A few weeks back we told you that Gemma Cairney will join us again to host The Nine Muses Festival 2020.

We jumped at the chance to quiz her on her thoughts on the media and creative industries and to ask her why she enjoyed Nine Muses Festival 2019 so much that she was enthusiastic to return.

Check it out below, and why not listen to her nine-track International Women's Day playlist while you read...

What are your favourite things about working in media and creative arts? 

There are too many positives to list, as communication and telling stories really is one of my biggest passions as well as feeling extraordinarily lucky to do it for a living! I think both media and the arts are two of the most powerful things in the world. It’s very cool to see how music can bring people together on a dance floor, how live radio can make so many people giggle at the same time, and how an underground scene can cause a ripple effect of a badass trend.. Like the desirability of the aesthetic associated with 70’s punk for example, or the sparkles and grooves of disco.. we’re still inspired by, all these years  and years later. 

What does International Women’s Day (IWD) mean to you?

Exactly what it says on the tin. A big ole gigantic celebration of what it means to know or to be an international woman. It was Annie Lennox who inspired me to engage in IWD many years ago and I’ve never failed to learn something new or discovered / met an incredible woman on the 8th of March every single year since. 

Why is the topic of advancing women within media and the creative arts close to your heart?

Because it’s been hard to tangibly grasp the sheer power and brilliance of women with the amount of sexism we’ve had to unpick in what’s described as Feminism’s fourth wave. There’s been a lot of ‘in-fighting’ and anger. But my goodness, I would say that where we’re at right now, in modern day, is progress. We need to keep ploughing on with equality. I’m proud to be part of a sisterhood that means so many empowered and empowering women. 

What was your biggest takeaway from 2019’s Nine Muses Festival?

Mostly how inspiring it was to hear honest, business-focused discussion by women, for women. I loved meeting business icon Grace Ladoja who’s mostly known for being Skepta’s manager but it was refreshing to learn about her work and vision beyond that role. Also hearing the story of Eva Fors was incredibly inspiring. 

What do you know about the nine muses of greek mythology?

Any history that encourages imagination, the idea of goddesses and the brilliance of women is my kind of history. 

If you could give women looking to move in media and the creative arts 3 tips to advance their career, what would they be?

  1. Be prepared to grow and be flexible and for your goals to change as you head on your career path.
  2. Stop worrying about what everyone thinks - do what feels right to you.
  3. Things take time and remember that the industry is always changing too, so innovate in the space. 

What are the things that you think media companies and businesses can do to make a difference? 

All companies need to make sure they have diversity at the top. A culturally diverse (that includes class) and all-gender-representation needs to be at the top of the food chain. Diversity in its true essence reflects the real world and a real market that is looking for inclusivity. 

What are you most looking forward to about Nine Muses Festival 2020?

I’m pumped to be back in Sweden, a progressive country when it comes to sustainability and gender politics! I had such fun last time and being there really makes me feel like an international woman. I know it’s fickle, but I have to admit - I’m already thinking about my outfit! 

Did you have a mentor or coach? Or do you mentor or coach anyone?

I’ve been lucky enough to meet many mentors along the way, there are some truly generous and wise women out there that consistently inspire me. Jude Kelly, creative director of Women Of The World Festival is one of them, as is my radio big sister the broadcasting genie Lauren Laverne. There’s also stylist, creative director and business woman Cynthia Lawrence-John who I assisted when I was in my early twenties and became a life-long friend and mentor. I hope that I’m considered a mentor to some, I have offered my mentorship to Michelle Tiwo, an incredible actor / artist I worked with over the summer and I’m excited about how much Michelle has to offer! So I hope I can be of help, as I know it’s difficult to navigate the creative sectors if you’re considered ‘alternative’ or not easy to categorise within traditional structures. 

When have you felt the most inspired and empowered within your career?

When I started writing and learning more about the literary world. Suddenly the power of books and words and the infinite number of them inspired me more than I’d imagined. I never knew I could write a book, but as soon as I did, I started to feel so excited that I’d found a way to continue to communicate still but also, in the bubble of solitude.