It may have not been the five-year anniversary party she dreamed of, but March 18 officially marked half a decade since Chippy Nonstop founded Intersessions, a series of community-focused, artist-run seminars aimed at addressing the gender and sexuality imbalance found at all levels of the music industry. Since then, the series has grown to encompass DJing, production, business, and more; has hosted workshops in cities around the globe, from Montreal to Melbourne, Berlin to Beirut; and has provided a safe and inclusive space for hundreds of women and LGBTQ+ folks to learn.
With the pandemic putting a pause on gatherings and international travel for over a year now, Chippy and the Intersessions team have had to adjust to the virtual space, but it hasn’t been without its challenges—namely, the inability to provide one of the unique offerings of the series itself: “A lot of our motivation to do the workshops was because of the economic barrier and access to equipment for a lot of people in our community,” Chippy explains.
Intersessions has pushed forward, hosting virtual workshops in conjunction with Toronto Pride and keeping their community engaged with social media content and other resources, including a spreadsheet database of Black women and femme-identifying DJs, producers, and artists in electronic music. And now Chippy and her team are gearing up for one of their biggest virtual initiatives yet: an introduction to DJing workshop, presented as part of the House of Vans digital pop-up.
Vans has brought its epic pop-up through Toronto a number of times, hosting at memorable locations including The Bentway, 99 Sudbury, and that beautiful glass warehouse at 950 Dupont that seems to go (sadly) unused a lot of the time. This is the first year House of Vans is going digital, and while it’s going to be different, the three-day online experience will surely be memorable. This year’s virtual programming includes an interactive skatepark, community market, artist workshops and streamed musical performances, all with the aim of creating unity between the greater Vans community despite not being able to physically gather together.
Space for the Intersessions workshop was limited to just 40 spots, with the lucky participants receiving a kit with USB keys and a code to redeem for their own pair of Vans Customs. If you didn’t make it into the workshop, you can still check out the tutorial videos on the workshop floor that are open to all House of Vans attendees.
We caught up with Chippy Nonstop to ask her what to expect from the workshop, the pros and cons of virtual events, and how she feels things have changed in five years of Intersessions.
How have you seen the industry shift in the five years since you started Intersessions in 2016?
I am not sure if it is because of who I surround myself with or if it is bigger than that, but within my community the best DJs are women and queers. Period. In terms of being accepted in spaces such as festivals and more major lineups, I feel like that change still needs to come. We have carved our own space and we have been noticed by the masses, but safety of trans women, Black women, POC women, and queer men still needs work in these predominantely white cis male spaces. Anyone can tokenize us and throw us on a line-up, but we really need to reconfigure this industry and have more of us on the back-end to ensure the needs of minorities are met.
The last year has obviously been challenging for artists and DJs. Was there anything that the pandemic pushed you to do that you may not have otherwise?
I definitely wouldn’t have made a TikTok or started streaming or getting my own equipment in my house. I was playing out so much before that the need for equipment never came to me. But I’m glad I have it all now.
“We want to be booked for what we do, not for panels about how we can’t do what we do because no one will give us a shot.”
What positive changes do you hope to see coming out of the pandemic, especially as it pertains to women in music?
Honestly, I would just like to see more intersectionality. When it comes to women’s causes, white women are included so much more in that discussion than anyone else. I would love to see more women managers, bookers, agents, A&Rs, etc. I would like to see the narrative perpetuated by men and brands of how hard women have it in the industry be stopped. We want to be booked for what we do, not for panels about how we can’t do what we do because no one will give us a shot.
The shift to virtual experiences has actually made things more accessible than ever in many cases. Is there anything you’ve observed in the last year about virtual events that you’ll be carrying with you once IRL experiences are able to happen again?
In some ways it is more accessible to the audience but not as accessible to an artist who can’t afford equipment. What I do like about online events is the amount of engagement in the chat. After doing things virtually for so long, I think when in-person events return again I will take that sense of community with me forward, and virtual communication as well as IRL connections.
What can people expect from the virtual Intersessions workshop at House of Vans?
This workshop is going to be a lot of Q&A; we are going to be interacting with the audience a lot and asking what they need and addressing their questions. Usually Intersessions workshops are very hands-on, so we want to make everyone feel included. I will be going over the basics of DJing and how to adapt more to the virtual world as a DJ. We’ll also explain how to have a home set up that is affordable and functional and that we can help you use.