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Festival headline slots: Why aren’t women getting a look-in? - with poll

Entertainment | Published:

A damning investigation has shown that nearly six in every seven music festival headline slots are filled with male musicians - the same ratio as roughly a decade ago.

Pink will be entertaining fans at V in August

The research, carried out by the Press Association, found that the main slots at all major UK festivals are failing to show the diversity in our modern music scene and consistently, women and young girls are missing out on seeing their heroes take to the stage and entertain.

Take the recent edition of Glastonbury, for example. The largest musical event on earth, actually, probably now one of the biggest global gatherings full-stop, of the six acts headlining their main Pyramid stage over the three days, one - The xx (CORR) with guitarist Romy Madley Croft - featured a female in their ranks.

The same can be said of their second largest Other stage. Friday night saw pop star Lorde back up all-male group Major Lazer, and that was that for the weekend.

In fact, you have to go as far down as the John Peel Stage to find a female solo artist getting top billing where queen of the decks Annie Mac performed Friday night, while all-girl band Warpaint rocked The Park Stage as top billing on the Saturday.

Pink will be entertaining fans at V in August

Some 80 per cent of Glastonbury's headliners in the past decade have been men, while in the same period Donnington park metal fest Download's top artists have been 100 per cent male.

In total, the research found that from 321 headline acts at the UK’s biggest festivals over the last 10 years, just 47 were all-female or held one woman in the group's line-up.

And it is something that has annoyed Shropshire's own Ellie Goulding. The pop star recently took to her Twitter account to lament the lack of female artists taking the big slots at our festivals.

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"Still so proud as a female artist to be headlining and playing festivals around the world every single year," she tweeted.

"Need to give myself credit sometimes as I've been doing this non stop for over seven years. I don't see many females at these festivals."

It mirrors similar criticisms she aimed at Glasto in 2015.

That year, Foo Fighters had to pull out of their headline set on the Pyramid Stage due to frontman Dave Grohl breaking his leg during a show. Florence & The Machine were called in at the last minute to replace them, meaning songstress Florence Welch became the first woman headliner on the world's most famous stage since Skunk Anansie (CORR) closed Glasto in 1999.

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Adele then followed Florence on the Pyramid in 2016, but more still needed to be done to break down barriers according to Brummie soul star Laura Mvula.

She branded the music industry last summer as 'sexist and racist', adding that 'if you say anything with assertiveness or authority, you are often quickly labelled a diva'.

She even went as far as saying: "We are living in the Donald Trump time of music."

Chair of UK Music's Diversity Taskforce Keith Harris also joined the debate, recently calling the findings 'unsurprising' and adding festival organisers were 'cutting out huge sections of the population' with their top slot choices.

Female fans would queue up to see their idols on stage

He added: "People have got to open their minds. They [female acts] clearly have fans out there and if you put them on the bill they will clearly bring an audience and in some cases they will bring a new audience, because a lot of the male headliners have been round eight or nine times."

So why aren't females getting a look-in when it comes to the major headline slots - which usually garner the largest crowds, will often get live TV coverage and will see social media buzz with their name as well as their photographs splash the front pages of newspapers the next day?

Michael Baker, who works for the publication Festival Insights, which runs the UK Festival Awards, said in a recent interview: "Some festivals do attempt to address gender imbalance, such as Field Day, whose curator recently told me that they failed to book 50 per cent female acts because there simply weren't that many available."

Not all festivals seem to fall foul, then. And one is very close to home. Our very own V Festival - which hosts an annual party at Weston Park in Staffordshire - regularly puts female artists on a pedestal to inspire potential future stars.

Rihanna headlined V Festival last summer

Anti-establishment pop rocker Pink will get the feet stomping by closing the festival on Sunday, August 20. While on the Saturday, the aforementioned Ms Goulding will get the crowd warmed up for Mr Beyonce - Jay Z.

A small warm-up event on the BBC Radio1 Stage on Friday night will also be headlined by that pioneer Annie Mac again.

Last year, Rihanna headlined at the venue near Weston-under-Lizard on the Saturday, while on the Sunday pop princess Sia backed up superstar Justin Bieber.

So what is the solution? Some people argue there is not enough top artists out there, but this seems to be nonsense. If financial backers gave the Express & Star free reign to experiment with an all-female festival, imagine the line-up we could idealistically attract.

For our Chart Stage, imagine the interest in a line-up starring Beyonce, Rihanna, Adele, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga...and that's still leaving out the likes of Little Mix, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Lana Del Ray and our own Ellie.

SIA entertains at V Festival in 2016

And an alternative stage could boast the likes of Pink, Warpaint, Haim, Savages and BABYMETAL (CORR) - and that's ignoring bands with male members but fronted by a female.

So come on festival organisers, take the plunge. The talent is there, the interest is there, now it's your decision to switch the line-ups and probably make yourself a lot of money.

Let's hope by 2020 we are sat in a field watching Ellie smash the top spot, saying: "I told you so."

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