The Sisterhood is Glastonbury‘s first female-only venue – and it’s been a long time coming. A cosy spot on the edge of the Shangri La field, its covert entrance is hidden behind the door of a nail parlour and entrance is granted depending on whether or not you have an appointment. And if you’re a man, you most certainly don’t. The brainchild of Kaye Dunnings, the creative director of Shangri La for the past five years, the space is covered with pictures of inspirational women, there are sofas, soft furnishings and well-worn bits of vintage furniture scattered throughout the room, which also boasts a fully stocked bar and a small stage. It’s a bit like your nan’s house – if your nan is Dolly Parton. The idea for the venue was hit upon last year by Kaye, who was dancing at the festival with a pal and thought “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were no boys around?”.
The fact that all-female spaces are amazing is something that any woman who’s met someone who’s turned out to be their best mate in the ladies room at a nightclub can understand. Sisterhood programmer Alice Holland – who has sorted out ‘twerkshops’, panel discussions, bands, DJs, acro-yoga classes and forums for the venue – sings the praises of the ladies-only area. “All girl spaces are the most fun you can have,” she enthuses. “They’re so rare and so precious and just exciting. We’re so frequently divided from each other and told we’re in competition with each other, but I don’t find that to be the case at all. All the women I know are incredibly supportive and co-operative and enthusiastic about each other. It’s freeing to just chill out with girls – we’re not really encouraged to do that, because that’s when we talk and form covens!”
This year Shangri La’s ever-evolving theme is ‘Media Hell’, and the Sisterhood stage is a poignant response to the way women are often portrayed in mainstream media. ‘how women are represented in the media is negative a lot of the time, there are all these ideas that have been forced upon us about how we should look, what we should eat and what we should do, all of that shit,” explains Kaye. “I just thought it [the Sisterhood venue] would open conversations, and maybe start a bit of a movement!” Alice is in agreement. “The media is apparently solely designed to chip away at our self-esteem and advocacy and agency in the world, so we need to counter that by getting together in a gorgeous space, loving the hell out of one another and having a brilliant time.”
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As the line-up isn’t announced in advance, the sisters suggest nipping in at any time, to see what’s going down – with the talks and activities talking place during the day and the music going on until 6am. They’re also not adverse to the occasional megastar rocking up and doing a “what I really want is for Adele to come down here at about 4 in the afternoon and just sing some lullabies for people’s kids. We would really like that.”