‘Have You Ever Heard Of Women?’ Outrage At The Reading And Leeds Line Up

Another festival announcement, another step back in gender equality for the music industry..

Reading and Leeds Festival revealed its line up this morning, immediately drawing sharp criticism for its lack of gender diversity.

Only 20 female-identifying acts are due to perform, out of the 90+ that have been announced. Music writer Lucy McCourt cleverly removed all the male-identifying acts from the bill, serving as a visual reminder of the shocking scarcity of women.

"Have you ever heard of women?" one angry onlooker addressed to the festival's Twitter account. A second adding, "Women don't exist", while a third used Beyonce lyrics to make the point: "Who runs the world? Men."

Roisin O’Connor, Music Correspondent at the Independent pointed out that the headline slot at the festival has historically been abysmal when it comes to gender equality: “I make that one female headliner in 20 years (Paramore, 2014 – co-headlined with QOTSA) for Reading + Leeds,” she tweeted.

“Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters, Muse, Kasabian, Guns N Roses, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Rage Against the Machine, Eminem, Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy have all headlined more times than there have been women headliners in two decades.”

The Guardian’s Deputy Music Editor Laura Snapes pulled no punches, saying “The whole thing can fuck off”, while also laying some of the responsibility at the feet of male acts who seemingly do little or nothing to demand better representation at the festivals they play.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Pollard, Deputy Culture Editor at the Independent,  pointed to an interview she did five years ago with Melvin Benn –  the Managing Director of Festival Republic, behind Reading and Leeds as well as Latitude, Download, Wireless, V Festival and overseas events – in which he claimed: “The idea that female bands are sidelined at festivals is wrong.” The Reading and Leeds line up would beg to differ.

A similar issue was raised last year at the announcement of TRNSMT’s lineup.  Of the 13 acts booked to perform in 2020, just two were women, Rita Ora and Little Simz. This all comes despite efforts from the likes of PRS Foundation and its Keychange initiative – encouraging festivals and music organisations to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022 – and the question still remains unanswered: just what will it actually take for festivals to acheieve gender diversity?

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