Tag Archives: Women’

Interview | Jo Po and the Manchester Arts Scene

Alex Webb speaks with poet and performer Jo Po about her life, her work and inspirations in Manchester…

When I sat down with Jo Po, a Wythenshawe-born artist, it was obvious just how passionate she is about what she does. Jo Po is a lover of lyricism be it through spoken word, music – however you want to express yourself with words. Space for self-expression, and the ability to utilise it, is something very important to Jo.

When I asked her what advice she would give someone who is looking to enter the Manchester spoken word scene, she replied that if you’re already writing – embrace it! Work with your style and make it your own because spoken word is about putting out messages in interesting, individual ways. YouTube is a good place to start just to get a general idea of what spoken word is and Jo Po recommended the Manchester-based channel ETV to see how vast the talent in our city really is.

“Work with your style and make it your own”

 

Her spoken word career started just over a year ago at a One Mic Stand night and from there she carried on doing it because it gave her a way to express her thoughts. Passion is a commanding force in spoken word for Jo, who thinks without passion, any kind of art comes across as very two-dimensional and fails to get the attention it could deserve.

In terms of her writing, Jo Po addresses a lot of different ideas as her writing style and content changes with her emotions. However, she said that politics is a big focus of her work: coming from a working class background Jo Po is very concerned with addressing social difference and challenging unnecessarily negative views people hold in order to make a change.

A lot of her inspiration comes from her creative friends who all make content and put it out there with a message behind it. However, Jo Po notes that even for her the message of her work isn’t always clear, stating that she enjoys the cryptic nature of some of her pieces. “I can have two different people come up to me quoting the same line with completely different interpretations” Jo told me, saying this was one of the best things about her life as an artist.

“A lot of her inspiration comes from her creative friends”

In terms of what she is trying to achieve with her work, Jo spoke for her friends saying that they are looking to break the image people have of the young and the working class; something Manchester-born talent is very concerned with. Deprived areas often have an unjustifiably negative representation in media and her friends are looking to show just how inaccurate this really is. Some of the Manchester-based talent Jo suggested I check out were collectives such as Mothership Connection and acts like Levelz, Lyricalligraphy, Room2 and 8 Gold Rings. The latter’s name is a tribute to Salford John who very sadly passed away this year, showing just how personal all kinds of art can be. Jo Po cited her very talented friends as her motivation to carry on improving. She takes some of her inspiration from musicians and club nights as opposed to other spoken word artists and this shows in her very distinct style of work. Some nights that were recommended to me were Ballin On A Budget, Hit&Run and Project 13, all giving talented acts a platform to get their content out into the world.

Aside from her writing, Jo is an inspiration and possibly one of the most hardworking people I’ve met. I only spent a short amount of time with her but it was obvious just how motivated she was in life and in her work. When I asked her where she sees herself in a few years’ time she said that she’d love to be carrying on with her spoken word and was interested in collaborating with other artists, especially getting music involved in her pieces (something that she has started to experiment with recently). Jo isn’t trying to become “big and famous”. She just wants to have her voice heard and enjoys the responses her work receives. It is this that Jo Po and so many Manchester spoken word artists love most about what they do, and is just one of the reasons this artist is one to watch in the coming years.

 

For a taster of what Jo Po has to offer check out this video: ETV – Spoken Word – Jo Po (Session 3)

 

I asked Jo Po to give me some people to check out. She recommends these guys to anyone who is interested in Manchester-based acts and is looking for something new both musically and poetically.

Nights: Ballin On A Budget, Hit and Run, Swing Ting, Levelz, Red Eye Hi Fi, Project 13.

Artists: Mothership Connection, Lyricalligraphy, Skittles, Fox, Sparkz,Dubbul O, Kathika, Reuben, Bluntskins, Room2 Records, Bricky Mortar, 8 Gold Rings, The Mouse Outfit.

Subscribe to ETVs Youtube channel for a huge variety of Manchester artists: https://www.youtube.com/user/ETVMCR

 

 

– Alex Webb

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Feminism: A Man’s Problem?

Recent tech developments have contributed to a third wave of feminism – noticeable this time for including the voices of young, switched on and pissed off women, who are carving new social space for themselves via the internet. But where are the men’s voices in the debate? And what does their relative absence tell us? Natalie Proctor looks at contemporary attitudes towards women and the confusing state of gender politics today…

I found myself drawn to the recent BBC documentary ‘Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes’, because it was set to address issues that plague modern society. I wanted to see what it made of the state of feminism and sexism today. The documentary discussed some very important questions, but gave very few answers. We are asked to consider whether sexism is in fact just as bad as it was some ninety years ago when women in the UK were still struggling for the right to vote, or whether we have developed into a more equal society. Perhaps what is more easily suggested, is that sexism towards women is in fact not better or worse, simply different.

