SYDNEY — A grassroots project that encourages women to confidently play a greater role within the Cape Breton music industry will take to stages around downtown Sydney on Saturday.
The Open Doors: Cape Breton Women in Harmony event will feature eight musicians showcasing their talents at Selkies, Fired Creations, Doctor Lukes and 7 By 7 during the daylong event.
“The vibe is very much just kind of come take part in what these businesses have to offer and enjoy the music,” said Molly Babin, the project creator.
“It’s cool. There’s never been, I don’t think music at Fired Creations, for example. I’ve been there painting before, and their menu is great but what a good place for music.”
Origins of the open doors project date back to last year when Babin and fellow musician Colette Deveaux travelled to Halifax for Nova Scotia Music Week with the Cape Breton Music Industry Co-operative.
In Halifax, they noticed a large number of prominent female musicians and returned home with a goal of creating the same buzz in Cape Breton’s creative sector.
“I think that in Cape Breton it’s not always easy to have women play because it is almost like they are hard to find when you go to look for them,” said Babin. “The whole idea of the project is sort of create a database where you can go find a bunch of names of female musicians if you are looking to expand your gender representation in your bookings and have a place of reference.”
In creating the database, she scoured traditional and online media for information on female artists performing around the island.
Eight shows were also booked at Governor’s in January and February featuring female musicians and songwriters and an open stage at the end of the series that saw 15 women perform.
“I was very excited and wanted to book a bunch more shows,” said Babin. “I couldn’t believe so many women had sort of come out of the woodwork it seemed. At that time Colette’s career was getting pretty crazy so I booked the next eight shows on my own and then COVID happened and that next series never came to be.”
In the meantime, she started a creative arts sector position with the Cape Breton Partnership and, as a workshop facilitator, has been continuing her quest to assist and promote female musicians.
To date, her focus has mainly been online, one-on-one workshops with artists. Videos of the musicians have also been recorded and bios created.
A Facebook Live segment was in the works but once COVID-19 restrictions began to ease she planned Saturday’s artist spotlights instead throughout downtown Sydney.
“I’m a pretty big supporter of small business,” she said. “I lived in Ontario for 10 years and was a general manager of small restaurants for years and I know how hard it can be to kind of put your focus on the vibe and the entertainment and stuff in a small restaurant where $100 for a musician might be the only $100 you made that hour. It doesn’t always make sense in a small place.”
Sponsors are in place for Saturday to cover the musician fees. And Babin hopes it can help to build a relationship between musicians, and small businesses and their customers.
There’s always some music on in the background at Fired Creations to set the mood as people sip their favourite drink and paint a project. Saturday will be the first time it’s ever been the live variety, though.
“I think it is going to be great for people to pop around and hear music,” said Alisha Barron, the owner of the kiln-fired pottery painting café. “We will be excited to have the girls come in.”
Barron said the cafe will be licensed as of Friday and live musical performances might be something they'll consider again down the road.
After Saturday’s performances, Babin expects the project’s next steps to include online performances, in-person shows and songwriting retreats.
A compilation CD and a Christmas concert are among the other ideas.
On tour of downtown Sydney
- 10-11:30 a.m. - Robyn Carrigan and Angela MacDonald at Selkies
- 1-2:30 p.m. - Adrianne Chapman and Elyse Aeryn at Fired Creations
- 3-5 p.m. - Gee Stewart and Rebecca Ratchford at Doktor Lukes
- 6-8 p.m. - Breanne MacDonald and Lynda Maxwell at 7 By 7