After the musical Six comes SVN – meet the group redefining girl power in 2022
All seven members of SVN sat down with The Big Issue to talk the pressures and expectations facing women through history and today
by: Lara Roberts
28 Apr 2022
SVN have plenty of big issues to talk about. Credit Danny Kaan
Six is a musical phenomenon. Having first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, the show’s popularity grew rapidly, leading to London’s West End, Broadway and worldwide tours.
Retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, it’s funny, fearless and has a lot to say about history and big contemporary issues. So do the cast.
The six original West End cast members – and the understudy who covered each role – are continuing their story by forming SVN, to continue spreading the message of girl power and strength in womanhood.
The band consists of Jarnéia Richard-Noel (Jaye’J), Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Alexia McIntosh (Lexi), Aimie Atkinson, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Grace Mouat.
Seven women with powerhouse vocals, celebrating women via their pop and soul sound, they are on a mission to shed light on topics that are close to their hearts and help others find their voice.
All seven members of SVN sat down to talk to The Big Issue about their views on gender, parenthood and the pressures and expectations facing women through history and today.
The Big Issue: At the end of Six, the queen characters decide to form a band. How did that lead to you doing that for real?
Maiya: So, Lexi from day one has been like, ‘we should make a girl band, we should make a girl band’ and we were all like, ‘yeah, whatever, Lexi’.
Maiya: And then in 2020, Aimie made a group and messaged us all and was like, ‘girls, let’s get together and do a show!’ And for some reason, the stars aligned. We were all free and that was the birth of SVN. So, that’s our SVN story from start to finish. Not finished, we ain’t finished yet. Watch out world!
The final song of the show contains the lyrics: ‘One of a kind, no category’… but how would you categorise yourselves?
Millie: It was really important for us as seven women from different backgrounds and lifestyles to make sure there is something cohesive in our sound. We have a lot of influences. Imagine seven different women’s playlists and break down each of their favourite songs and you’re left with SVN.
So SVN is a new genre?
Why do you think Six is popular with fans around the world who don’t know much about English history?
Aimie: I remember this primary school teacher came to me after [a show] and said, ‘oh my gosh, I need to go back and re-teach everything I taught my kids at school because they had no idea of the suffering that each of those women went through!’ That was one of the most wonderful things. If people don’t know much about Henry VIII wives, it’s an amazing introduction to it for children, and for adults, it’s such an accessible way of learning their stories.
Grace, you covered the roles of all six queens. What were the differences and similarities that the queens – and your colleagues – shared?
Grace: We are the original cast of this production and I think this lot are a perfect bunch. Millie is Anne Boleyn. She’s so cheeky. Nat is super caring and has riffs and vocals for days. Aimie is sexy. Lexi is badass. Jaye’J is cool and owns the space. And Maiya is just… Alicia Keys. She is also the voice of reason in the group and Catherine Parr is literally that.
Maiya: And Grace, you’re all of them!
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The wives of Henry VIII endured a lot and lived up to the expectations of women at the time. Has much changed?
Aimie: I think there is still an element of what they had to deal with. Obviously not as drastic as getting your head chopped off but I do think we’ve still got some way to go. Social media has escalated a lot of things when it comes to body image and how women feel in general. That’s why I think Six is so relatable because you can still look at those women from hundreds of years ago and go, ‘oh my gosh, I get that!’
Millie: It’s almost like a 2022 version of the trials and tribulations that happened. The things that women still have to go through daily are horrific. It’s just evolved with the times. We’re still dealing with the same amount of pressure, the same amount of weight on our shoulders, how society labels us. If you broke down the lyrics to our songs, it is picking up on what is happening now and singing about it. And calling it out. We managed to bring that to Six and now we are making it here. We are not afraid to say what we feel, to protect people and to speak up for them.
Did Six give you a different perspective on our current royals?
Natalie: When I was learning about that period of time, you learn about certain things but you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives and their heads. I guess it’s the same now. We see the royals as they are. We don’t really know what’s happening in their lives. It’s the same with celebrities and people who have some sort of platform or status. We see something but we don’t really know what’s going on behind all that.
Any plans with the band for the Golden Jubilee?
All: Tea party!
What does girl power mean in 2022?
Jaye’J: Girl power is about connection, saying exactly what we want and being exactly who we want to be. Standing together and having a voice together, not just on our own. And uplift each other. Building empires with women and knowing that we can shine bright all together.
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You’ve talked about using your platform to change the world. What big issues would you like to tackle and how would you do it?
Maiya: Gender equality within work. Whatever you identify as and whoever you want to be, equality within the workplace is very important. Putting women at the top of the food chain. I honestly think things would run so much better if we were in charge.
Lexi: I’m a single parent and I think it’s important that they’re represented, whether you’re a man or a woman. We work really hard and we have dreams. I want to be a voice within the group for parents. Just to say, you can still live your dreams. For me to be a single parent from Birmingham, to being in a West End show with all these beautiful women is amazing.
Millie: I want to reach out to the queer community. It’s really important to us. We want to represent women, queer women, trans women, Black women, POC women. In all our tracks, pretty much, we don’t use gender-fied language. Our pronoun choices are ‘they’, ‘you’, ‘us’, ‘I’. So every single person can listen to SVN are going to feel seen, held and heard.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in 2022?
Lexi: That’s the money question right there!
Aimie: I think friendship with other women is so powerful. The sisterhood, when you get it, which we have after been part of this experience together for years now, we’re like sisters. That bond between women is like nothing else.
Natalie: There’s that quote, ‘when women come together, incredible things happen’. I feel that not only what we’ve done, but other women, incredible, inspirational women in whatever field it is, when they come together they create incredible things that’s so powerful and empowering too.
Lexi: One of the great things about being a woman is being able to birth a child. It’s such an amazing experience. A sperm and an egg, coming together…nine months later a big-headed baby, gates of fire opening and there you go. We do that!
Jaye’J: I think how different we all are is beautiful. As a woman who loves women, you can look at other women and say ‘that’s so beautiful about you’. We are all so individual. You’re not necessarily exactly the same as someone else but there is something you can relate to.
Millie: Having the capability to have unconditional love for women is something which we have actually experienced first-hand. And that’s the word, unconditional. Learning from other women is another one. I have learned life-long lessons from these six people.
Woman by SVN is available to listen to now on Spotify. SVN play a concert at the O2 Academy Islington on 7 August, tickets available here. For updates follow SVN on Instagram
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