This article was originally published in Ducth in ZIZO Magazine.
UK-based actress and musician, Heather Peace, is the brain behind the DIVA Music Festival. It’s the first all-female line-up festival in the UK. At the end of last year she also released her fifth album ‘Hey Mayhem’ whilst raising three children together with her wife, Ellie.
ZIZO talked with her about her career, family and the visibility of women in music.
Why did you think about starting the DIVA Music Festival?
“This idea has been eight years in the making. I had a thought of taking over a holiday park. They do the same at L-Beach in Germany. I had been there and I played a couple of times. The vibe was amazing.
I’m a great believer in lesbian and bisexual women having their own space where they can let their hair down and feel safe. They are going by the dozen: actual places for lesbian and bi women to meet up. Equality has increased and nobody bothers as much if you’re a lesbian couple getting together in a bar. But I still think there’s something about going to a space that’s completely your own.”
“I’m a great believer in lesbian and bisexual women having their own space where they can let their hair down and feel safe.”
What was your vision for this festival?
“I wanted a music festival where female artists could go to with their full band. I imagined there to be about two big headliners and then these other incredible artists who support the rest of the festival. I write for DIVA Magazine, a magazine for lesbian and bi women, and they got on board. I hadn’t thought they would. Later on I found out that there wasn’t an all-female line-up festival in the UK, and not massively in Europe either.
Suddenly there was quite a lot of press interest out of the UK. Probably because of everything that has happened last year regarding women rights, #MeToo for example. That wasn’t the reason I did it but I did feel that women don’t have a platform. I also knew there weren’t less women playing music.”
Besides giving a platform to women in the music industry, what was another important goal for last year’s festival?
“KT Tunstall came to the festival and her manager, Alex, immediately wanted to get involved. He said, as a straight white man walking around that venue, that he had never felt an atmosphere like it. He said it was inclusive and that even he didn’t feel out of place. We want everyone to be safe and welcome. That’s it. And I think we managed to achieve that this year. There were a lot of smiling faces.”
Feminism is equality
What does it mean to you to be a feminist? Or wouldn’t you call yourself a feminist?
“I would absolutely call myself a feminist. It’s mental if you’re a woman and you don’t call yourself a feminist. The true meaning of feminism is equality and why would you not think of yourself as equal? It’s been tarnished over the years through various waves as something beyond that. It even is seen as man-hating. It’s not at all. We need our brothers on board to support us and to push us forward.
The patriarchy has ruled for far too long. The guys that I know, that are feminists, are the most awesome guys you’ll ever meet.
“Why do the boys get to sail around on a ship and be heroes and the girls get to put on a pretty dress?”
I’ve got three girls and I see them now having outside influence. My girl of three and a half was invited to a princess and pirate party. Why do the boys get to sail around on a ship and be heroes and the girls get to put on a pretty dress? I just want to challenge that all the way.”
Made a small difference
How does being a gay woman play a part in your life?
“It has played a massive part, quite accidentally really. It basically started with playing a lesbian woman in Lip Service, all those years ago. I had been an actress for 15 years and I had been very out on the scene. I just didn’t use to give press interviews because I’m actually, believe it or not, a private person. But when I was offered that role, I was very aware that I would have to talk about it. It’s kind of my duty.
It also has had a massive impact on acting roles I’ve been put up for. And without the gay and bi community, without my fan base, I wouldn’t have a music career. I’m certainly not regretful of any of the decisions I’ve made. And hopefully, there is this small difference that I’ve made by being visible.”
“You can have it all really, whilst being queer.”
How do you stay motivated to keep fighting for women’s rights and LGBTIQ+ rights in a world where there can be so much resistance?
“It’s not about feeling motivated. It’s in your core. It’s the thing that you would argue with anybody in a pub. It doesn’t take any extra motivation. It’s just not right for it to be any other way. I don’t need any special thanks because it is just who we are.”
Do you see yourself as a role model?
“I know I am seen as a role model and that used to terrify me in my early thirties. I was a party girl back then. It just doesn’t bother me now because the life I lead is really quiet. But at the age of 19, I would have never thought that I would be married with kids. That was something you absolutely knew you were giving up when you came out. If that’s me being a role model, then yes, I am. You can have it all really, whilst being queer.”
Newspaper and croissant on a Sunday morning
What kind of advice would you give to women who want or have both a career and family?
“I’ve got to be honest. It’s difficult. Having a supportive wife makes it easier but I don’t have any spare time for reading a newspaper and eating a croissant on a Sunday morning. None of that happens. It’s just time management , and being honest with your partner about what you both need. It’s teamwork. I’ve massive respect for single parents because I don’t know how they do it. It’s only because I’ve got such a supportive wife that I’m able to work at all.”
Do your kids inspire you in your music career?
“They do inspire me in my head but then I don’t have any time to write it down. I suppose if I was going to write songs for an album now, they wouldn’t just be simplistic love songs. The ideas I have now are about way more complex subjects. I don’t know if that’s about having kids. I just think it is about getting older. You have a more wise overview on the world and on life.
But of course they are an inspiration. They make me happy. Prior to my kids I would sometimes wake up and feel a bit down. I never wake up like that now. Every day starts off good when you see their faces. They are nothing but a positive influence.”
“Time is so precious. I know exactly what I’m doing with every single hour.”
Your new album is called ‘Hey, Mayhem’. Has this something to do with your busy life?
“It has to do with my actual life. That is my life. It’s a whirlwind. At the moment I’m trying to find time for me. It sounds really silly but I’ve never had a personal fitness trainer. I’ve just always worked out. A few weeks ago I invested a little bit of time in myself and hired a personal trainer.
Time is so precious. I know exactly what I’m doing with every single hour. But then one of my children gets ill and they call you at the nursery to say that you have to take them home. That is my entire schedule for the next two weeks blown out of the water because I don’t know how I’m going to get those eight hours back. That’s how specific I am with what I need to get done. That’s the mayhem of it.”
Did you ever wish you had chosen a different career?
“I don’t think so. My hobby became my job, which not many people can say. The only thing is that, if someone would have given me the option of being a marine biologist studying turtles in the Maldives, I would have said yes. I didn’t know that was an option. Then I met some people who actually did this as their job. They were married and they just lived in the Maldives, went into the water and filmed turtles. I might have done that instead. It was the most beautiful life I’ve ever seen.”