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“Not all women over 40 want to join a choir”

Applying the DIY principles of punk rock, over 100 women with no musical experience started a New Year’s challenge to pick up an instrument or sing in a band, and many will be performing their first ever gigs for International Women’s Day on March 8

Learning to play drums or electric guitar and joining a rock band is still quite an unusual thing for women to do, but this year, over 100 women started a new year’s challenge and many will be playing their first ever gigs for International Women’s Day, after just 66 days.

Founder Ruth Miller explains that she’s applying the DIY principles of punk rock to get women who are non-musicians to create simple songs together and have the confidence to get on stage or YouTube and perform them.

There will be more than twenty women playing at events in Leicester on the day itself, a show in London has already happened and women across the UK are debuting at open mic nights and pub gigs for International Women’s Day.

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Through workshops and free online coaching, Ruth has shown the basics of drumming, playing electric guitar and bass, song writing, performing and how to get a gig:

“Not all women over 40 want to join a choir; many of them are into rock, punk, grunge, metal – all different types of music and what’s more, these women have a lot to say,” Ruth explains.

“My idea was to start all-women bands as a great hobby for fun and empowerment, but I quickly realised that there’s a whole untapped seam of creativity and women’s voices. When you see a group of ordinary women get on stage and play original loud music with passion and commitment, it’s a very powerful thing … it’s art.”

the Verinos
The Verinos formed in Leicester last May and played a gig just twelve weeks after the bass player and drummer had started to learn.

International Women’s Day showcases what women can do and challenges the stereotypes and biases that surround us. There’s already been campaigns to improve gender balance in music festival line-ups, and there are now a lot more gigging bands with young women in them. Ruth Miller’s project is targeted at those who didn’t get involved with music and bands when they were younger. She sees music as a collaborative, rather than individual skill:

“A couple of women bought themselves a guitar and learned some chords during lockdown. But sitting on your own doing that individual practice isn’t much fun compared with being in a rehearsal room with a group of beginners, working it all out together. As an isolated guitarist, it’s easy to give up and feel you’re not good enough, but the spark and encouragement you get from a bunch of women all starting out together is incredibly motivating.”

The unglamorous music scene started when Ruth Miller started coaching women in creating songs and putting bands together. Her first all-female band The Verinos formed in Leicester last May and played a gig just twelve weeks after the bass player and drummer had started to learn.

With catchy songs and an amazing air of cool, The Verinos showed the way for other women who fancied having a go. As a new all-female band with an average age of 55, The Verinos attracted a lot of attention, with BBC video of the day, numerous radio appearances, a double page spread in Best Magazine and Midlands award nominations as Ladies First ‘Advocates for Women’.

The project expanded and, following weekly workshops from January, four more all-women bands have formed in Leicester, ready to do their first gig on March 8th.  Through a Facebook group, women in other parts of the UK have got together and are also planning their debuts around 8th March.

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