If you live in E7 and you haven’t seen MIRI perform, you are certainly in the minority. Forest Gate’s resident singer-songwriter-activist is a one-woman powerhouse who uses her voice for more than just making music. Her distinctive soulful vocals and classic British songwriting - often tinged with political messages and candid explorations of the social injustices faced in today’s society - has seen her music appreciated far and wide, played on Reprezent, BBC 6 Music, BBC London Introducing and Radio X to name just a few.
Her deep connection with both her local and queer communities shines through her music. Whether she’s performing at the Southbank Centre, on the main stage at Manchester Pride, or headlining SheHerTheyThem here in Forest Gate, MIRI approaches every performance with passion and drive that is compelling.
Off-stage, she uses her experience as a force for good, and can currently be found (amongst many other projects) leading Diversity Platform, the LGBTQ+ music industry panel discussions & Q&A’s for LGBTQ+ creatives & allies, and helping others find their sound and their confidence with her Find Your Voice workshops and classes.
Somehow, in spite of all of this, I managed to pin MIRI down for a quick drink up at Tracks, and a chat about her music, her community and her activism, and how Forest Gate has been a backing track to her career.
How would you define your work?
I would define my work as creative, and inspired by freedom of voice to represent one's truth.
How does your activism shape your creativity?
I never saw it as activism, originally. From 2011 until 2019 I co-promoted Blue Monday, a monthly live music night created for LBTQ women and allies, but It wasn’t until around 2018 that I began to see it as activism. A friend mentioned that they’d heard from people who knew about the night, and knew about me and my activism work.
I’ve always followed what is important to me, community work supporting and empowering young people is important, running a Queer event in a heteronormative space is important. It isn’t easy; but activism isn’t easy.
As marginalised people - whether we’re queer women or gender-diverse - every day that we show up in life, that’s a form of activism. Being invited to perform for Million Women Rise wasn’t an opportunity for me to say ‘look at me, I’m an activist’, it was a time for me to show up to something that I needed to show up for.
How does your queer identity impact your art?
When I came out in my mid 20s it impacted my creativity quite naturally. As I became part of the community I found myself performing at places such as [the now-closed but once iconic London lesbian hotspot] Candy Bar, which led me to perform at other queer venues and events in Soho and beyond. But being a Queer woman in music means you can end up put in a box and labelled as a ‘Queer Creative’. On the one hand I’m grateful and proud to represent as a queer person, and to live in a country that allows me to still show up as a queer performer with relative safety, but I don’t want to only be booked for queer events, or women in music events. It’s amazing that my music can connect to the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s reductive to assume all LGBTQ+ people will like my music as we’re not all the same.
I’m not only a queer creative, I’m a creative, and my music connects with people outside of our community too.
Art is universal and it can resonate with unlimited people, and it’s frustrating to be put in a box. In all my years making music I’ve performed at all sorts of different spaces, and I still do, and it just happens that because I’m out about my queerness, I get booked to perform and speak at a lot of queer events, a lot of women in music events.
My song 'My Sweetheart' is inspired by stories I heard when I was first stepping into the Queer community, from queer women who had to flee the countries they were born into to escape persecution. When I step into a heteronormative space and perform it to a straight audience, that - again - is me showing up in my whole truth.
What makes Forest Gate home for you?
I’ve lived in Forest Gate for more than half my life - this community is my home. I love knowing that every time I leave my place I’ll see someone I know. This place has given me stability within the community.
I’ve connected with people who have lived here their whole lives and are the very core of Forest Gate, and people who have just recently moved here.
What’s beautiful about this place is that the new businesses and people who have just got here don’t seem to trample on the core of the area; there’s an ongoing respect for what was here before.
What does community mean to you?
Connection and acceptance. Even though there may be differences, there is a powerful connection that makes you unified and brings you together. There really is strength in community.
You can catch MIRI performing at the May Day Festival down the Avenue Road Arches on Sunday 1st May 12.30pm and at She.Her.They.Them on Saturday 14th May. For more information about MIRI, her music, her work, and her performances, check out www.miriofficial.com or follow her across social media @miriofficialuk