‘We need some more girls in here, there’s too many men!’: the shameful representation of female acts at UK music festivals

Caitlin MacDonald

Last week Reading & Leeds announced their 2020 line up and it went viral, but for all the wrong reasons. The iconic festival that has hosted some of Britain’s greatest artists has fallen under heavy criticism for its blatant lack of female representation. 

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It all started when Lucy Mccourt tweeted the above images with the caption ‘Where are all the women aye?’ Within hours the tweet was viral with over 12.1K interactions and began a very important discussion. Mccourt’s removal of male artists from the line up poster is a shocking visual statement that implies female artists are not respected, wanted or represented in the British music scene. 

The Tweet did however have backlash, DarkFruit Twitter was in uproar arguing that the lack of female artists is because there ‘aren’t any good ones,’ (sorry did I just roll my eyes out loud). To follow this line of defence is quite frankly ridiculous, every genre of music is flooded with British female talent from Ella Eyre, to FKA Twigs, to Grime star Queenie yet they have not been given the same platform as their male competitors. 

Furthermore, other festivals have never struggled to find female artists that are ‘good enough’: the Spanish festival Primavera’s 2019 line up and Icelandic festival Airwaves managed a 50/50 split, and both festivals were very popular selling out of tickets. 

In response to Reading & Leeds’ line up DJ Annie Mac Tweeted her disappointment at the lack of female representation saying it shows the ‘blatant lack of want to represent women’ adding to all young women attending the festival that they ‘DO belong on those stages.’

According to BBC research only 8% of 2020’s major UK festival headliners are female, with Taylor Swift, Little Mix and Haim being the only female acts topping the bill at the 16 biggest UK festivals this year. Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis has said that Glasto’s future “has to be 50/50”, adding that festival organisers must make a conscious change and address the lack of female artists chosen to perform. 

The non-existent female headliner however stresses that the problem is systematic, there is lack of representation at every level of the music industry: from record label signings, sound engineers, music production, marketing and sales of the musician it is a predominantly male business. But what can be done to change this?

Women in Music, a non-profit scheme, is working to advance and diversify the industry with workshops aimed at women and provides funding to help them break into the industry. Elsewhere male artists are showing their defiance against the status-quo of the industry with 1975’s lead singer Matt Healy has announcing via Twitter that the band will not perform at any male-dominated festivals, and BBC 6 Music Festival, Camden, are hosting an all-female concert at Roundhouse to celebrate International Women’s Day.

This is only the beginning though, until there is an institutional change and festivals give female performers the same platform they do as males then we will constantly be asking ourselves, ‘where dem girls at?’ 

Categories: Music

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