Women in music are more powerful than ever. Whilst they are still often underrepresented, there does seem to be a shift towards more recognition and the industry moving forward. Starbelle have been doing their bit for woman musicians since 2011, as a female DJ and musician agency, and is based right here in Tottenham. It was founded by Isabelle De Polla, who has been living in the area for over 12 years. Rachel Ho caught up with Isabelle to find our more.
Photo by Darren Bandoo supplied: Isabelle De Polla, Founder of Starbelle
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in Willesden Green in North West London. My parents were pretty old school and owned a textiles company, manufacturing and importing clothes from Poland.
Describe your relationship to Tottenham.
Where do I start! I moved to South Tottenham about 12 years ago. A good friend of mine lived in an awesome building and showed me a space that was becoming available. I still live and work in that same space.
When I first came to the area, I never thought I would like it as much as I do now. The only appealing thing at the time was the fact that it was close enough to central London, thanks to the awesome Victoria Line. Although walking home at night from the tube station proved to be a little on the scary side back then.
I am half Polish and half southern European (mainly Italian and Greek - I just did a DNA test) and because of my cultural background, I absolutely love the diverse cultures we have here in Tottenham.
My current relationship with Tottenham, is that it is very much my home and I wish it would be a more permanent stay, but unfortunately I might be squeezed out like many others.
Photo supplied: Starbelle DJ and musicians performing alongside each other
What is Starbelle and how did it come about?
Starbelle is a female DJ and musician agency. The instruments, such as saxophone, violin and percussion play over the DJ. This is now a more common concept, but when I started it seven years ago not many people knew about musicians and DJs playing alongside each other. You could say I am one of the pioneers and now the concept is all over the place. I am very happy about this to be honest!
I also see myself as an entrepreneur, a leader, a forward thinker and a fair boss. A music agency seemed like the most obvious choice due to my life experiences.
The reason I started Starbelle, was because I worked as a DJ myself and found that women were often not given a chance or voice, not to mention being underpaid. I was offered about £70 a gig in the beginning and no one was there to tell me I should be charging at least twice that!
It was a struggle to get work, so having an agency gave me more control over how much people should be paying and the website gave more visibility.
It was a slow process and at times I was really wondering what I was doing by not getting a day job and sticking to a dream that at times seemed very distant. I realised, however, that after all the terrible bosses I ever had, I would never be a slave to someone else’s needs and bank account.
What advice would you give to women who are starting out in the music industry?
I could be cliché and say follow your dreams, but we all have dreams and that creates a lot of competition, so the "dreams" statement is not very realistic or useful. The main thing I would say is make sure this is what you want to do.
Don’t get me wrong, competition can be healthy, but secondly I would say, respect all the other women in the industry, as we are far stronger together than directly competing with each other.
Finally, charge what you are worth. Do not undersell your talent. Stick to your prices and do not undercut anyone. Undercutting is career suicide, because the industry is far smaller than you think.
As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?
I have loved seeing the new venues popping up such as Lemon Cafe, the cafe next to Downhills Park and the one inside, which has been upgraded and looks great now. I am happy the council put some money aside and helped make West Green Road fresher and more colourful.
Tottenham Green Market is great and I love going in the summertime I also gave them some of my house mixes for background music.
Photo by Darren Bandoo supplied: Isabelle aka "Miss Velocity' DJing at Five Miles for Discover Tottenham
Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
My favourite thing to do is go to Lemon Cafe Bistro, as their food is fresh and delicious! I also really enjoy going to Five Miles for a pint of ale or my Sunday hangover cure, in the form of a gin Bloody Mary.
Anything you would like to add?
The only thing I would add is that the new building developers are killing my road and views of derelict warehouses. I know the space is needed for housing people, but I wish they would make affordable live/work spaces, because freelancers and small business owners are on the rise.
The vibe here in Tottenham is very much of unity and community. There is this very mild but noticeable support from people all over and I hope I can be involved in making it stronger and more accessible to those new to the area or just those who need a bit more support.
Find out more about Starbelle: