the dominant, capitalist music industry. They took full control over their musical output: from writing, recording, producing and distributing their own material. Following the example of Jam Today, the band also had their own PA system and sound engineer.

'Ova. Out of Bounds' Image of brick wall and two doves flying in front of it.

Out of Bounds Album Cover 1981 design by Annie Rotheram

Ova administrator Jenny Gibbs, wearing an Ova tee shirt, sells records at a show. Black and white photo in which she gestures toward a table bearing piles of Ova records.

Ova administrator Jenny Gibbs sells records at a show

The band toured the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and the United States extensively. After a performance at the Melkweg women’s festival in Holland, Amsterdam, in 1978, Agnes Lewe, who ran a women’s music distribution business called Troubador, based, Germany, offered to organise a tour in Germany for the group. Ova were popular in Germany and toured there on numerous occasions, their last appearance being in 1988, and met a couple of members of the German lesbian band The Flying Lesbians.

Album cover, pink background. The feminist woman symbol composed of the faces of performers at the festival. The text reads: 'Vrouwen Festival, 1979, live at Milkweg'

Ova – live at the Vrouwen Festival, Amsterdam, 1979

A poster with green background, black letters, Stroppy Cow Productions logo of a dancing cow, and a list of items of merchandise, t-shirts, badges, cassettes, in German.

Selling music in Germany

The band toured the US three times, including one coast-to-coast tour and played at the famous Michigan Womyn’s festival in 1980. At the festival Ova were challenged by women of colour over their use of a West African drum. This was a decisive moment for Ova, who would later introduce all the instruments they used on stage, as well as on the inlay of their albums, in order to be sensitive to issues of cultural appropriation.

Colour photo of  Viv Acious, Ova sound engineer 1983-1985 and Rosemary in Germany 1983. The pair look at each other away from the direct gaze of the camera and are having a serious conversation amidst microphones.

Viv Acious, Ova sound engineer 1983-1985 and Rosemary in Germany 1983

Picture of sleeveless, navy blue t-shirt, yellow and blue design on front says '11th Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

T-shirt from Michigan Womyn’s festival

Ova – Madness of a Memory

This interview with Rosemary Schonfeld, conducted by Debi Withers on behalf of the WLMA in 2010, contains, as Rosemary says, “a lot of very relevant information about that time, about Stroppy Cow records, Jam Today, how we all were trying to create an alternative to the music industry, the Ova Music Studio, the issues we were all dealing with, how we lived, etc. Anyone interested in that era and what we were up to musically and politically would find it informative.” Researchers wishing to use this and other archived Ova material in their work are welcome to contact Rosemary via the WLMA.

Below are a series of Ova interviews, with accompanying notes written for WLMA by Rosemary Schonfeld in May, 2014:


Over Africa BBC World Service            7.19 minutes

‘Very poor quality sound, but interesting because it demonstrates how we were exploring and using non-Western instruments at a time when this was not commonplace. Every other festival band uses djembes now, but back in the early 1980’s, not even the BBC presenter knew what that type of drum was called. We also describe the mbira and log drums we used in our set.’


Newsbeat 4.56 minutes

‘Fascinating for the announcement of the big “celebration” [farewell party] to mark the abolition of the GLC, and all the groups who were going lose their funding. The Ova Music Studio is mentioned because we were lucky that Camden Council took up some of our funding. Jenny Gibbs, our administrator, describes what the Ova Music Studio was about. Some of the history of the GLC is talked about.’


LBC 6.28 minutes

‘This is an interview about the Drumbelles, the women’s drumming group which grew out of my percussion workshops. Anne Peck describes how the group evolved. I describe some of the drums, the unusual rhythms we work with, and how pieces of music are developed.’


