In Conversation with: Gracie T
Words: Gina Bonnar | 21 September 2020
We recently had a conversation with Sheffield based DJ and all-round creative Gracie T. We talked about her new exciting projects "The Beatriarchy" and "daytimers", discussed important issues within the music scene such as the representation of Women of Colour, as well as how she keeps motivated in this uncertain time. She has also done a footwork jungle guest mix for us, which you can find at the end of this interview including tracks from Yazzus, DJ Swisha, Polo Lilli and more.
Hi Gracie, For those who don't know you tell us a bit about yourself!
Hey, thanks for getting me involved with this! I’m a DJ/creative from the North East but I’ve lived in Sheffield for about 4 years now. I run a few collectives, The Beatriarchy - an online tune share Facebook group created for womxn/non-binary people, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identifying music lovers to feel safer and more confident interacting with the online music community! I’m also part of Day Timers, a collective of South Asian creatives and I run Foodhall Community Radio Station in Sheffield.
If you could describe your music style in 3 words what would they be?
Ooo probably eclectic, feel-good and spicy!
You are certainly killing at the moment with the new projects and radio residencies. One thing I struggle with is keeping focused sometimes - how do you ensure you keep motivated in the music scene?
Haha that’s the tricky thing! I think during lockdown I felt a bit disheartened with music, as I went from gigging pretty much every weekend for about 6 months to nothing at all. Creating spaces online to link up with similar minded people, where we could motivate each other was integral to getting back into the swing of being creative.
So let's talk about the projects you are currently working on! First of all - Daytimers which for those who aren't aware is a cultural platform showcasing Asian creatives. What would you say is the vision of this collective?
The vision of Day Timers is foremost to support members of our music community - the south asian community and wider community of underrepresented artists. We’re following the path that has already been paved by those British Asian rebels who carved out their own asian underground music scene in the 80s and 90s through day time raves - which is where our name comes from. We’re creating a huge network of South Asian DJs, producers, artists, photographers and creatives from all over the desi diaspora and pushing the fantastic work everyone’s doing!
Do you have any exciting things coming up for daytimers in the near future?
We had our debut on BBC Asian Network recently, courtesy of our queen Manara, which I was gassed to provide the guest mix for! We have a few exciting interviews coming up, loads of community group calls, day timers dubs being made daily and some workshops hopefully soon (COVID permitting!).
I like the concept of daytimers and collectives like this as I believe we need communities and groups to work together and support each other in order to move forward and make a more inclusive scene. But there is still a lot of progress to be made - big labels still lack diversity and use tokenism. where do you feel the music industry stands in terms of the representation of women of colour?
I think the music industry as a whole uses womxn of colour when it suits them. With mainstream awareness and the media’s recognition of Black Lives Matter over the past 6 months, there seems to be a lot of ‘woke fishing’ where promoters and labels act like they’re super inclusive and want to raise black womxn up but are not actually prepared to pay them! I’ve noticed the focus has shifted to “diversity” and a lot of event promoters/labels/radio stations have been campaigning about the lack of diversity in the scene, which seems a bit half arsed to me. The issue in our scene isn’t a lack of diversity because that implies there aren’t DJs/producers out there who are womxm/queer/womxn of colour - there certainly is! The crux of the issue is that we have to work twice as hard for half as much recognition, opportunities and payment, than straight white cis men. And until lineups, radio station rostas and labels are not only upping their representation of womxn of colour, but paying them for the work they do, the music scene will remain unequal and oppressive.
What actions do you think can be taken to ensure women of colour are represented and have their voices and talents heard?
50/50 bookings at least! One fool-proof way to avoid tokenism, while also representing womxn of colour, is to.... book more than one womxn of colour on your lineup! It’s really that simple.
You also have an amazing new group called the Beatriarchy (amazing name)! which is an inclusive group/community that aims to support women, POC, and lgbtq+ members of the community. I am part of this and loving it, tell us about how this came about?
