Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Ladyfest wants to knock your Kickers off

The spirit of riot grrrl

Credit: (publicity photo)

A mannerly British tea-party? I think not.

The four-day Ottawa festival celebrates creative, intelligent and empowering girls and their art. The name Ladyfest Ottawa is a cheeky acknowledgement of the sometimes unladylike behaviour that participants indulge in over the course of the women’s festival.

Engy Sedki, one of the Ladyfest organizers, had this to say about the festival’s title.

“It embodies a spirit and philosophy that has evolved from the riot-grrrl movement of the 1990s, says Sedki. “Ladyfests have always been the antidote to those milder, quieter women’s music festivals out there.”

“I don’t think the term ‘lady’ was ever intended to be taken seriously in the context of this festival. It is certainly a tongue-in-cheek response to how women are ‘supposed’ to behave. ‘Ladies’ certainly don’t play loud music on guitars or discuss their sexuality! It’s a fun way to challenge expectations.”

Ladyfest Ottawa is part of a tradition of grassroots-organized festivals showcasing the talents of women artists. The first Ladyfest took place in Olympia, Washington in 2000, which inspired women worldwide, from New York City to Berlin to Indonesia, to organize their own festivals. Canadian Ladyfests have also taken place in Toronto, Guelph and Halifax, but Ottawa boasts the longest running festival in the country with an event each year since 2001.

This year’s festival includes concerts, workshops, a hip-hop night, animation and comedy night and throughout it all, showcases a plethora of local, girly (or not so girly!) talent.

Co-organizer Sarah Brown gushes about her favourites in the schedule.

“I’m really excited about our hip-hop night. This is first time we’ve dedicated a whole evening to female hip-hop artists. Masia One and DJ L’Oqenz are coming from Toronto and Eekwol, an aboriginal hip-hop artist will be joining us from Saskatoon. There will also be a local slam poet. I’m also excited about the partnership with the Ottawa International Animation Festival. They are providing the female-flavoured animation and we have booked lady comedians Holly Prazoff and Inessa Frantowski to perform between films.”

(That’s only part of it, ladies. So before you pull out your Wonder Woman notepad, the whole schedule can be found on the Ladyfest website,

Another highlight of this year’s Ladyfest Ottawa is the Rock Camp For Girls, where girls age 13 -17 can spend a day indulging in the rocker side, while Not Your Granma’s Craft Sale will satisfy the funky, DIY-er in all of us. And then there’s the workshops that include: e-selling, naming your pleasure, making a spa in your kitchen, vegan cooking, composting, embroidery, contract and copyright law, writing for zines and blogs, and making your own lightboxes.

A large part of Ladyfest Ottawa is always the concerts, featuring talented girl-bands. This is the is the one place to find that hot new lezzie duo (Kickers) playing with local up-and-comers The Hollowtip Hearts and Katie Stelmanis.

The Montreal-based musicians, Kickers, who are returning to headline in 2007, after playing Ladyfest Ottawa in 2006, definitely have a soft spot for the festival. Guitarist, Victoria Morrison remembers last year.

“As soon as I stepped into Club Saw for our Ladyfest gig last September, one of the very sweet Ladyfest organizers greeted me excitedly, pointing out how she was sporting her Kickers-branded shoes for the occasion. This was so incredible to me, because our band was actually named for the shoe brand, and not the act of ‘kicking’ as so many people have mistakenly assumed in the past. Ladyfest Ottawa gets us!”

What can Ladyfest Ottawa expect from the Kickers set?

“Umm, maybe a Patsy Cline cover? As a two-piece it’s easy to mix it up on short notice. I don’t think we quite know what to ‘expect’ ourselves. There will be some simultaneous guitar and keyboard playing though; we like that old trick.”