Tag Archives: #union #TUC #musiciansunion #gender #women #equality

How did I get here?

How did I get here?

It’s amazing how fast time can go. When you’re busy it whizzes by and suddenly you’re in a place you could never have predicted. The last few years have been a roller coaster of emotion, with both physical and mental barriers to overcome. I feel like I fought hard to get here, to be a woman, a worker, a musician, an educator, a performer, a union activist, a politician. Now I’m almost here I don’t know how I did it. Sometimes I think I died in that coma last year, and this is the dream. Sometimes I think I can’t do it. Sometimes I think it’s too much. Sometimes I think I should give it all up. But something keeps me going, something tells me this is right.

Tomorrow is the local and euro elections and I’m standing as a labour councillor for Gainsborough ward in Ipswich. I joined the Labour Party because of my links with my trade union, the musicians union. I’m currently on the executive committee of the MU, in my third term. I remember popping along to an Ipswich labour event on being a councillor, it was interesting. Ipswich labour are very active and I got involved, selected, and here I am.

I wanted to do this to help people, I believe you should get involved if you want to make change. And change is vital to moving forward, making a fairer, better place for us all. The Tory liberal coalition inspired me. Their privatisation, cuts and devastation of so many things that are great about the uk angered me. I was outraged to see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Through this negative time I felt now more than ever was the time to get involved and make my tiny part count.

I feel the same about the MU, a trade union for musicians of all kinds. We need to be there and stand together for musicians. We quite often work alone as self employed minstrel types, looking after everything from self promotion to tax returns. So I feel having a trade union to look our for us, help us and stand up for us in times of need is vital. That’s why I’m on the Executive committee. I think it’s important to give a bit of time to help our profession, musicians and music.

I also teach, tomorrow we have Ofsted visiting us. I teach because I like the students. I’m in FE so they are 16 upwards. A great age, full of ideas, opinions and bright futures. I also lead a community choir, Suffolk Soul Singers. It brings people together to use their voices, make music and perform.

Music in all it’s weird and wonderful forms will always be part of my life. It is my talent, gift, passion profession and pastime. I love to listen, I love to create. Music moves me, heals me, frustrates me, inspires me….

sometimes it’s the answer, sometimes the question.

I know I will never understand it all, I don’t think we are supposed to. image


Strong Women Stronger Unions – part one

This week I’m at the TUC women’s conference in London. It’s my first time here and so far has been really interesting. In fact, a bit of an eye opener, and not in a good way.

I grew up with the attitude I could do anything, regardless of gender. I suppose I was given this positive approach from my parents, children of the swinging sixties, open and liberal. My dad a proud socialist involved with the musicians union and my mum an outspoken feminist. Both gave me the belief the world was my oyster, and I carry that with me to this day.

So as I sat in the conference room on day one, I was seriously surprised to see women’s issues coming up on the agenda that I believed were a thing of the past. As a young adult I thought we were moving forward, stamping out sexism, raising the flag for equality. Legislation came into force on equal pay, harassment, bullying, pregnancy discrimination, childcare issues and much more including BAME and LGBT people.

But something went wrong. These issues, are still here, and still need addressing. There were motions on equal pay, parental rights, childcare and and the undermining of human rights and equality legislation. I believed some of these problems were historical but sadly they are happening everyday in workplaces everywhere. We heard stories of those on the lowest pay, unable to find childcare, unable to pay for heat or feed their families. In 2014 it is outrageous that nothing appears to have changed. Have we moved forward at all?

Clearly equality and diversity legislation isn’t working, it’s not being enforced. Places of work and education should be safe, we should feel no threat, yet it seems more and more women have bad experiences. This seems particularly clear in male dominated industries where women are often expected to “laugh off”, what is sexual harassment or discrimination. There are still gender stereotypes prevalent in some jobs, these need to be broken, and fast, so we can all move on.

Forty years after the equal pay act was introduced there is still clearly a gender gap in pay. Women are no where near fully represented in all levels of business or politics. Whether they experience bullying, barriers of childcare, pregnancy discrimination or older women over fifty being pushed out of the workplace, this is in no way equal.

So let’s educate our young people that they can do anything, whoever they are. Regardless of gender, age, disability, anything! Let’s fight so that legislation IS enforced in workplaces for equality, equal pay, Heath and safety and the minimum wage, let alone the living wage.

Equality is a right, not a privilege.


Who run the world?

This week is trade uniontastic.
I have a Musicians Union EC meeting tomorrow, and the it’s onto the Women’s TUC. I have never attended this before and I’m really looking forward to meeting some like minded people. This has a particular importance for me as I was supposed to attend the women’s conference for the last two years running. In 2012 my depression and breakdown stopped me from attending, and in 2013 I was recovering from pneumonia having being in a coma! Part of me has been dreading the third illness in this trilogy, but it seems this year I shall finally make the TUC women’s conference.
I told a colleague last week I was attending, she said “you must be quite militant” I wasn’t sure what she meant really but it made me laugh. I explained my trade union activism and said I was a feminist, but I wouldn’t say militant. To me feminism is equality in all parts of life; Jobs, pay, opportunity, child care duties, education, etc. Now I think most people male and female would agree that they believe in this too, but perhaps would not give themselves the label feminist.
In the music industry there is a wide gender gap in rock, pop and jazz. Vocalists tend to be women, instrumentalists men. This really interests me and I would love to find out the barriers to women going on either in education or professionally as instrumentalists. At the college I teach at there are very few girls, and I know this is reflected in other colleges on jazz courses etc. In The orchestral world the balance is almost half and half which just goes to show how this is an issue unique to popular music.
There are still far too few women in the top positions both in business and politics. While this is still the case I think there is a responsibility for those in charge to try and redress the balance. Things like all female short lists serve this purpose, hopefully in the short term. I think in the work place having children can be a big issue for those climbing the career ladder. A break from this can often feel like a set back wether in reality it is or not.
I hope to be educated further this week about the needs of women in the workplace. As the TUC brings together women from all it’s trade union members there will be an incredibly diverse pool of professions and experiences there. I would imagine there may be some “militant” feminists there, that might not like my gentle views of gender equality. Perhaps this will help me define my definitions of feminism, it will definitely show me issues unique to women in society today.