Canadian folk artist, filmmaker and educator Andrea Ramolo has been dreaming of starting a women’s music festival for years. Inspired by the groundbreaking legacy of fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair, as well as local initiatives like Venus Festival and Honey Jam, this year Ramolo finally launched the Our Music Festival, a new Toronto music festival celebrating women and gender-diverse artists.

“My overriding goal for this is to create space for these incredible voices that don’t always get to headline festivals in Canada,” says Ramolo. “We need to be the headliners. We need to be in the spotlight. There are not enough spaces for us, and therefore we are going to create our own.”

When it comes to equal representation, Canada’s music festivals often fall short. The most recent Canadian Festival Report Card from Secret Frequency gave less than half of the music festivals they evaluated an ‘A’ grade, meaning that 45% or more of the acts at the festival were women or non-binary artists.

Ramolo is hoping to flip the script with the Our Music Festival. An incredible line-up of award-winning Canadian women and gender-diverse artists across genres are set to headline the inaugural edition of the festival, taking place on March 7th at Hugh’s Room Live.

Skye Wallace, Tania Joy, Melissa McClelland, Mimi O’Bonsawin, Tanika Charles, Amanda Rheaume, Brenley, Caroline Marie Brooks, and Yarro are all set to perform at the festival.

“The fact that all of these powerhouses are playing on the same stage in the same evening, that just blows my mind,” Ramolo says.

Andrea Ramolo. Photo by Jen Squires

The first seeds for the festival were planted while Ramolo was part of a women’s music collective called Ladies in Waiting. “It was initially a local group of female artists and we had this residency at Not My Dog, this tiny little hole in the wall in Toronto, every Monday night. We ended up packing it for five years in a row.”

When live music ceased during the pandemic, Ramolo found a support system in an online meeting group with some of Canada’s most profound female and non-binary artists. “It started off about our careers and how we were going to get through this time period. But then it became much deeper and much more personal and emotional,” she says.

The idea of starting a music festival for women and gender-diverse artists came up again. “In these talks, a lot of us were further planting the seed. We really wanted to do this festival.”

Ramolo is confident in the power of representation for women artists. She hopes to spotlight younger emerging artists in future editions of the festival, providing them with a platform that could help propel their careers. 

“When you see yourself and a version of what you want to be onstage, it gives you hope. If we’re not seeing ourselves out there, it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to not continue on with this career,” she says, adding that she’s seen friends of all ages step away after facing gender-based discrimination in the music industry. 


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For Ramolo, it has been especially touching to see the camaraderie between this slate of performers. 

“They’re all so excited to be sharing the stage with one another. There’s no animosity, it’s a gorgeous thing to witness,” she says. “Women and gender diverse people are always fighting to get the same few slots. We don’t want to be fighting against each other, we are actually open-hearted and want to carry each other and be cheerleaders for each other.”

Likewise, Ramolo views other women-focused music festivals as inspiration and possible collaborators, rather than competition. “For me, the more the merrier! What these initiatives are doing are awakening our other friends in other parts of the country, to have the courage to do the same thing.”

Ramolo plans to extend the scope of the Our Music Festival in future years, working towards a “bustling and vibrant multi-venue, multi-artist music festival that our city needs”.

But for now, she’s thrilled to see her friends and colleagues take the stage on March 7. “ I know it’s going to be an incredible night of music. I think it’s going to be really intimate and empowering,” she says. “I do believe that it’s going to set the bar for next year and the years to come.”

The Our Music Festival is taking place on March 7, 2024, at Hugh’s Room Live. Tickets are available here.