Jane Boston grew up with a background in music in a middle-class family and went to University of Sussex where the politics of coming out and socialist activism led her into theatre as a way to change the world. In Brighton she met and fell in love with Tash Fairbanks and together they formed the street theatre company Theatre Against Sexism and joined the band Devil’s Dykes. On their return from an influential visit to the US in 1978-9, the band transformed into Bright Girls and with Jude Winter, Tash and Jane set up Siren theatre company and band. Jane devised, performed, wrote lyrics and music and played guitar. She also did a part-time MA in Women’s Studies at Kent and with the rest of the company was very active in feminist politics. She went on to do a further M.A in Voice and to become a voice and communication consultant and a senior practitioner in voice at RADA, where she also led equal opportunities initiatives. She became Head of Voice at Central School of Speech and Drama in 1990, and has also designed voice courses internationally and worked with the business sector as well as in education and government. Her publications include the co-edited book, Breath in Action: The Art of Breath in Vocal and Holistic Practice (2009).
Tash Fairbanks grew up in a working class family in the East End of London and struggled with school and being a lesbian in the climate of the 1950s and 60s. Involvement in a community play at Cockpit Theatre led her to drama school at East 15. From there she joined Community Theatre and then Sidewalk, whose play Son of a Gun was based on her life, before joining Gay Sweatshop where she helped devise and perform Care and Control , about lesbian motherhood. She met Deb Trethewey in a Vauxhall squat and, moving to Brighton, met Jane and Jude and formed the band: Devil’s Dykes, which later became Bright Girls. With a group of men friends they formed Theatre Against Sexism (TAS) and in 1979, with the women, the lesbian feminist theatre company and band: Siren. Tash was the writer, though working from the company’s devising process, as well as performing in most shows and in Siren the band, on sax and other instruments. Her later plays have included Fixed Deal (Women’s Theatre Group, 1986), A Private View (Graeae, 1987), A Foreign Correspondence (Theatre Centre, 1990), Army of the Night, Pheasant China (for Extemporary Dance Theatre), Up For Demolition, Grace and Glitter, Ties, and the acclaimed Fog (2012), co-written with Toby Wharton.
Debs Trethewey was born in Johannesburg and grew up running around in the bush and was expelled from boarding school for being a lesbian. She left South Africa at 18 to travel and meet other lesbians: ‘I thought I was the only one in the world’, eventually settling in Brighton, a vibrant community that felt like coming home. The technician in the group from Curfew onwards, she had done a City and Guilds in hi-fi, radio and TV servicing and then for six years, drove the van, built the sets, did lighting design and ran the lights and sound as well as playing drums in the band, often improvising props or rewiring kit, able to turn her hand to anything. She was also part of the vital discussion and devising process that took place over long drives in the van examining the politics, theatrical approach and content of each show. Siren became her family and she and Jude are still together 30 years on. She went on to work in the voluntary sector doing repairs in the home for people with disabilities and the elderly, becoming a Senior Engineer doing plumbing, electrics and gas, before setting up a business to manage people’s building works.
Jude Winter grew up in South Africa, in a family active against apartheid. Growing up she performed as an actor and musician through the church where her father was vicar and was herself politically active, going to prison for a short time due to her involvement in student politics. Coming to Britain she practiced briefly in clinical psychology – and discovered feminism. In Brighton she lived in a women’s household, joined Theatre Against Sexism and started playing keyboards in Devil’s Dykes, where she met Jane and Tash, joining them in Siren as deviser and performer. Later on with Hilary Ramsden [the fifth member of Siren and involved in several later shows] she devised the show Les Les and, after Siren folded, set up the company Dorothy Talk, touring for nearly 5 years in the UK and US. She then took job in a Community Transport organisation, found herself loving the work, going on to become Deputy Chief Executive and turning it into a major social enterprise.
Siren the band re-formed in 2014 and played benefit gigs for Unfinished Histories in 2015 as part of Homosexual Acts and in 2016