The documentary looks at several areas that evoke ideas of the objectification of women on a daily basis – the internet being a primary culprit. Cases of women being harassed online, with the word ‘rape’ thrown around like it was no more than an emoticon, are sadly increasingly common. Equally, the use of derogatory images of women throughout the media enhances this idea of the woman as a body, and not a mind.

It is at this point however that I must make something clear. Women are used to sell things. Men are used to sell things. Women are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. Men are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. The point being that we cannot overlook the obvious fact that this form of advertising – whether in magazines or on billboards – is not selective when it comes to gender. A particular version of sexy really is what sells. Gender equality is a balancing act. Both women and men must learn to accept the fact that sex does not define who we are. Furthermore, this image presented by the media highlights an important issue for everyone, in that our society is fast becoming, if not already, one based on looks and not merit.

Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which
Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which

In the case of the documentary, this form of sexualisation is suggested to be only problematic for women. This is, as I have stated, not the case. However, it is clear that the female form is more present in the media than the male. At the same time, sexism towards women is also more common. I found myself infuriated by the suggestion that women need to “Man Up”, as the ever so sensitive editor of ‘Loaded’ magazine states in the documentary. Martin Daubney argued that the magazine celebrated women, and suggested that the images were far from sexist – no surprises there! Of course, who would think that a woman with her legs spread, pouting at the camera, wearing nothing but some see-through pants could ever be deemed overly-sexualised? This woman is on the cover for her “great personality” right?

The Loaded magazine 'Girls' section...
The Loaded magazine ‘Girls’ section…

Hypersexualised images of women are promoted by a laddish culture created by outlets like men’s mags that associate the ‘perfect’ man with the hairless, oily, breasty woman. We need to break down both our preconceptions of the ideal man and woman: they feed each other, and neither exist. Dangerously, whole industries are built on the foundations of these false principles.

There is an important point to be made here however about the women who take up jobs in these industries. Are they really slaves to a man’s world, or are they profiting from the inherent nature of base male desire? This was something brought into question by the Channel 4 documentary ‘Strippers’. The girls interviewed all seemed to project the idea that they were far from being exploited, but in fact exploiting the men who pay for their services. However, it was certainly apparent that some of the girls argued this more convincingly than others. On the other end of the spectrum, the men interviewed who frequented these clubs told the cameras they went for ‘company’ not for sexual pleasure. This was argued unconvincingly in all cases. The fact that even the men who pay for these services feel the need to dress them up as something else, proves lack of moral certainty. Obviously, as I have mentioned before, if women are freely choosing to take up such occupations, then I see no real issue. However, this is hard to guarantee. In the same way, as a woman, it is difficult for me to understand the attraction men have to paying for false affections. Don’t they know these women are only thinking about their wallets? But to each his own I suppose.

18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures - because she was stripping all night for cash...
18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures – because she was stripping all night for cash – which she needed to pay her way through uni…the cycle continues…

Is there gender equality in modern society? In many ways; yes, but it is not yet fully won. Aside from aspects of the media, everyday sexism occurs all the time. A woman knows that if she walks down the street next to a group of male builders, she will be shouted at. At a club, having your arse grabbed is old news. And let’s not forget the old chestnut of double standards when it comes to male and female promiscuity. Personally, I think that the only way we can move forward into a world where women are treated as women and not simply objects lies in two key steps. First, men should remember that women are their sisters, mothers, aunts and friends, not just pieces of meat. Second, women should continue to strive to break the stereotypes engrained in modern society. Human beings have come a long way in achieving status as a person beyond our gender, but we still have a way to go. Rather than a battle of sexes, we should be focusing on battling our own perceptions of what gender means. The problem is one for both men and women to address.

Ultimately then, equality relies on the strength of both men and women, to avoid stereotypes, victimisation, and discrimination. Currently, it looks as if women are generally further on this road of progress. Sadly, I think it will be some time before men are willing to let go of the macho image they have become so accustomed to. But, once they are ready to rid themselves of misogynistic tendencies, equality will truly be in sight. For now though, if men want to play video games with female characters that have breasts the size of space-hoppers then let them! Have faith in the fact that they will probably never experience the real thing.

 

–       Natalie Proctor