Oxford’s music scene is dominated by blokes but MATT AYRES meets a woman who is championing the melodies of the ladies

It’s an unfortunate truth, but female musicians in Oxford are outnumbered. Our scene, like so many others, is dominated by the male population. All of the most famous bands from around here are full of blokes. That’s why we need people like Tamara Parsons-Baker, the “baroque pop” singer whose passion for gender equality has led her to start a live music night, specifically designed to encourage ladies of all backgrounds to pick up an instrument and show the dudes in the room what they’ve got.

“I didn’t see a woman perform live until I was 19 and therefore I feel it is important for young musicians to have more of an opportunity to see female role models in their local scene,” explains Tamara, who has lived in Oxford all her life.

“An equal female to male billing is where many other music nights fall short, and I wanted to bring this issue to the fore.”

All Tamara’s Parties is the name of her night, a predominantly acoustic affair that takes place on the last Wednesday of every month at The Library pub on Cowley Road. Having organised nine gigs so far, it’s obvious that Tamara isn’t all talk – she even helps to fill out the female roster by personally performing at each of the gigs.

“It was during my second year at university that I started to write my own music,” she recalls. “I was studying abroad in Tokyo and the first thing I did was buy a guitar and try to teach myself. A friend of mine encouraged me to play some gigs and I started to build up a collection of my own songs. Eventually I ended up playing in some very cool bars and was even paid for my performances.”

Similarly, the proceeds from All Tamara’s Parties are always split between the artists that play, making it an even more inviting prospect for girls who are waiting for the right moment to unleash their talents in a comfortable setting.

Anyone who needs further inspiration to play live music need only talk to Tamara, whose return to Oxford after her year abroad was the catalyst she needed to start her own band: Tamara and the Martyrs.

“When I moved back to Oxford I met Humphrey Astley (also of Huck and The Epstein) and he introduced me to a lot of musicians in Oxford. We started singing songs together and found, unexpectedly, that our voices were compatible. I decided to put my own band together with him and another friend, Tommy Longfellow. Tom Sharp is the most recent addition, and he also works on my solo material with me to form a powerful folk duo outfit. “I love making music with my friends and these guys have taught me so much. They’ve been playing music a lot longer than I have but have always been incredibly supportive of what I do.”

The next All Tamara’s Parties show isn’t until September 25, although you can check out Tamara and her musical pals in the yard at Modern Art Oxford this Saturday for the last Pindrop Performances gig of the year. Also performing are conceptual folk act Huck, virtuoso folk duo Stuart Clark and Sarah Lucas, and Americana collective Reichenbach Falls. “It will be a very intimate and eclectic night of music,” promises Tamara.

  • CHECK IT OUT Tickets cost £6 from modernartoxford.org.uk. Check out All Tamara’s Parties at tamaramusic.virb.com