Edinburgh International Film Festival shines a spotlight on Scotland's best girl bands from The Sixties to now

Homegrown bands like Strawberry Switchblade, Lung Leg, The Ettes and Sophisticated Boom Boom to feature in a documentary on closing night

It’s true that if you don’t see it you don’t think you can be it and growing up I rarely saw women fronting bands or playing instruments. And I certainly never saw any girl bands like the ones playing in Scottish girl bands from the past 60 years who will get their chance to shine in a powerful music documentary, Since Yesterday: The Untold Story of Scotland’s Girl Bands, that will have its world premier at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Music was very much a male scene and I didn’t even think to question it. My first gig was The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in Edinburgh, which blew my way too young to be there (but I had liberal parents and my big brother took me) mind, and not just because the volume was ear-splitting, but because of Zal Cleminson’s gender bending outfits and front man Harvey’s range of musical references, from Jacques Brel to Alice Cooper. And so the gender bias continued through the punk new wave era with women few and far between in the bands I saw live, from Ian Dury and the Blockheads to The Stranglers to Elvis Costello, apart from the exceptional Chrissie Hynde with The Pretenders when they played the student union in Dundee.

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For me, women were there on the TV though, with Siouxsie in The Banshees, Debbie Harry in Blondie, the all-female The Slits brought an anarchic breath of female fresh air (check out Viv Albertine’s brilliant autobiography Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys), and other favourites included Poly Styrene and X Ray Spex, Pauline Murray of Penetration and Fay Fife of The Rezillos. It was even better when they played instruments with the likes of Tina Weymouth in Talking Heads and Sharleen Spiteri who must have one of the best guitar collections in the business, or more recently Simple Minds’ drummer Cherisse Osei.

But homegrown girl bands like Strawberry Switchblade, Lung Leg, The Ettes and Sophisticated Boom Boom I’m gutted about never getting to see. Until now as they’re featured in Since Yesterday: The Untold Story of Scotland’s Girl Bands which will be the closing night film of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, shining a spotlight on Scotland’s girl bands from the 1960s to the present.

Co-directed by musician Carla J Easton (shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year and member of all girl band TeenCanteen) and Scottish director Blair Young, the film is produced by producer/filmmaker Miranda Stern (Scottish Documentary Institute’s New Voices 2020) and the award-winning production company Forest of Black and will be shown at EIFF on 21 August at the Cameo Cinema.

Filmmakers Easton and Young bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this ‘scrapbook, panorama view’ of the girl bands, cliques and movements that flourished in Scotland despite working in a male dominated world, resulting in a revealing, and by turns funny and frustrating, given the limitations imposed on women in the music industry, celebration of our glorious girl bands. It’s about time.

Since Yesterday: the Untold Story of Scotland’s Girl Bands is being co-presented at its world premier by Girls On Film, the worlds leading podcast on women in film, hosted by film critic and broadcaster Anna Smith (check out the most recent episode where Smith speaks to Desperately Seeking Susan director Susan Seidelman and its star Rosanna Arquette).

Strawberry Switchblade are one of the all female bands that feature in the documentary film Since Yesterday: The Untold Story of Scotland's Girl Bands, which closes Edinburgh International Film Festival. The Scottish pop duo was formed in Glasgow in 1981 by Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall. Pic: PeterMcArthurStrawberry Switchblade are one of the all female bands that feature in the documentary film Since Yesterday: The Untold Story of Scotland's Girl Bands, which closes Edinburgh International Film Festival. The Scottish pop duo was formed in Glasgow in 1981 by Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall. Pic: PeterMcArthur
Strawberry Switchblade are one of the all female bands that feature in the documentary film Since Yesterday: The Untold Story of Scotland's Girl Bands, which closes Edinburgh International Film Festival. The Scottish pop duo was formed in Glasgow in 1981 by Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall. Pic: PeterMcArthur

Co-founder and host of Girls On Film podcast, Anna Smith says, “At Girls On Film, we believe that documenting women’s contributions to history can change the future. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the wonderful EIFF on Since Yesterday: The Untold Story Of Scotland’s Girl Bands. It’s an entertaining, enlightening film that celebrates sisterhood and collaboration while pushing for progress - right up our street! I can’t wait to share this with the audience on Closing Night.”

EIFF Director, Paul Ridd says: “Since the moment we saw this spiky, fun and eye-opening film we knew it had to be a major part of our festival. Here is a fantastically fresh and engaging documentary about Scottish artists, Scottish art and the challenges faced by Scottish women in a male-dominated industry and sexist world. Collaborating with Anna and the good people at Girls On Film on Closing Night is an honour, knowing all the great work they do to promote work by women and about women, and we were so moved by their response to the film. We’ll truly be closing the Festival in style.”

It’s taken a while but in closing the Film Festival, Scotland’s girl bands will finally be center stage and for once having the last word.

World Premiere at the Festival on 21 August, www.edfilmfest.org See Edinburgh International Film Festival website for full programme and tickets.

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