Archive for March 2019

“I’m done being quiet.”

Below is a guest blog-post from Faye Treacy, a comedian, writer, presenter and good friend of mine, about misogyny and sexual harassment in the music world where she first made her name. (Her work is superb by the way: you can find her on Twitter at @fayetreacy and on her website.)

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So on Friday night I received a rather vile video on fb from a trumpet player I don’t really know or work with. He was aggressively exposing himself to me and his reasoning was ‘I’m drunk.’

Now this isn’t the first time I have received unsolicited photos/videos/messages. I could have guessed his age at being middle aged by the fact that he stupidly used the platform of Facebook messenger instead of snap chat so I’m sorry ‘mate’ but that video is now on the internet forever. You were drunk yes but you were also making a power move, like when other colleagues have shown me porn for fun on their phones over dinner or in WhatsApp groups. I also am aware this is a grey area and comes down to context. Sarah Silverman just thought Louie was being an idiot when he ‘asked’ (important word there) to wank in front of her, the open spots at their gigs obviously found this headliner way more threatening. A dickhead mate of mine sending me bad porn when we were younger for example, I don’t suddenly want him to lose all his teaching work if I chose to report him now but we need to look at it. We all do dumb shit. I grew up Catholic and used to call all bad things ‘gay’ even before I realised I liked girls as well as boys, which was a hard realisation and then insight into why I hated myself so much when I was younger 🤦‍♀️

I’ve been doing music most of my life. It’s opened many doors and satisfied my creativity, opened a world of better education my parents wouldn’t have been able to afford without the bursary’s and as a geeky kid in band I thought I’d found my tribe.. but as I got older, when puberty hit I noticed a trend… with geeky men, there come’s a lot of pent up resentment towards women.

Having a metre-long dick drawn on your locker at music college after your first stint of TV work, notes left in your case calling you a ‘slag.’ This wasn’t from children, this was from well educated middle class early twenty year olds. When are we going to stop making excuses for such behaviour?

I had a chat a few years ago with my favourite academic professor at the Royal Academy of Music and I giggled that I’ve probably grown a way thicker skin now.. he cut me off, he wasn’t laughing along and he said ‘no, since you’ve left we’ve got better at having girls in the brass department.’ I really hope that’s true as I can no longer giggle. It’s a disservice to my feelings and quite frankly my intelligence.

There has been a few sneers against the Royal Northern College of music for setting up a better pastoral care system, but honestly when I was at my lowest and I mean low, I could have really done with some support not just being told ‘oh he’s Scottish’ or ‘you can’t stop a pig grunting.’ I was aware by going to study I was putting myself in crippling debt for life and I was wondering how much then I was willing to put up with till I broke.

I then went onto study in America where I got fed up of the professor there massaging young female accompanists shoulders in his ‘weekly’ yes weekly masterclasses. I got tired so I returned to London and I went in search of other art forms to express myself cos I actually found the music world I’d experienced up till then quite toxic and it had left me with quite crippling stage fright.

And it worked, I’ve now continued to play with great bands and musicians and I’m proud to say have an up and coming comedy career. What ever people can call me from my college days, doesn’t hurt me anymore. Call me a slag, say I only get my gigs cos I’m a girl all you like but at least as far as I’m aware no one ever said I wasn’t nice…And I am nice but I just can’t be fucked any longer to be agreeable.

So Friday night after a 17hr teaching week, 7 gigs and 2 radio shows recorded I get into bed feeling proud with myself for once (and I’m so hard on myself) having had some lovely gigs at Top Secret comedy club I’m subjected to a video that was just disgusting.

Earlier this week I had a tweet asking how do we get more girls playing brass. I don’t think it’s a gender issue with who wants to learn a brass instrument, all little boys and girls love making fart noises, as the hilarious comedian Iliza Shlesinger recently put it in an interview little girls and boys find poop and farting hilarious as it’s funny BUT girls we’re just trained out of it, it’s for the boys to make jokes about.

I think we have a cultural problem that leads to many female brass students not sticking at it. I also think we have a massive class issue. When you can’t afford a car or a hotel when you’re building up your freelance work, as a woman you have to put so much trust in men. Some of us don’t have the older sibling looking out for us, some us didn’t come from Cheethams school of music/ NYO etc etc when you’ve got your old boy/girl club. (Although I am aware there has been some terrible stories to come out of some of those music schools.)

You have to share lifts with strangers, rooms and trust that you don’t wake up with some pervy function leader’s hand in your knickers. You have to make sure you don’t get drunk and put yourself in vulnerable situations, (why did you agree to share a room in the first place?!) walking home late alone cos you don’t want to spend half of your gig fee on a cab because you know already your rent’s going to be a week late.

I’m tired of being subjected to this.

Yes I’m a comedian, I take the piss out of myself and my failings on stage, I’m sex positive, I speak freely and I’m not easily offended but I’m tired. The world is moving forward but why does it appear the music world is still dragging its feet?

I’ve asked some male colleagues if they know this dude and their response has been, ‘he’s normally so sweet,’ or ‘have you slept with him before?’ Ffs!!!! Some of my female older brass mates have been like ‘oh ignore it,’ cos I’m sure they’ve seen it all before. You become desensitised when your a gigging musician to this type of crap. Some people have told me to share the video, however, I don’t want to subject it to people who really don’t want to see it. Some people have been like don’t share it, ‘HE might be having a bad time in life.’

