November has been the month of music at Glasgow Women’s Library, with the arrival of the eagerly anticipated exhibition Music and Liberation 1970 – 1989. The exhibition contains material from the Women’s Liberation Music Archive ranging from posters, gig tickets, t-shirts, cassettes, LPs, badges, fanzines and a typewriter! Deciding which item to feature as Archive Item of the Month was extremely difficult with all these fantastic objects within my reach.
These rhythm clogs belonged to Ros Davies, who was a member of three bands that feature in the exhibition: York Street Band, Hi Jinx and Ginger and Spice. Ros was (and still is) a brass musician playing the trombone, saxophone and clogs!
You might have seen Ros modelling her clogs on the flyer for the Music and Liberation exhibition. On the surface, they look like a pair of ordinary shoes that have been well worn. However, these shoes are hiding a secret. Flip the clogs over to reveal a silver horseshoe attached to the heel and a line of worn nails around the sole. If the musicians were performing outside, these clogs could be turned into a musical instrument, using the pavement as a backing track.
The York Street Band were keen to bring communities together, on the streets, through the power of music. They performed regularly on the streets of York and were a popular act at feminist gatherings across the country. You can listen to the York Street Band at the Women’s Liberation Music Archive or by coming down to visit the exhibition. You can hear Ros dancing away on her clogs in the background of songs including ‘Queen of the Gypsies.’ Movement was a key part of their performances, as can be seen in the above photograph. I found myself taping my foot, listening to the band, whilst researching this post!
In 1980, Ros joined Hi Jinx that had a remarkably different sound to York Street Band that was inspired by calypso and rhythms used in African music. Ros played the trombone and also turned her hand to song writing. ‘Overkill’ is a haunting description of the experiences of women in prison and worth a listen to. Hi Jinx were a popular band on the London music scene and played many gigs during their four years together.
Ros continued her trombone playing in her next band, Ginger and Spice. Ginger and Spice had a different approach to making music as explained by Ros:
‘It wasn’t particularly a feminist band. We were all women and that much was deliberate… I think the aspiration was a bit more in that direction, towards recording and being more commercial, in a way. We were not part of the feminist movement apart from saying “its OK to be in a women’s band, in fact it’s a good thing, lets just do it!”’
The story of the clogs shows the wide variety of women musicians there were active during the time of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Some bands wanted to spread important political messages whilst others just wanted to have some fun. The common goal that unites them is that they all wanted to show that women could make music, regardless of their background.
To visit the clogs in person, pop down to see the Music and Liberation exhibition at the Library. The exhibition is open Monday – Friday 09.30 – 16.30 until Friday 23rd November.