After a year of hard work creating the concept and planning the event, Fem Fest took the stage at the University of Redlands. The March 31 feminist art and music festival featured eight bands, student art showcases and vendors such as Petite Mademoiselle, a local woman-operated business that sells vintage clothes.
Senior Julie Donohue, the founder and planner of Fem Fest, got the idea after being a peer advisor for Bill Maury-Holmes’ First Year Seminar, “Punk Rock DIY.”
“When I learned about feminist punk my freshman year I was so in awe of the raw girl power of it all and how everything was focused on empowerment,” Donohue said. “I kind of wanted to bring this to campus because I feel like different organizations will have events that are along those lines but I was tired of there being like a Johnston event I couldn’t go to or a CDI event that wasn’t advertised well enough, so I wanted to bring different organizations from campus together to have an event focused on female empowerment.”
In order to produce the event, Donohue went to ASUR to request money to put on the event. After meeting with ASUR and getting her request approved, Donohue planned the entire event with a committee. A big part of that planning was coordinating the eight bands and performers contracted to entertain and empower the community during the festival.
Donohue said that working with the bands was intimidating, however it was mostly an exciting experience. For most bands, she contacted their manager online. However, while at a concert she walked up to Allison Wolfe of the “Ex Stains” and asked her to perform at the event.
“Not only was it so cool because I was meeting my idol but she was also really interested in coming to the event and so that kind of inspired the whole thing,” Donohue said.
In order to plan the event, Donohue had to work with different parts of the school such as ASUR, Event Services and media services.
“Working with the school was hard, getting meetings with ASUR was not the easiest thing and my original intention with the event was not to have it at the very end of the semester,” Donohue said.
Donohue originally wanted to have the event in the fall, so that she wouldn’t be working on a capstone and planning the festival at the same time. However, due to a lack of communication and back and forth between Donohue and ASUR, she was unable to present the proposal on time.
“When I first started planning the event, I was asking for a lot of help from various people and groups, which was necessary, but when I first presented my ideas to the president, I felt a little insecure,” Donohue said. “I had never done something so big and something like Fem Fest hadn’t happened on campus, something completely student organized. So I think that it may have seemed that my team and I didn’t know what we were talking about or didn’t know what we were doing because we felt like we had to ask so many different groups questions, like Social Affairs, Event Services, Greek Life, etc., when in reality we had a very clear and thought-out plan of what the event was going to be”
Donohue said her team had the event planned out by August of 2017 they just didn’t know details of how to get things done, such as how to reserve a large space on campus, acquiring the funds and approved community service.
“It was really hard to find answers to those simple questions, and we weren’t able to give a proposal until January of this year because of lack of response to my emails and ASUR changing the meeting times,” Donohue said. “It was really difficult because there wasn’t much organization on their part and when my ideas were relayed to ASUR without me being there, at first, it seemed to them like there wasn’t enough organization on my part, when in reality, my team had been meeting since April of 2017 and had things planned last semester.”
Since she did not get budget approval when she expected, she was not able to get all of the bands she originally planned for her setlist. However, Donohue said she is still pleased with the bands that were able to perform.
“After we did get approval I was really excited to start working on it because i was like ‘we got the money, now we can go from there,” Donohue said. “But it was really difficult to get people to respond to my emails so it kind of ended up in me planning the entire event by myself while delegating small tasks. I had to do 36 contracts in two weeks when I should have had a month and a half but my email didn’t get responded to until a month after I sent it.
Overall, Donohue was able to successfully plan the event, which was attended by students and faculty of the university.
“They were helpful when I found the right people to be helpful,” Donohue said. “But it was really frustrating that I had so much work to do in those two weeks just because of a missed connection via email. So it was really hard to get everything in on time, but I ended up doing it.”
Donohue said that even though it was incredibly hard for her to plan the event and at times she felt like she was going to break down and cancel the whole festival, the idea behind the festival and women empowering women was important to her.
Alex Reis, Director of Student Engagement acknowledged how much time and energy Donohue put into the event, which he believes was successful, although he expressed disappointment towards her comments.
“It is quite unfortunate to hear, in such a public setting, of Julie’s frustrations with ASUR as ASUR fully believes in the mission of FemFest and made the event possible by supporting her $12,000 funding request,” Reis said. “Coupled with this contribution were several agreed upon guidelines to ensure the event would succeed. Many of these guidelines were not fully adhered to, which led to many of the frustrations Julie explains. Executing a large scale event requires significant time, patience, and the ability to maneuver the many university processes; it is my hope Julie was able to learn and grow throughout her time planning and executing FemFest.”
Donohue expressed pride in the event, describing the concert as something that displayed all of the work that has been done to bring it to fruition, giving thanks to all of the volunteers, organizations and bands that helped put on the event.
“The bands that played showcased the power and diversity of women in music, and the people that came seemed to really enjoy it. It was amazing for me to see women like Allison Wolfe and Alice Bag, who I’ve admired for years, performing at an event that I put together. It was equally amazing to see the student bands play with the same power. Daria Pikulina of Cosmic Cactus, who was my advisee this year, singing ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ by the X-Ray Spex, a song we teach in class, made me cry.”
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Miracle Cariaga.