Feature – Dr Ailie Robertson

Ailie Robertson

How do you describe yourself and your work?  

Harp player and composer working with traditional and experimental music, combining harp and live electronics

What’s important to you about the work you produce or the way you make it? 

As I get older it becomes increasingly important to create music that I feel is authentic to me. That’s taken it down a route that’s perhaps less ‘commercial’ but that feels a lot more exciting.

What effect do you hope your work will have (or currently has) on listeners/audiences/people/the world?

I hope it open’s peoples eyes and ears about the harp and what it can do. I hope it has an emotional connection for people. and I hope it provokes curiosity and discussion and excitement for listeners

What do you enjoy about sharing your work?  

I love being on stage and connecting with an audience, and it’s amazing when you get messages from people around the world who have listened and enjoyed my work.

What does making new work mean to you? 

Challenge, excitement, anxiety, curiosity, feeling

Who or what inspired/inspires you to commit to your creative work and how?  

I think it’s the constant drive to contribute something to the world, to somehow make it a more beautiful place, and to commit to continually growing as a musician

What’s the next big challenge for you creatively/artistically and/or in business? 

Releasing an album which is hard to categorise stylistically

What skills have been essential in your work so far? 

Tenacity, optimism, ambition and flexibility.

What makes you feel determined to produce great work/music/art/projects?

A range of things – being inspired by the work of others, feeling a responsibility to have a voice as a woman – a chance that I know generations before me haven’t had, a desire to create something with real meaning.

Any idea, approach or message you want to share?

I see so many artists that don’t put their work out there because they’re afraid of failing or criticism. There’s just no point in this – if you do that you fail immediately anyway. I’ve failed loads of time, often very publicly, and each time it makes my desire to succeed stronger, and I learn from it.

What would make your creative/working life better and/or fairer? 

Better – enough money to hire an administrator as so much creative time is lost to admin

Fairer – less nepotism in the arts 

Do you have an experience of discrimination or abuse that you want to share?

For me it’s the little, everyday discriminations that add up:

  • The assumptions about how my music will sounds
  • The comments about appearance
  • The assumptions that I won’t know how my gear works
  • The sound techs only talking to the man in the group
  • Being called and ‘all girl’ band, etc etc. It gets really old after a while.
  • Oh and being called ‘bossy’ because I express my opinion!

Do you have advice for female and/or LGBTQ2 musicians/artists who might be struggling or experiencing invisible barriers (perhaps that they’re not yet aware of)?  

Don’t underestimate your ability or your worth. Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men, and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.

My work…