In Conversation with Fruit n’ Juice

Sheffield has a new Girl’s Club on the scene. Enter Fruit n’ Juice, ready to shake your body and shake up Sheffield’s macho clubbing culture. Founders Maddie & Mim have created the perfect night out, a welcome alternative to a wealth of club nights that leave women and the LGBTQ+ community feeling exhausted.

Frustrated by the lack of female DJs on nights out, the pair took it upon themselves to change this. “We really just wanted to put on the nights we wanted to go to… somewhere we can express ourselves”.

And once they’d started, the depth of the industry’s male-orientated nature became increasingly apparent – “it’s not just that there are no women DJs, it’s also the whole behind the scenes, visuals, audio”. The disparity between men and women producing music and club nights is indeed plain as day. In 2016, only 9% of EDM (electronic dance music) was produced by female DJs. Yes, this may come partly as a result of art mirroring it’s audience – EDM fans are predominantly white men.

But this only indicates a larger problem with clubbing culture – both the music and audience combine to create a tailor-made masculine space.

This not only leaves women and the LGBTQ+ community feeling intimidated behind the decks, but also on the dancefloor. “Clubs can often make you feel powerless”, affirms Mim. “They’re really dark, and then they’re really packed, and then there’s really intense music, and then everyone’s doing shit”.

By “shit”, Mim is referring to the normality that is sexual assault in clubs. “When you’re routinely sexually assaulted in a club, it becomes normal, and then that has an effect on your normal life. It’s that really intense psychological thing of making you feel like you’re never safe. In clubs, if something was to happen, you know that the bouncers aren’t going to do anything. And then you stop registering that it’s even happening. It completely feeds into the desensitisation of women to being assaulted.”

Maddie and Mim are ready to take this on. “We’re going to have trusted people in badges, people you can talk to if you have a problem. Also, lighting – a big thing that allows sexual harassment to happen is the fact that it’s dark. So our nights are always quite well lit. We have the bouncers prepped, gender neutral toilets and we want to implement a separate room, so if you’re having an issue you can have a quiet space to go.”

Tackling such an ingrained part of clubbing culture is no mean feat, and the pair know this – “we’re trying to create this safe space, but in reality we can’t guarantee the safety of the people who come. And that’s quite a scary realisation. We’re trying our hardest, but the horrible thing is that this is a learning experience.”

If anyone is to take such a challenge on, however, Maddie and Mim are exactly the team to do it. Their empowering bond allows them to shrug off any obstacles that come their way, obviously aided by a bit of Kylie’s ‘I believe in you’ – “We have meetings where we just bounce off each other and we feel like we can do anything. That spurs us on. And we’re properly enjoying that. I feel like we’re invincible.”

Reclaiming confidence is definitely a key aim of Fruit n’ Juice. Even the collective’s name is a reference to embracing a lost power– Mim took inspiration from a game played in her primary school, in which a group of outnumbered girls put boys in their place. “We’d sing ‘fruit n’ juice, fruit n’ juice, girls always win. Fruit n’ juice, fruit n’ juice, boys always lose’. And it was a quiz – I’d ask the boys the length of the UK in cm, and then I’d ask the girls the colour of the sky. And we’d always win. We were very sassy – I wanted that back.”

Maddie and Mim want that for all women. The pair largely put the absence of female DJs down to a lack of confidence to join the industry – “It’s so unwelcoming. Never underestimate the power of something cool being intimidating. Because that’s always going to be harder for marginalised people to get involved with. Music, in general, is such a boy’s club. It used to be the indie guitar, all boys were playing the indie guitar. Now its DJing.”

To tackle this, Fruit n’ Juice have started holding DJing workshops, led by female DJs and held in a space void of men. “The feedback was great – people said they felt really comfortable, and that was down to no fear of men or judgement. With DJing there’s normally a very macho and patronising atmosphere, and that can be intimidating. Not that it’s always deliberate. Even the nicest guys can change an atmosphere, because as women we’re taught to behave differently when a guy is asserting his opinion.”

Maddie and Mim hope the success of their workshops will help create a new era of women behind the decks. Fruit n’ Juice’s nights have so far gone down a treat, with fantastic DJs playing an eclectic mix – R&B, afro-beat, hip-hop. “It’s just a laugh! It’s girls doing whatever they want, people dancing with each other, not just the people they came with. It’s just really nice.”

Fruit n’ Juice are bringing a party that Sheffield has needed for a long time. To get involved with their workshops or really let loose at one of their nights, visit the Fruit n’ Juice Facebook page, and search upcoming events.

Alex Kinch

Katy Carlisle