Made with Music has been a charity for almost a year now, with a brilliant team of musicians who work with us on a semi-regular basis, two thirds of which are women, and also a new board of trustees, four out of five of whom are women. Half the performers at our Mini-Gigs this year were women and our two directors are women. We’re trying to work towards gender balance from the both directions - women dominate early years and family work, whereas men dominate the music industry – and it’s important to us to have a diverse team. For International Women’s Day today though, we wanted to say thank you to some of the amazing women in Leeds who continue to inspire us!
Balancing work and parenting has its challenges, no matter how much you love both. The world is slowly changing for working parents, but we’ve both experienced employers who weren’t able to accommodate part-time working. This is one of the reasons that we started up our early years classes before our first children turned one and took our babies with us to work. Their constant bickering soon meant that it was going to be easier not to bring them along to everything (we’re not saying it was all plain sailing!) but we’d had a chance to experience the benefits of a flexible employment. We were encouraged by all of our friends who came along to classes, told other people to bring their young children along, wrote thank you cards when they went back to work and cheered us up when we weren’t sure if we should carry on.
The wonderful women at Little Hiccups were the first to support us to develop as an organisation and we will be forever grateful. They supported us personally through motherhood and vision loss and organisationally by recommending us to other people such as Hannah House, the NHS respite home we’ve worked at since the start of our journey. Through running music sessions at Little Hiccups and Hannah House, we learnt so much more about the barriers to music that some families face and decided that from that point on we would do our best to remove these for everything that we put on ourselves. We’ve taken steps towards achieving this as we produced our first three fully accessible family-friendly Mini-Gigs at the Brudenell Social Club, for which we have been shortlisted for an Outstanding Attitude Award for access to live music! We couldn’t have developed our gigs without the knowledgeable women at Leeds Inspired and the Brudenell Social Club who gave us so much of their time, or without our focus group of predominantly women who passed on lived experience of the barriers to attending events and suggested changes we could make to benefit everyone*.
Getting to know lots of women in Leeds has been the highlight of our journey so far. All our projects and classes develop in conversation with other people and in partnership. The organisation that we’ve met most recently, Sunshine & Smiles (again, run by some brilliant women) have been so supportive and encouraging of us as women and as a growing charity. We've recently set up some intergenerational singing sessions at their new cafe 21 Co. which we're excited to start next week.
Having your child with you at work is not for everyone, but six and a half years on from those first early years sessions, we’re aspiring to create a flexible and supportive environment with the wellbeing of the individuals we work with at the core. We feel so well supported by the amazing women of Leeds that we are lucky enough to call colleagues and friends and we’re going to keep pushing for equality and equity in everything that we do.
*We’re hoping to continue to run our gigs, but we won’t unless they are fully accessible and in order for them to be so, we need a Changing Places trailer. No one should have to be changed on a toilet floor and the trailer continues to ensure that there are no physical barriers to attending our events (for more information on the Changing Places campaign, see here) We’re working on raising the money to pay for this, so watch this space and get in touch if you have any suggestions of how we can do this!