Meet Femme Culture: a London-based collective using inclusivity as their main tool for creative practice by championing female-identifying talent in the UK . Promote equal opportunities across all formats, they work to empower women in the arts alongside constantly creating support for the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.
Motivated to begin the progressive project by “too many studio sessions with only male producers where I felt I had no identity within my own”, DJ and producer Elka started the collective, soon bringing onboard fellow DJ Ludo. As well as producing hypnotic house sounds of her own, Elkka has teamed up with Ludo to host safe-space club nights like the after-party for the Anti Art Fair, who seek to bridge the gap between the creative and commercial worlds. Now, Femme Collective are fresh from playing an event for Room For Rebellion: a self-described ‘Political Party’ who support local activists and groups pressing for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
Was there a particular experience that prompted you to start your own collective?
Well Femme Culture started out purely as a record label when I was looking for a means to produce and independently release my own music. And this was born out of one too many studio sessions with only male producers where I felt I had no identity within my own music. It was more about there interpretation of me. The tipping point was outside a Jamie xx concert where I felt completely lost and broken about to see one of my favourite musicians. I just couldn’t go in and cried to my girlfriend about how lost I felt. The next day I started producing my own EP which lead to creating femme culture. I knew I wanted to encourage other people to do the same and do this through a sort of community and platform for woman in the arts and that’s how the label also became a collective.
Why does female representation matter so much in 2018?
To be honest it’s not just about inclusion of all females – it’s about inclusion full stop. We are trying to help create balance in the arts which clearly doesn’t exist at presence and this is not just for women but for people of colour, for the LGBTQ+ community. With everything we do our best to ensure everyone is represented.
What does DIY mean to you? Could you describe your style?
For us, DIY is about creating an idea and finding a way through to make it happen. It may not be pretty or perfect but just get on with it and will not wait around for someone to give it to you.
When did you form? And how did you two come together?
The label formed at the end of 2016 and we met early 2017 when I decided I wanted to start doing femme culture club nights. Ludo was a friend of a friend and recommended to me as an amazing DJ. So I booked her and we have been inseparable ever since and pretty much started organically running things side by side from that point onwards.
What is the end game for your collective?
Inclusivity and balance within the arts and beyond, whilst always pushing forward-thinking music.
What advice would you give for struggling creatives hoping to give their mark on the industry?
Do not be afraid to do you own thing and create your own space. The turning point for me as an artist was when I took control of my art and stopped relying on gatekeepers to open doors for me. Build your own doors. Ensure all your platforms are curated. Connect with other creatives – strength is in numbers and collaboration.
How would you describe what the atmosphere is usually like at your club nights?
What we pride ourselves is to not have a specific ’scene’ or type of person that comes to our gigs. Everyone is individual in their own way, dressed in their own way, sounding their own way, a situation where everyone is sweaty dancing and a gazillion micro scenes are coming together at the same gig. And it’s beautiful.
I understand that you’ve recently performed at a “Room for Rebellion” event that’s fighting for abortion rights. How did you get involved in this?
The affinity is obvious between ourselves and Room for Rebellion, and we’re honoured to be playing a set for them at their next party. We met them earlier in the year as both RFR and Femme Culture were featured in Gen DYI – a documentary about collectives shaping the underground culture in the UK.
You’ve also previously collaborated on an event with artist and social activist Florence Given. Could you tell us about that experience?
The Florence Given collaboration was another booking for a DJ set via the fantastic team at Creative Debuts. The beauty of playing for someone like her is that every party involved in the exhibition is somehow active in the cause. So Florence being an activist and booking us is a further way to send a message. People want to collaborated with aligned minds which is also a concrete way of changing ’scenes’ or mentalities.
What has been the most rewarding thing that’s happened in your careers so far?
For me, it would be the UN Women HeForShe compilation we put out earlier in the year. Pulling that together logistically was quite tough at times but to be able to work with the like of Octo Octa, Anastasia Kristensen was an absolute dream!
If you were planning your own music festival, which female artists would be at the top of your lists?
Fatima Al Qadiri, Ouri, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, HAAI, Mica Levi, Octo Octa, Suzanne Ciani, Tirzah, Little Simz, Mahalia, IAMDDB, Nkisi, Kenzie, Greentea Peng.
Have you ever felt pressure to fit into a certain “mould” as an artist?
Perhaps when I was younger but I feel more self assured and comfortable with who I am now.
How do you feel about the representation and portrayal of female musicians? What kind of change would you like to see in the future?
I think female musicians are still treated as some kind of novelty as if it’s unexpected that we are capable of doing something other than signing or writing. So many times I have been asked ‘oh so who produced this for you?’. So the underlining assumption is there – that being a producer is not a natural role for women!
I hope we get to a point where the word ‘female’ does not need to come before the word producer or DJ or photographer or director etc etc. We clearly get judged with against a different criteria (as do all women) to men and I would hope that would change so it doesn’t matter about how you look, how old you are – it’s just about the music.
Speaking of the future, what are your plans with upcoming projects?
Further releases such as a second compilation album for the UN Women like we did in 2018, taking femme culture beyond London both in terms of parties and scouting new talent. Really starting to have more global conversations. And some banging new merch.
Elkka – what are the inspirations behind your new EP?
Musically I think you can hear a real percussive theme – it’s something my ears always are attracted to and inspired by. Personally this was an EP where I really let myself go during the creative process with no preconceived ideas about what it should be or sound like which was totally liberating. The desire to do this really came from me feeling at a point where I was really starting to understand myself as a human being and comfortable within my own skin which allowed me the confidence to create and release this EP.