Seven girls about a dozen volunteers came together to make the first ever Rock Camp for Girls (Rock Camp Pro Holky) in Tabor, Czech Republic, between July 12 and July 17, 2010. It was an amazing, exhausting experience with a small but passionate group of women instructors culled from the local DIY community and from the (emerging) Prague feminist music scene.
(Black n' White cheering on Rockat at Rock Camp Pro Holky, 2010)
This is my fourth summer of working for Rock Camps, and my first ever outside of the Willie Mae Rock Camp family. The camp was founded by Debbie Gordon, a longtime member of the US punk community as a band manager for the Dicks and Babes In Toyland, among others. She was inspired by Willie Mae's model and brought it to Tabor, where longtime DIY arts organizer, worker, and musician Hilary Binder put the model into the Czech and local context. I first heard of the project when I was at the Willie Mae auction in February, and when I returned to Prague contacted Hilary and traveled down to Tabor, where I was overwhelmed by the space for the future camp. It's called CESTA, and is run by Hilary and Chris, SF to CZ transplants who've been touring for 20 years as the band Sabot. It's an old factory full of big, multi-functional spaces including a full theater, a dining table for maybe 40, two fully equipped practice rooms that accomidate them, Gaffa, and the Free Dimension studio, and a yard with a greenhouse next to a creek and abutting the local park. It's kind of...magic. It's the perfect place for kids.
But I was still hardly prepared for how much the place would bloom when the girls showed up on Monday morning. The girls naturally split into an older and younger group, making the band assignment painless and allowing them to support one another without the awkward rivalries that occur among different age groups. The younger girls quickly decided to wear purple ever day, and sang with mad glee at every chance. The older girls were all in black with punk cuffs each day, laughing and sharing secrets - by Thursday they had already secured a rehearsal space for themselves as a "real" band, and they acted in rehearsal like long-made friends - gracious but critical, getting a lot accomplished and still laughing. I was happy to add my Rock Camp anthems mix, which had the girls singing and dancing after lunch and between times to Zuby Nehty, Budoár Staré Dámy, Youcoco, Betty Davis, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Le Tigre, Aretha, Dusty, the Go Gos, Lilliput, The Ronettes, etc.
One thing I liked about Tabor more than I like about Willie Mae is that all the girls took singing classes, which I think is great not just for amateur musicianship in general but because it helped everyone overcome shyness. And also we couldn't beat the instrument instruction size -- I had three girls in my bass class and they picked up so much more because they could hear themselves. I am definitely going to break my group up into smaller groups back in BK this August.
The concert on Saturday was great too - held in the outdoor garden patio of Sedmicka on the Tabor main square. It threatened rain and the Tabor city center was hosting a free outdoor jazz fest that was potentially causing noise conflict, but neither were problems. The crowd was large, enthusiastic and genuinely impressed not just with the girls but with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the camp, which made me really happy because the first year of a new organization is always hard and we frankly need more volunteers to keep this going and of course to expand, which will happen since the word is now out. And next year the older girls, Black n' White, agreed to come back as junior counselors, but only under the condition that they keep up with their instruments for the whole year. Moms and dads behind them said yes, drum kits and basements promised, and the girls only left after much lingering and tears. Really, we weren't too far off.
Audio of the final concert at Soundcloud
Images of the whole camp at Flikr (Rock Camp Pro Holky tag)