Thank you, glad you enjoy it! This group came about after myself and Kitty connected over another group I run for womxn in music up north with a shared frustration of feeling inadequate or belittled in other online music groups. With the music scene moving online due to COVID, I became even more aware of how scary and intimidating it can be getting involved with a very white male - dominated online space. It was after being mansplained one too many times that we decided to create our own space online, where everyone can post without being worried about being patronised or talked down to. It’s grown really organically into a lovely empowering community! It’s not without its issues but any disputes are resolved peacefully and constructively! It’s become a space for sharing tunes, resources, opportunities and for underrepresented creatives to promo their work. We also recently collabed with the promoters & label Shifting Spheres to launch a new production support group called beatshifter.
What I enjoy about it is that it is an uplifting and a genuinely helpful networking platform that sometimes you can't get in some aspects of music. Personally, we have had men not take us seriously and a hell of a lot of mansplaining. Have you ever had a negative experience in terms of sexism whilst being a DJ? and how do you think The Beatriarchy can prevent these experiences?
Yes absolutely, over my two years as a DJ I’ve been denied access to a club that booked me because the bouncers didn’t believe a womxn could possibly have been booked to DJ. At an outdoor gig the sound technician packed away my monitors halfway through and I spent the rest of the set in tears because I couldn’t hear anything (the headphone output didn’t work either!). I was also booked to play b2b with my friend at probably the largest underground music club in Sheffield. We weren’t paid when they could have afforded it and then a clip of our set was posted by the club with the hashtag “diversity”. I think a stronger united community of underrepresented artists is needed so that we can empower each other and get to these positions of power in the scene that make the big decisions of who gets the gig, the label deal, the radio residency etc. The Beatriarchy may not be able to prevent these experiences from happening but we can certainly provide a platform for people to vent and share their anger and frustrations.
What advice can you give women who are starting out DJing?
Find a good support network, online, in person, wherever you can - it’ll help! Keep recording mixes and listening back to your stuff even if you think it’s bad, it’ll help you get better and develop your own style.
[For those who do not know of the Beatriarchy and had similar experiences to Gracie, you are not alone! Join the Beatriarchy Here. ]
So you're based in Sheffield which has a strong scene for underground music. What are your favourite venues and promoters there for those who would like to visit? (post-COVID ofc)
Sheffield has a really great and supportive underground music scene! The DIY, community venues are the best - Gut Level, Hatch, Foodhall, Bal Fashions and DINA Venue.. In terms of promoters, my all time loves at GRL, Babycakes, More Pussy Empire and Third Space have put on some fantastic parties over the past couple of years - look them up!
You have a residency on Foodhall Radio, A community station based in Sheffield. I believe especially with COVID radio is very important in keeping the community alive. How do you find radio as a platform?
Foodhall Radio has been fantastic - when I was furloughed, running it pretty much became my full time job! I think the role of radio has become super important, like you said, in keeping people creative and engaged with the scene. For me, it opened some great opportunities - even internationally, guesting on Kikelomo’s resident show at Cashmere Radio in Berlin. I think COVID has pushed radio hosts and stations to really think about what they’re broadcasting and who they’re choosing to use their platforms to promote and represent.
Make sure you tune in to the Tiny Okra Show on Foodhall Community Radio every month!
A Few quickfire questions:
Who is your dream b2b?
Anz! Greatest DJ I’ve had the pleasure of meeting!
Who are some womxn you are loving in the scene rn?
Diessa, Mixtress, Kitsta, DJ soyboi, Rani and Grove are all doing bits at the moment!
Where will be your ideal night out post COVID?
Get me back to Foodhall! Great tunes, BYOB and the best atmosphere!
And finally what will we see from Gracie T in the near future?
More radio shows with some fantastic guests, livestreams, a new mix & interview series for The Beatriarchy and hopefully some Day Timers workshops coming soon!