Celebrating female empowerment throughout the decades

Published: Monday 4th September 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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New play It’s Different For Girls at East Riding Theatre tells the story of Hull’s own 1960s girl group.

We caught up with Producer Ellie Claughton and actress Annie Kirkman from She Productions to find out more.

“The premise of the show is inspired by local beat group Mandy and the Girlfriends,” explains Ellie. “It follows the story of how they came together and dealt with fame and the rise to stardom.”

The coming-of-age tale narrates the teenage years of fictional band Sindy and the Girlfriends, which is made up of Sindy, Betsy, Mitzi, Vicki and Poppet.

“As well as being a really fun, lighthearted 60s musical, we also touch on deeper topics, such as what a woman’s role was in the 60s,” Ellie tells us. “These girls did have a sense of freedom during this era, but they faced a lot of sexism too.”

One example that is depicted in the play is when the group performed for a number of army camps. The all-male audiences would tell them that ‘they were good… for girls’.

“We spoke to the original Girlfriends about their experiences and they told us that although the 60s were a time of sexual freedom, women were still quite restricted and oppressed. With the army camps, they weren’t necessarily the best band out there, but it was more about what they wore and how they looked,” Annie points out.

Annie and Ellie both agree that there are several parallels to be drawn between the Girlfriends and female artists today.

“I think these issues are very relevant nowadays, especially for women in the arts. You just have to look at the gender pay gap,” Ellie points out.

“The topics we cover are still very prevalent today. In the music industry, women are expected to wear as little as possible. In fact, we did quite a lot of research during the two-year making of this play and 78% of women in the music industry say that they have experienced sexism in the workplace.”

The all-female cast was led by a female director, Becky Hope-Palmer, who had much success as Associate Director of The Hypocrite.

“We needed a strong female leader for this production. She also knows a lot about the area and has a lot of experience. She is an amazing captain for our ship,” enthuses Ellie.

After spending the past 24 months preparing for the show, Annie is thrilled that the day is finally coming where she gets to perform as Sindy.

“Sindy has developed into quite an interesting character. She doesn’t actually say anything, except through song. This was to bring about the idea that she is isolated from the rest of the girls.”

Similar to the real-life Mandy and the Girlfriends, Sindy’s mum is the band manager.

“I don’t think she gets to contribute in the way that she would like to and that leaves her feeling quite separate from the Girlfriends,” Annie adds.

“People should come along because it’s a great night out, it’s a really empowering show, and who doesn’t love the 60s?” Ellie gushes.

“It’s got heart and community. It’s set in the local area, with local people. There will be some familiar 60s covers, plus some originals too, so a lot of nostalgia,” Annie continues. “It’s bright, colourful, but it also has really important messages. It’s Different For Girls is about celebrating women’s voices and saying that ‘we’re here and you should listen’.” 

It’s Different For Girls runs at East Riding Theatre from Wednesday 6 until Saturday 23 September. To find out more and to book tickets, please call 01482 874050, or you can book online. 

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Published: Monday 4th September 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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