In 1992, the typical Riot Grrrl was described as “young, white, suburban, and middle class.” With GRRL Fest, Amy Broomhall wants to “move well beyond what Riot Grrrl started.” Despite the apparent obviousness of the inspiration, it wasn’t a conscious decision on Broomhall’s part to name GRRL Fest (a mini DIY festival is designed to celebrate, encourage and inspire women, artists and performers) after the movement.
While paying homage to Riot Grrrl, Broomhall is aware of the movement’s history of exclusion of trans women and women of colour. With GRRL Fest, Broomhall wants everyone to feel welcome, regardless of colour or gender identity. It was due to a few key trans-women in Broomhall‘s circle that she became aware of these issues.“If you want to create an inclusive space, you really just have to listen to the community around you and respect their experiences and needs.”
GRRL Fest was inspired by Broomhall’s travels to Kuala Lumpur, Cambodia and Indonesia, where she met groups of women who, inspired by Riot Grrrl, created their own celebrations of womanhood. Discussing her travels, Broomhall mentions that these women were “very much aware of failings of the movement'” and thus “made their own movement, and redefined Riot Grrrl on their own badass terms.”
As well as these women, Broomhall was inspired, and ultimately empowered, by her own assault whilst travelling overseas. The isolation following the experience made her want to create a safe space for women to come together in the best way that she knew how – through creativity;“Programming a diverse range of art, music and politics is a deliberate tactic to bring different women together to network!”.
A movement like this can’t come without backlash. It just so happened that it is typically received in the form of online harassment and threats from, as Broomhall describes, “butthurt MRA’s.” Luckily, the support that Broomhall has received from her community heavily overshadows the negativity of the backlash. Through the worst of it, Broomhall encourages herself to get on with it, saying “After all, who has the time?”. Certainly not Broomhall, who does a majority of the work behind GRRL Fest herself.
Beyond herself, Broomhall has what she describes as a “close set of amazing friends” who have always been right there with her. One in particular is musician, graphic designer, producer, and Broomhall’s “right-hand woman”, Cat Scobie. Broomhall credits Scobie as being a dear friend who has been with her on GRRL Fest since day one, as well as being “immensely skilled and wise and rugged.”
Since running GRRL Fest annually from its humble beginnings in 2013 (with a break in 2016), Broomhall’s new dance party event, as part of Melbourne’s Fringe Festival, is FEMME ART PUNK. The event will feature performances from Eden Swan, Bahdoesa, DJ Brooke Powers, PO PO MO CO, and GRRL Fest DJ‘s. Since the submission proposal process, Broomhall had these performers on her radar, with some even having performed GRRL Fest events in the past. Broomhall describes the acts in the lineup as trailblazers in their own ways and scenes. But most importantly – they all know how to party.
The encouraged dress code is “Extravagance / Art Darhling / Sub Culture / Punk / Full Power”, with the best dressed to receive prizes from official sponsors Little Rebel Collective and Alternative Women’s Fitness. Broomhall approached barber shop Little Rebel Collective (which, much like GRRL Fest, encourages all genders, sexes, and personalities) as a sponsor after having her hair done for a photoshoot a few months ago and was clearly hooked with their hospitality – “…and as soon as they put a tinny in my hand at 11am, they had my heart forever.”
Let your freak flag fly on Saturday the 24th of September at the Festival Club from 10pm.
*Photos by Dinda Advena