WORDPLAY MEETS: LAURA LEWIS-PAUL
Here at Wordplay we love to celebrate the success of people’s achievements in music, and as a retrospective celebration for this year’s International Women’s Day, we decided to have a chat with one of Bristol’s most inspirational figures in the music scene – Saffron Records founder and Creative Director, Laura Lewis-Paul.
Saffron Records was founded in 2015 in Bristol, with the aim to motivate young women aged 16-25 get their foot in the door of the music industry. Through the use of workshops, a supportive record label and educational opportunities like apprenticeships in music production and sound engineering, Saffron is built with the purpose to support and inspire young women from all walks of life.
Voted by Bristol Post as one of the cities ‘Most Inspirational Women’, Laura has achieved a lot in the short time Saffron Records has been up and running. But it was thanks to Laura’s previous experience in youth work that helped spark the initial idea to launch a music label and education platform.
“My background experience is in youth work and I always wanted to work with young people in music. I used to be part of a creative youth network called Temple Records, and in that time I saw how the model really worked as a way of helping take young people into the next stage of their career.”
“When I was with Temple Records I went on a field trip with some of the girls and I asked the group how they felt about being in a male dominated industry. They responded with the fact that they felt it was really positive for them because they were recognised for being a minority, but as a black woman myself, I knew that in reality that probably wouldn’t be the case. That’s where the seed was planted for the idea of Saffron Records.”
Following the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Be Bold for Change’, Laura shares her experience that made her take a leap to make a bold change.
“You know when you’re in a job you don’t like and you’re working for somebody else and doing a lot of work and not getting recognised for it? That was my situation when I decided to say fuck it, I want to do it for myself. It was a bold change for me to empower myself and then take my experience and empower others. I wanted to help remind people if something doesn’t work, then there’s are always alternative options. I guess that’s what Saffron is all about, offering that alternative in a male dominated industry.”
“Someone once described the music industry to me as ‘pale, male, and stale’ and I thought was hilarious! What Saffron really want to do is to be able to offer something different to that. Our message isn’t to show what people are doing wrong, it’s to celebrate and empower people to tackle things in a positive way.”
Since its 2015 launch, Saffron Records have taken leaps and bounds in its development, including the vast selection of artists working alongside them, including China Bowls and Eva Lazarus and the recent announcement of their partnership with PRS (Performing Rights Society).
“We’ve been doing a lot on the educational side of things by offering opportunities for young women to learn about the label and the development of sound. This year we’ve also got three releases coming out. One with neo-soul, jazz singer China Bowls and another with Bristol based band Rozelle. We’ve got another spot that we want to fill too, but watch this space with that one.”
Looking back at Saffron Records achievements, Laura talks through what’s been the biggest moment for Saffron Records.
“I would say our biggest achievement so far was going to Palestine last year with the charity Amos Trust. We did a lot of workshops in women’s refugee camps and it was great to see what music can do in terms of healing and teaching young people.”
“The one thing I really got out of the experience was a story from a guy who had a farm out there and how Israeli soldiers would shoot his water tanks so he couldn’t get any water on a daily basis. I came away from the story realising we think we have a hard life, but this guy is still giving and not retaliating with any sort of violence. That story had an impact on us all.”
Looking forward at the future for women in the music industry, Laura offers up what she believes music fans can do to improve representation of women and equality in the music industry.
“One thing for me in particular is when people talk about artists like Lady Leshurr or Bellatrix and they refer to them as ‘female MCs’ or ‘female beatboxers’. Rule number one – stop doing that.”
“Aside from that, it’s massively about collaboration, support and community. I think sometimes some women don’t always support each other and that’s a shame. There shouldn’t be competition, but I think that has partly been created from my first point, because if someone says ‘Oh, we’ve already got one female MC on the bill’, then chances are they won’t book anymore.”
“I also think guys need to be involved in the conversation and stand up and speak out more for things they know is not right. When someone is being sexist or exploiting someone, guys need to stand up and speak out.”
Keep your eyes peeled for what’s on offer at Saffron Records and future workshops for women aged 16-25, by checking out their website and Facebook page.
By Abi Lewis