Carving out spaces for women and non-binary artists into the North East scene

By Maria Winter

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While the North East music scene grooves to the rhythm of change, the journey to gender equality is still an encore away from the final act. Frankie Jobling, a Neo-Soul musician based in the region has played a key role in carving out spaces for women and non-binary artists, bringing Newcastle’s soul scene to life. 

Despite the undeniable charisma of North East music, there still seems to be a discordant note in the gender equality symphony. It’s no secret that women have been underrepresented in both the limelight and behind the scenes. Venue bookings, festival lineups, and music production roles have often skewed heavily toward males. This dissonance is not unique to the NE, but it’s a rhythm that Frankie and many others in the industry are determined to alter. 

With over ten years of experience performing and navigating the music scene, Frankie Jobling has not only impacted audiences with her musical talent but also through her advocacy for change. 

“I feel the pressure to prove myself and work twice as hard to get the same opportunities that men have”, she says. “If anything, though, it helps keep a fire going inside of me – trying my best and working my hardest. I believe in social justice, and I’ve always been very vocal about it. What I try to do is when I’m on a lineup that is equal, then I’ll make a point on stage to the audience about the positivity.” 

In 2022, Frankie Co-founded the musical collective NEWISM (North East Women in Soul Music) alongside local musicians Kate Bond, Georgia May and Karla Farrar. With a mission to broaden representation at gigs and festivals within the soul scene, the team recognised just how needed this organisation was. 

“Newcastle seems to love male indie rock bands, so we wanted to change that. We put on some local gigs and then started to create festival lineups for local organisations such as Generator Fringe and The Cumberland Arms. We’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done so far. There just needs to be more women in all areas of the music industry. If that happens, there’ll be more resistance.”   

Having worked with numerous Newcastle grassroots venues and gaining significant recognition, NEWISM has started as it means to go on. Yet, a particular area still in need of some improved inclusivity is the region’s festival scene. Since the summer season has concluded, it’s given local musicians a chance to reflect on lineup choices made by organisers.    

“There are so many women in the North East that are doing amazing things and we are getting general gigs or featured on BBC Introducing”, Frankie explains. “But when it comes to securing headliners for festivals in particular, things need to change. A lot of local festivals, when they’re picking their headliners, seem to gravitate to the same bands when there’s so many other artists that can be reached out to. I think if organisers took the time and did the research, they could always have an equal balance. More festivals have the duty to take the risk, as it wouldn’t be a risk anymore if people follow suit.”  

Frankie’s latest single ‘Changes’, released on July 7th, discusses aspects of growing female empowerment, fuelled by her emotive journey as a musician. Serving as a heartfelt tribute to her younger self, the track is reflective of the wider industry, confirming this need for further inclusivity.  

In the vibrant North East music industry, the stage is set for transformation, but the curtain hasn’t fallen on the quest for true gender equality. As we harmonise the notes of progress, let us continue to amplify diverse voices, break down barriers, and ensure that every talent – regardless of gender, has the chance to shine brilliantly in this evolving harmony of music and equality. 

Follow Frankie Jobling

Cover photo by James Grant