Getting The Gig

How This Kiwi Musician Is Putting Women Front And Centre This International Women’s Day

By Beau Johns
5th Mar 2020

Lani Purkis

Milk & Honey Festival is back for 2020, bringing a massive female line-up showcasing women in music whilst celebrating International Women’s Day, all for free.

Teresa Patterson, Julia Deans and Lani Purkis are the brains behind the festival, and after a super successful festival in 2019 they’ve proven they’re an unstoppable force, returning with an even better show that celebrates gender, ethnic and rainbow diversity.

For last year's event, they had multiple shows happening simultaneously in different cities (a super festival!) showcasing just how much incredible female talent we have on the circuit here in Aotearoa. 

This year, International Women’s Day (March 9) falls on a Sunday, so this time around, it’s a family friendly festival in Silo Park with support from artists JessB, She’s So Rad, MC Tali, Imugi 이무기 and so much more.

We jumped at the chance to chat to talk to Milk & Honey Festival co-founder, Lani Purkis. Best known as the bassist in Elemeno P, these days she’s working behind the scenes so other women in music can shine. 

Can you tell us your inspiration for starting Milk & Honey Festival? 

Milk & Honey was inspired by various events and communities around me. There is a NZ Women's Music Industry Facebook group that my friend Lora started. It's a very vocal community that discusses the lack of diversity on almost every line-up in this country. That made me aware of how important it is to so many people. I really enjoy stage and guitar tech-ing, but don’t get to work with many other women. Also, one festival promoter that I really admire said “if you have a problem with my line-ups, book your own festival”. I like a challenge. Meanwhile the same thoughts were going through Teresa Patterson and Julia Deans’ brains. So we became a team.

Festival planning, running the show and everything in between must mean wearing a bunch of different hats. How do you juggle everything and what support do you have? 

We have a natural balance of what we take care of between us, but this year we have support from Silo Park who use FreshConcept to book their events. Amy Pollard at FreshConcept is a logistical genius, she rolls these out often so the systems are all in place. The first year was much trickier—we ran it over four cities and had six venues, all on the same night, so we had to rely on locals and volunteers to help run the events on the night. We all really enjoy swapping hats though. We also had CreativeNZ funding for our first year, we could not have done it without that. 

What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learnt along the way? 

That not everybody, even some people really close to you, will be on your side. It’s a touchy subject for some men who are in the industry who think that because Taylor Swift is on the radio that there is no issue. 

Have you ever struggled with confidence? What advice would you give to others about gaining confidence? 

I don’t know if I have ever struggled with confidence as such, but I have definitely second guessed myself many times over Milk & Honey. I have to keep reminding myself that it will happen either way and don’t stress the small stuff. 

Have you ever encountered any criticisms running an-all female festival, and how do you deal with that? 

Generally people have been pretty supportive. But yes I have had grief about it. Mostly from close male friends, and I think that’s only because they feel comfortable enough with me to voice their opinions. Most men probably choose to say nothing, I can be quite feisty I am told. 

Being a musician and a performer, has that experience influenced how you’ve decided to run Milk & Honey? 

Hmm, maybe not how to run it, but it has been how I trained to run Milk & Honey. There are many areas that Teresa takes care of that I would never dream of doing, like contracts! 

What advice would you give to other people wanting to start their own gigs and festivals? 

Check if there are other events that will attract the same audience the weeks before and after your show. You don't want to book your festival in the busy season, unless you know you can compete. If there is already a punk show happening in Auckland, you probably don't want to book your punk show in the same night. Or even weekend. There are only so many dollars one can spend on going out. In saying that, sometimes you have no option and have to take the risk. 

In its second year, what has the reception been to the work you are doing, and what can we expect from Milk & Honey this time around? 

We had an amazing reception to the first year—everybody got on board, media wise. I have met a few international people that have heard of it and know me from Milk & Honey now, so that’s been really cool. This year’s format is a little different—International Women’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, so it’s a family event in the sunshine. The line-up is really diverse but there is something for everybody. 

Which woman or women inspires you the most and why? 

My mum inspires me mostly. She is super smart and put on some pretty major events when I was a kid. We are very similar, she worked in music, film and events and raised me at the same time. I am raising my children the same way she raised me, so she is a daily inspiration I guess. 

We were going to ask how you would be celebrating International Women’s Day, but it's obvious you’ll be spending it at the festival you’ve spent months planning. For those who can’t make it down to Silo Park, what would you recommend they spend their International Women’s Day doing? 

Ring your mum, an aunty, your sister or someone that has inspired you in your life. 

Milk & Honey Festival is free, so head on down to Silo Park and celebrate International Women’s Day in the sun. For more info and show times, check them out here.

The Details

What: Milk & Honey Festival
When: International Women’s Day, Sunday March 8, 12pm—6pm
Where: Silo Park, Wynyard Quarter
Who: JessB, Angitu Kapa Haka, Little Bok Choy, Girls Rock Aotearoa, The Gingham Twins, Disciple Pati, Imugi 이무기, Phoebe Falconer, She’s So Rad, MC Tali + Chiccoreli and more

Looking for more things to do on International Women’s Day? We’ve got you covered with four fierce events happening on March 8 in Auckland.

Image credit: supplied

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