Meet Girl Gang, the movement taking over the North

‘The idea of a girl gang is that anyone can become it’

Girl Gang is an online movement founded in Sheffield which has expanded to Manchester. The group rages against the notion of women seeing each other as competition and instead works to bring talented women together. Put simply, Girl Gang is about girls building up girls and the group offers women a platform to showcase their talents and celebrate other women.

Megan Marie Griffith is the co-producer of Girl Gang Sheffield and executive producer of Girl Gang Manchester. Talking to Babe, Megan said: “Girl Gang Manchester is a really new thing, we started in January so we’ve been running six, seven months. We’re the sister gang to Girl Gang Sheffield which has been running for eighteen months.”

Girl Gang Sheffield was founded when Megan’s best friend Ellie, who runs a cinema company that does family screenings for kids called Handmade Cinema, went for a coffee with a friend of a friend, Vanessa Longley, who is a DJ and clothing designer. They were meeting up initially because Vanessa was launching a Mean Girls themed clothing collection and she wanted Ellie to do a screening for it.

They ended up sitting and talking for five hours about how they felt as young women with creative businesses and how they found it difficult to shout about what they were doing and reach out to other people, and how they always felt in the creative community that, especially amongst women, there was always this edge of competition. Or something within themselves that they felt they couldn’t properly promote themselves.

“They felt like – oh well, could I do this if somebody is already doing it. So instead of one event they decided they were going to start Girl Gang as a movement, an event series, and it kind of exists in two forms. One as an event series, so we do immersive film screenings, workshops, club nights, exhibitions, online campaigns and then in the other form it’s kind of like an online space where we share interest articles and champion local women doing amazing things. It’s our platform for people to celebrate one another and to promote themselves.”

Girl Gang Sheffield has now hosted three immersive screenings as well as a couple of co-produced events and curated spaces, festivals and a series of club nights. As one of the co-producers in a core team of five, Megan decided to bring the group to Manchester.

“I started off by launching ourselves with a ten point manifesto and it includes stuff like ‘someone else’s successes are not your failures’ to create a supportive and creative community to celebrate the achievements of other, it’s very much girl inspired. So both groups launched with that and then, because I’ve been working in the art scene in Manchester for about five years now and so I know a lot of amazing and talented women, so I had a meeting which was like 50 people strong of just my own immediate network. I talked about how we were going to run. As soon as we launched, we shared the group online and about 40-odd people who I’d never met before got in touch with me asking how they could get involved and since the team just grew and grew.

Credit: Girl Gang Manchester

“The idea of girl gang is that anybody can become it. The two things we’ve done so far have been the immersive screening of Mean Girls and the Wonder Woman festival, which included a club night, a decorated stage, party bags with mix CDs in, workshops on anything from assertiveness, body positivity to cake decorating. There were pop-up performances, a quiz, an academic film introduction and the screening itself. So that was our first big extravaganza. And then we’ve also run an online campaign called See My Selfie, where you could sign up to receive daily provocations for a different selfie, which the idea behind it was that it was a reflective self portraiture and it’s about how you can relate to yourself and your own image, and how we portray ourselves online. Now that’s going to be an exhibition and a coffee table book, and somebody’s making a film about the process as well. So it’s like, Sophie who’s making the film, she’s promoting and getting people involved for that, she is now being Girl Gang, she’s using all the social media and speaking through that platform. Anybody can become it.”

The events are promoted as being for anyone who wants to have fun and celebrate the achievements of women. Megan adds: “I think a lot of arts events can be brilliant but a little with a vibe of ‘too cool for school’ and it either feels very much like you have to belong to the art world or you have to be a bit trendy to belong where as at our events anybody from any walk of like should be able to come and feel embraced. We don’t want anybody to look at it and think it’s not for them. We were really proud of our first event that there was a massive range of ages, sexuality, race and even had quite a gender split. It’s very much about stating there’s not one way to be a feminist, you don’t have to fit in a box. It’s about being true to yourself and about recognising the societal pressures around you, opening your eyes to that a little bit more and making sure you question them but ultimately you can do what you want.

“How often do you as a woman go to, say, a day festival with bands playing, and there’ll be about six bands on and it’ll be all men in every single band but you would never question whether you’re allowed to go, you’re just used to that. Girl Gang is about putting women at the front and celebrating women, and men can celebrate and champion women as well. Moving forward, when we have bands play at our events, we do have bands that include men as well, it’s just making sure that split is in favour of women.”

The meetings are described by Megan as a sharing of ideas in a positive, nurturing space where everybody is listened to and appreciated. She believes it’s important that the Girl Gang events are about creating an atmosphere: “I think some parts of adult life are very much ‘this is horrible but it’s up to you to push through it and get yourself’ where as we’re kind of the opposite mentality. We’re about making an atmosphere where it can be silly and non-threatening and doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst being high quality and enables you to try things you wouldn’t normally do and push yourself beyond.

“If somebody was to approach me and say for example, I’m a female comedian and I want to put on a girl gang comedy night, I’d make sure they have the experience and connections to do it and then we’d be able to support them to do that and help them with promoting it and give them that platform. As long as it runs in line with our principles and people are prepared to do the legwork themselves then anybody can come in and out.

“Girl Gang is very much about the collaboration between women and skill sharing, learning from one another and celebrating one another’s achievements. It’s about surrounding yourself with people you admire and seeing them as something to spur you on and look up to as opposed to seeing other people as competition. It’s a good way for women to network and meet other people. There are people in the group, like Allanah, who worked in charity but has now left her job and set up her own business called Workshops for Women and it’s taken on from what she did for the Girl Gang events. We’ve also had people who are students or recent graduates get involved and now has been exposed to this network of women and audience that they never would have had before.”

Join the Girl Gang here.