By Courtney Faulkner
LETHBRIDGE – “When I started in the punk scene there was a lot of uneasiness when I would go out,” says Brittany Griffiths, bassist for Lethbridge’s flagship punk garage band Fist City (who are currently on hold).
“I would get anxiety cause I would think, ‘Okay, I’m the only black woman here at this punk show full of white dudes… are some of these guys sexist, are some of these guys racist, am I welcome here, is somebody going to say something?'”
“There was this moment of realization when I was in my early 20’s that I realized that no matter what I do, people are going to have certain assumptions based on the way that I look.”
Griffiths, who has taken a step back from her music to focus on school, is part of the group of people organizing FLIP Fest, Lethbridge’s first femme and gender-non conforming music and arts festival, which will take place August 18-20 across multiple venues in the city. Their aim is to make attendees feel welcome, safe, and celebrated.
“As members of both the Lethbridge and larger Canadian music communities, we have seen and experienced the various struggles and injustices women and gender-non-conforming artists face while trying to participate in local music,” says FLIP Fest on their Facebook page.
“The acronym FLIP, standing for Femmes Love Intersectional Politics, broadly represents our goal of creating an encouraging, inclusive, and safer music community in Lethbridge and beyond. The festival itself aims to celebrate the amazing and diverse talent of female and gender-non-conforming artists, while also educating the larger community on anti-oppression and safer spaces within music.”
FLIP Fest will showcase a variety of local and out-of-town talent at multiple venues, including the Owl, The Slice, Blueprint, and more. The bands range from the angry feminist punk rock of the Shiverettes and Slut Prophet; to the ethereal experimental soundscapes of Foonyap, respectfulchild and Feverfew; to the country folk magic of Shaela Miller and the Mary-Lee Bird Band; to the dreamy alternative pop of Brenna Lowrie and Maggy France.
The festival also offers an Anti-Oppression Workshop facilitated by CKXU 88.3 FM’s Social Justice Advocacy Committee, a roundtable discussion on Women of Colour in Music facilitated by Manuela Zarzuela, Saturday brunch hosted by the University of Lethbridge Caribbean Association, yoga from Pop Up Yoga Lethbridge and a Handmade Market at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.
“If you’re in a space and all men are performers and women are in the audience, it just creates an imbalance. It’s much more inspiring for women to see other women perform, ‘Yeah actually, anybody can do this.’ It doesn’t matter what your gender is, your skin colour, your sexual orientation,” says Griffiths of the inspiration behind the event.
“I’m much more inclined to go to a show if it showcases female, queer or people of colour,” she says. “And not to say that there’s not talented bands comprised of white dudes, I don’t hate white dudes, that’s not the point, it’s just the representation. And it’s just the imbalance of representation that I’m really quite fed up with.”
The festival, which is entirely coordinated by volunteers, is by donation, with a suggested donation of five to 10 dollars for each show, in hopes that financial resources will be less of a barrier to accessibility.
“Festivals like Femme Wave in Calgary and Not Enough Fest in Edmonton, Black Brown and Fierce, these festivals that focus on the talent of queer, women and people of colour [are important]. We need more of this to happen so this can be more of the mainstream.”
FLIP Fest runs from August 18-20 in Lethbridge. Find a full list of artists and events on Facebook (/flipmusicfest) and Instagram (@flipmusicfest).Femme, Femme Wave, festival, Flip Fest, Gender-Non-Conforming, Music and Arts Festival, Not Enough Fest