Leicester pretty much has everything: excellent food, lovely people from everywhere in the world, high-quality sports, and an ever-growing cultural scene. A significant chunk of this rise in arts, music, performance, spoken word and dance is not funded by the establishment, the government or big corporations. You can find these underground acts whispering in the corner of an open mic event at the pub or exploding on an improvised stage at an independent gallery. It could be considered punk in principles and D.I.Y. in aesthetic: if you want something to happen, make it happen in your own terms and flipping the bird at “gatekeepers”. If they don’t let you in the building, make a raucous party on the streets.
We would assume that, with such notches under its belt, Leicester would also have a social activist scene. People questioning authority on behalf of certain cultural groups, ethnic groups, gender groups, those who are often unheard or afraid to share their voices even in the independent cultural scene I love and praise so much. How many middle-class baby-booming white men have to spread themselves like Marmite all over workshops, open mics, performances and other events when they could easily knock the door on the BBC and get their own show any time? How many topics are avoided and unquestioned, experiences left unshared, injustices being ignored? For a start, where are the women? The young people, the queer, the unemployed and underemployed, the working class, the cry-myself-to-sleeps, the disabled, the large-and-unashamed, the anarchists?
Where are the Riot Grrrls?
It’s the same thing Gemma Wicks and Meri Everitt were wondering. There have been Riot Grrrl or Riot Grrrl-inspired communities in several cities and countries, either tangent or online, ever since the manifesto was released in 1991 on Bikini Kill’s zine; some of them expanding, updating and improving the lifestyle and the scope of who is allowed in and what to fight for. Today, intersectionalism is key, and all women are real women, all non-binaries are non-binaries. People are what people are. But at least nowadays, there wasn’t a movement like this one in Leicester.
Leicester Riot Grrrls started as an idea on Facebook. It has its own closed group, a safe space to ask questions and help each other through sorority. There is now a public Facebook page where we share news, pictures and cute/enraging/edifying things. But what would a geographically-specific group be like without – gasp – human interaction?
The group meets ideally once a month. The first meeting was in July, upstairs at Firebug. It was quite successful and people came all the way from Nottingham and Derby to participate and maybe make something like this happen in their towns. So I guess we’re pioneers in the East Midlands? We had a bit of an open mic and I am amazed by the quality and passion of all the performers; some of them regulars in the local and regional circuits, some of them shy and terrified kids who had never done it in public. This is an excellent opportunity for them to practice, share, and keep doing things here, there and everywhere.
There are a few smaller groups within the group, and they each specialise in one kind of activity or project. The music jammers, the book club, the film club, the zinesters, and anything else that comes by. You’re all welcome to perform, share your writings and your readings.
The next Leicester Riot Grrrls meeting is on the 31st of August at Duffy’s, a very friendly Irish pub just around the corner from Firebug. If you want to be part of it, organise stuff and believe in the ideals, feel free to join! We’ll also be hanging out at that thing called Leicester Pride at Victoria Park on Saturday 3rd of September.