Girls Rock! Canberra is a camp that aims to make ordinary girls feel like rock stars.
Over 40 campers attended Australia’s first Girls Rock! music camp at Ainslie Arts Centre, organised by director and Canberra local Chiara Grassia. Chiara attended similar programs as a volunteer in the U.S. and wanted to use music to create a relaxed and supportive environment in Canberra for girls aged 10-17 to learn, gain confidence and have fun.
Chiara says Girls Rock combines her passions for “music, feminism, creating community, DIY ethics and social theory.” The camp was staffed by volunteers who share her enthusiasm, some of whom had come from as far as Melbourne and New Zealand to be involved and hope to create similar programs in their hometowns.
At Girls Rock! each day started with Punk Rock Aerobics and at lunchtime there were performances from local bands Wives and Aphir. Babymachine from Wollongong and The Rangoons from Sydney also performed.
The girls formed bands with names like ‘The Sound Quakes’ and ‘Mum, It’s Not A Phase!’ and received instrument instruction from experienced musicians as well as screen-printing band t shirts, learning how to start a record label and writing a song in an hour with musicians Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher.
There were also workshops on improvised comedy, zine making, women in music and self-care, reflecting the program’s ethos of encouraging girls’ voices. A highlight of the week was musicians Courtney, Jen and Steph Hughes forming an impromptu band named ‘Pleather and Pain’. By performing a set where each of the members played an instrument they hadn’t previously performed in public, including Courtney’s debut as a drummer, they encouraged the girls to take on musical challenges.
The majority of the girls were new to playing music but by the showcase at the end of the week they were playing like professionals, performing an original song to a packed crowd of family and friends.
I spoke to the newly formed band Pineapple Paradise to find out what they thought about Girls Rock!:
“I’m going to keep drumming after camp. I practised until 9 pm last night spinning my drum stick and then I did it in our show and I didn’t drop it!”
Georgia, 11, Drums
“From the song writing I learnt that you can just put whatever in it no matter how quirky it is. It’s a cool experience to be so young and perform in front of people who you don’t know so well. They wont judge you on how you sound and they give you positive feedback even if you sound nervous or something. It’s like how Jen [Cloher] said, being nervous is good because you feel hyped after the show like only music can make you. Especially because its just girls and that’s what I was glad about.”
Emily, 10, Vocals
“I learnt how to use the electric guitar and not to be afraid of being loud and it sounds cool. And I liked my band, because sometimes boys don’t want to do it and they don’t cooperate.”
Caitlin, 10, Guitar
“I think it’s really great here because everybody is supportive and they won’t judge you if something happens or you do something wrong. Some places you go people can be really mean. When I first turned on my amp I didn’t want to make a noise because I thought everyone would look at me but then I learnt that something on the bass doesn’t have to be complicated, like today’s performance wasn’t, but they still sounded good. And I learned its not just boys that are able to play and perform guitar and bass and drums.”
Mia, 10, Bass