The Goddess Collective: Meet the Leeds drummer empowering women through inclusivity in jazz music

Meet Maeve Thorpe: the Leeds drummer empowering women through her work in local jazz band The Goddess Collective.

By Abi Whistance
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 5:30 pm

For many young women growing up with ambitions of being a musician, the lack of female role models in the industry can make that dream feel out of reach.

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But for Maeve Thorpe, that lack of representation instead lit a fire in her, spurring her on to join one of Leeds’ most sought after female jazz groups: The Goddess Collective.

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Pictured: The Goddess Collective

Introduced to the world of drumming at the age of nine, Maeve fell in love with percussion and worked hard to master her craft, yet struggled to find female companionship during her time at school.

“My whole time playing music in secondary school before I came to university, I knew very few female musicians, especially those that are in the rhythm section,” said Maeve.

“I hadn't even met another female drummer before I came to university; I think everyone [in The Goddess Collective] was on a similar wavelength.They may have known some [women] but hadn’t had the opportunity to [form a band] because practice rooms are predominantly filled with men.”

Feeling a desperate urge to connect with the women close by, Maeve and her friend Sam began their recruitment mission.

Introduced to the world of drumming at the age of nine, Maeve fell in love with percussion and worked hard to master her craft. Pictured: The Goddess Collective

Telling friends, acquaintances and fellow students about their idea, the pair soon found themselves six bright hopefuls eager to join them in their plight to form an all-female jazz group, and it was only a matter of months before the newfound Goddess Collective took centre stage.

“We got offered a support slot [with Plant Food] in around two weeks time - it was a manic two weeks!

“We had half a set so it was just cramming rehearsals in. But the reception at that gig was just phenomenal. It was a reaction that none of us were expecting.”

Riding the wave made by their impressive debut, The Goddess Collective grew into their own over the next few months and began to find their sound.

Pictured: The Goddess Collective

From rock to pop, jazz to classical, each member of the band brought their own unique flavour to the table to create the music they are now known for, with few arguments along the way.

“We are a collective; no one runs the band and we’re all there because it’s music that we want to play,” Maeve explained.

“I think it gives us lots of different angles to come from; I wouldn't say we have a particular sound we’re going for, it’s more that someone will bring an idea and it will evolve from there with everyone bringing different ideas to it - it’s really nice.”

Through working collaboratively and showing a love for each other on stage, Maeve and her seven band mates have created something that young women in music can aspire to.

“After a couple of gigs we’ve done we’ve had people come up to us and say 'I’ve never seen this many women on stage before and it’s really inspiring.'

“I think that’s just nice to hear and know that we are making a difference, and know that we are changing the mould of what a jazz band can be.”

But it is not just other people who benefit from the work and spirit of The Goddess Collective, with Maeve herself feeling the warmth of the group affect her personal life.

In a world where women can feel shunned from spaces taken up by men, or too nervous to take up any space themselves, it is groups like this that are changing the narrative and encouraging young girls to find their place.

“For everyone it’s been a massive increase in confidence,” Maeve said.

“I can go into a practice room and feel like I know that people will appreciate what I’m bringing to the table and what I’m producing is actually good.

“Having a band to meet up with every week, just feeling comfortable and welcomed in that space, means that I’m able to enjoy what I’m playing and not worry about what other people think of me.

“For a lot of my playing I’ve been massively insecure so having people that I know I can play something to that isn't great, and not feel embarrassed if something doesn’t go as well - we’ve all got each other's backs and it feels really good.”

Finding your tribe

After watching her cousin, wide-eyed on his drum set at the age of nine, Maeve knew that this was the life for her.

But several years of music lessons and rigorous exams later found her in the middle of sixth form, drum sticks in hand but unsure of what direction she wanted to go in.

It wasn’t until joining the Goddess Collective in 2021 that the drummer began to find her feet, carving out her path in the music world.

“My first self-made band is [The Goddess Collective]. It’s weird to think about because now I’m in it I just think, how did it take me so long to get to this point?"

By reaching out and forming a group of like minded people at university, Maeve was able to grow in confidence and express herself in ways she’d struggled to before.

It is that initial act of bravery, seeking out the people around you, that she now urges other young women to do.

“If I could start over I wish that I had the confidence to ask people to play with me,” she went on to say.

“I think that if you know what you want to play, you need to go out with confidence and ask whatever musicians you want to play with, whatever instruments you want in your band, just ask them.

"Try not to get in your head about yourself and just be in the moment and play your heart out.”

The Goddess Collective takes on festival season

Rehearsals are now well underway for The Goddess Collective’s next big endeavour: festival season.

Playing a range of new music and old favourites, the band takes to the stage on 11 June for Leeds Jazz Festival, swiftly followed by Bath Carnival on 9 July and Tramlines Festival on 22 July.

But this is not the only thing Goddess Collective fans have to look forward to this summer, with Maeve teasing a new release from the eight-piece coming soon over the next few months.

“It’s very difficult getting eight people together," Maeve laughed.

"But there should be a release happening in August or September, hopefully!”

With a string of gigs and festivals soon to be added to their belts, it's no wonder that so many jazz fans are more than eager to hear what The Goddess Collective plan on releasing.