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Only 13 per cent of UK festival headliners are female, new study confirms

The new research equates to just one in ten female headliners

By Nick Reilly

Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish on stage for Global Citizen Concert 2021 NYC (Picture: Alamy)

A new study has revealed that just 13 per cent of headliners at the UK’s top festivals are female.

The new research from BBC News equates to just one in 10 female headliners at leading UK music festivals this year and flies in the face of pledges from festival bosses who five years ago pledged that they aimed to achieve a 50/50 gender balance across their line-ups by 2022.

The study focused on 50 major festivals and found that from 200 headline acts, just 26 (13 per cent) were an all-female band or a solo artist. In contrast, 149 (74.5 per cent) were an all-male band or a solo artist.

Elsewhere, 24 (12 per cent) of festivals also had a mixed line-up of male and female performers, and one (0.05 per cent) artist identified as non-binary.

Maggie Rogers, who will be performing at this year’s Latitude Festival, said: “It’s definitely disappointing.”

Megan Thee Stallion 2021 press shot
Megan Thee Stallion. CREDIT: Press

“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.

“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.”

It comes after two projects were launched in 2017 which aimed to secure the places of more female and female-identifying acts. They were Festival Republic’s ReBalance and PRS’ KeyChange.

Despite the seemingly grim outlook, organisers insist that some positive steps have been made.

London’s Wireless Festival boasts three female headliners in SZA, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, alongside A$AP Rocky, J.Cole, Tyler, The Creator and Dave.

Reading & Leeds has also booked Megan Thee Stallion and Halsey, who identifies as non-binary, alongside Dave, Arctic Monkeys, Rage Against The Machine and Bring Me The Horizon.

Billie Eilish will also take top billing at Glastonbury, marking her first headline slot at the Worthy Farm event.