Putting the F into Festival Line Ups By Yasmin Norvill

Growing up with my music-obsessed dad, he always told me that the biggest scam my generation happily divulges in is the desire to purchase a student bank-breaking festival ticket prior to the line-up even being announced. To his dismay, this life lesson was completely lost on me, as like many others, I relished the excitement of the formidable Glastonbury ticket roulette and every addictive emotion it brought with it. The pain staking tension as you stare at the loading screen that forces every second to mascaraed as long as a minute, the panic felt upon frantically entering your details, the heartbreak of the website crashing that seems to sting even more than seeing you ex out on a Friday night. And finally, only if you are truly lucky, it climaxes in what appears to be the modern day version of survival of the fittest, you have tickets.

As a grew a little older, I began to explore other, smaller festivals with a larger community vibe and within them I found a little piece of home wrapped up in a summer weekend. Whether it be on the beach in Newquay at Boardmasters in Cornwall or on a tiny farm in Leicestershire at 110 Above. For me, festivals have served to be a hub of creative inspiration and absolute joy, especially as a young woman. When my teenage self stood and watched the strong and empowered Adele command the pyramid stage in 2016 I was truly inspired.

There is very little a can negatively say concerning the festivals I have attended and further, festivals in general. Until a few weeks ago when the infamous Reading and Leeds festival announced their 2020 line up. Don’t get me wrong, the line-up set to be seen by the attendees in August features some incredible acts. However, shortly after the big reveal the image below emerged and circulated social media platforms.

The edited line-up poster exposed the lack of women present within the first wave of acts announced for the weekend. The picture shows the acts that are left remaining when all the men are removed from the line up and it is clear to see the slim pickings that remain. I then went on to learn that within 15 years, the festival has only featured one female headliner. Upon further research, it was revealed that Reading and Leeds were not the only festival to be dominated by male performers. In fact, among the 2020 line ups announced by Boardmasters, Truck, Y Not, Kendall Calling and Trnsmt there was not a single female headliner. A lack of representation both baffling and offensive to the masses of overwhelmingly talented women currently attacking not only the top 40 charts but the indie music scene respectively. Fans online echoed names such as Paramore, Lorde, Florence and the Machine, Halsey, Doja Cat, Lana Del Rey, Billie Elish, Sigrid, Haim, St Vincent, Kehlani, Charli XCX and countless others that would perfectly compliment the tone of a more alternative based festival but have been seemingly overlooked by festival bookers this year.

My heart is heavy for a generation of women starved from watching themselves represented among a list of male names. Yet, this conversion is not a new one. In previous years this exact subject has sparked comment from Grazia, The Guardian and The BBC. What I believe is most important when tackling this issue is not to feel overwhelmed and defeated in the wake of the #MeToo movement, a time crying out for equality in every area of work, creative industries and beyond. Nor do I call upon young music lovers to boycott their favourite festival that stands as their highlight of not just the summer, but the whole year. More realistically, I encourage those who love festivals to contact their favourite organisers and remind them that the appetite for incredible female-produced and performed music is rife and ready to drive ticket sales.

Raising awareness and bringing attention to this issue is our only hope to ensure every young woman, covered in mud, decorated with glitter, can experience a moment of watching someone just like them grace a large stage and command an audience so that one day, they may be inspired to do the same.


Created with an image by Maxime Bhm - "Woman standing in a festival"