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Only 13% of UK festival headliners in 2022 are women, study finds

BBC Newsbeat's new gender-focused study of UK festival line-ups finds that little has changed since 2017

Only 13% of UK festival headliners in 2022 are women, study finds

A new study of UK festivals by BBC Newsbeat has found that only 13% of 2022's headliners are women.

A gender-focused analysis of 50 UK festival line-ups and their 200 headline acts for the 2022 summer festival season found that 13% (26 of 200) slots are held by solo women artists or all-female bands, 12% are mixed-gender groups, while non-binary acts make up just 0.5% of festival headliners. Solo men and all-male bands account for 74.5% percent of headline sets at festivals this summer.

That last statistic is down just 5.5% from the BBC's 2017 study of the gender make-up of UK festival headliners, which found that male solo artists and all-male groups took 80% of headline slots. That study prompted the formation of the KeyChange and ReBalance initiatives, for which festivals in the UK, Europe and North America pledged to have a 50-50 gender balance on their line-ups by 2022. 

In contrast to the recent statistic, Cambridge festival Strawberries & Creem is cited as an example of a promoter achieving gender parity on their lineup. "We didn't seem to struggle at all getting really high-profile females on our line-up," the festival's CEO Chris Jammer told Newsbeat. "That was something we set our agenda to at the beginning of the booking process and carried it through."

Jammer said balanced gender bookings is more important than merely being a box-ticking exercise. "It really translates to the audience, so women and girls and non-binary people feel more comfortable there, and it just resonates."

The CEO of the UK Association of Independent Festivals, Paul Reed, told the BBC that the problem exists in "the wider music industry ecosystem," and "festivals can be somewhat of an easy target for this… They are annual events and they do publish their entire line-ups very visually on a poster."

US pop star Maggie Rogers told Newsbeat that "it feels awful" to see women artists' names in smaller text on line-up poster underneath male headline acts. (The poster to this year's Latitude festival shows Rogers' name underneath all-male headliners Lewis Capaldi, Foals and Snow Patrol.)

"What I come to music for — as a fan and artist — is community and to feel part of something, and I think community functions at its best when it feels inclusive," Rogers said. "When that doesn't happen — when the line-ups reiterate imbalances that exist in gender and race and class — it's not surprising, but it's certainly not ideal."

Read the full report by BBC Newsbeat.

Photo credit: Strawberries & Creem