Meet Vanhessa, co-founder of the award-winning Girl Gang Sheffield collective and all round professional babe.
It seems like things have taken off! How did you get GG started? Did you get a great response from the off?
Girl Gang originally started as a conversation between myself and Ellie (owner of Handmade Cinema), when I had approached her about doing a screening of Mean Girls to coincide with the launch of my last clothing collection. However it quickly transpired between us that we were both struggling with very similar issues, which was a difficulty in connecting with other women in our city.
Despite our roles in the creative industry, our friendship groups and social scenes, we still found ourselves to be quite isolated in the community; despite Sheffield being a fantastic little city, a mix of fear from stepping on other people’s toes and struggling with that “outsider feeling” often prevented us from pursuing endeavours and feeling supported.
And so we decided there and then, that we wanted to do something to change that, to contribute positively to our city and community, by breaking down those barriers that we put up and to celebrate the work that others are doing. And that’s where Girl Gang Sheffield was born, in a coffee shop on a sunny Monday afternoon.
Before we announced an event, I approached a group of women who were highly involved in the Sheffield scene to get their opinions on our new project, with something like this, I think it’s important to respect all the work that our sisters have put in before us, we didn’t want to turn up all guns blazing claiming we were doing something new and disrespecting the path that people had paved ahead of us, it was more a conscious decision to celebrate the sisterhood, and thankfully, they were completely brilliant about it all.
Thankfully, we’ve had an incredible response from people from the start, and it’s only grown since.
It’s nice to see that you have a full calendar of events as well as a clear manifesto and online following. Is getting together, socialising and doing stuff face to face a big part of GG?
Thank you! Our manifesto is really integral to Girl Gang, it was a way to clearly state our intentions and promote our collective in a way that was interesting and easy to share. It’s a huge homage to the Riot Grrrl era and celebrates the DIY manifestos that came out from that time. Whilst having a large online presence is incredibly fun: it’s definitely been an amazing way to connect with people all over the country, share work, promote positivity and more. Nothing compares to socialising and meeting face-to-face, it’s something we all wholeheartedly support at Girl Gang. We don’t think it’s an easy thing to do at all, we’re very aware of the pressure and anxiety that social situations can cause for others , however, we really try to lead by example. We believe that giving people the opportunity to connect in supportive social situations in real life will ultimately create a stronger community; a place where creative talents will flourish, friendships will grow, and fun times will always be had.
Tell us a bit about the how the Riot Grrrl scene has inspired GG?
We’re huge riot grrrls at heart. As mentioned before, the riot grrrl movement hugely inspired our reasons for starting Girl Gang Sheffield – the idea of safe spaces to share art/music and creating social scenes that encourage female voices to be empowered directly links to the zines and music that we were listening to growing up. Kathleen Hanna is definitely an idol to many of us, this idea of Girls To The Front wasn’t revolutionary, women have been fighting for equality for years previous, however, it came from a scene that was dominated by male voices and continues to this day, and it something we’re still fighting for: The riot grrrl scene remains as important now as it was back then. Hopefully, Girl Gang Sheffield is representing a new wave of riot grrrls who want to make a positive changes in society!
GG has been getting Sheffield a mention across the media (YEAH!). Was supporting the city and its creative industries always part of the plan?
Absolutely! We’re a gang of creatives who love the city we live in, so showing some love and support was always our goal. We think it’s really important to highlight the need for a creative arts sector in every city. We truly believe that everyone has the capacity to be creative, whether it’s painting a huge piece of art to humming a tune, creativity is something that binds us as humans, and should be celebrated more. We hope to inspire others to discover their inner talents, which is why workshops and creative opportunities are so integral to our events!
You’re branching out! How’s that going? It must feel great to have inspired a sister group in Manchester?
It’s very nerve-wracking, but Megan (who is running Girl Gang Manchester) is doing an amazing job! The launch night coincided with the Wonder Woman festival, and ended up being so popular that it was extended to two nights, which was a really incredible feat for the Manchester gang. We couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve achieved so far, and what they’re planning next! There’s already talks of another huge screening event, plus they’ve just launched a selfie project called #seemyselfie in collaboration with Girl Gang Sheffield, which explores our obsession with selifes, how we view ourselves and those around us.
Whats the best way to stay involved with all your future plans?
We’re all over your social media! Haha.
You can find us on facebook: facebook.com/girlgangsheffield
On twitter: @GIRLGANGSHEFF
Or on Instagram: @girlgangsheffield
We’re also launching our website at the end of the month too!
Outside of the digital world, we also throw monthly parties at Gatsby Sheffield (second Saturday of the month) as well as weekly meet-ups. We absolutely love meeting new people, so come to our events, be our BFFs and prepare yourself for a world filled with glitter!