Now, I’ve put shout outs before begging my male colleagues to communicate more, speak about their feelings. I think it’s devastating that suicide is the biggest killer of young men. But did you know the group that commits suicide the most isn’t actually young men it’s actually lesbians… yes women. My sister works with sex workers in Norway and shared that shocking stat with me. Another fact about women that isn’t shouted about.

So to my lovely men in the world of music if one of your mates is being a dick, have a word! Through hard work I’ve created a platform for myself where I will continue to speak up. The next hundred years isn’t going to be just written by men in the history books.

I’m done being quiet.

“Leaving Home (Citizen of Everywhere)”, my speech at the #BrexitWake at the Literaturhaus in Berlin, 29.03.2019.

I read the following speech at the #BrexitWake in Berlin, the night that the UK had long been scheduled to leave the EU.

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The strange thing about the UK leaving the EU is that a few years ago I left the UK, a place I called home, but now it feels like that old home is leaving me too.

Make no mistake, Germany is where I live now – not Berlin, but Germany; in its own way, I love Hamburg just as much as this city, with honourable mentions for Bremen and Dusseldorf. But when it comes to the heart, Britain is hard to quit. The UK is an ex-partner on whom I check up from time to time. We have long since parted ways, but I still care about them. Recently, though, I have seen them fall in with a bad crowd, and I am not sure that I recognise them anymore.

When the UK’s Prime Minister referred to people like me as “citizens of nowhere”, she meant to represent me as an outsider, as someone who roamed the vast global nowhere in search of their identity. The irony is that she is helping to make her own people citizens of nowhere. She has done her very best to ensure that they will be scornful outsiders, peering in from the edges of the world. Britain will still welcome investment from all over the planet, but its hospitality towards actual people has been questioned like never before. Though my Prime Minister has not been alone in her efforts, it is rare that a major politician has made politics feel so personal.

Part of me, a very small, quietly spiteful part, feels that perhaps Britain deserves to be an outsider. During its centuries as an insider, it did many things that shaped the world for the worse, and so maybe it will be less dangerous on the fringe. But there is is another far larger part of me, which remembers a more modern Britain which was better than that. That is the Britain I thought I knew, the Britain of my favourite teachers Janet Fallows and Andrew Robinson and Mark Freedland, who encouraged me to think critically and kindly at all times. That is the Britain of innovation in science and medicine and music, the Britain of compassionate legislation and the fierce defender of human rights, the Britain of my friends Justin in Norfolk and Tessa in Brussels and Jonny in Haiti. Recently, these better Britains have felt like a distant dream.

I have no gently poetic words to describe how I feel about the UK leaving the EU. Yes, the EU has its flaws. Look at the hard borders against Africa, the treatment of Greece. Yet it is still an institution that has protected us from the worst of what could have been, and could yet protect us from the worst of what is to come. If we judge the EU by those who would happily see it destroyed, then the UK’s decision to leave looks all the more worrying still. But we all know all this, that is largely why we are here.

I am very angry tonight. This is a time in history where we have never needed greater unity of purpose, and we are in an era where division grows by the day. And I do not mean political division between left and right. I mean division between people who want to have a plan about the planet we still seek to inhabit a generation from now, and people who don’t. I am disgusted by how climate change has become just another issue in the culture war. I am appalled by how ignorance has become a badge of honour. If recent years have reminded us of anything, it is that  “No” is not only an emotion, it is a political position. But “No” is very rarely a helpful solution.

In the UK we are faced, as is the rest of the world, with the prospect of catastrophic climate change within the course of our lifetime. We are fortunate because we are in a position to sit at a table and help to drive forward policies for progress. Yet we are walking away from that table, and in the process leaving our nation in disarray. Because this is not a dignified retreat from Europe – a bold stand taken by the brave British underdog. This is a daylight heist, which I believe will thrust my country’s politicians towards the arms of the rising far-right.

My country. Maybe I need to stop saying that. Maybe I need to stop reading so much UK news, and instead concentrate on what is happening here, in my slowly-improving German. I am no longer living in the UK, I am no longer paid in anything other than euros and dollars. Despite the very many challenges I have faced since arriving in Germany almost five years ago, I have found so much here that is truly special. It is not only my taxes that are here: my closest friends are here, Josh is here, Jennifer is here, Krisz is here. I hope that my future love is here. I have much that I adore in the UK, not least my beloved Manchester United, but recently I even have a new football team to support, the women’s team of Wolfsburg. (This week, we lost the Champions League quarter-final to Lyon – but we nearly beat them, and I can promise you we will be back. Next year, Lyon, we are coming for you. Next year.)

The British Prime Minister – not my Prime Minister, not anymore – was wrong about me. When she says I am a citizen of nowhere, I can reply, no, I am a citizen of everywhere. I belong everywhere all at once. I may not fit into many people’s traditional vision of someone from their hometown. Yet whether I do, or do not, I do not care. I am here to live, to love, to contribute to something much bigger and hopefully much, much better than myself. And, for as long as I am here in Germany, I always will.