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2021 Festival lineups are unacceptable says diversity consultant

With restrictions easing, more and more festivals are announcing their line-ups to make up for the lack of live performances in the last year.

Yet these events have been criticised for their lack of gender diversity. The Guardian analysed 31 events and found a third of these events still had less than 30% female and gender minority acts in their line-ups.

Indie-rock festival Victorious and metal events Slam Dunk and Bloodstock featured more than 80% male performers. Big names such as Isle of Wight and Kendal Calling had 73% and 79% male acts respectively in their lineup.

Vick Bain, a music diversity consultant, said these line-ups were disappointing to see. She said: “It is just not acceptable to have lineups which are less than 10% female musicians on stage.

“I think they are going to be left behind in the future.”

Dance festival, Creamfield, has a line-up of 91% male acts. During lockdown, Vick created an online directory for UK female musicians called the F-List.

The F-List started as a google spreadsheet with artists Vick found whilst doing a report on gender diversity within record labels and publishing companies.

After the spreadsheet went viral, she developed the list into a user-friendly website. The directory now has more than 5100 female artists.

Vick says this project stops event organisers from saying that they cannot find female musicians to perform.

She explained: “They’re not allowed to use that excuse anymore because they certainly did not ask 5100 female musicians if they can perform at their festival.”

The founder of the F-list believes that there are “glimmers of hope” for change in the music industry. She has had a number of festival organisers call her for advice.

In addition, more and more music festivals are signing up for a new initiative.

Statistics from Keychange Website

PRS Foundation’s initiative Keychange encourages music festivals to pledge to commit to lineups featuring 50% women and gender minorities by 2022.

Vick added: “I think there are a lot of festivals who want to do better but maybe have never known where to find the women before.”

In the last few years, several female-led festivals have sprung up to bring female musicians to the forefront. Loud Women is one such festival, an annual one-day event that brings female acts from across the world.

The festival, backed by a not-for-profit organisation by the same name, aims to support women and nonbinary musicians rising up through the grassroots scene.

Their founder, Cassie Fox, is part of a band herself and started the organisation after seeing how male-dominated the gig scene in London.

Now there are chapters across the world in Canada, US, Australia and Ireland.

She said that the discussion surrounding gender diversity at festivals has gone on for too long. She said: “It feels like every year there is this faux outrage.

“Until who is actually running the music industry starts changing, starts looking like you and me, then we may start to see changes trickling down to our festivals or to our top tens.”

Angel Lawson, an aspiring musician, agrees that the industry does not seem to be getting better for female artists.

She recently carried out research into how women need to sell their bodies to ‘make it’ in the industry. This has led to her to be more cautious when approaching work in the industry.

She said: “I think it really speaks to how we as people like to pick and choose issues to fight about when it’s convenient for us because people want to say how disgusting the treatment of artists is but no one wants to actually get involved.

“Personally, I don’t think the industry has changed at all. They’re just better at covering it up and making it look empowering rather than forced.”

Loud Women have made it their mission to empower musicians like Angel. They also want to make the music environment safe.

Their founder said: “A big focus for us at Loud Women is making sure our events are events that women can turn up by themselves if they want to.”

“Usual gig environments don’t feel like spaces that women can go by themselves and enjoy the music. That’s something that we’re really keen to foster.”

The organisation released a charity single this month to raise money for Women’s Aid. The charity is a grassroots group working to stop domestic violence.

Cassie said this single titled ‘Reclaim the Streets’ was written in response to the sad deaths of Sarah Everard and Blessing Olusegun.

Whether it’s safety on the streets or in the music industry, there is still much work to be done. We can only hope that we are not having this same discussion for many years to come.


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