With the series Applause, Please, The Globe and Mail recognizes the efforts of dedicated citizens and those behind the scenes who make a difference in arts and cultural programs and institutions.
In 2017, a Colorado jury ruled in favour of Taylor Swift in a trial involving a radio disc jockey who had allegedly groped the star singer during a backstage meet-and-greet four years earlier. Serving as a metaphor for the treatment of women in the music business in general, the civil case and Swift's win was one more #MeToo triumph for those keeping score in the year the Merriam-Webster dictionary chose "feminism" as its most significant word.
One of the ones keeping score is Candace Shaw, a Toronto-based music-biz dynamo who runs the advocacy and education organization Canadian Women Working in Music (CWWIM). One of its projects is the Festival Report Card, an annual tallying that gives grades based on the gender balance of Canadian music festivals. It is Shaw's goal to have festivals book 50-per-cent female solo artists or women-fronted bands in 2018. The report cards from 2016 and 2017 chart the progress.
"It was gratifying to see festivals with an 'A' grade sharing it with pride on their social-media platforms," says Shaw, a long-time music booker herself.
Of the 89 festivals graded, 39 received the highest grade, meaning that nearly half of the festival's acts were "fronted by women-identifying people," according to the criteria. After the results were published online, more than one festival organizer contacted CWWIM requesting a correction that would boost its grade. "It was nice to see that they care enough to do some correcting," Shaw told The Globe and Mail.
Canadian Women Working in Music came together in 2014 at the annual Folk Music Ontario conference. Shaw posted a note on Facebook asking if any women attending the conference wanted to gather and commiserate over a beer. Expecting a handful of people to express interest, Shaw was pleased and surprised when more than 50 showed up. With a goal to agitate for a better life in the music business for women, the CWWIM was born.
Asked about the year of raised awareness when it comes to sexual transgressions against women in Hollywood and elsewhere, Shaw says that while the developments are just the "tip of the iceberg," the passion for the issue and the appetite for discussion is beyond encouraging.
"There's a lot of joy, just in terms of seeing things happen and in learning and in listening and in supporting other women and feeling supported by them, and feeling male allies and non-binary allies working together on this," Shaw says. "There's also a lot of anger, of course. It's been withheld for so long."
Know of an unsung arts and culture hero who deserves wider acclaim? Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.