Time for a festival dedicated to women arts and music as well as an active feminist platform, five organisors said. Read more about this unique festival and its impact.

Date: 6 May
Location: Mandril Cultural Centre
Entrance: Donations
Organisation: Maddalena Argiropoulos, Janneke Westra, Mathilde Essatsi, Alex Popper and Sophie Schulz

 

Why Ladyfest?

Maastricht lacked a space dedicated to women* arts and music as well as an active feminist platform. In fact, feminist theories remain most of the time inside the academic walls and they are not approachable for the general population nor for the students who are not studying gender-related subjects. Outside the university there is little discussion and awareness about gender-related topics. We wanted to create an approachable festival that everyone will be able to visit and be inspired by. In addition, we embraced the international aspect of Maastricht to make an event rich of diversity with guests from different backgrounds. It was very important to us to make feminism as inclusive as possible and intersectionality was not overseen.

LadyFest is a community-based not-for-profit global music and arts festival for feminists and women* artists. Since the first edition took place in Olympia in 2000, LadyFest has been organized independently all around the world by groups of volunteers. Our purpose was to give birth to the first edition of LadyFest in Maastricht. In the name of women* empowerment we wanted to create room for women* artists in Maastricht, who are still much underrepresented in the artistic scene, to expose and perform their art. Furthermore, we aimed to give voice to different points of views about women*-related themes contributing to a more diverse cultural discussion. The themes that we addressed are mainly intersectional feminism, the diversity of beauty, female sexuality and female pleasure, disability theories and feminism theories, women* in science, women* spirituality, gender and sexual identity through queer and intersectional framework.
In order to explore these different themes and make a complete event, we planned workshops and lectures as well art exhibitions and music performances. We wanted  to invite facilitators and artists not only living in Maastricht but also from nearby cities of the adjoining countries. Meanwhile the exhibitions was open for the whole duration of the festival, the workshops and the lectures took place in the afternoon. At the end of the afternoon there was a community dinner followed by art performances and music shows ending in a party.

The motivation of each Ladyfest organisor:

 

Maddalena Argiropoulos

I am organising LadyFest because I believe in the extreme possibilities of women empowerment and its consequences. I believe women* need more spaces to express themselves, white walls to make art and stages to make noise. We need room for discussion and debates and more than anything else we need to support each other. Through my life it incredibly helped to have women* at my side, wherever that was, who made me felt accepted and supported. I wish everybody could experience that. I wish everybody could experience how powerful the sisterhood is and what it means. I am organising LadyFest because it’s time for women* to redefine and explore themselves free of patriarchal constructs and norms. It’s time to accept and love ourselves whoever we are and to show of how much we are capable of.

Alex Popper

I want organise LadyFest as I see it as an important opportunity to give voice to, and create a space for the creative expression of women and feminist artists in Maastricht. For me, as a woman growing up in Australia and now living in Maastricht I see a significant and incredibly unfortunate underrepresentation of women artists, musicians, performers, and intellectuals in the public spheres of art, music and academia (amongst many others), which primarily exhibit the works of men. For me, LadyFest is a weekend dedicated to celebrating, inspiring, supporting and empowering women and feminists in their own expression, as well as sharing, with, and learning from each other. I believe it is an opportunity to delve into all of the different forms, spheres and connections of feminist thought, action and expression. It is an important event for engaging in a critical dialogue to rethink the gendered spaces in which we engage, both on a global scale- by participating in the global networks of LadyFest festivals that have occurred throughout the world since 2000, and on a more intimate small scale- as Ladyfest supports and connects local artists within Maastricht. Furthermore I observe that there is often space in the artistic scene for already established artists, musicians, performers etc, and I feel the importance of Ladyfest in giving space and support for emerging artists. Lastly as it is a donation based, not for profit, and community-based initiative I believe it’s value in creating an accessible and non commercial initiative for the cultural landscape of Maastricht.

 

Janneke Westra

My name is Janneke, 21 years old and a Dutch (even Maastricht) native. Ladyfest is a project very close to my heart. I come from a very tight family where different intellectual ideas and discussions in a safe environment are stimulated. The discussions sometimes touched upon feminist topics, too. My dad is a scientist, a profession in which women are, sadly, lacking in representation. I grew up with the belief that I would in no way be limited in my experience of life as a woman and was an “incidental feminist” at first, not realizing that my belief – men and women should be equal – was actually the very core of feminism. Only later in my life, most notably as I joined university, did I start reading and actively engaging with feminist notions. I believe Ladyfest is a wonderful initiative to celebrate womanhood and feminism, not the least to inform people of its core – a core that proves to be misunderstood by some as “men-hating”, for instance. I am looking forward to hosting the first edition of this festival in my hometown Maastricht, and have since its conception in September worked with great enthusiasm in realizing its aspirations. The lectures, workshops and discussions will, in my opinion, be an outstanding addition to Maastricht’s community.

 

Mathilde Essatsi

I took part in the Ladyfest project as I believe that exploring what it means to be a woman today in our society, is important. I think everyone in Maastricht, should have the opportunity to rejoice women’ rights, talents and power and question their own perception of gender. This project is dear to me as I do believe that this city is a young and dynamic place where bringing artists, lecturers, personal experiences (and so much more) will stimulate mindsets. I think it is a chance to be able to bring some movement and to try to spread some awareness about our perception of women in our society and what it could become. Sexist and misogynist behaviors or words, are too often considered as normal. I thrive for equality of chances and rights. I am motivated to bring my energy to provide a space for women to express themselves, which is also a welcoming environment for women and men who are interested in discovering or deepening their view on women’s power. It is also important for me that this project stays inclusive in a sense that even if someone’s motivation to come is simply a bit of curiosity, this person feels welcomed.

 

Sophie Schulz

In regards to my academic endeavours I am rather interested in understanding the way that different oppressions function in society and how to challenge them. Understanding the structure of categories such as gender and race in contemporary society from an intersectional perspective are therefore in my opinion crucial. In this regard I have become increasingly interested in creating spaces where different experiences can be shared and mutual understanding can be increased. This is the reason why I am so excited for the Ladyfest. For me this festival offers the opportunity to create an audience for voices that are very often not all to much heard. While womanhood is a read line that connects a multitude of experiences it expresses itself in a variety of ways, depending on the particular circumstances of an individual. Highlighting both similarities in experiences and differences is what I am most looking forward to explore. However, since much of academic discourse on these topics is not all too easily accessible I am also looking forward to the different ways and media through which questions of womanhood can be explored. My hope is that trough offering lectures as well as workshops, performances and movie screenings it will be possible to get a sense of the plurality that exists in feminist thought and the complexity of womanhood. Most importantly I hope, however, that the festival offers a space to built community and empower all the people who take part in it.

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