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No female acts headlining Suffolk's top festivals Latitude and Let's Rock as national figures show only one in ten headliners in 2022 will be women



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Only one in ten headliners at top UK music festivals this year will be women, a new study has indicated.

And the two Suffolk festivals among the country's most popular have all-male headline acts this year.

The findings, made by the BBC's Shared Data Unit, come despite a national campaign to improve the representation of female and non-binary performers at the summer events over the past five years.

Only one in ten headliners at top UK music festivals this year will be women, a new study has indicated. Picture: iStock
Only one in ten headliners at top UK music festivals this year will be women, a new study has indicated. Picture: iStock

The BBC analysed the headline acts at the top 50 festivals in the UK to have released lineups prior to May - including Latitude at Henham Park near Southwold and Let's Rock at Ipswich's Trinity Park.

They found that just 13 per cent of performers were a female solo act or an all-female band.

Meanwhile there was a small proportion of mixed-gender acts and one non-binary performer - all-male bands and solo artists occupied three quarters of the top billings.

Latitude Festival is held in Henham Park near Southwold
Latitude Festival is held in Henham Park near Southwold

And half of all the festivals in the study had no female headliners on the bill.

This is the case for Latitude and Let's Rock, which will both have all-male acts headlining this year.

Latitude's headliners for 2022 are Lewis Capaldi, Foals and Snow Patrol, while Adam Ant and OMD top the bill for Let's Rock.

Let's Rock festival will be held in Ipswich's Trinity Park. Picture: Let's Rock Festival
Let's Rock festival will be held in Ipswich's Trinity Park. Picture: Let's Rock Festival

The BBC said Festival Republic, which runs Latitude Festival, as well as Reading and Leeds, Wireless and Download festivals, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

US singer Maggie Rogers, who is playing at this year's Latitude, said the lack of female representation at festivals continued to be 'horrifying' and urged festival directors to be bolder in their choice of headliners.

"It’s not surprising to say the least, but it’s definitely disappointing," she said.

"That’s my initial reaction, I am completely unsurprised."

Maggie added: "The music industry has been largely run and dominated by male acts since the beginning of time and I can tell you - and I’m sure that every female act can tell you - a story of growing up and walking into a guitar shop and just having your dreams crushed."

However, the Grammy award-nominated singer-songwriter thinks the industry has made 'a lot of progress'.

"I see so many young female producers who are coming up or people who are playing guitar or playing drums or just getting to be a part of the scene but it’s interesting in a post-me-too era because this imbalance is something we’ve had so much conversation about but still in the music industry three out of every one hundred people are women in the music industry which is just a horrifying number, and it gets even worse when you look behind the board at mixers or engineers or people who are producing music," she said.

“I wish I had a more hopeful thing to say. I don’t know what the solution is. You’re asking me how it makes me feel - it feels awful, of course it feels awful.

“I also understand the nature of booking festivals, you need artists at a certain echelon to be able to headline but in the same breath it’s all of the internal systems, they’re all interconnected.”

Glastonbury Festival. Picture: iStock
Glastonbury Festival. Picture: iStock

And the chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) Paul Reed said it was unfair to blame the lack of balance on festival directors alone.

He said inequalities ran throughout the ‘talent pipeline’ and had as much to do with booking agents, promoters, music schools and gig operators.

The project leader of Keychange, an international campaign formed in 2017 and aimed at achieving a 50/50 gender split at UK festivals by 2022, said its original timescale had been optimistic.

Francine Gorman said: “I think we have to remember that women and gender minorities have had access to far fewer opportunities than their male counterparts over the past however many years. It does take a little bit of time to build artists to the status that they'd be able to take a headline spot at a festival.

“But I think the progress made over the last couple of years is going to pay off.”

Officials have expressed optimism about progress in gender splits at UK festivals. Picture: iStock
Officials have expressed optimism about progress in gender splits at UK festivals. Picture: iStock

Just over the Suffolk border in Cambridgeshire, Cambridge Folk Festival will be headlined by the all-male group Gipsy Kings - but Suzanne Vega and band Clannad, whose lead singer is female, are also among its top billed acts.

And all of its stages will have at least a 50/50 split of male and female artists, and its club tent will feature 73 per cent female artists.

A spokesperson for Cambridge Folk Festival said: "There is always more to be done.

"While we’ve managed to achieve at least a 50/50 split on the line-up for over 10 years now we still struggle to get female headliners and this is a wider problem within the music industry but it’s so positive to see how easier it is to book female acts across the rest of the bill so we hope we’re looking at some future headliners there.

Cambridge Folk Festival 2019. Picture: Richard Marsham
Cambridge Folk Festival 2019. Picture: Richard Marsham

"The next step is to focus on representation within the female gender, ensuring that we are a festival that champions all that identify as women, black women, disabled women, women from as many diverse backgrounds as possible and any combination of these.

"We also want to champion women working in the industry making sure that women are seen in all roles across the event, especially those that are seen as traditionally male roles."

Meanwhile, 60 per cent of the artists at Strawberries & Creem festival this year are female or non-binary.

It is also a leading campaigner for the Safe Space Campaign which aims to prevents sexual harassment in the music industry.

Strawberries and Creem 2021. Picture: Garry Jones / Hello Content
Strawberries and Creem 2021. Picture: Garry Jones / Hello Content

Chris Jammer, CEO of Strawberries & Creem, which has been held in Cambridgeshire since 2014, said: “We decided to go down the route of having a mainly female line up a couple of years ago.

“In 2019 we had a female led line-up and then in 2021 we had a 50:50 line up but I think a lot of that was spurred on by seeing a lot of line ups that were male dominated and thinking that this shouldn’t be the norm and trying to put our best foot forward - and also credit went to Keychange and Girls I Rate who put forward the pledge to get a 50:50 gender balance which all festivals are trying to achieve this year.”

He added: “I think a lot of festivals struggle potentially by just going with what they know and not really wanting to deviate from their norm.

“I think there’s a lot of proven ticket sellers in this industry and in the times of economic downturn and covid a lot of people wanted to go with the safe option but I think that just isn’t the way to operate it.”