Bristol played host to the annual BBC 6 Music festival on the weekend of 12 – 14 February. Not only is Bristol centric to the global music industry, in the role it has played in putting ‘The Bristol Sound’ on the musical map, it is also constantly innovating change.
Part of this change comes from Bristol’s dynamic community of entrepreneurs who are actively carving out their own space – from Bristol’s first ever female, youth record label Saffron Records to equal rights collective The World Is Listening, Bristol is setting the standard for the future sonic scape and the perceptions and opportunities for women working in the music industry. As part of a series of articles showcasing various elements of Bristol’s music community, we take a look at Bristol based, women-only record label Saffron Records.
Laura Lewis-Paul moved to Bristol to study for her BA (Hons) Fashion degree and pursued youth work, upon graduating. In 2014, Laura worked with the Creative Youth Network on a charity label known as Temple Records, based out of The Station and subsequently decided that she could make a positive impact in Bristol’s music scene – specifically, in the services available to young women. With the help of The Princes trust, Laura was able to start up Bristol’s first ever youth record label for women in 2015.
The catalyst for Saffron Records came from the realisation that so few women are working within the music industry, and it became apparent to Laura that she could actually do something to effect change.
“I get to learn how the industry works at such a fundamental age where I can learn from the beginning and work my way up.”
“My love for music was reignited when I came to Bristol. Young people – and people in general – can be scared to enter the music industry. Historically it can be quite a hostile environment. So I think it’s important to be approachable.” Laura says.
Saffron Records works closely with patron Eva Lazarus of Bristol band Dub Mafia as well as Sian Evans (Kosheen) who will be appearing at some of the BBC 6 Music Fringe events. Their aim is to positively bridge gaps between youth, gender and the music industry – offering support, mentoring and workshops and networking opportunities for young people within Bristol. They will be working alongside St George’s and Bristol Women in Music for a specially curated event as part of the BBC 6 Music Festival events on 13 February – featuring exclusive talks with key female speakers from within the music industry including Lady Nade and Sarah Bland.
The purpose of the label is to nurture young, female aspiring musicians, DJs and producers within Bristol to develop their talents and provide them with advice, mentoring and a platform to launch their careers. So far, since launching in 2015, the label has been welcoming submissions from all across Bristol, with a shortlist of just three artists being the final phase. However, the idea is to act as an ‘open door’ for artists, keeping the channels of communication open.
“We’ve listened to every, single submission and given everyone personal feedback so they can go and develop themselves and find other opportunities to develop themselves as artists.” Laura says.
As well as on going mentoring, Saffron Records will be hosting their own open mic nights starting in April at No 51 in Stokes Croft as a further space where artists can touch base and receive guidance. They also forward on relevant opportunities including recording slots at Factory Studios and the Emerging Talent competition for the Glastonbury Festival.
“It’s about motivating themselves to become artists and take those next steps.” Laura adds. “Even if they’re not ready to be signed, we can identify other opportunities such as developing as backing vocalists or in production.” Laura says.
“It’s going back to the creativity which music is. If you take away the issue of gender, you are left with the pure creativity which is what matters.”
The year ahead will involve signing their first three acts to the label and focusing on making vital connections within the city which will enable them to develop further in the future.
“For our first year it’s really important to stay within the Bristol community. We plan to organise a nationwide Saffron Records tour in 2017.” Laura says.
Laura’s warm and approachable personality is the perfect combination for inspiring and encouraging the apprentices she works with. Apprentice Naomi Harris talks about her involvement:
“I get to learn and know how the industry works at such a fundamental age where I can really learn from the beginning and work my way up. I am always thankful to Laura for the opportunity she has given me, as now it is a door to many more amazing things, and the only way is up from here I am very excited for the future!”
Since starting Saffron Records, Laura recognises that Bristol is becoming pivotal in the gender debate within the music industry:
“It’s improved massively. Since starting, I am now part of Bristol Women in Music, and Ladyfest. It feels really well supported.” Laura says.
The key drive of the label is to shift perceptions and encourage artists to be viewed for their creativity as opposed to gender, or appearance, as the popular music industry has historically been prone to focusing on.
“It’s going back to the creativity which music is. If you take away the issue of gender, you are left with the pure creativity which is what matters.” Laura adds.
Jemima Surrender will be performing as part of the BBC 6 Music Fringe events at Bristol Fringe in Clifton, in association with Jelli Records and BBC Introducing. Their recent album The Uninhabited World was released in 2015, and the band are looking forward to listening to local Bristol bands as well as performing two shows themselves, as lead vocalist and guitarist Millie Phipps says:
“Bristol is home to some amazing artists, the sheer amount of great acts filling Bristol venues at the Fringe is a real testament to that, plus there are loads of talented ladies on the bill.”
Bristol based The World Is Listening also offer their thoughts on Bristol’s music community:
The music scene is one of the brightest-shining jewels in Bristol’s crown. It’s young, vibrant and diverse and, I believe, still growing. People are moving here from all over to take part and innovate. A great example is the new female youth record label recently founded here, Saffron.” — Emma Hooper says.
For more information on BBC 6 Music events: www.bbc.co.uk/6music
For more information on Saffron Records: www.saffronrecords.co.uk
For more information on Jemima Surrender: www.jemimasurrender.com
For more information on The World is Listening: www.theworldislistening.co.uk
To book tickets for ‘Women in Music: Inspire’ at St George’s: www.stgeorges.co.uk