A PUB has vigorously defended its controversial ban on female-fronted bands by insisting that women “can’t sing rock”.

Doctor Brown’s, a popular live music venue in Middlesbrough, has been criticised by singers who have been denied a place on their stage because of their gender.

Paula Rees, the pub's manager, told The Northern Echo that the ban had been implemented because her regular customers do not believe women should sing rock songs.

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The Northern Echo: MUSICIANS: Some of the acts that may be unable to play at Doctor Brown's

Denying that the rule was sexist, she said: “We had female singers on in the past and customers just didn’t like it - we’re a rock bar and they don’t think that women should sing male rock songs.

“It’s nothing to do with me, it’s the pub’s regulars who come in every week, they won’t come in if there’s a female singer.”

Ms Rees said they would be relaxing the ban slightly to allow one band with a female singer to play next year and would consider bands who could guarantee large crowds but claimed that the policy would stay in place as a rule.

She said: “We have got to keep our regulars happy, I’m not a rock fan so can’t judge myself but I’ve been told that some women can sing and some can’t, but they can’t sing heavy rock.

“If we put a poster up and our regulars know there’s a woman in the band, they won’t give them a chance - they’re my bread and butter and we can’t risk nobody coming in.”

Singer Hannah Sowerby said Doctor Brown’s had cancelled gigs for her bands – Revenant and Syndicate 66 – after discovering they were fronted by a woman.

She said: “I haven’t been allowed to play because I’m female, despite the fact my band can draw a crowd.

“You wouldn’t get people saying they don’t like male bands, because not all male singers are the same – just like not all female singers are the same.

“It is a sexist attitude from the regulars and there’s no excuse for it in 2017, you’d think we’d be past this by now."

The Northern Echo:

MANAGER: Paula Rees from Doctor Brown's stands by the pub's ban on female-fronted bands. Picture: Kevin Donald (not for syndication)

Another female singer, who wanted to stay anonymous, said: “One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and in this case, the pub is judging all female singers on the basis of being female.

“Unfortunately, it’s true that many don’t think a woman can sing rock well and this is one of the reasons it’s extremely difficult for a woman to get anywhere fronting a band.

“We have to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same thing – it saddens me that some places won’t give females the same chance as men because I’ve seen male singers who aren’t very good either.

“If a band has a good reputation and they can see videos confirming the quality of the band, they should not make the decision for their customers what type of band to enjoy but give them a chance to sample varying types of entertainment.

“My band are punished by this too and they are extremely talented guys – it’s a shame.”

A spokesman for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said that the pub’s ban was not illegal but listed a number of female-fronted acts as he claimed some of the most successful musicians in the world were women.

A spokeswoman for the Musicians' Union said: “We have not been involved in this particular incident but we take discrimination on any grounds very seriously.

“For the purposes of booking shows, female-fronted bands should not be treated any differently to male-fronted bands, and neither should they be expected to identify themselves or their music according to their gender.

“We have been investigating the seeming lack of female artists on festival line-ups but this is the first time I’ve personally come across a booking cancelled explicitly because of the gender of the performer and the assertion made that audiences aren’t interested in gigs featuring women.

“Sexism in this regard is damaging both to the local music community and to the wider industry. “Audiences are generally receptive to a diverse programme of music, and we would strongly contest the assertions made.

“We are undertaking various initiatives pertaining to women in music currently and, whilst we are all too aware of the current inequality and lack of sufficient female representation in areas of the industry, fortunately we have found that most employers and personnel are committed to striving for positive change across all sectors.”

  • For more information on Hannah Sowerby's bands, visit UKRevenant or Syndicate66UK on Facebook.