Emily Eavis: Glastonbury festival 'has to achieve 50/50 gender-balance'

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

  • Published
Emily EavisImage source, Getty Images

Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis says the festival has to achieve a gender balanced line-up as soon as it can.

"Our future has to be 50/50," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"It's a challenge. Everyone's finding it hard - but the acts are there," she says, adding that past Glastonbury line-ups have "always been male-heavy".

Emily was named godlike genius at the NME Awards in London, where Glastonbury was named best festival in the world.

"When I look back at past Glastonbury line-ups, I realised it's always been male heavy.

"Unless you consciously change and really address it, then it will stay the same because we're always going to be flooded with male acts."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Taylor, Lana and Diana are all performing at this year's Glastonbury

This year's full Glastonbury line-up hasn't been published but Taylor Swift is one of the three headliners, alongside Paul McCartney.

Lana Del Rey and Diana Ross are other female acts who've already been announced but, overall, an equal gender split is unlikely this year.

"I wouldn't say we're necessarily clean on 50/50 but we're definitely attempting it," Emily says.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Emily Eavis picked up the Godlike Genius award next to Taylor Swift and Billy Bragg

This week, Reading and Leeds's initial line-up announcement was criticised by some for having far fewer female acts than male ones.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

So far, there have only been three female or female-fronted artists announced for Reading and Leeds' main stage (Mabel, Bloxx and Lady Leshurr), compared to 15 male acts.

The 1975's frontman Matty Healy has since said he'll only play festivals in the future that commit to achieving a more gender balanced line-up.

Emily Eavis says it's "amazing" he's spoken out and thinks everyone will feel "cornered" into change.

When Emily was arranging this year's line-up, she explicitly blocked out spots for female acts, filling the blank spaces with the word "female".

She says she had to have a "firm word" with her bookers because "it's very easy to do the same".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"We've got a long way to go, but we're making an effort."

What are the artists saying?

It's not just the people running the festivals who are keen to see change, it's something artists want too.

"The fact that it's been so male dominated for so many years has probably given females less room to become headline acts," Sam Fender tells Newsbeat.

But he says what The 1975's Matty Healy has planned won't work for smaller artists.

"I respect Matty for what he's doing, but it's harder for artists that are coming through to turn down these opportunities."

Ella Eyre says male-dominated festivals have "been the norm" throughout her career so far.

"It's shameful because there are so many incredible female artists," she tells us.

Rising star Clairo believes female representation is "one of the most important things."

"There are more than enough female artists to go round and should be something people think about when they're booking festivals," she says.

And Heloise Letissier - better know as Christine & The Queens - wants changes throughout the industry, not just on festival stages.

"The music landscape needs to represent more equality through women in A&R (artists and repertoire), women in record labels and engineers in studios," Heloise says.

Primavera in Barcelona and Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik are among the international festivals which have managed to put on a gender balanced event.

As for Reading and Leeds, its parent company Festival Republic announced the Rebalance programme in 2017.

Rebalance is an ongoing an initiative to give studio time to emerging female artists, in the hope they'll be booked for festivals in the future.

The organisation also runs Latitude, where Haim are headlining, and are behind The 1975's summer show in Finsbury Park, London.

Image source, Reading and Leeds
Image caption,
Reading and Leeds' 2020 line-up has been criticised for a lack of female acts

Glastonbury has one headliner still to be announced and Emily is teasing some "massive surprises" but isn't giving anything away.

She also says that banning single-use plastic bottles at the 2019 festival has been the "most successful environmental campaign" the festival has ever done.

"It was phenomenal," she says.

"When we started it we thought it would take a few years to gather momentum but everyone seemed to listen in the first year we did it."

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