Titwrench’s Sarah Slater is no man-hater
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Colorado is host to a music festival just about every weekend this summer. Unlike the bulk of them though, Titwrench Festival wasn’t founded on nurturing certain musical styles or even to appease the masses of music fans. Branding itself as a “lady-centric” festival, Titwrench proudly champions feminist ideals and punk’s rebellious, do-it-yourself spirit. Held this weekend at Glob and Rhinoceropolis, the festival features more than 30 all-female/female-fronted bands, as well as filmmakers and visual artists. Also scheduled is an afternoon of instructional workshops with topics like "How To Run A PA For A DIY Space" and "Build Your Own Contact Microphone." Titwrench founder/creative director Sarah Slater spoke with The A.V. Club about organizing a music festival that’s about much more than just music.
The A.V. Club: Titwrench is a completely DIY festival that’s put on without any corporate sponsorship or piggybacking off a production company. How important is that to you to retain that spirit?
Sarah Slater: It definitely is important in a lot of ways. I [came up] in different punk scenes and through the zinester idea and aesthetic. To me, it’s how I’ve always done things. It would be really nice to have some funding in the future, but hopefully that would come from some kind of arts organization or individuals or something like that rather than a corporation where we have to consider their interests and stuff like that. That could potentially be a problem. I’m happy to say that we’re sponsored by the community right now—all our financing comes from the community.
AVC: It seems that the DIY ideals that drove underground music in the past have been somewhat lost among newer generations coming up.
SS: It’s definitely something I’ve run into working [on Titwrench]. I feel like the generations coming up below us don’t have as much experience dealing with the DIY ethic. I’m just actually figuring this out recently, that some people have an entirely different idea of what DIY is. It’s more—almost like an aesthetic or something. I still don’t really understand what DIY means to 20-year-olds. I don’t think they know either. I do think that the handmade and homemade and homegrown roots of what DIY means to me have eroded some over the last decade, or maybe longer.
AVC: Titwrench was founded as a feminist music festival. Is that still an important part of its identity in its second year?
SS: I think it is, especially this year. A month ago, the United Nations had some people talking about how the empowerment of women and girls worldwide is necessary to save the planet. I’ve noticed that there’s a lot more presence on the Internet of feminist organizations, feminist blogs, feminist events of all different natures springing up. I feel like people are reclaiming the word “feminist” in the global sense, as opposed to the second-wave feminism of the ’70s. I think that third-wave global feminism is getting bigger and bigger. We want to continue to identify our festival that way because I think that it’s a key part of empowering girls and women to be artists and to get their artwork out there to the world. It’s very empowering to men, too, to participate in a festival and be part of it and be enriched by it.
AVC: One of the knee-jerk reactions toward feminism is the idea that it’s an anti-male agenda, but you’re actively countering that by trying to be inclusive toward men at Titwrench.
SS: I think that’s why feminism failed in the ’70s, because men weren’t included in the conversation. There are waves of feminism. If you read more Bell Hooks and more Audre Lorde and Gloria Steinem and more current feminist writers, they all include men in the conversation. Anything that hurts a woman hurts a man, too. It’s not like things are exclusive that way. It’s very important that men come to this festival and they feel included. I would hope that people would be open-minded and if they have a problem with the word “feminism,” they would get past it.