Green Man, BBC6 Music Festival booked almost no female headliners between them

New research has highlighted gender imbalances in some Welsh music festival lineups, with headliners overwhelmingly male.

The research, carried out by the BBC Shared Data Unit, found that just two female headliners were booked across three major Welsh music festivals this year.

These artists were rapper Little Simz, who performed at the BBC6 Music Festival in Cardiff last month, and Nabihah Iqbal, who is due to play Hay’s HowTheLightGetsIn.

The analysis looked to determine whether women and non-binary people were represented in festival billings.

It found that popular Brecon festival Green Man – the only other Welsh event considered – failed to book any female artists for their top slot.

Mixed-gender headliners were booked at the BBC6 Music and Green Man festivals, all of which were either majority male or a male/female duo.

No openly non-binary acts were booked as headliners by any of the three Welsh events in question.

UK-wide, just one in ten music festival headliners were women.

The findings come despite a national campaign to improve the representation of female and non-binary performers at the summer events over the past five years.

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A partnership between Keychange, a charity working for gender equality in the music industry, and music charity PRS Foundation, had aimed for 50/50 gender represention on festival lineups by 2022.

US singer Maggie Rogers, whose hits include “Give a Little” and “Alaska”, said that the lack of female representation at festivals continued to be “horrifying” and urged festival directors to be bolder in their choice of headliners.

Brit Award winner Kate Nash, meanwhile, said she was frustrated many continued to argue that it was difficult to book female acts in the top slots with a wealth of talent and resources to choose from now.

The comments echo those of Welsh electrosoul artist Eädyth, who last month told The National that she wanted to see better representation for women and Black artists at Merthyr Rising, a yearly music festival held to commemorate the 1831 working class uprising over low wages and unemployment that took place in Merthyr Tydfil.

“It’s very genre-specific, and it’s completely male-dominated,” Eädyth, who played the BBC6 Music Festival’s Fringe slot, said of the lineup.

 

 

The main headline acts announced at Merthyr Rising so far are DJ duo Basement Jaxx, and bands Stiff Little Fingers, Ocean Colour Scene and the Alabama 3 – all of whom are made up of men. 

Merthyr Rising was not included in the BBC research.

Other Welsh events, such as Brecon Jazz Festival, were not included because their lineups were not yet fully announced.

This August, Green Man Festival will be headlined by Kraftwerk, Michael Kiwanuka, Beach House, Metronomy and Bicep.

Dream pop duo Beach House features French vocalist and keyboardist Victoria Legrand, while Metronomy, an electronic music group from Devon, includes drummer and vocalist Anna Prior.

A spokesperson for Green Man said: “We’re improving our representation of female acts year-on-year, but recognise it’s a journey that may not have overnight solutions.

“It has always been a goal for Green Man to not only add female talent to the bill each year, but to help develop their careers in the longer term. 

“We’ve tried to build springboard opportunities for amazing artists such as Wet Leg, Cate Le Bon, Gwenno, Phoebe Bridgers, who began playing on small stages at Green Man years ago and progressed quickly over the years.

“It’s fantastic to see – and try to help – acts like that grow from strength-to-strength.

“We look forward to improving our gender representation and seeing more women join the likes of past headliners such as St Vincent, PJ Harvey, Patti Smith and Feist.”

The Brecon Beacons music festival said that it kept a record of the gender balance of its yearly lineups, and had this year started recording where artists were non-binary.

St Vincent (left) and Cate Le Bon have both played at Green Man. (Pictures: PA Wire)

“This year 47 percent of our music line-up is female, 51 percent is male and 2 percent is non-binary,” a spokesperson claimed.

HowTheLightGetsIn (HTLGI) is a music and philosophy festival held in Hay-on-Wye.

Its musical headline acts this year are Tom Findlay (one half of electronic duo Groove Armada), Talvin Singh, a DJ set by rock band Django Django, and Nabihah Iqbal, who first began making music while she was a working human rights lawyer.

HTLGI claims its total lineup this year is 71 percent in favour of women and non-binary acts across all its stages.

“Gender equality across our festival space has been a policy of ours for over 10 years,” a spokesperson for the festival said.

“We ensure that our line-up is as diverse as possible, and although we haven’t signed up to the Keychange initiative [for a 50/50 gender split in headliners], our line-ups over the years are indicative of our internal policies.

“There’s always more to be done in terms of equality, and we are striving to ensure our line-up is diversified in terms of LGBTQ+ and BAME representation.

“Although our whole line-up is split in favour women and non-binary performers, three of our four headline names are men, and this is an area we are dedicated to improving at all future festivals.”

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