Nobody thinks it's strange to see an all-male band on a stage. It's not considered as a gimmick or something out of the ordinary. There is no reason therefore, to perceive an all-female band that way. Certainly the crowd in The Complex who enjoyed the five acts during BAN BAM saw nothing strange in seeing women tearing it up on stage.
Why there aren't more mixed-gender bands in jazz and improvised music is another question. Events like BAN BAM are starting to ask the questions, and more to the point, as the festival's Creative Producer and IMC Marketing Manager Aoife Concannon explains, to look for the solutions.
"Since we made this decision a year ago and started looking at the issue it has become engrained as permanent policy. It's not an option to program without thinking about gender balance or finding those female artists that are maybe hidden away in corners and are not as obvious. Finding them and trying to develop and support them has just become something that we think of every time we think of programming anything, which is how it should be."
However, as the panel discussions earlier in the day noted, the roots of the problem of gender imbalance in music are more fundamental. Changes in the music education system from an early age are necessary and this is another area that BAN BAM and Improvised Music Company is keen to address.
"Looking ahead in the next few years we're going to think about how we can engage with the education sector in a small but meaningful way," says Concannon, "working with the curriculum and thinking about how we can engage with children at primary and secondary school level in a role modelling capacity. We'd like to do workshops and talks to encourage girls who are studying music to be more adventurous and to feel that they can go and have a career in music, because there is a huge drop-off for girls in particular when leaving third level when it comes to music."
Of course, there's no quick fix to gender imbalance, as first and foremost, the perceptions engrained in society regarding gender and roles need to change. Concannon and IMC, however, are well aware of the task before them. "It's a long-term engagement and it has to be because change will only happen over many years."
Photos: Courtesy of Moira O'Reily