Breaking onto the scene at Peckham's Tola, Medusa is a brand-new club-night-slash-fundraiser celebrating all that is "grrrlll power" to coincide with International Women's Day. With a jam-packed roster of DJs including the likes of Snoochie Shy, Martha and Dark Stepper, Medusa invites you onto the dancefloor to raise money for two vital charities: Rape Crisis and Refuge. We spoke to the mind behind it all - Alice Briselden-Waters - to find out more.
Can you give us a little introduction to Medusa? What’s the ethos of the night, why you chose the name…
Medusa is a club night celebrating women happening the day after International Women’s Day; the 9th of March at Tola in Peckham. It is female focused, all proceeds go to women’s charities and the aim is to help provide a club space free from harassment of any kind.
It was quite a serendipitous journey to the name. I knew I liked the idea of using the name of a woman from Greek mythology as a symbol of female strength. Independent of that, I asked my friend what came to mind when he thought of female empowerment and he said Medusa so here we are. The name has become even more important in my discovery that in some versions of the myth Medusa is raped by Poseidon so the name has a gained a destigmatising meaning in regards to highlighting sexual harassment and violence in the club environment. I’ve heard the myth many times but never heard or read a version in which Medusa is raped, so that begs the question of why so many versions felt the need to remove such uncomfortable issues. Rape and domestic violence are uncomfortable issues that we cannot censor from life. What is more uncomfortable for me is that sexual harassment and gender violence continue because there is a stigma around talking about these issues. Forcing recognition of these issues in a club environment is needed in order to tackle these issues. I was concerned that even mentioning the word rape around the ethos of the night would be incompatible with people wanting to have a fun in a club, for some reason the word seems to be more offensive than the endemic that women are experiencing. I don’t want to continue that rhetoric. It should never be the survivor that is stigmatised. The event will be filled with positive vibes whilst fighting for great causes.
As a fundraiser, please could you tell us about the two charities the night will be supporting and the important work which they do?
Rape crisis and Refuge are the two charities I am fundraising for. Rape Crisis provides help for victims of rape and sexual assault, including counselling, access to medical care and advice on reporting to police, all the while being a safe space for women and challenging rape myths. There are many centres spread over the UK so if one is in need of help it is best to go to their website to find the nearest rape crisis centre to you.
Refuge is a charity that provides shelter for women who experience domestic violence. They are community focused, and provide individual advocacy about how women can stay safe whilst going through the legal system. What is great about Refuge is they also provide culturally specific help for women who experience extra barriers to accessing help like translation and immigration issues.
It boils down to these charities being absolutely necessary. It really is a matter of life or death. It is important to state that it’s not just Refuge that is being underfunded. Government changes to welfare mean vulnerable women are no longer allowed to use housing benefit to pay for accommodation in shelters. 53% of funding for all shelters comes from housing benefit. There is underfunding across the board as we have seen recently with SistersUncut protesting at the Baftas.
Especially in the current climate of underfunding and shutting down vital services, how important are nightclubs as spaces for raising awareness, starting conversations etc?
Any space that can raise these issues is important. Clubs are not traditional environments to raise these issues so in that way it makes them a great place for it. We all have those deep meaningful chats in the smoking area so why not make it about activism? There is a flood of information online which is hard to sift through so having these issues raised in a club means they can’t be avoided. Grime has helped engage a lot of young people in politics so I think music and clubs are a great vessel for that. There is a lack of education around gender violence, so if our education system isn’t dealing with it perhaps it falls to popular/sub culture to educate. So using public spaces are a great way to highlight social issues that our government are very good at avoiding. Sharing articles online for good causes is great but it’s limited whereas paying for a ticket for at a charity club night the money goes directly to the cause.
What can we expect from the night itself music-wise? Tell us a bit about the line-up you’ve curated.
It’s female led, obviously. I just let my ears do the talking really. I had seen some of the DJs before, or I listened to their mixes online and really loved them. I want the women to have free reign of what they play and do what they want to. We’ve got Eliza Rose and Hana Walker-Brown who are RnB, hip-hop focused, who will be bringing us girl power infused tracks, think Princess Nokia, Sampa the Great. Surati who is a little different who plays 160bpm iglooghost kind of vibes but also mixes RnB in there. Snoochie Shy and Martha are big involved in Radar Radio who have a grime/dancehall/afrobeats vibe but also mix in artists like Zora Jones and Zuir creating an ambient and urban amalgamation. Snoochie Shy even has a Michelle Obama speech sampled in one of her mixes. We also have the very talented Jetsss, Lady Amz and Darkstepper who are a mixture of grime, RnB, soul and much more. You’ll have to come through to hear all the great music and see all these great DJs.
Where would you like to see Medusa grow next?
I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to have the time and support I have needed in order to engage in activism. I would love to put on more Medusa club nights, as bringing activism in a club space will undoubtedly force it to be a safer space for women and marginalised peoples. I have tremendous respect for Pussy Palace and how intersectional their nights are, and New Scenery who implement and enforce a safe place policy at all of their events. I just want safe spaces to be as common as possible, and I love the idea of doing that through female/female identifying/Non-Binary performer focused nights and fundraising for women’s charities. In terms of growing I am aiming for Medusa to straddle a few art forms. I am putting on a Spoken Word event this year, hopefully later this month so watch this space. It’s called Mythos following the Greek theme. Then I also want to curate an art exhibition and work with fine artists whilst empowering women who have experienced sexual violence. All the events will be under the collective Medusa as the name has become very important to me.
Medusa comes to Peckham's Tola on 9th March. Tickets can be found here.
Keep up with all things Medusa via Facebook.
Rape Crisis Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 and 7-9.30)
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 (24hrs)
For men: survivorsuk.org