Feminist comedian to take centre stage at Wandsworth Arts Festival


Rosie Wilby works her self-identity into most of her stand up.


By Nathan Blades

Rosie Wilby has been putting in an appreciated queer feminist angle into stand-up, music and filmmaking since she was at university, and her experiences are coming together in her new performance at the Wandsworth Arts Festival this Thursday.

Called Nineties Woman, she talks about her self-identification as a feminist and the newspaper she worked on at university, in a mash up of live performance and documentary.

Studying at the University of York, the campus fostered a wide range of student publications, and started working on Matrix, a ‘zine’ for women.

Zine culture (short for ‘fanzine’) revolves around amateur production magazines dedicated to specific interests. Because of the low barrier to entry, it meant that people who felt that their demographic or interests weren’t reflected in professional media could still get their voices heard.

“It was very much put together in a lo-fi DIY style which seems appropriate, as there was a huge fanzine scene at the time which has now come back,” she said.

Matrix featured a mixture of heavy topics of body image and sexual harassment, but also had cartoons.

At the time, the riot grrrl movement was popular in the feminist scene and heavily related to zine culture. Taking a harder, punk rock edge, riot grrrl media focused heavily on sexuality and empowerment in a counter to the endless reams of boy band pop at the time.

“We weren’t really listening to riot grrl bands when we put [Matrix] together,” said Rosie. “It was more folk lesbian acts like the Indigo Girls.

“When I got to London after graduating, I realised that some really exciting challenging musical things were going on.”

Beyond Nineties Woman, Rosie Wilby works in her self-identity into most of her stand up. She said that, coming from a generation where being gay defined who you were and the company you kept, it featuring in her comedy was inevitable.

She noted that things have changed and sexuality isn’t so much of a core identity issue these days which, in her opinion, is both a good and bad thing. Still, she wants to keep her stand-up accessible to everyone, regardless of sexuality and gender.

“Love is universal, after all,” she said.

Outside of her performances, Rosie is still heavily involved in queer media. Back in 2011, she co-wrote and co-stared in The Bride and Bride, shown at the BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Her radio show, Out in South London, was one of the sponsors for this year’s festival.

She said: “I enjoyed it, particularly the widening focus to include more trans and gender queer work. Though this may mean they need to change the name of the festival.”

In the future, Rosie looks forward to a resurgence of queer voices in media, both from zines and larger-scale publications. She said that a mixture of both in-depth writing was needed among more lifestyle and entertainment publications, though they still have their place.

Out in South London airs on Resonance 104.4FM every Tuesday at 6.30pm.

Rosie Wilby’s Nineties Woman will show at the Wandsworth Arts Festival on May 16, 7.30-9.30pm. Tickets are £3. Visit or call 020 8772 6556.

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