Occupy Me


This article was written on 25 Feb 2015, and is filled under Multi-tasking, Music, Performance, Writing.

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Deborah Coughlin: Gaggle founder, writer, producer, composer, performer



As Deborah Coughlin describes below, she has many strings to her bow. In fact, she probably has more than one bow. Journalist, director, producer, composer and performer, she may be best known for starting the radical all female choir Gaggle, described by NME as ” the most exciting, innovative and genuinely imaginative force in music right now.”  Deborah was also editor of The Feminist Times and is currently a reporter and contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and feature writer for Guardian Weekend Magazine.

We asked her to try and narrow down what it is about her career that she loves and how she got there.

OM: Can you describe an average day at work?

DC: The first hour is normally taken up with a coffee/tea and figuring out what it is I want to achieve that day, making a list and then spending the day ticking off that list. Because I work in a variety of roles across a few industries my day can include meetings with a really diverse range of people in different parts of town and a lot of emailing.

OM: What exactly is it that you do?

DC: I write, direct, produce, compose, perform, present – I don’t have one job title – rather some specialist subjects and a lot of different skills to communicate about them. I’ve made records, apps, pop up immersive experiences, I’ve written newspaper features, comedy sketch shows and operas.

OM: What was the hardest part about doing all this?


I consider this a gift and a curse but I have never wanted to do just one thing. This first became a “problem” when I had to pick my GCSEs and it’s been something I’ve had to get used to about myself. I really didn’t want to pick Art over Music, or writing over performing and I didn’t understand why I should – none of my heroes did.

But it’s tricky being someone who doesn’t specialise in the same way lots of other people do. Linked In doesn’t have an option for it and there’s a danger that people won’t understand what it is you are offering.

How I’ve come to terms with this is by figuring out what values run across all my work whether performing, directing, writing, presenting or producing…. they are that I want to uncover and give voice to things that are often ignored, that I want to be creative and that I want to retain integrity in everything I do.




OM: And what’s the best part of the job?

DC: When one of my mates says to me quietly over text or in a pub “I love that ______ you did – I’ve always thought that and I’m so glad someone said it”. That’s one of the most satisfying things.

I love directing as well because it’s really moving when people trust you and your ideas, and perversely I enjoy conflict resolution maybe a little too much. I also love seeing other people develop – I’m kind of a career voyeur.

OM: Do you feel you’re treated differently in your industry because you’re a woman?

DC: Yes. Differently to men, yes. Different to slim women too. I started off kind of naive to this, then got angry once I’d had a few bad experiences, now I’m much calmer – I’ve found my own set of ways of dealing with the expectations and communication anomalies that come with being a woman and also I do think generally things are improving. I also have found other women the greatest and most amazing support.

OM: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And what other advice would you give to anyone looking to become an X ? What qualifications and experience do you need?

DC: With the music industry, media and arts there are two things I’ve seen get in the way of people:
Drinking/partying at the expense of all else and not growing out of it.
Giving up.

I began to really thrive when I dared to take myself seriously – but obviously never take yourself too seriously! I think we all need to find mentors, even if they are your peers.

OM: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the workplace or in your career?

DC: All my biggest mistakes have involved booze and/or a lack of confidence. There are so many stories, many hilarious, but I’m not gonna open up here!

OM: What does success mean to you?

DC: Not worrying about what other people think.

OM: What’s your feminist wish for the future?

DC: That women are taught not to feel like imposters, are valued as highly as men and that anything can seem possible.




Deborah and Gaggle’s forthcoming event celebrating International Women’s Day

Tweet Deborah here.

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