Girls rock on these school holidays

Emily Allen

Do you know a girl aged between 10 and 17?

Do they want to form their own band? Learn and instrument? Watch live music performances? Participate in creative workshops? Write an original song to be performed at a showcase?

All within the space of one week?!

Girls Rock! Canberra (GR!C) is a weeklong mentorship program held at the Ainslie Arts Centre and open to participants with any level of music experience, including none at all!

The first Girls Rock Camp, Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp 4 Girls in Portland, Oregon in the USA, was founded in 2001 as a summer day camp.

Since then, over 50 camps have been started worldwide, with programs in Canada, Japan, Iceland, Brazil, Bahrain, Sweden, France and Germany. Girls Rock! Canberra is the first girls rock camp in Australia.

Earlier this year, Chiara Grassier became the recipient of a YWCA Great Ydears Small Grants Program which provides funds to local women and girls to pursue a professional development opportunity, pilot a project, business idea, or address a need in the community. With the assistance of this grant, Chiara was able to travel to the US to volunteer at three Girls Rock program camps in order to bring Australia’s inaugural Girls Rock camp to Canberra.

Participants choose an instrument that they’ll play for the week (vocals, guitar, bass or drums), and then spend each morning in that instrument class and the afternoons writing a song with their newly formed band.

Each band will be paired with two adult mentors (a band coach and band manager) who will help the girls write an original song.

There will also be live music every lunchtime, workshops including song writing, zine making and screen printing band t-shirts, and lots of dance parties and games.

On Saturday, there will be a public showcase at Ainslie Arts Centre where the bands will perform their new songs.


The initiative has had a great deal of interest and engagement so far. In particular, an overwhelming amount from potential mentors and future organisers, both locally and around the country.

“We are still locking in the majority of our volunteers – the response has been amazing. I can confirm that Becki Whitton (Aphir, Early Music Records) will be teaching vocals, Steph Hughes (Dick Diver, triple j host), who also designed our rad logo, is teaching drums, and music photographer Mia Mala McDonald (frankie) will be snapping photos. And Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher will be dropping by one day to teach a workshop and perform at lunchtime,” said Chiara.

A writer with a Sociology degree and an intense record collection, Chiara has been writing about mostly music for publications since she was fifteen.

She has spent the past few years organising arts events in Canberra, including zine fairs and literary workshops. She’s a co-founder of the Canberra Zine Collective, co-curator of the Zine Lounge at Museum of Australian Democracy, and was a producer of Noted 2015.

In 2013, Chiara volunteered at Rock n Roll Camp 4 Girls in Portland, Oregon and was totally hooked from then on. She began to think about starting a similar program in Australia, and only seriously started thinking about it last year.

“I’ve been interested in girls rock camps since I first heard about them as a teenager, as they neatly combine the majority of my interests: music, feminism, connecting others and creating community, DIY ethics and social theory. I approached Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres with the idea, and they’ve been super supportive and endlessly encouraging with this project,” Chiara said.

Want to know what Chiara’s experiences were as a young, female musician? How a program such as Girls Rock could have been beneficial? And what participants can gain from the program? Chiara answers all below.

Emily: What were your experiences as a young, female musician?

“When I first started playing guitar as a teenager, I was desperate to have a band and find others who liked the same music that I did. (This was one of the main reasons I got into making zines actually – I found a community through cut & pasting my thoughts and writing letters to new friends across the country.)”

“Music was pretty much all I thought about, but despite trying to form a band with anyone I met I was still shy and didn’t feel confident in my guitar-playing/song writing abilities (I’m still working on this – ongoing process). I didn’t start my first band until I was 20, and only in the past year have I found others in Canberra to play music with.”

How would a program such as this had benefited you?

“I would have formed a band a long time ago! This is the program that I would have loved to have attended as a preteen/teenager (this seems to be the general consensus from all the volunteer applications too!).”

“Teen years are awkward and everyone feels weird, and this program would have made me feel less isolated by providing a supportive environment where creativity and self-expression is encouraged, rather than shut down.”

“It can be difficult and daunting sharing your ideas with others (I’m still learning to do that!) and collaborative song writing and jamming can be a really great way to create together.”

What are you hoping your participants will get out of the program?

“Confidence in their abilities, a supportive place where they can be themselves, a chance to try something new (whether that’s a new instrument, new genre of music or medium like screen printing), a new song, and new friends.”

“Additionally, while Canberra has a strong arts scene, it can initially feel cliquey or difficult to discover, particularly for younger people – there’s not a lot of all-ages music venues or shows.”

“While it only runs for a week, Girls Rock! Canberra hopes to be able to connect girls with each other so they can go on to form bands or collaborate on other creative projects (or just be friends!)”

Feature image courtesy of


Emily Allen

Emily is an arts administrator with a background in writing and music. By day, she works at the ANU School of Music, and by night she moonlights as a contributing writer, the Communications Coordinator and Secretary for MusicACT, and dabbles in freelance marketing, social media and communications for the arts. More about the Author

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