Now For ToNIght is an evening of music created to raise money and awareness for women all over the UK who are denied abortion rights, access to healthcare and bodily autonomy, specifically in support of the Alliance for Choice and the Abortion Support Network.
The reason for creating it was simple: if you care, and you have the resources to do so, you really must do something. There's no excuse.
I grew up in the suburbs of London but was lucky enough to continue my studies across the pond at Trinity College Dublin. I remember in one of our first lectures - a very lofty "European Thought" class - our lecturer asked us who in the room would consider themselves a feminist. I looked around the room, my arms firmly plastered to my side, wondering who on earth would want to associate themselves with those bra-burning radicals - they certainly won't be getting college boyfriends.
I look back on that moment with a profound sense of disappointment now. Why did I think all the work was done? That because we had voting rights, could go to university, had great job opportunities ahead and could wear what we wanted to - that there was no need for feminism? This was certainly partly my own fault (not probing these points further to reveal their flimsy realities) and a result of my own privilege - coming from a liberal, middle-class family, and attending an a single sex private school - I never really saw how bad it was for us girls back then.
Fast forward a few years, and I'm in Moscow on my year abroad reporting on domestic violence abuses in Russia and the complete lack of legislation on the matter. I'm eventually told by my editor that even though the paper was liberal, we just can't publish things that are that grim and we don't know who we might make angry. Well, I’m angry now and the following year, I return to Trinity and turn that anger into my thesis - an analysis of women's rights to bodily autonomy in post-Soviet Russia and Poland (another European nation with grossly restrictive abortion laws).
It was also in this year - 2016 - that I finally took to the streets for the "March for Choice" - and I'm shocked by the stories I hear. I knew abortion restrictions in the Republic of Ireland were bad, but I hadn't interacted with the reality of the situation until that very day. Again, I'm angry. I turn up to more of these events, and vent all over social media.
Then finally, two years after leaving Dublin in May 2018, the repeal the 8th amendment is passed, voted for by an overwhelming majority. Finally - abortion rights for all women in the UK and Ireland!
WRONG. I discover quickly that women in Northern Ireland are still bound by archaic laws that date back to 1861. WHO LET THIS HAPPEN?! I'm angry again, but I'm 24 and I get swept up by the rat race, I'm trying to pursue a career as a musician and as a broadcast journalist (yes, my back-up career is just as poorly paid as the dream career) - and I don't really do anything for a long time.
I read things, I share things online, but I don't do.
Two months ago, I finally decided it was time. I was conflicted during the Repeal the 8th campaign and felt that it wasn't my battle to fight, and I didn't want to ride off the coattails of my Dublin pals who were doing the real groundwork while I admired from afar in London - but Northern Ireland is different. For better or worse, it is currently part of the UK - and surely one benefit of that should be the adoption of the rest of the UK's policy on abortion. But it isn’t, and this is outrageous and unfair and it boils my blood every time I remember.
Of course, I am delighted to see that in Stormont's absence, the UK parliament has very recently decriminalised abortion in Northern Ireland - and that this will go through by October 21st (pending Stormont power collapse remains), but there is so much work left to do - and many women in Northern Ireland seeking abortions will be subject to even more virulent abuse as they try to access their rights by prolife groups and individuals who do not wish decriminalisation to take place.
On top of this, it's also important to note that women in Malta and Gibraltar face similar draconian restrictions to the women of Northern Ireland - and no-one's talking about them either which this is why money will also be raised for the Abortion Support Network who also help women here.
We can't continue to ignore this blatant abuse of human rights when it is right on our doorstep anymore. We can't continue to police women's bodies and treat them as second-class citizens, as subhuman, as not deserving of their bodily autonomy. To have the body of a woman even with these rights is often enough of a burden to bear. Abortion restrictions target women most in need and abortions will happen whether they are legal and accessible or not. Those who can afford to will endure the emotional trauma of travelling abroad, and those who cannot, will access whatever illegal and unsafe methods are available to them. This is a class issue too.
So, on August 29th, myself and Kalianne Farren – an activist and friend who helped push through repeal the 8th - are organising a gig filled with jazz musicians and dream pop sensations, led by women artists, at DIY Space for London. We'll be joined by my own band - Paige Bea - by the wonderful Bad Honey and by the jam session extraordinaires Higher Ground - who will be running a jazz improv session to round off the night.
Tickets are available through Billetto (https://billetto.co.uk/e/now-for-tonight-tickets-371740) - and if you're a musician who wants to join the jam but money is tight, we can try and sort you out with a sponsored ticket so get in touch via: email@example.com for that!
Tickets are £10 online, and £12 on the door - and there will be Alliance for Choice merch on sale for £2 a piece so bring your coins too!
See you there x