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Joy Warmann: Women & Non-Binary Folk in Live Music

Updated: Feb 28

This series is an extension from our Instagram, with full Q&A's instead of the shorter Instagram bios. Here you can read the full in-depth interview with Artist Liaison & Project Manager, Joy Warmann & go direct to their provided donation link to show your support:


My name is Joy Warmann and at the moment I am a project manager at Secretly Group, which is an independent group of record labels. Aside from that I just work in all things music, I have a radio show on Reform Radio with a group of friends, and I run, alongside Rob Major, Imaginary Millions which is a monthly jam night happening in Shoreditch (when it’s open).


The moment when I decided to get into music is super corny. I was at a Paramore gig and they’re one of my favourite bands to this day, and Hayley said something like ‘it’s so great you’re all here cause music is always there for us and we’re so glad we get to be here for music’. That was pretty much when I thought I had to be in it somehow. I have four older brothers so we’re all very different but also very similar. Two of them are also in music but are more performance, one of them is a composer and the other is a singer. So, I guess you could say there was some musical influence there but yeah, I’ve not really gotten into performance. I do play the drums and that’s nice to have but I’d rather be responsible for great musicians being brought to the forefront than being at the forefront. I like supporting everyone from the back I guess!


I feel like first and foremost I identify as a Black woman so more often than not I’m thinking about my race first than my gender identity. I think being a woman has played a role in a lot of ways that I present myself in work in general, but that has more to do with my upbringing and women being the support and always being there in the background, and there to serve. There’s a lot of that in the way that I end up working in team situations but in terms of going into workspaces, especially music wise, more often than not I will be the only Black person and also young person, which is wild to say. I’ll often be the only woman in the room and I’ll be the one representing on those opinions. You get that in the live scene as well you feel like you can’t relax.


I guess there’s a variety of situations I’ve found myself in, where I’ve found both 'positive' and negative discrimination. Like the radio show I told you about, we only got that initially because the station was looking to diversify. They wanted more women, and preferably women of colour or non-male identifying people of colour on the station, so we did a trial show and then they liked it and that’s how we got it. There’ve definitely been occasions where we’re seeing more opportunities available for us, but it’s still super misgendered and there are still many spaces where you’re uncomfortable.


I’m working from home and it’s been a journey. Pre-COVID I was fully freelance and I ended up working 7 days a week, burnout to burnout, it was super fun but a bit crazy. Then, because my previous main job was freelance as soon as it hit, I was out of a job and the jam nights we planned obviously had to stop - which is devastating because this would have been our last year of nights as the founder is moving back to Australia. So, with all of these sick plans it’s now looking like we won’t even have a last event which has been the saddest loss of COVID. Luckily, I was able to get my current job in July, so been working from home and haven’t met anyone or been to the office yet. There’s the statistical point of view in that COVID is more likely to have a bigger impact on people of colour, so obviously there’s that worry, but in terms of career and me as a woman I don’t know. It’s a difficult time mental health wise anyway, but I’m sure the same could be said for everyone, although I’m gonna say that people with periods have it much harder! Navigating that in a space where you’re at home and can’t be yourself is really tough, but ultimately it’s given me more breathing space to look back on my creativity on the past couple years and see how I can improve. All the things that I used to do to make me feel like myself I can’t do anymore which has been quite tough, but do I think I’m ready to have that back? I don’t know. It’s been hard to be all right with that and try and identify the things that I enjoy at my core and can enjoy without being outside and still feel like a functioning human. There’s a lot of living in the now and not trying to look too far ahead and get my hopes up too much, but also not get so insular that I can’t see a way out so I’m doing the best I can.


On your work on safe spaces and the celebratory elements you’ve noted in it, do you have opinions and thoughts on how to adapt that space free of judgement into online spaces?


Obviously, it’s a lot harder to regulate online especially if you are having to exclude certain groups of people from the conversation, it’s harder to argue that you can’t use this Zoom link. So, depending on what the space is for and what the energy you want to get out of it there are so many different ways you can do it. A friend of mine has an event called Black Timing (@black.timing), and he created it as a space for Black people to come together and speak about one specific topic together, in unison, and share debate and stories. He originally wanted to put it on Zoom in COVID, but was worried about sharing the link and people feeling they couldn’t speak or have a voice free of judgement if there were people there who didn’t identify as Black. It’s super tricky, and I think at the end of the day if someone is coming into those spaces and doesn’t identify as the target audience, hopefully they see themselves as an ally. If they are an ally, I assume they’d be understanding if they were asked to step down from the situation. If they weren’t, that’s a chance for them to look at their own allyship and how they support different marginalised groups. So ultimately, don’t feel bad about communicating clearly about what it’s for and what you want to get out of it. I think as long as you have a clear objective of the emotion you want people to leave with and communicate that, I think you can create a space that’s ultimately safe or at least trying to be safe. You can’t 100% guarantee safety but can try and work towards that goal and stick to your values and your guns on that.


So in terms of what you’re discussing about safe spaces, how do you try and apply that at the Imaginary Millions nights?


There’s a lot of thought that goes into it, and I think for me what we always wanted to do was first and foremost create a space where people have enough room to fully be themselves. You can create a space for people and say, ‘it’s for this kind of people’ so they feel like they can only be that portion of their personality, but we said this is for everyone. We’re all here for the same reasons but we have to create an inclusive space where everyone can just be themselves. The premise of the night is no sign-up sheet, no judgement and no expectations. It’s open mic with a full band at the back and two mics so you can come up whenever you want and do whatever you want. Whatever takes you in the moment and the band will support you however you want them to. The way we’ve tried to keep it as safe as possible, so there’s no stage and there’s no barriers, all on the same floor. You can come to the event expecting just as audience, and get swept up and perform and get in the mix. Everyone has that power and ability so it’s free flowing. We also set some house rules - no hogging the mic etc, so it’s a good community of people lifting each other up and whoever is on there just give them your attention. So I’m hoping we get at least one more night in this year!


Luckily, we’re still recording our radio show remotely, it’s a bummer cause the sound isn’t as good but that’s fine as even being able to come together like that is so, so helpful for us. We all live in different places, I’m in Watford, one of us is in East London and the other is up in Glasgow - and then the station is in Manchester so it’s all a bit mad! Whenever we all want to record live we have to go to Manchester cause it’s a little equidistant. Ultimately, we have a lot more restrictions with what we can discuss on radio which is on the mind, especially in times like this when it’s so easy to go into the depression of it all. We always want to keep it real and honest but we’re trying to do something which is a little uplifting, which has meant we’ve changed the structure. Our original shows we had this section called, ‘mela-magic’ where we talk about women of colour or non-male identifying people of colour who have done sick stuff we want to highlight. Then we did a section called hot topics, or ‘mela-update’, where we’d just talk about what was going on. We’ve scrapped that section, cause every time it’s just getting heavier and it would always end up being the longest section and bring down the house. So, we instead replaced it with a more interesting segment. I think we’re always trying to keep in mind that people listening aren’t always going to identify with our experiences and us, so even though we’re always going to talk about things from our point of view we always keep in mind what is going to make people feel uncomfortable as well and try and not do that all the time - although sometimes people do need to be uncomfortable.


You can support Joy by checking out the Reform Radio site https://www.reformradio.co.uk/artist/Melatrois & Imaginary Millions' radio show now on Soho Radio available here.


Donations can be made to https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/support-our-work/make-a-donation

Interview conducted by Hannah Camilleri

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