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Sunday 22 July 2018

‘I think of Nothing Compares to You and I think of the simplicity of the image of Sinead O’Connor’s face’ – Edith Bowman on power of video

The Scottish broadcaster talks music videos, podcasting, equality and #MeToo

Edith Bowman flew in to Dublin to launch the #MadeByMusic campaign. PIC: Brian McEvoy
Edith Bowman flew in to Dublin to launch the #MadeByMusic campaign. PIC: Brian McEvoy
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Having kicked off her career at MTV at a time when music videos were still a pivotal part of the schedule, Edith Bowman has a particular appreciation of the art form.

“I started at MTV so I’m a big fan of the music video.  I still am.  I’m a big fan of film and music so for me to me it’s a marriage of the two,” the Scottish broadcaster tells Independent.ie.

“A lot of the time you see artists pass over control to really talented creatives to make it their vision.  My husband [Editors frontman Tom Smith] works with this fantastic guy called Rahi Rezvani, who’s this Iranian Belgian guy who makes short films with the music and they’re amazing.”

Edith (44) references Childish Gambino’s most recent video for This Is America, in which the artist tackles themes of racism and gun violence.  It contains one shocking scene in which he shoots a man in the head. 

“I think, I hope anyway it has kind of done wonders for that element of music for artists,” she says.  “You can say a lot with imagery. The imagery in that particular video, you paid more attention to it than just the lyrics. 

“I do a podcast called Soundtracking and I enthuse about the music in film because I think it’s under-appreciated and sometimes the music that’s used within film will incite and entice emotions that just by looking at something it wouldn’t.  It’s the same thing with a video – it’s the marriage of that sound and vision.

“If you look back at the history of music videos and something as simple as Sinead O’Connor in Nothing Compares to You, the simplicity of someone’s face, I think of that song and the first thing I think about is the image of her face in that video.”

Edith is in Dublin to support #MadebyMusic, an initiative from Three Ireland which funds innovative music videos for three tracks from three up-and-coming Irish artists – Jafaris, Saint Sister, and Kormac.

“There’s so many things that are kind of like yes thumbs up for me with this,” she says. “A big brand like Three getting involved in something that is giving three new artists that are very different genres of music a chance, a platform, promotion, support to get the music heard and I just think it’s such a great idea. 

“It’s really easy for bands and artists to release music now.  You don’t need to go rely on those traditional routes of record label and radio play.  But to have a career and to have longevity and a future you do need support from somewhere.”

In terms of her own career, Edith has traversed the gamut of TV and radio in the UK, from MTV to festival coverage for Channel 4 to BBC Radio 1 and Virgin Radio UK, which she departed in September last year.

She still works for the BBC on occasion and for the past two years has been honing her aforementioned Soundtracking podcast.

“We just won two awards at the New York Radio Festival which is fantastic because we’re such a little bedroom outfit.  It’s me and a mate.  I book all the guests, I go and do the interviews, I record it myself, send in the audio, and he edits it, we put it up. That’s it. We love it.”

They don’t earn any money from it at the moment.  She’s cautious about sponsorship because she’s protective of the content.

“You’ve got to be careful with stuff.  When you do something like this it’s got to be right.  And [the campaign with Three] felt like such a great idea and the fact they were getting involved but they weren’t manipulating the artist, they were just supporting them and that’s really important.”

Alongside the day job she is also chairing the panel of industry experts (actresses Ophelia Lovibond and Georgina Campbell are also on the panel) judging the submissions to The Female Film Force initiative.

Edith Bowman with Saint Sister, Kormac and Jafaris at launch of MadeByMusic from Three Ireland
Edith Bowman with Saint Sister, Kormac and Jafaris at launch of MadeByMusic from Three Ireland

Dating app Bumble recently launched the film fund for the UK and Ireland to give aspiring creatives from writers to directors and producers the chance to win one of five £20,000 grants to make a short film, with a view to entering them into festivals and awards ceremonies in 2020.

The fund was launched in response to a lack of women winning accolades over the recent awards season.

“It’s a fantastic initiative and the submissions finished last week.  We got 1,100 entries which is great so we’re starting the judging process on that now,” she says.

Clearly supporting women in the industry is important to her.  She has also been invited to give a talk at a London restaurant on the subject.  However, she says that being invited to women only events has given her a different perspective.

“One of the things I’ve realised from being at events that are women only is that we have to be inclusive not exclusive,” she says.  “I’m a mum of two boys and I want them to be part of the conversation.

“I think the only way things are going to change is with an inclusive conversation rather than exclusive. That’s one of the things I’m really cautious about.   The Bumble thing is perfect because we need more women in the industry but overall it’s got to be an inclusive conversation.”

Despite progressing through the music and broadcasting industries throughout the late 90s and 2000s and beyond, Edith says she has been spared any harassment.

“I don’t know what it is, that they’re more scared of me on account of being Scottish, I don’t know, but I genuinely haven’t witnessed that much in terms of abuse, be that physical or mental,” she says.

“I have had situations where I’ve witnessed where it’s obviously a boys’ club.  I talked about this recently.  I’ve worked and still work in the BBC in various guises over the years and there are things that are inherited when it comes to the boys’ club thing in terms of there’s a certain age group and hierarchy of men within certain areas of the BBC that they’ve just been there for so long and once those jobs become available and that realm of management becomes available that’s where women need to be placed for it to then infiltrate.

“They can’t just sack people to put women in jobs but I think there are women waiting on standby who are more than capable of filling those roles when they become available.”

Edith recently covered the TRNSMT Festival for the BBC and says that the team was 80:20 women to men.  She says she’s lucky to have worked with a lot of great women at the BBC and beyond.  She also says she may not be really tuned in to inequality because of her upbringing.

“My mum is one of seven girls, and my granddad started a little family business, a little family hotel that my mum and five of her siblings and their partners run, so I grea up in this environment where everyone was equal so i just expect it,” she says.

“So maybe because of that I’m not really looking out for it, not really tuned into it when it’s not [equal] because it’s just the norm for me, what I grew up with. 

“I imagine I’m quite an annoying person to work with because I’ve always got an opinion about something, but I get asked back to do things so I can’t be that annoying!” she laughs.

Read more: ‘I was super shy, super reserved and music took me out of that’ – rising Dublin hip hop star Jafaris

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