Reading and Leeds, who have announced the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Stormzy and Liam Gallagher as the headline acts, have come into criticism from fans after the first wave of acts announced as part of their lineup shows a distinct lack of female representation.
While major European festivals like Primavera Sound are committing to gender equality, Reading and Leeds organisers Festival Republic have been left behind once again after Melvin Benn, the head of Festival Republic, offered concerns over the drive for a 50/50 equal split.
Speaking to the BBC last year after they again came in for criticism, Benn said that attempts had been made by his bookers to secure more female acts: “18 female artists were approached to play Wireless Fest this year, only three of which were secured for our first announcement.” he said.
“Certain artists were unable to commit due to touring schedules or other reasons. In an ideal world, all 18 would have confirmed and we would be having a different conversation.”
However, the first offering from Reading and Leeds seems to offer a glimpse into another male-dominated selection of musicians as one person points out on Twitter:
Last year PRS Foundation made the pledge to achieve a 50/50 gender split on lineups by 2022, an initiative which includes 45 international music festivals have pledged to achieve a gender-equal lineup.
The move comes as part of an initiative called Keychange and will see the inclusive festivals will implement the change across their live music acts, conference talks and commissions. The BBC Proms, Kendal Calling, Sŵn, and Liverpool Sound City are leading the way in the UK while Canada’s BreakOut West and North by North East, New York’s Winter Jazzfest and A2IM Indie Week welcome the international inclusion.
Vanessa Reed, CEO of PRS Foundation, said: “Last year, on average, women made up 26% of the festival line-ups in the UK, so we’re talking about doubling that in a five-year timeframe.”
She added: “The push for gender parity across society continues and with increased public awareness of inequalities across the creative industries, we have an opportunity to respond and commit to tangible change in music… I hope that this will be the start of a more balanced industry which will result in benefits for everyone.”
Reed concluded: “That’s quite ambitious but it’s achievable.”
Other leading events such as Bluedot, Cheltenham music and Jazz festivals and the Introducing stages the BBC hosts across various festivals are included.
When asked about the PRS Foundation and the drive for 50/50 lineups, Benn said: “Is that the right way to go about it – to say it’s got to be 50/50? I don’t know that it is.”
Instead, Benn founded the ReBalance project which offers female artists studio recording time. “I couldn’t think how to address it because the acts weren’t there,” Benn said. “I got the idea to start encouraging more women to start recording music.”