A Festival Grows in Stockholm

 Photo Credit:  Ayesha  "AYESHA is a rapper and producer with a foundation in hip-hop and dancehall that moves out of the box into experimental electronic music."   [Image Description: a female bodied person with black face paint, white feathered lashes, and a white painted pout looks directly into the camera. A red strip bands their eyes with their brown hair teased into a beehive.]

Photo Credit: Ayesha "AYESHA is a rapper and producer with a foundation in hip-hop and dancehall that moves out of the box into experimental electronic music."

[Image Description: a female bodied person with black face paint, white feathered lashes, and a white painted pout looks directly into the camera. A red strip bands their eyes with their brown hair teased into a beehive.]

In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the music industry is slowly acknowledging issues of representation and the importance of creating safer spaces. Earlier this year, 45 music festivals worldwide pledged to increase their gender parity in line-ups by 2022. Still, the pervasive gender gap on music festival stages reflects live music demographics in theaters and nightclubs around the globe.

But long before this broad consciousness, a grassroots movement of non-commercial festivals, zines, and alternative media has been lifting up the artistry of women and LGBTQ+ creators, while prioritizing inclusivity, accessibility, and safety. For over 10 years now, Titwrench Collective has been shifting paradigms by showcasing these artists with a multimedia, multi-day festival, building a platform for emerging stories that audiences are eager to engage with.

It takes a seed to grow the tree, and in this case, the seed was planted in Denver, Colorado. The tree has since grown in Stockholm, where marginalized voices in the LGBTQ+ community are being heard in the form of goth pop, experimental improvised sound, desert punk harshness, club jams and more at a music festival called Titwrench. In 2014, Titwrench ventured from their hometown of Denver, Colorado, U.S. to partner with collective members in Stockholm, where participants united in a weekend of international, cross-cultural exchange. And it’s back! This summer, Titwrench welcomes the community to participate again in an all-ages festival at Fylkingen, featuring musicians and artists from the Southwest United States, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver, Colorado; Stockholm, Sweden. 

You might think another "music festival”? Sure, you can call it that. But once you look under the veneer, Titwrench is something else, something more. It goes beyond the ubiquitous flower crowns and into the heart of the matter. It’s a safe space, an open platform, an arena for the outsiders to come and play. As members of churchfire, Shannon Webber and David Samuelson, so aptly put it,

“Titwrench intentionally creates a space for artists to take their performances to another level where communities can access a breadth of experiences and voices, unique sounds, visions, and perspectives. Without festivals like Titwrench, these powerful voices often remain unheard beyond their own realms, potentially existing in devastating silence that allows marginalization and oppression to continue.” 

 Photo by  churchfire     [Image Description: Two people stand side by side in front of a background of flowers, skulls, and antlers. A red substance resembling blood streak their faces.]

Photo by churchfire 

[Image Description: Two people stand side by side in front of a background of flowers, skulls, and antlers. A red substance resembling blood streak their faces.]

Titwrench was founded in 2008 by organizer Sarah Slater and a collective of artists and volunteers. A direct response to the demographic disparity witnessed at experimental shows, apparent with gender, but also focused around race, age, ability, and social classism. Titwrench said you, the person who has never been heard. You, the person who has always struggled to feel meaningful. Show us what you’re feeling. Show us how to support you and Titwrench said we will. The majority of people who perform and attend Titwrench have a guttural response of “I am accepted, I am heard, I am loved here.” 

"It's an incredible privilege to be a co-producer of Titwrench Stockholm, and a very particular experience, like being in a long distance marathon relay race; it's a unique organizing challenge between myself, Marisa and Isis and the many artists included ....and it has helped me gain a better producer and communicator and hopefully a team player too," said co-founder and co-producer Sarah Slater. She continued

"I can't recall the quote exactly but I remember M.I.A. being interviewed about the importance of a music underground to a culture, and she was discussing the importance of people being able to have a place to just go and make a noise; and how we are losing that ability and access as cities become more crowded and built for "luxury" living needs of the 1%. In contrast to Denver and Albuquerque where our gatherings... art and music are temporary and/or always under threat, our venue in Stockholm is operated by artists and has been in operation for 85 years and has been a huge success.

"It's difficult for U.S. folks to imagine the kind of support it must take to sustain that kind of longevity for an artist-run space; it's tremendously heartening to know its possible even if our cultures and social politics look vastly different. I'm excited to meet new people in Stockholm and learn more about how they are responding to our current political climate and what that looks like in Sweden." 

Thanks to the unrelenting work of co-producers, Sarah Slater, Marisa Demarco, and Director Isis Graham, artists now have the opportunity to expand this sensation in Stockholm, Sweden. This is the second satellite show in Stockholm. The first festival in Stockholm took place in 2014, yet with the current social climate, 2018's Titwrench festival seems especially meaningful to performers and artists alike. "It's an incredible privilege to be a co-producer of Titwrench Stockholm, and a very particular experience, like being in a long distance marathon relay race; it's a unique organizing challenge between myself, Marisa and Isis and the many artists included ....and it has helped me gain a better producer and communicator and hopefully a team player too."

“This festival is a huge opportunity for everyone traveling to it, both as artists and as individual people. I'm looking forward to sharing space with so many powerful creative people and feeling like I belong somewhere. Isolation can be the worst feeling and I am so grateful that we have Titwrench to give us all a platform and connection point. It's especially exciting to be traveling to a new country to meet new artists!” said Monica Demarco who will be performing as part of Chicharra, Milch De La Machina, and Cthulha

 Photo by  Chicharra    [Image Description: Five people lay on their backs on concrete pavement, fanned out in front of a desert landscape.]

Photo by Chicharra

[Image Description: Five people lay on their backs on concrete pavement, fanned out in front of a desert landscape.]

Efforts are being made to create this “connection point” Demarco speaks of. For example, Keychange is helping make international festivals represent gender in their line-up 50:50. However, Titwrench has recognized for years that gender isn’t split in half, that there are many spaces in-between across the full spectrum of gender. To discover these spaces, Titwrench Stockholm takes place on June 15-16 at Fylkingen where the sounds of the marginalized can be celebrated authentically.

”It's changed my life, it's at the root of many of my personal and professional relationships in the community,  and it's pushed me to do what I never thought I was capable of. The art I've witnessed at Titwrench has shattered my expectations (in the best possible way) of what performers, performances, and festivals should or can look like” said MIRROR FEARS performer, Kate Warner. 
 

TITWRENCH STHLM Festivalen take place on

June 15-16 at Fylkingen, in Stockholm, Sweden.

find  tickets, full schedule, line-up, and more here


Jill Shea is a freelance writer and farmer based in Connecticut, USA who has always worked to help create safer, more inclusive spaces for experimental artists.