Photo: Addison Axe of Axe Girl, Women’s Fest Freo 2020 headliners. Pic: Marnie Richardson @ Three Gates Media

Julia Weller exudes both confidence and an infectious positivity. Many Freo music community folks will know her not only as a friendly neighbourhood barkeep at Mojos, but as a personification of that venue’s open and equal charm.

That’s not all, however, Weller is also a musician and an activist for gender equality. She is the organiser of Women’s Fest Freo, which returns this weekend to Clancy’s Fish Pub after debuting in 2019 with great success.

“Last year was a crazy whirlwind, and exceeded my wildest expectations,” Weller says. “I was – like this year too – amazed by how many people jumped on board for gender equality. Every day leading up to the event last year I had more new ideas and just did them all. It taught me to ask for more help and made me realise I’ve got a really nice community to lean on. I basically went through the roof when I found out how much the event raised for UN Women Australia, with over $6,500 we were one of their biggest individually organised events of the year, whilst having a huge party!

“With so much local female lead talent playing and Abbe May headlining last year, all of the people helping out and donating to the festival, we had a colourful, safe and amazingly fun event. I could never have done it without the help of everyone involved.”

While ongoing steps towards equality in the music industry still need to be made, Weller feels that progress continues.

“Looking at the average line up of gigs nowadays, I can definitely see people are starting to think more about making gigs more diverse,” she states.

“Playing music in the Dan Howls Band and working at Mojos I definitely feel like women have stepped it right up and have been motivated to follow through in whatever way they uniquely choose to express themselves; and that is being celebrated more and more.”

Along with her own work Weller feels buoyed by the efforts of WA artists strongly flying the flag for gender equality.

“There is of course our very own Lucy Peach, Perth’s all ‘round legend feminist within her own right; informing the masses about the power of the period with her fantastic TED Talk and writing beautiful, empowering music,” she notes.

“Another person that comes to mind is Perth talent Stella Donnelly, for being such an outspoken and inspiring women in the music scene. I really appreciate her powerful songs about real things that happen and in my opinion, encouraging everybody to open up the conversation and make a change. That’s really inspiring.”

Julia Yemaya

Julia Weller performing at Mojos. Pic: Tashi Hall

Weller was born and raised in Holland and upon turning 18 felt compelled to head to our shores upon meeting some exuberant Australians at dinner. A few months later she landed in Sydney “and went north, from there on I slowly made my way across, living in the rainforest and the Kimberley along the way.

“When I came to Freo it was my first reintroduction to a ‘city’ – I had been living out of a swag for about two years. I started busking and made my way for a good couple of months before having to get a job. From there onward I started to integrate into the Freo community more and more, working at the Freo markets, coming back every summer, the bubble had started to take shape.

“Then I started playing music with Dan Howls and working at Mojos and I really started to be a part of the music industry. It gave me the confidence of pulling something like this off, something I probably wouldn’t have dared even in my hometown. That’s why I love Freo!”

Mojos has offered Weller a front seat to the music scene, from grass roots to touring icons. She likes what she sees.

“I’ve seen amazing gigs at Mojos of any gender,” she notes, “and I feel like diversity is definitely being promoted and encouraged. Also it’s a zero-tolerance venue, which is actually really amazing. Anyone who feels uncomfortable can come up to the bar, and the issue will be taken seriously and dealt with.”

Women’s Fest Freo features 11 female-led acts – Lois Olney Freaya (solo) Tanya Ransom, Joan & The Giants, Freddie Mai (Bass Lemon), Smol Fish, Bexx, Hannah Smillie (Psychotic Reactions), Grace Armstrong, Lucy Peach and headliners, Axe Girl.

“I love how the main thing connecting these bands is the celebration of women,” Weller says. “We’ve got loads of different genres on the same line-up which promotes diversity in itself. From 60’s inspired garage to jazz, feminist folk/pop to soulful blues/country to indie pop, we’ll go on a musical journey!”

Women’s Fest Freo will also feature a pay-as-you-like second-hand clothing stall, glitter, good cheer and, well, beer. Weller reinforces the fact that the event is a safe space for free expression.

“Absolutely everybody is invited,” she says. I hope people feel comfortable and encouraged to express, dance and dress how they like, celebrating diversity and bring these vibes along to other events too.”

Women’s Fest Freo takes places at Clancy’s Fish Pub Fremantle this Saturday, March 7, from 6pm. Pre-sale tickets are $25.50 (including booking fee) available here or $30 on the door. All proceeds go to UN Women, the biggest gender equality advocate worldwide.

More details on Women’s Fest Freo – Facebook.com/womensfestfreo

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