Inside London 27.20 minutes

‘Quite an in-depth interview. Good ‘unusual’ sound and a ‘richly various musical output.’ We talk about our approach to music and refusing to be pigeonholed, how we don’t believe in hierarchies and ‘lead’ singers etc., how political music is anathema to the music industry. The interviewer says our music is ‘dangerous’ and ‘discomforting’ because of the overt lyrics about lesbianism. We also talk about recording, Stroppy Cow Records, being in control of every stage of production, distribution. There’s a recording from one of Jana’s singing workshops, and Jana talks about why we did women only workshops. At this stage we are still looking for premises for the Ova Music and Recording Studio, and describe what we are hoping to achieve by setting it up. Songs played: Far Beyond the Dawn, Language for Lovers, The Granny Song, Possibilities’


Gill Pyrah 24.16 minutes

‘Another in-depth interview, but only with Rosemary. The political nature of our music is immediately brought up, and The Granny Song is played. ‘Broad Feminist Left CND’ is how Gill describes it. Gill asks about our US tour, how the Americans responded to our ‘unglamourous’ appearance. Interview finishes with song Language for Lovers, which sounds as if the cassette tape is about to snap!’


Capital Radio 5.35 minutes

‘This focuses on the Ova Music Studio, and was done in the first week of the Studio’s opening. Jenny Gibbs explains why the Studio is for women and girls. The interviewer talks to a woman from one of Jana’s voice workshops, and to Jana. Interviewer talks to Kathy and Jasmin, fifteen and fourteen years old, who have come all the way from Liverpool for the opening.’


Radio Leeds 14.53 minutes

‘Interview opens with ‘Far Beyond the Dawn.’ We’re asked where we’re from, where we play, what our musical influences are. We are on tour in the North. Sound quality dips about half way through, but comes back. ‘Language for Lovers’ plays out.’


Swedish Radio 26.09 minutes

‘The presenter speaks in Swedish. Songs played are: Auto Erotic Blues, Rainbow Woman, Nuclear Madness, One Day I’m Going to Kill a Man in Self Defence, Madness of a Memory, Full Moonlight Dance. Both of us speak about our music, and what we are trying to achieve.’


Stockholm Interview 36.05 minutes

‘This includes Livvy Elliot, sound engineer, and Jenny Gibbs, administrator. We are asked about our history, how Ova started, our plans for the Ova Music Studio in terms of workshops and outreach work. We say how lucky we were to get funding, and just happened to apply at the time the GLC was changing its funding policy in favour of music and multi-media outfits, whereas they’d been very theatre-focused up until that point.’


Women’s Hour 14.43 minutes

‘This is a general programme about the changing role of women in music, the images of women in pop, and why there are many women singers but not many who play the instruments. There are different women speaking: Helen Terry, Vi Subversa, Rosemary Schonfeld, Helen Shapiro. Sue Steward speaks about stereotypes, and problems encountered by women in the music industry. Song played: The Granny Song.’


Interview with Ova including Livvy Elliott 33 minutes

‘I’ve no idea who conducted this interview, or where it took place. Songs played: Travelling Spirit, Happy Drumming, Earthquake. Livvy describes in more detail her work and role with Ova, and her experience as a woman sound engineer. We talk about Stroppy Cow Records.’ [See the Stroppy Cow entry on the S page for more info on this feminist recording label.]



Typed manifesto, 1985, 'Making Women's Music Visible', explains the political objectives of Ova, 'a politically active women's music group, a woman-identified community based group, aiming to make music and music-making an accessible, de-mystified activity available to women as an empowering tool for social change ... at a time when everything is becoming harder, tougher, more competitive, more capitalist.'

Ova manifesto 1985

Page 2 of Ova Manifesto, typed. Includes details of music available for sale.

Manifesto page 2

R S Postscript – Postscript by Rosemary Schonfeld

Coming out story – Rosemary Schonfeld’s Coming Out Story

*Just for the record, ‘Lupin’ was originally me and Jamie and Lizzie (Myfanwy) – we all wanted a new surname and my younger brother David had kept alive for me the sheer lunacy of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus gag about lupins, hence the choice of name (you can get some clips on YouTube and even some transcripts – just google ‘Monty Python’ and ‘lupins’).  Alice Bondi.

