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Ring in International Women’s Day with Gallery's lady lineup

MzRizk’s weekly roster fosters fresh talent at Ferdydurke, with a special treat prepared for International Women's Day.

MzRizk is hands down one of Melbourne’s most popular and internationally successful DJs – she’s stormed Glastonbury twice, is the voice behind PBS’s beloved show Boogie Beat Suite, and has supported everyone from Hiatus Kaiyote to Public Enemy.

Plus, MzRizk totally uses the force for good by sharing the benefit of her 17-plus years of industry experience with young women of colour in her DJ and music-based workshops. In fact, it was while nurturing newbies that she became aware of the glaring need for a safe and encouraging environment for new talent to cut their teeth.

“It came to my attention, and I don’t know why it was so delayed, that there weren’t many spaces for women to participate in public events,” MzRizk says. “At that point, I’d been running workshops in Footscray for a young women’s program and I saw all this talent and thought, ‘There needs to be a space for them to share this with the world.’”

With this in mind, MzRizk put a callout online, Ferdydurke hit her back straight away green lighting a new night for that purpose, and in July 2016 Gallery was born. Since then, MzRizk has overseen a weekly roster of burgeoning talent, featuring primarily young women of colour, trans folk and queer men.

“Even though the main focus is women of colour, queer women of colour and trans people of colour, and even though I have this very specific way that I curate things, there is space for everyone, I just don’t really book cis white men often because they already have a lot of spaces,” she explains.  “It’s not that I don’t want to, sometimes people will hit me up and if I think the music is good enough and there’s space available, I’ll consider it. I’m not anti-anybody, but I think there’s a lot of space for them and a lack of space for other people.”

The Gallery concept is that new artists have the opportunity to hone their chops in a comfortable, pared-back, small space with not much more than a mixing desk, a speaker and a microphone.

“I make sure that I rotate them monthly or tri-monthly, if they’re available and haven’t blown up,” MzRizk says. "Everyone becomes themselves and develops their artistry in their own time, but you really see them evolve by the third or fourth time performing at Gallery.”

The point about blowing up is a valid one too, because some of the Gallery talent has hit it big.

“Look at Kaiit, she started performing at Gallery in the early days and now I can’t even book her anymore,” MzRizk says. “She has interstate shows, she’s on festivals. Kaiit is definitely one of the best examples of women taking up the space, and being able to practice their live performance, and forge a really beautiful career.” MzRizk is predicting similar success for Kalala, part of the International Women’s Day lineup and one of her faves. “I feel like she’s going to blow up soon too.”    

For MzRizk, the fact that Gallery is a safe space is key. She defines it thus, “A safe space is a place that anyone and everyone can come to without being judged, without being sleazed on or abused in any way. Everyone should be able to go out and have a good time without being made to feel uncomfortable, especially not because society sees them as different.” Fuck yes.

Moreover, she’s crystal-clear about what’s required in order for that to come to pass, and in an environment where #MeToo conversations are rife, the broader community could take a leaf out of her book.

“One of the best things that anyone can do if they want to run an event is to have an understanding with management, the bar manager, the bar staff and security prior to the event – you need to have a conversation about safety,” MzRizk says. “What happens at Ferdy is that I’m there the whole time, and if I see anything I don’t like, like men annoying women – and it’s happened a few times – there’s no conversation about getting them removed, we just remove them straight away, because it’s not a place for them to stay and annoy people. There are no second chances with me.”

MzRizk hosts Gallery every week at Ferdydurke, with a special International Women’s Day event taking place on Thursday March 8 with Kalala, Liona Tatafu, Cara Mia, and more.