In an industry dominated by men, female and NB perspectives are more important than ever.Ellie Arden

Gathered in a plant-filled room tucked away at the top of a particularly hidden staircase in Christ’s, I meet the team behind Playtime - Cambridge’s female and non-binary DJ collective and brainchild of Hattie Hammans, a third-year English student. 

I ask Hattie what inspired her to start the collective. ‘I was interested in how we could make club spaces political,’ she explains. ‘I did a lot of music when I was growing up, and I would visibly notice myself not being included in conversations. I would say something, and people would just carry on. I think it is that deep - this idea of men understanding and having complete dominance over what is considered cool and what is knowledgeable. They’d meet up and make tracks for SoundCloud in their rooms - no girls were ever invited to that... I was inspired by Siren, which is another collective in London, and their DJ workshops’. 

"It opened my eyes to what Cambridge nightlife could be." 

Since its conception in 2018, Playtime has grown to host regular events at clubs in Cambridge, creating an environment where female and non-binary people can enjoy a safe, hassle-free party. ‘I really enjoyed the freshers Playtime party’, says first-year student Frances. ‘It opened my eyes to what Cambridge nightlife could be’. 

The collective has worked with several charities, hosting Period Parties with the Free Periods campaign. They also donated the proceeds of one event to LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants). “My inclination after that was to use Playtime to support really small, grass roots organisations and charity work’, says Hattie. “Any profits that don’t go towards charity will go towards DJ workshops. It’s not cheap to rent out CDJs or invite professional DJs to come and talk, but it’s actually invaluable on the scene’. The group plan on buying some controllers in the coming term, for women and non-binary people to use for free. They have already hosted several free DJ workshops from professionals, such as Peach and In Flames.  

"As a girl, if you tell your friends that you're starting to DJ, people are less quick to accept it and rate it"

Primarily, Playtime is about encouraging young women and non-binary people to DJ. ‘When I arrived, there were so many good female/non-binary DJs in Cambridge who didn’t seem to have the opportunity to play by themselves - they were booked for all the big nights but they were playing back to back and weren’t getting the chance to play individually…’ says Hattie. ‘I think there are systemic problems with gender in music, but also a big discrepancy in the self-confidence of female artists, especially in DJing. Having control of the AUX or being a DJ is very much about projecting your own voice, and having confidence in your selection is quite intimidating. But actually, as soon as you start, you realise that everyone loving every track isn’t the point’. 

The team’s dream party venues include the Old Cinema opposite Christ’s, Selwyn Chapel, the University Library and a greenhouse in the Botanical Gardens. What are their go-to crowd pleasers? I ask. ‘Ladbroke Grove’, says Milly, who has been DJing for Playtime since last year. The group laughs in agreement. ‘As a girl, if you tell your friends that you're starting to DJ, people are less quick to accept it and rate it’, she says. ‘They’re more likely to think it’s quite jokes rather than take it seriously as something you’ll actually try and have a go at’. 

"I love to see a woman or non binary person just playing the heaviest shit in Fez at 3AM"

Charlotte, a fresher and new member of the team, recalls her first experience of male dominance over music: ‘I remember at my 16th birthday party, I thought I’d compiled an insane playlist and every was having an amazing time. Then suddenly one of the boys put his music on and I was heartbroken. It felt like a real violation of my party, which I wanted to be a certain way, and suddenly Mr Brightside was on’. 

‘Guys having controllers is treated as something so casual, whereas if a female/non-binary person gets one it seems more pressurised’, adds Maria, who hosts her own radio show, The Mother-Tongue Express. Maria’s go-to track is STD Fury by Javelin. ‘It just really shocks everyone and is really fun - it’s about STDs’, she says. 


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The collective embrace a huge variety of music at their events, and have just started a radio show - Playtime FM - which will air on Cam.FM every Saturday at 10.30 PM. “My message to Playtime DJs is that they can play whatever they want - you play your dream set’, says Hattie. ‘It’s a bit messy, chaotic and DIY. Interestingly, people tend to bring quite heavy music. I love to see a woman or non binary person just playing the heaviest shit in Fez at 3AM, when everyone’s really going for it’. 

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Playtime’s latest event, 'Vitamin D', will be at Fez Club on 23rd January.

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