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Screenprinting workshop GR!C 2016 - photo by Mia Mala McDonald_feature

Girls Rock! Canberra this winter

Yolande Norris

Do you ever see something and think I wish that’d been around when I was young?

As we get older it’s all too easy to look back to our younger selves and see what we needed at the time to steer us through the confusing minefield of adolescence and our teenage years. Maybe our talents and interest were a little left-of-centre and we needed help to draw them out; maybe we needed older people who weren’t our parents or teachers to be a positive example of future possibilities; maybe we just needed to find others more like ourselves.

These are some of the aims Chiara Grassia had when she established Girls Rock! Canberra. As a musician, she is keenly aware not only of the positive impact music can have across all facets of an individual’s life, but also of the major lack of women in the music industry and the flow-on effects of this imbalance. Young people can’t aspire to what they can’t see, and so the underrepresentation is perpetuated from one generation to the next. Girls Rock! Canberra is determined to break this cycle, empowering as many young women as it can along the way.

GRC 2017 Poster

Girls-only rock camps have their origins in the United States, the first cited as being in Portland, Oregon in 2001. The idea took off, and now similar programs can be found all over the US and the world. Grassia travelled to the US in 2015 to research and experience camps in Bay Area, California, Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon, supported by a grant from the YWCA. She returned to Canberra and launched the inaugural Girls Rock! camp in January 2016.

Participants at Girls Rock! Canberra learn instruments and musicianship, but they also gain exposure to a whole world of creative skills and empowering ideas, delivered by a team of experienced female mentors. They might learn about music history and feminism, self-defence techniques, improvisation skills, zine making or screen-printing. They will have a diverse wealth of influences and find new friends, collaborators and role models among the group – strong and unique individuals, just like them.

Mentors include renowned artists who are generous with their expertise, and each day of the program campers are treated to a lunchtime gig from a visiting established musician or band, giving plenty of inspiration and growing each participant’s sense of what music is and could be.  Through the five-day program participants choose an instrument, form a band and work up a song from scratch. The resulting bands and songs are showcased at the end of the week for parents and friends – for some this is the start of something big.  Girls Rock! Canberra 2016 participants Scarlett and Neve are members of local all-girl band Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, currently gigging widely and getting shout-outs from music media all over.

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. Image: Supplied

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. Image: Supplied

This year Girls Rock! Canberra is set to take place in the winter school holidays – Monday 10 – Friday 14 July with a showcase on Saturday 15 July – and applications are now open. The program is open to girls, and trans and non-binary youth aged 10-17.

Fees are $450 across the five days and include all materials and access to instruments. Girls Rock seeks to be as inclusive and accessible as possible and has some sponsored placements available – contact the team for more information. For many young women, it could prove to be the turning point that we once yearned for. An opportunity to enter a different space, to be welcomed for who they are and encouraged to be what they aspire to.

For more information about the program, including camper application forms, head to girlsrockcanberra.com.

Follow Girls Rock! Canberra on facebook, twitter or Instagram for updates and announcements.

Feature image: Mia Mala McDonald

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Yolande Norris

Yolande Norris is a writer and producer based in Braidwood, NSW. She has written memoir, poetry and essays for a range of publications and platforms, drawing on her interest in art, culture and social history, and unpacking questions of identity. More about the Author