The Glastonbury Music Festival, a mainstay of the UK summer festival circuit, has received criticism this year for the lack of female artists represented in its lineup. When Florence and the Machine steps in to replace the Foo Fighters on stage (due to an injury), Florence will be joining only one other female act headlining at any major English festival in 2015. Florence Welch will in fact be the first British woman in this century to play a closing set at the festival’s famous Pyramid Stage. The last female artist to do so was Skin in 1999, and before her it was Shakespears Sister in 1992. This year Florence will find herself in the company of Fleetwood Mac, which is headlining at Creamfield and which is fronted by Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, but many festival attendees have complained that there really should be more women represented in the summer festival season.
Glastonbury is not the only UK festival to experience this lack of diversity. An analysis conducted by the Guardian of 12 festivals around England shows that 86% of performers at these events are men. Reading and Leeds festivals both have especially bad numbers, they are at 94% and 96% men respectively.
This drastic gender gap remains constant even across genres, from rock-oriented festivals to pop-heavy ones. Even the smaller and more avant-garde festivals like Bestival are experiencing this gap in numbers, which the Guardian calls “appalling”.
Glastonbury’s booking agent Emily Eavis believes the problem persists in the music industry as a whole. “I’d love to have a bill full of females, but it’s just not that easy,” she said. “It’s more complicated than choosing an artist and just booking them.” Even Florence Welch had expressed reservations earlier this year about headlining at the festival because she reportedly “did not feel ready enough.” Eavis explained that this attitude is much more commonly found among female artists than male artists.
“We book bands, especially on the bigger stages, based on who is right to do those big slots,” said Eavis. “And it’s important that we have women at the top as well as men, but we also need those female artists to be pushed through – by record companies, radio and the media.” Beyonce played the Pyramid Stage in 2011, but she did not close.