In 2017, hcmf// joined the PRS Foundation’s Keychange Initiative, joining hundreds of festivals, venues and ensembles in pledging to reach 50/50 gender equality in our programming by 2022. In an industry in which women are vastly underrepresented – making up only 20% of registered composers and songwriters across the countries participating – and in which earnings remain significantly imbalanced, Keychange is a vital, life-changing project, giving voice to talent that deserves to be heard.

hcmf// is thrilled to be part of Keychange and has already moved to address the disparity we see through artistic programmes. In 2017, 34% of works presented at the festival were written by women – in 2019, this figure sits at 52%. Works from women help define and frame the festival this year, with Swedish musician Hanna Hartman serving as 2019’s Composer in Residence. The opening night of hcmf// 2019 features the World Premiere of Naomi Pinnock’s new work I am I am, featuring renowned soprano Juliet Fraser, as well as a portrait concert of Ann Cleare – one of Ireland’s leading composers.

hcmf// seeks to not only meet the Keychange pledge, but create a legacy for it, helping create opportunities for women and gender minority artists of the future. This year’s programme includes both established composers and emerging musicians, and features the culmination of a mentorship programme for women in electronic music, delivered in partnership with the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Research In New Music (CeReNeM) and Huddersfield Immersive Sound System (HISS). The five participating composers – Nicole Raymond, Georgia Rodgers, Heloisde Tunstall-Behrens, Lia Su and Sophie Cooper – will all premiere brand new works at this year’s hcmf// shorts.

The festival’s goal is to achieve gender equality on both ends of the spectrum, affecting change in the music industry by championing both internationally acclaimed and early career artists. This year, the festival is running an experimental singing workshop for women and gender minorities, inviting people of all skill levels to participate and grow their interest in music. This series of workshops is ongoing, following on from a DJing workshop last year.

hcmf// is committed to balancing its programming, but also to producing sustainable change throughout the industry. Our approach aims not only to achieve balance in terms of the works commissioned and performed at the festival, but to provide an ongoing programme of activities designed to create opportunities for women and gender minority music-makers, that explores and challenges barriers to their choosing music as a career option.

With aspirations of eliminating issues surrounding gender in music, the future of the festival will feature a combination of iconic composers and emerging new talents, pushing boundaries and promoting positive action within the music industry.