Interview: Girl Gang Sheffield’s Charly Calpin

Girl Gang

Party instigators, 90s fanatics, riot grrrls and promoters of positivity: Girl Gang Sheffield kick ass. Read on if you know them, read on if you don’t…it’s Charly Calpin talking to TSOTA!

What is Girl Gang?

Girl Gang Sheffield is a collective of creative artists, musicians and the likes, who are dedicated to bringing immersive cinema screenings, club nights, exhibitions and workshops to Sheffield. Behind the scenes, there are five of us who plan and create our events:

– Ellie is an artist, specialising in stop motion animation and prop design, she also runs Handmade Cinema (a community cinema for families).

– Megan is a theatre director and producer for Pull Your Finger Out Productions and is the chief lady babe for Girl Gang Manchester.

– Vanhessa is a DJ and designer for TheCreepsStore, and occasional lecturer on ‘Women & Sexuality in Modern East Asian Society’.

– I [Charly] am an artist and workshop facilitator, and runs Free Hand (a weekly creative session for people with anxiety and depression).

– Kaz is a writer, editor and our queen of blogging. She’s just finished the mammoth task of creating our Girl Gang website and blog.

Girl Gang FairThe idea for Girl Gang came after Vanhessa approached Ellie about creating a screening to coordinate with the launch of her Mean Girls-inspired clothing collection. They only planned to meet for an hour to plan a potential screening, but they ended up sitting in a coffee shop for hours discussing the difficulties they have faced making connections with other creatives as young businesswomen in the city. The event was a sold out hit! Since the Mean Girls event we’ve hosted: meet-ups, babes parties, spoken on panels, put on a second screening and an exhibition, won an award and most recently, launched Girl Gang Manchester! It’s all incredibly exciting (and a little bit daunting) but we can’t wait to see how the community grows over the next year!

Where does Girl Gang exist?

Girl Gang exists in Sheffield and Manchester, but this is by no means specific to our two cities. We totally love Fan Club in Notts; they put on incredible parties and run a great zine. There are loads of other inspiring group running on girl power:

Eggs Collective GG– Eggs Collective, a Manchester trio making “sharp, fun, culturally-observational performance that falls somewhere in the cracks between theatre and cabaret.” The group explore feminism through a humorous view of the world.

– Together Women are a group who work to move women out of crime and into positive futures by working with them to build resilience and develop strengths that enable them to move away from damaging lifestyles in safe women-only spaces.

– Gal (Guerilla Art Lab) are a collective of artists, curators and producers from Nottingham who have opened a space in the city center for artists to put on exhibitions, film, rehearse & have a community of live/performance/new media and a shop of art stuff that follows the artist’s heart, not trends; darker, queer, kitsch, rude, feminist, political, geeky, urban, geometric art that doesn’t fit in and doesn’t want to.

– Designing Out Suicide, a collaborative project in Sheffield of workshops and meet ups to raise awareness of suicide in women. The final goal is a collaborative zine in response to submitted work, workshops, discussion groups, interviews and shared experiences. Specifically, the aim of the zine is to raise the awareness of women suffering with suicidal thoughts/ideations or mental health problems which could lead to suicide.

Female:Pressure an international network of female artists in electronic music and digital arts: from musicians, composers and DJs to visual artists, cultural workers and researchers. It’s a worldwide resource of female talent that focuses on strengthening networking, communication and representation for women in music.

– Bunny Collective is an art/exhibition group that aims to showcase the work of emerging female artists with a focus on issues of gender, the body, sexuality and how we exist online.

Girl Gang PUnk SingerWhat is your role and why did you get involved?

The five us share out a lot of the tasks, it takes so much work and we are by no means alone, we have amazing friends that help us arrange and set up events. We are a collective and anyone that wants to be involved is welcome. Ellie and Vanhessa co-founded Girl Gang and set on the way to making a magical event. Megan, brought performance art and theatre to the event and became part of the team before launching Girl Gang Manchester. Kaz contacted Girl Gang, we met for a chat and she has most recently set up our website! I got involved after doing a workshop at the Mean Girls and being completely blown away at the positivity and wonderful atmosphere. We want to get everyone involved, show everyone the power of fun and positivity.

How important is Girl Gang?

This is important to us because it is important to the people we support and host events for, within our community. Sheffield has more creative people per square mile than any other city outside of London, and from talking to people at events we found a lot were struggling either with direction or exposure. It can be hard and isolating in creative disciplines – it important to us that we not only put on exciting and different events, create a source of creativity, positivity and fun but also give guidance and support in a community of their peers. By creating a community which promotes collaborations and friendship, we rely on our local creatives to help make events and products happen, and we wish to continue to provide this platform to as many people as possible, for as long as possible. We also just wanted to make fun and interesting events for people to attend and feel like they can be themselves.

Is Girl Gang just for girls?

We state in our manifesto, ‘To be inclusive and involve anyone of any gender.’

Girl Gang 2How does someone join Girl Gang?

Turn up, comment, like (on Facebook), send us a message, a photo, collaborate, support, take part. There is no entrance fee, no initiation and there are no rules. You want in, you are in!

The most recent big Girl Gang event showed a film about Kathleen Hanna – ‘Bikini Kill’. Is she connected in any way to Girl Gang?

She is a connection by way of inspiration. She started a movement that made way for things like Girl Gang. Recently though Kathleen Hanna contacted us via twitter about our CD we had made as part of the event, after we stopped hyperventilating we sent her a box of Girl Gang goodies!

Girl Gang Colouring BookTell me about your colouring book project

The colouring book project set out to collaborate with Sheffield artists and asked them to create page designs based on what a Girl Gang means to them and what music does. Then we put the book together sorting printing, stocking and selling the book. The artists share the profit and the money paid out goes back into our fund, to pay for future projects. We pitched at Sheffield Soup to win money that we could use as a fund to set projects and fund people’s own creative works. We lost out to great competition but raised £1000 through crowdfunding! This will go towards supporting and championing Sheffield creatives to make projects a reality and collaborate with us and other creatives too!

What are your hopes for Girl Gang?

Our future is really up to the people who come and take part, what we do and where it goes. We hope to reach more people, lift, support, champion and dance with them!

If you want to know more about Girl Gang check out and get in touch or come to our next event!

Twitter @girlgangsheff

Instagram @girlgangsheffield

Read the blog:

Next event: Girl Gang Sheffield: Beyoncé Party. Saturday July 9th.

GG Manifesto