Hey festival bookers: girls rock too

What’s the deal with all the bloke-centric festival bookings?

 

With Florence & the Machine headlining Glasto this weekend, thanks to poor Dave Grohl’s broken leg, the festival has finally put a woman at the top of the bill, even if it is by virtue of someone else cancelling.

For a festival with so many right-on credentials, Glasto fails spectacularly when it comes to women headlining. Beyoncé headlined in 2011, but the previous female headliner was Skunk Anansie in 1999 (Kylie was booked in 2005 but pulled out). Before that you have to go back to 1992 with Shakespeare’s Sister capping a three-year run of women at the top of the bill (Sinéad O’Connor and Suzanne Vega in 1990 and 1989). So what’s the issue with booking female headliners at festivals?

The first step in achieving gender representation on festival line-ups is at the very least noticing the discrepancy. While a festival line-up is turning into a blokefest, does anyone ever step back and think, “hang on, these are all men”? It would be weird if nearly every person stepping on stage at most Irish festivals was female, yet no one seems to ask why this is the case when it comes to the male monopoly on festival bookings.

The headliners at Irish music festivals this year are resoundingly male. From Slane’s all-male line-up (Foo Fighters, Ash, Kaiser Chiefs, Hozier, The Strypes), to Longitude’s terrible representation of female acts this year. The latter has three male headliners and only a handful of female musicians elsewhere. Forbidden Fruit was the same, an absolute blokefest with all male headliners across all stages. The bigger issue with those three is that it’s not just about the top billings: women aren’t represented sufficiently further down the bill either.

Indiependence? Mostly guys save for the female member of Dandy Warhols flying the flag at the top. There were just a few female acts playing Sea Sessions last weekend, and all of the headliners male. There are less than a handful of female musicians playing Castlepalooza, where it’s almost wall to wall lads on stage. Electronic music festivals are blokey to the point of cliché, so it’s no surprise that Life festival’s female representation was minimal.

Body & Soul fared better than most, with acts including Savages and Austra high up the bill. But when it comes to the “big” Irish festivals, Electric Picnic wins out, with Florence up the top, along with Grace Jones, Roisin Murphy, as well as FKA twigs, Chvrches, Jessie Ware and more.

So one question, festival organisers: the female musicians are out there, so why aren’t you booking them?

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