The Art Worlds of Punk-Inspired Feminist Networks - A social network analysis of theLadyfest feminist music and cultural movement in the UK

  • Susan O'Shea

Student thesis: Phd


Riot Grrrl, Girls Rock camps and Ladyfest as social movements act as intermediaries in cultural production spaces, where music focused artefacts are made, collaborations forged, distribution networks established and reception practices enacted to create new conventions which can be understood as feminist art worlds. The growing literature on gender and cultural production, particularly in music communities such as Riot Grrrl, frequently speak of networks in qualitative narrative terms and very little is known about Ladyfest as a feminist movement and as a distribution network. This thesis offers an original contribution to cultural sociology by: employing a novel participatory action research approach to gathering social network data on translocal feminist music based cultural organisations; exploring how these networks can challenge a gendered political economy of cultural production in music worlds; understanding who participates and why; investigating how network structures impact the personal relationships, participation and collaboration opportunities for those involved. Engaging with Howard Becker's Art Worlds theory as a framework, this thesis explores how music and art by women is produced, distributed and received by translocal networks. It takes into account contemporary issues for feminist music-based communities as well as the historical and international context of these overlapping and developing social movements. The literature suggests that one of the most pressing tasks for a sociology of the arts is to understand how organisational structures negotiate the domains of production, distribution and reception, with distribution modes being the most the most under-researched of the three. By focusing on UK Ladyfest festivals as case study sites, this research serves to address these gaps. Primary data sources include on-line social media, surveys, documents, focus groups and multi-mediainterviews. Findings indicate that those involved with Ladyfest tend to be motivated by a desire to challenge gender inequalities at a local level whilst drawing on local and international movements spanning different time periods and drawing on the works of feminist musicians. Homophily and heterophily both have important roles to play in the longitudinal development of Ladyfest networks. Participants show an awareness of intersecting inequalities such as ethnicity, class and disability with sexuality playing an important underlying role for the development of relationships within the networks. For some, Ladyfest involvement is a gateway into feminist activism and wider social and cultural participation, and for many it leads to lasting friendships and new collaborative artbased ties.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNick Crossley (Supervisor) & Siobhan Mcandrew (Supervisor)


  • Mixed Methods
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Art Worlds
  • Feminism
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Ladyfest
  • Social Movements
  • Riot Grrrl

Cite this