Has the Gender Split Improved at UK Festivals?

Festivals are back on the agenda in 2021 with Glasto going virtual with its Live at Worthy Farm event and other festivals opting to push back their sets later in the year to avoid any setbacks. The question is, has there been any improvements on the gender splits in the line ups for UK festivals following a year of reflection?

For 2021, the Manchester based festival Parklife is leading the way for inclusion of female talent with 44% of its line up being solo female artists. The Parklife stage will see the likes of Jorja Smith, Megan Thee Stallion and Mabel representing females at the festival.

Bestival is also adding diversity to its line up with Cheryl Hole, the UK drag queen famous for her feature in the first series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. The queen will be gracing the mainstage offering up a showstopping performance. The festival ranks in the top three this year for female acts (32%) and second place for mixed groups of both male and female mainstage acts (7%).

When focusing on female representation at festivals there is a historic gap in the line ups of many festivals. We analysed the past three years to see if the organisers of these festivals were beginning to improve, particularly because the conversation has become more and more highlighted in society.

Both Reading and Leeds Festival and Bestival used the covid stop gap to reflect on their line ups and actually improved their female breakdown for 2021 from their 2020 line ups. In 2020, Reading and Leeds had only a 9% female representation but have increased that this year to 14%. Although this is a small jump it is still a stepping stone towards more inclusive events for the festivals. A stand out improvement was Bestival, who increased their female acts by 10% since the release of its 2020 line up. 

There is currently a movement called Keychange which is pledging to input a 50/50 split of acts by 2022 for some festivals around the world which is a step in the right direction. However, in the UK there is still a great gap in representation of both female and non-binary artists within the festival space and more work needs to be done to bridge this gap.