OUT OF EARSHOT: INTERVIEW #1 – SARAH HARRIS

As part of the media coverage for Out of Earshot’s inaugural festival on the weekend of August 23-25, 2018, not your boys club will be showcasing some of the truly wonderful people organizing, playing, and performing at the festival in the weeks leading up to it.

For the first interview in this series, I spoke with Sarah Harris (she/her), an Out of Earshot organizer whose role focuses on tech/sound and general festival coordination. She is from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and is currently a student at Memorial University studying Folklore and English.

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Sarah Harris – Photo by Lawyna Vawyna

As one of the organizers of Out of Earshot, can you first first tell me a little bit about the origins of the festival and specifically what motivated it’s formation?

From my perspective, Out of Earshot contributes to and was formed out of a wave of community-based DIY initiatives in St. John’s such as Band-Off, Girls Rock NL, St. John’s Womxn in Music, the RPM challenge, Fresh Riot, and more. Many of these initiatives were formed in response to a lack of representation in the local scene and a lack of resources and spaces available to womxn, queer, trans, and marginalized people in music and the arts. As a result of these initiatives, the past 2-3 years saw the proliferation of local bands led by and fronted by womxn, queer, trans, and marginalized people. Out of Earshot is about bringing folx and bands from other cities into this community that we’ve created so that we can showcase local bands alongside like-minded touring bands, take in new music, and learn from each others’ experiences. For touring bands, Newfoundland is certainly not an ideal tour-stop (especially when you’re booking a DIY tour) so a festival like this is really important to connect St. John’s to the larger Canadian DIY scene.

How did you get involved, and what is your involvement?

As I recall, festival organizer Jess Barry invited a whole bunch of folx from the music community to get together and chat about a prospective new summer festival. I was super stoked on it and asked to be involved! Eventually the large group dwindled and became the current organizing committee. My role for the festival itself will focus primarily on tech/sound engineering and gear coordination. In the time leading up to the festival we’ve met in our small group to discuss programming, fundraisers, code-of-conduct, and general organizational stuff. We are always learning from each other, our community, and other festivals in Canada!

Can you tell me a little bit about the ways in which Out of Earshot practices inclusivity and upholds their code of conduct?

Out of Earshot operates with both a mandate and a code of conduct in mind. Our mandate guides our programming decisions, the spaces in which we choose to hold our events, and the kind of role we aim to play in the community. We mandate to program our festival and events with diversity in mind. That means prioritizing spaces for women, non-binary-trans, and queer folx on our lineup and at our events.

Throughout the year, organizers have reached out to other community organizations to encourage broader participation in our events. In order to reach folx that may feel barriers with participating in the music scene, we try to offer a variety of fundraising events such as Clothing Swaps, Pop-up Food Stands, and Karaoke. In the interest of keeping things financially accessible, Out of Earshot offers a PWYC option at events when possible and offer free festival passes to various community organizations.

Our Code of Conduct outlines our safety and inclusion policy for conduct at our events .Out of Earshot events have a no tolerance for abuse, discrimination, or disrespect of any kind. Many of the festival organizers are involved in community work outside of the festival and some have experience and specific training in areas such as naloxone training, applied suicide intervention training, and sexual assault crisis training (peer support/active listening).

We are always learning from other festivals (OXW, Lawnya Vawnya, and Slut Island to name a few) and resources such as Project Soundcheck in order to learn do better in encouraging safer spaces. We also encourage feedback and ask anyone with any questions, concerns, or suggestions to get in touch at outofearshot.fest@gmail.com.

Are there ways in which you practice inclusivity and empower marginalized groups in your community outside of Out of Earshot?

I moved back to St. John’s in 2016 after a year in Halifax. At that time, a lot of awesome womxn run organizations were starting up and I was super eager to get involved. 2016 was the first year for Girls Rock NL, a rock camp for girls and gender non-conforming youth. I joined on as an instrument instructor that summer and have taught at the camp in subsequent years. That same year, Joanna Barker and Kate Lahey started St. John’s Womxn in Music, a community arts organization which is dedicated to prioritizing spaces for women identified, two-spirit and non-binary folk to acquire and share conceptual and technical knowledge about the music industry. Through SWIM I’ve offered workshops on home recording, guitar pedals, and live sound. Through these workshops and sessions I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from so many amazing folx from our community and from away. In 2018 I joined the board of directors of SWIM and co-presented, with Lawnya Vawnya, a workshop on multimedia performance facilitated by Maylee Todd (Toronto). Always down to share knowledge/chat/jam/troubleshoot!

What are the overarching goals and long-term plans for Out of Earshot?

Out of Earshot is an incorporated non-profit organization and we intend to build on the festival and grow each year. At the moment we’re focusing on putting off our inaugural festival to the best our ability. We intend to build a sustainable festival model and develop relationships with other music festivals and labels in Canada and really help connect St. John’s and Atlantic Canada to the larger Canadian music scene.


STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Nikki A Basset

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