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How I Met My Peer Hero: A ‘How to Hype’ Guide for Women in the Music Industry

In this blog, created in celebration of Women’s History Month, musicians Beth and Rosie discuss the value of their own friendship, and how women can continue to act as “Peer Heros” to each other.

Published: 23 March 2021 | 3:06 PM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:32 PM

(You can also watch Beth and Rosie’s video version of this blog on Rosie Bergonzi’s Youtube channel).

This is Beth, I’ve known her since 2015 when we were studying percussion at music college together. She’s a real inspiration to me, brilliant at the Freelance Hustle by making genuine connections.

Photograph of Beth Higham-Edwards, taken from below in a blue light, she is raising percussive sticks to play an instrument.

She introduced me to workshop leading and is such a dynamic performer, with friendly, joyful energy. She stands up for what is right, making waves in the world of gender equality, and dances through a combination of poses and points.

This is Rosie. She is a super-star percussionist, workshop facilitator, improviser, and handpan extraordinaire!

Rosie plays a huge role in my life – I can tell her about things that are going well in my work, and the things that are not going so well, and never feel judged. She’s not afraid of inventing new ideas and is a wonderful collaborator – from coming up with musical projects to helping decide what to buy from Pret for lunch.

Two female percussionists? How can you both be friends?! Dont you just fight over the work?

Female friendship is given a bad rep. Think of Mean Girls, or the idea that a woman should hate her partner’s ex, or Jen and Angelina! In the entertainment industry, this is even more prevalent – one woman on a comedy bill, one on a panel, one in a band.

So you might see why people assume we are clambering over one coveted role whilst hastily pulling the ladder up after us. No one is asking two male percussionists how they stay mates while working in the same field…!

So how do we maintain a positive friendship when there is so much overlap in our careers? We are each other's PEER HEROES!

What is a Peer Hero?

A Peer Hero is someone in the industry that you know. It’s your mate who turns up to soundcheck and gives you tips from the front, or the one that calls you before an audition and reminds you that you’re great, it’s your key hype-woman!

So often heroes are far removed from our lives – like Michelle Obama or Beyonce. But I can’t call them! A Peer Hero is someone at a similar stage of life as you, going through the same challenges and pitfalls.

Some Peer Heroes are friends, but not all friends are Peer Heroes. My pal who is an accountant can’t help me decipher what to wear for a ‘trendy black’ dress code or write a pithy but polite response to someone offering that gig which “has a tight budget but will be great for exposure…”

Examples of Peer Hero-ness:

  • Asking the first question a mate’s Q +A
  • Listening to your friend’s demo and giving honest feedback
  • Harry and Cedric grabbing the tri-wizard cup together
  • Bigging them up when they receive a mean online comment
  • Putting their name forward for work you think they’d be good at
  • Ginny Lemon giving Sister Sister two more episodes on Drag Race UK

Female friendship has been our saviour! When things were tough at music college, we listened to each other, and shared experiences. We started putting two and two together, spoke to other female students in the department, and identified common threads.

In isolation negative incidents could be viewed as our own fault, our own personal failings, but by putting the story together we saw the bigger picture – a huge bias exists which is not favouring women. Whilst we are waiting for institutions to catch up, the least we can do is support each other!

Why do we need a Peer Hero?

Our working environments can often be challenging, made up of 100s of small interactions, some of which might be negative or make us question our own worth as musicians, or even as people. It can be easy to internalise comments, to believe them and think that they are deserved.

When we ask other women if they have experienced sexism at work, their snap response is often “No!”, followed by “Well, there was this one time when…” and a whole list of experiences emerge. We then see it dawn on their face how their immediate response of “No!” wasn’t quite so accurate. We are not always our own best judges, and the lens we see ourselves through is sometimes warped.

This is where your Peer Hero comes in. A Level 10 Peer Hero listens, commiserates, and gets angry on your behalf. They offer an outside perspective, a barometer on what is acceptable and what is shocking. They validate the feelings we have been told to suppress.

This prompts change. We enable each other to walk confidently into work, to demand higher standards, and know our self worth.

How to be a level 10 Peer Hero

  • Listen, laugh, love!
  • From business to bants – help write that email but pepper in a few joke suggestions
  • Bring snacks
  • It’s not just your pals – you can even Peer Hero someone the first time you meet. Bring girls-bathroom-at-a-club energy to every gig you do.

Who is your Peer Hero?

Look around! Send them a text! Have a zoom coffee! Together we can lift each other up and have fun doing it. Activism doesn’t have to be dry, you’re doing it just by having a natter. By being a Peer Hero you are setting another woman up for a good day at work. #PeerHero

Visit the personal websites of Rosie Bergonzi and Beth Higham-Edwards to find out more about both of them and their work. The photographs above were taken by Kyle Mcgurk (Beth's photo) and Yulia Hauer (Rosie's photo)

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