Music photographer, journalist, DJ and radio show host Beth Sheldrick AKA Bethbethbeth has been a part of Bristol’s underground grime and dubstep scenes for the past four years, both in front of and behind the scenes – taking inspiration from her hero Mary Anne Hobbes to drive all her creative energy towards pushing new and underrated South West talent.
Beth has gone from launching her own underground music platform 117blog to becoming a sought after DJ with guest slots on Rinse FM, Reprazent Radio and Sub FM. Last month, she was invited to play on the Who Cares stage at St Paul’s Carnival alongside the likes of N.Y.T.A, Kahn and Neek and L U C Y, as well being invited back to Sequences Festival for the second year running.
Beth has gone from launching her own underground music platform 117blog to becoming a sought after DJ with guest slots on Rinse FM, Reprazent Radio and Sub FM
‘The blog was about giving myself a platform,’ Beth explains. She was just finishing a photography degree at UWE and hadn’t been able to find any work experience, so decided to take matters into her own hands. Originally named Coconut, Beth set up the brand with two friends who contributed art and lifestyle content.
‘I thought, fuck this, if no one is going to give me work experience I’m just going to create my own. So it became like a living portfolio for me. The first interview I did was with Conducta before he blew up and I went from there really.’
They began putting on nights and hosting radio shows, but after a couple of years, the other two founders didn’t have enough time to carry on, so Beth decided to re-brand to 117blog and focus 100% on her passion – underground, electronic music from Bristol and the South West.
‘I stopped doing 117blog at the end of last year because I got super busy with work, but it’s what led me to get all the other jobs I have now.’
Now Beth works freelance as a music photographer, writes for London in Stereo and does marketing for her friend’s restaurant Burger Theory, among other things, and has just launched a monthly radio show on 10Twenty Radio. That’s on top of her increasingly regular DJ sets and guest mixes in Bristol and beyond.
‘The reason I started the blog was because I was really passionate about supporting new music and underrated music, so I’d always had an idea that I wanted to start mixing at some point. It can be easier for guys to get into, because they’re generally part of a big group of friends where someone’s got decks and they all go and hang out and play music. I didn’t have that, I’ve never even had close friends that were interested in the same music as me, so I didn’t really know where to start.
I was really passionate about supporting new music and underrated music, so I’d always had an idea that I wanted to start mixing at some point
‘At the end of 2016, I started hanging out with Bristol producers Vern and Milla, who are now really good friends of mine. They’ve got decks at their house and Milla started to teach me. Around the same time, I got offered to do the Mix Nights course with Bristol Women in Music.
‘Luckily because I had already started learning I went in with a bit of knowledge, so it was like a practice space for me and it was really nice to meet other women that are trying to do the same thing.
‘We did our first gig two months later at The Love Inn. I did a few gigs last year, but because I was so new to it and I was so busy with work, it really started to stress me out, because I was still learning and still really under confident.
it was two to four evenings of intense mixing labour just for one gig. Then when it came to the actual gig, I’d be so nervous
‘Every time I had a gig, I’d spend a few hours at home one evening after work deciding what to play, then I’d go to Milla’s house and practice the whole set, record the whole set, listen back to the whole set and write down anything I didn’t like about it – any tracks I didn’t like, any transitions I didn’t like. Then I’d go back and re-practice it again and re-record it. So it was two to four evenings of intense mixing labour just for one gig. Then when it came to the actual gig, I’d be so nervous, it stressed me out too much.’
Beth put DJing aside for a few months, but after an urge to pick her headphones back up coincided with a tweet from Marcus Nasty inviting her on his Rinse FM show, Beth has been on a quick ascent ever since.
With the welcome arrival of Saffron Records, Bristol Women in Music and SisterWorks in Bristol, and similar initiatives gaining traction elsewhere in the UK, sadly, an almost inevitable backlash has come with it. Cries of positive discrimination litter social media and pub garden chats, and now even some female DJs are questioning whether they’re getting bookings simply for being a female DJ. However, any major lineup will tell you that women are still woefully underrepresented in the industry and you can be sure that the women who are getting booked have worked hard for it.
Cries of positive discrimination litter social media and pub garden chats, and now even some female DJs are questioning whether they’re getting bookings simply for being a female DJ
‘I’ve never wanted to be put on an all-female lineup, because I don’t think it looks particularly credible, unless it’s with an organisation that are doing it because that’s the work that they do. If it’s an all female night just for the sake of it, I don’t think that’s necessarily positive. It’s segregation essentially and it’s also marginally patronising.
‘I did worry, because I only started mixing last January, whether I’m just getting this far because I’m a women and people are hungry for that now – which is great – but I don’t want to be put in these positions because of that. But I’ve been working toward this for years with everything I’ve been doing, I’m not just throwing tunes together – I’m really invested in the scene, so I would like to think that that’s why I’m doing okay.’
Beth’s new monthly radio show on 10Twenty Radio will run every third Thursday from 5-7pm. Called The New Music Show, Beth will be representing not only new artists but new music from artists that she feels aren’t getting enough props. For her first show, Beth invited second-generation dubstep pioneers Gemmy and Double on the show, with newcomer Cila in for the last half hour.
‘I’m trying to reserve the last 30 minutes of the show for a new DJ or artist and give them a platform via being on a show with these bigger artists.’
I’m trying to reserve the last 30 minutes of the show for a new DJ or artist and give them a platform via being on a show with these bigger artists
Being so involved in the worlds of underground electronic music, it’s not hard to imagine that Beth would be thinking about her own productions sometime soon. Although she says it’s something that could be on the distant horizon, based on her rate of ascent in the past couple of years, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see a Bethbethbeth release in the next few.
‘Whenever people used to ask me this, I used to say that the reason I started working in music was because I have a passion for supporting it and I don’t want to add to the music that needs supporting. But about three months ago, I just got the urge. But the next day I was working for Multi-Track who are part of Bristol Plays Music and they were running a masterclass with Om Unit, and afterwards I just thought “I don’t think I can do that”. For one, I don’t have the time. But I’d love to learn in secret for five years and then suddenly come out with something. Say, in five years time if I’m still doing well at DJing and I come out with this amazing EP – that would be good.’
You can catch Beth DJing next month at Crofter’s Rights alongside Margari’s Kid, Sam ULG, Nuboid and Bagul on 19 September at an all-star AV night from Off-Switch Audio, celebrating 10 different artists and animators. In the meantime, you can tune in to her New Music Show on 10Twenty Radio every third Thursday from 5-7PM.
Tintype photography by Martin Thompson