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A Musical Legacy that’s Loud and Proud

When it comes to the punk music scene, dozens of spirited older and middle-aged women are putting Leicester firmly on the map, thanks to a noisy new phenomenon in the city.

The ‘Unglamorous Music Project’ is a thriving local punk scene founded in Leicester for older, all-female bands who write their own music. “Prior musical experience is immaterial – enthusiasm is everything,” that’s the motto that binds the project together and gives women the opportunity to embrace unbridled fun and playful musical rebellion in their later years.

Ruth Miller and the Verinos

It was founded in 2022 by Ruth Miller, a punk fanatic who sadly passed away in October at
the age of 61. However, her legacy lives on, and boy is it loud!

The ‘Unglamorous’ project spawned a string of bands that put together a 12-track compilation album last summer. It
attracted global interest—a lengthy piece in The Guardian newspaper and a spotlight on Channel 5. But more important than the impressive media coverage are the lives that have been enriched and the women who have been empowered as a result of Ruth’s project. Yes, she definitely made her
mark—one gigantic exclamation mark, in fact!

For 72-year-old Stephanie Smith, The ‘Unglamourous Music Project’ (UMP) has opened up her world and given her a brand-new lease on life, away from the U3A. Since joining ‘Velvet Crisis,’ the former science teacher has been rocking stages across the city and writing rebellious anthems—bold, statement songs like ‘Life’s a Bitch’ and ‘Shut the F**k Up.’

“That phrase is repeated 32 times throughout the song,” she says proudly. “I guess you could say that I’ve found a bit of a rebellious streak!

“The project has absolutely revolutionised my life. It’s given me and lots of other women the opportunity to voice opinions, thoughts, ideas, and attitudes that we perhaps wouldn’t have done before.
“The first song I wrote was called ‘The Invisible Woman,’ and it’s about how older women become invisible in society. You’re just tucked away in the corner and left to your own devices— unnoticed and unheard. People don’t value what you’ve got to say or even recognise that you’ve got anything to say. However, this project has
empowered us—to stand up and refuse to blend into the background. We’re
not just going to sit quietly and accept the status quo. We’ve got a voice and
we’re going to use it…”

Another woman whose world’s been rocked by the ‘Unglamourous Music Project’ is 49-year-old Tracy Simmons, who plays bass in ‘The Wonky Portraits.’

“It’s been a real surprise in my life—one of the best things I’ve ever done,” said the Leicester-based lecturer. “When
I first got involved in the project, I thought I’d just be learning a few notes on my bass. I never thought it would lead to me playing venues like Rough Trade in Nottingham and even Leicester’s O2 Academy,” she told

“I’ve discovered a whole new dimension to myself, and it’s just so much fun. My job can be stressful, so this is a lovely part of my life where I can just cut loose. We play songs about having a good time and live it out on stage.”

Ruth Miller founded the ‘Unglamourous Music Project’ after retiring from her role as a primary school teacher. In her student years, she had been a passionate part of the punk scene—the front woman in a band called ‘Ruth’s Refrigerator.’ In her retirement, she longed to recapture the musical spirit of her youth and take other women along for the ride.

However, she never imagined that her initiative would capture the world’s attention in the way that it has.

“Punk was her passion, and she wanted to pursue that. However, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for older women to get involved in the scene, so she created them,” said her daughter Izzy Cheney, who is set to carry the project forward.

“She was very project-oriented and a real force of nature. Once she put her heart and mind to something, nothing
could stop her.

“The legacy she has left behind is phenomenal,” she added. “It’s incomprehensible to me sometimes just how far the project went and how big it got. For the past few months, we’ve had German film crews following
us around. They want to make a documentary about my mum and what she did. I’m just so proud.”

A string of ‘Unglamourous’ gigs is planned for International Women’s Day (March 8), where bands will raise their
guitars in memory of Ruth—a woman who was known as ‘Punk Mum’ by many of the musicians involved.

One of those is 39-year-old Dina Gajjar, a single mum who sings in ‘Virginia’s Wolves.’ “When we were on stage, we’d always look for [Ruth] in the crowd, and she’d be there. She was just this reassuring presence—an absolute strength really,” she said.

“She looked out for us and just wanted the absolute best for us. Before I joined the project, I had no confidence, but she put me in a band and lit this fire in me that I’ll always cherish. We owe her so much. She’s changed so many lives, and even though she’s no longer around, we just want to carry on and do her proud.”

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By Louise Steel

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