Kettle Partnership

Women in the Arts

by Leah. Average Reading Time: about 8 minutes.


Susan Mumford, Stella Barnes, Shir Friebach (c) Chris King,

On March 17th 2015 we organised a panel discussion on Women in the Arts.  This event was connected to our ongoing commitment to mark International Women’s Day, during the month of March, in Brixton each year.

This year Photofusion hosted the event and as the co-ordinating organisation of Brixton Live we invited each of the Brixton Live Partners to nominate a woman who works in their organisation, or had been involved in their creative programmes – or even both!

We had an experienced group of speakers exploring the inspiration, challenges, opportunities and experiences of being a woman in the arts, working in a range of disciplines including photography, dance and theatre. (see speaker biogs at the end of this post)  The Panel Chair, Susan Mumford, posed a range of questions to the speakers:

  • Based on your experiences, how is the subject of ‘women in the arts’ still relevant in 2015?
  • What key challenge have you personally faced or witness others experience that indicate there is still a need for change in gender equality in the arts?
  • When you entered the arts, what was your understanding about the role of women in the sector? Did you see any division between the genders, and how has this view changed since?
  • If you were to give a single piece of advice to a young woman entering the arts today, what would that be?
  • Role models are important. Who has been an important female role model in your career?
  • There has been much said about women realizing that the ‘superwoman’ ideal is unfeasible. What’s the reality of women balancing family and professional life in the arts?
  • Let’s consider gender and money. Have you witnessed any differences between the remuneration of male vs female dancers, actors, performers, artists, photographers and the like? If there is any discrepancy, what are your thoughts as to why this is and what women can do about it?
  • How about women being decision makers and big players? (Reference: Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media study.) What are your observations of women taking senior roles in organisations or being top players as artists? If women are still not in those positions, what do you think is preventing them from being there and what can be done to change this?
  • What are well-intending male peers unwittingly doing to prolong gender divides without even being aware of it?
  • Overall, what actions can women take to raise our visibility in the arts and move towards gender equality in the sector?

Kloe Dean, Scarlett Crawford (c) Chris King,

We live tweeted from the event, using the hashtag #Brixtonlive, the overarching question in the air, was that to be successful is essential for everyone – so why are the Arts not facilitating a fair and equal platform for all?

Here are some of the comments that particularly resonated with the audience:

There are too few role models for women – so many male teachers, directors…women are systematically excluded.  Lets normalise the challenge to sexism… don’t apologise when asking for change, don’t re-frame your words, tell people when things aren’t fair. Use your power as a consumer, audience member, social media etc.. To support women artists  Stella Barnes (Ovalhouse)

There are real challenges in developing your practice as a female dancer in a male dominated Hip Hop world… it is important to be bold, unapologetic and empower other women…and important to pass on the stories about great women and be proud to be a feminist – don’t be apologetic  Kloe Dean (BSupreme, independance, studio B, MYSELF)

The only way you can make change is to teach a younger generation…there is not enough activism in art schools….It is important to talk to each other and support each other is vital…Organisations need to change, a collective change is necessary….Young people are all feminists when that word is broken down, words have become barriers – we all want equality Scarlett Crawford (Photofusion)

Use your position to support, inspire and generate change…Success stories of female artists are needed, more showcases, more communication – Shir Friebach (Raw Roads/Raw Material)

Sexism and racism needs to be pointed out ever day…We are all each other’s peer group…Having a child has made me more ambitious, I have less time, but this just means I need to plan more….Never try to be superwoman! – Nisha Duggal (B3 Media)

Men find it easier to ask questions, women need to raise their hands too Susan Mumford (Association of Women Art Dealers)

Speaker Biogs:


Stella Barnes, Shir Friebach (c) Chris King,

Chair: Susan Mumford

Susan Mumford is a social entrepreneur with expertise in the art world.  She is a professional mentor, trainer, author and public speaker. Her personal mission is to empower and inform individuals who run creative enterprises alongside supporting arts organisations to enter a new age of commercial & digital know-how. She founded the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD) in 2010, followed by Be Smart About Art in 2012. Keep up with her movements on Twitter at @susanjmumford.

Panel Members:

Stella Barnes

Brixton Live Partner: Ovalhouse

Stella is a theatre maker, arts facilitator and trainer with over 30 years experience in Participatory Arts and Theatre in Education in London.  She regularly work as a guest lecturer in universities and has presented work at conferences and seminars in the UK and internationally.