‘I Can See the Dream’ from Ova’s first album

Lesbian Fighting Song
Early in the Evening
Neither Gives In
Helium Balloon
Walking in Mercury
Auto Erotic Blues

From the Ova album ‘Possibilities’:

Travelling Spirit

The Granny Song

Language for Lovers


Moving Inside

Tidal Dream

Far Beyond the Dawn

Happy Drumming


 Ova Tones Studio

One of the most important contributions to women’s music in the 1980s was the Ova music studio. During the 1970s and 1980s women still had to fight to be in control of their own musical output, and were generally not allowed anywhere near the technology.

Colour photo of Rosemary and Jana in the Ova music studio surrounded by equipment. Jana looks over Rosemary's shoulder and the two smile happily.

In 1983 Rosemary and Jana secured funding from the GLC to set up a music resource and recording studio for women and girls, with the aim of educating and empowering women and girls through and about music making and music technology. At the studio, which was based in Highgate Newtown Community Centre in North London, Ova held voice (Jana) and rhythm (Rosemary) workshops as well as teaching women the rudiments of sound technology in their 8-track recording studio. With the use of their porta-studio, Ova held workshops at schools and festivals. They also did other workshops in the community, including tea-dances and drum workshops at old people’s homes. Radio coverage of the opening of the Ovatones studio on Capitol RadioColour photo of Rosemary and Jana playing at a tea dance in an older people's home, from the audience's point of view. Both play guitars and sing from lyrics on a music stand, near to hand is other equipment such as guitars, percussion instruments.

In 1989 Rosemary and Jana went their separate ways although the recording studio continued with different owners.

Advert for workshops available at the Ova music studio. Includes Sound Recording with Lesley Wood, Rhythm with Rosemary, Sound Recording for Black Women with Vanessa Sagoe, Exploring Music Through Voice with Jana, Sound Recording with Livvy Elliott.

Leaflet that includes details about all the events that take place at the Ova Music Studio.

Publicity leaflet for Ova

Leaflet, continued talking about community aspect of the music.

Blue background, black letters, Ova Music Studio, resource for women and girls.

Ovatones Workshop Booking Leaflet

Booking leaflet that includes details of all the courses that take place at the studioLeaflet part 3

The Sacred Voice Within, Voice Empowerment with Jana flier. Green Paper, typed.

Voice empowerment with Jana Runnals


We hope to gather more information on Ovatones and continue to document the development of the studio in its next stage under the management of Lesley Willis and Lesley Wood


12 thoughts on “O

  1. hi,

    i worked with Ova as their Sound Engineer from 1983-1985.
    As well as engineering the live gigs here and in Europe, i ran Sound & PA workshops regularly in London.


    viv acious

    • hi Viv acious – that’s really interesting thankyou for posting. If you ever wanted to write a contribution for the Ova entry, or have any any archive material you want to donate to the archive, please know that you are welcome to. Very bests WLM Music archive

    • hi, i am currently doing a dissertation in women workin within music and found all this detail really relevant. If there is anyone else who could help with information, engineers , producers this would really help me.
      Email me at estellathestar@aol.com

      • hi Estelle, glad the information is relevant and useful. Do stay in touch and if you find anything that can be uploaded to the archive don’t hesitate to get in touch!

    • Thanks Sasha! If you have any Greenham/ music connections you think would be good on here, please let us know!

      all the best

      debi (on behalf of WLMA)

  2. Hi, about 1985- 1986 I was part of a womens music collective in Bradford. We were named Olulo Ololu. I’ve been trying to find out if there is any record or info about this. We got funding for a sound system and learnt how to set up our own gigs (sound engineering stuff). It would be great if there is anyone around that can help with my enquiry. Thanks, Rachel

    • Rachel, still got quite a few cassettes of gigs and rehearsals, plus a few posters, would be great to get in touch, find me on Facebook, now Heather Larkin (Bayliss)

  3. Pingback: Ova – the Radical Feminist band – Rosemary Schonfeld – Lesbian History Group

  4. In about 1987 in Madison, WI, USA; 4 of us lesbians (two lesbian couples) would stomp around at night singing Ova’s “Someday I’m going to kill a man in self defense” quite loudly. It worked GREAT to intimidate men. When we ran out of breath, we would simply chant “wither and fall off, wither and fall off.”

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