Words: Harley Cassidy
Last Friday, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States Of America and essentially, leader of the free world. In some pockets of the universe, people aren’t happy. In particular, a lot of women aren’t happy.
However, in the glittering kinks of The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen in Digbeth’s Custard Factory, a night of festivity to celebrate female empowerment took place. Hosted by BAD GIRLS PRESENTS, a new series of events curated with the intention of celebrating and showcasing female talent from all across the Midlands, the display exhibited six young, female artist’s work alongside a suitably, sassy DJ set, discounted cocktails and a voluntary entry fee which went completely towards Women for Women International. The artists in question included exhibition regular Molly Cleaver, Instagram-darling Elizabeth Ilsley, comic book artist Hannah Al-Shemmeri, tattooist Emily Carroll, manga artist Lily Gabrielle and Central Saint Martins graduate, Priscilla Magalhães Bezerra Baker.
We are the blueprints of the digital age, where young women are using social media and particularly Instagram as a vessel for their artwork, making diverse, female-driven crafts more inclusive than ever. Curator and one half of Bad Girls Presents, Molly Allen, emphasised how crucial it is to remain united in these wobbly times of women rights: “We live in a society where women are constantly pitted against one another. What we should be doing is encouraging other women to work through their problems, not fuelling rifts. By being there for each other and celebrating our talents you can encourage women to feel happy with themselves and to be proud of who they are.” In short, Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ was not the inspiration for these girls.
The intentions of the event were clear, demonstrating women of all backgrounds, forms, cultures and ideals and most importantly, allowing both genders to appreciate what women have to offer too. “In a competitive environment like the art world, it’s very easy to dismiss each other or be negative”, states Molly Cleaver, whose work is influenced by the female figure. “Given what is happening in the world at the moment, we need to embrace how much more powerful we are when we all come together and look out for each other”.
Choosing to keep Bad Girls Presents strictly in Birmingham is important to shine a spotlight on the city and prove that we have a great wealth of people, places and talent. The Birmingham art scene has always been elusive, retaining a certain sense of modesty where the more contemporary venues are located further into the suburbs. This event amongst others are set to highlight a blossoming side of Birmingham’s artistic scene that has never pandered to populism and is compassionate in both its style and sensibilities. The curators touch upon the fact that Birmingham is under-rated and appreciate that whilst it’s a “big city, it still feels small and connected at the same time.” Elizabeth Ilsley, renowned for her hand-painted leather jackets which are currently being sold at Liberty London, believes that Birmingham is practically untouched when it comes to spaces for events: “Spaces like Ikon, East Side and Grand Union are so important for the art scene here, it’s an inspiring place for a creative to work in and that’s why I haven’t left yet”.
The night itself detailed a sense of kinship amongst the artists, their friends and inquisitive locals looking for something new and inspiring to take up their weekend. Pink and silver streamers littered the windows and each girl had their own section of the room to play with; Hannah Al-Shemmeri’s Lonely Cowboy comic’s lay on a table underneath paintings in tribute to her cousins recently killed in Mosul, Elizabeth’s hanging jacket and flashing TV dominated the corner of the bar and Molly’s abstract paintings were placed next to a spot where everyone could write their own empowering messages on The Mockingbird’s windows. Bursting at the seams right up until the 3am closing call, the event allowed females and males alike to mingle, appreciate the art and most importantly, dance to numerous Stevie Wonder songs.
The day after, millions around the world marched for women’s rights, cementing Bad Girls Presents intentions with poignancy. If you can take anything away from the event, it should be that there’s no reason you can’t get involved, whether you’re a DJ, musician, photographer or designer. “These events aren’t just for us and our friends but for everyone,” Molly states. “The more girls that get involved, the more we can make these events bigger and better. We want to inspire as many girls as possible and really bring all the ladies of Birmingham together.”