As Director of Participation at Ovalhouse in south London she manages and deliver a wide-ranging programme of participatory arts and builds partnerships with non-arts sector agencies to address the cultural and social exclusion of young people.

Stella has a particular interest in arts and migration and works in partnership with Counterpoints Arts on Platforma, a national network for refugee related arts.  She delivers national training in participatory arts with young migrants and is currently involved in exploring ethics in participatory arts, focusing on work with marginalized communities.  Stella has delivered several youth led projects with the British Council including I&D, training young people in Southern Africa to be social action arts facilitators and Global Change Makers Euro/Africa youth summit.

Nisha Duggal

Brixton Live Partner: B3 Media

Nisha Duggal is a visual artist who processes the everyday to explore expressions of freedom and creativity lived within it.  Working across media she aims to uncover agitation towards structures of power and control by playing with ideas around singularity, mimetics and the poetry of crowds.

Nisha’s films and drawings have exhibited internationally including installations at Watermans (London), Arnolfini (Bristol), Ginza Art Lab (Tokyo), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead) and Oriel Mostyn (Llandudno) and screenings at Rekalde (Bilbao), Cornerhouse (Manchester) and Iniva (London).  She has been awarded commissions by Site Gallery (Sheffield) and Contemporary Art Forum (Kitchener, Ontario).  Nisha studied at Derby and The Slade and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Moving Image Awards in 2008 and the Jerwood/Umbrella Moving Image Award in 2013.  She completed the Florence Trust residency in 2010 and has work in the Saatchi Collection.  Nisha is a finalist of the B3 Talentlab artist development programme and she is working with B3 on a multi platform project called ‘Forcing Tastes’

Kloe Dean

Brixton Live Partner: Independence/Studio B

Kloé Dean is a passionate and unique hip-hop dancer, choreographer and freestyler from London and leads her own all female dance collective ‘Myself UK Dance’. Kloe formed Myself, a collective of strong, female, Hip-Hop dancers brought together to inspire females and wider society By promoting empowerment, ambition, individuality – to break down the stereotype of a largely male dominated arena. Kloé has performed in numerous productions, showcases and competitions around the world, most recently in Europe with the French choreographer Mourad Merzouki -Compagnie Käfig.  She has showcased her own choreography on various platforms including; The B.Supreme Women’s hip hop festival London, Alliances Urbaines: Paris, Lezarts Urbains: Brussels, The International Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas as well as TV appearances on Channel 4, CBBC, ITV, Sky 1 and BBC for the Queen’s Coronation celebration at Buckingham Palace 2013.

Kloe has come through the independence dance programmes and has performed in the Bsupreme festival as well as a dance educator on the independance schools’ programme, Dare2Dance

Scarlett Crawford

Brixton Live Partner: Photofusion

Scarlett Crawford is an artist and educator from London. A graduate of London College of Communication and Goldsmiths University, she works with photography in both analogue and digital formats. After graduating from LCC, she went straight to work at EMAP as an In-house Studio Photographer, having her work published in magazines including Vice Magazine and Tank. After two years, she made the decision to focus on her conceptual work and exhibitions. After training as a teacher in 2008, she has worked as a tutor and facilitator within schools and on community projects, including longterm collaborations with Photofusion’s dynamic outreach programme. Scarlett is interested in looking at the effects of acculturation, the process of cultural and psychological change that results following meeting between cultures.

Shir Freibach

Brixton Live Partner: Raw Material

Shir is an award winning theatre practitioner (Director, Dramaturg, Translator and Facilitator) that has worked in Europe and the Middle East on a variety of creative projects with a wide range of collaborators and participants. Shir has been a Human and Disability Rights activist for many years. She co-founded the first ever UK HIV/Aids national magazine, Positive Nation, and has been actively involved in peace making and opposing occupation in Palestine. She is currently directing and project managing an ACE-supported national touring project for Raw Material, working with marginalised young people through music and drama on the theme of ‘invisibility’.


Nisha Duggal, Shir Friebach, Stella Barnes (c) Chris King, 


Nisha Duggal, Leah Whittingham (c) Chris King,


The Audience at Photofusion (c) Chris King,