An unexpected glimmer of positive news arrived yesterday (March 12) among all the coronavirus fear-mongering and panic buying – the first chunk of the Glastonbury line-up. Here was something to get excited about, something to look forward to; a sweet escape from the current dystopia we’re existing in. Who knows if we’ll make it to Worthy Farm, but we can dream, and we won’t even complain about that dizzying first poster that made the uncoordinated among us look like amateur contortionists twisting our necks to try and make out all the names.
A second look at the line-up offers even less to complain about. Here, where some other festivals are still woeful failing, is a collection of artists of whom 52 per cent feature a female-identifying member. It is glorious, inspiring proof that the same old, tired excuses that still get trotted out by certain festival bookers don’t wash. Instead of moaning about how there aren’t “enough female artists” or coming up with some face-saving, condescending scheme to give young female musicians “a boost” and then seemingly forgetting all about it, Emily Eavis and her team have just surveyed the wealth of women making music right now and, you know, booked them. A novel idea!
On the one hand, Eavis coming good on her promise to make the festival a 50/50 gender split “as soon as possible” feels like cause for celebration. It’s the kind of behaviour that reinforces why she was named Godlike Genius at this year’s NME Awards and gives us up for a much fairer future. But, on the other, it shouldn’t need to be praised at all – this should be what every festival is already doing. It’s worth noting that Eavis has not drawn attention to the gender split since the line-up was announced, something that speaks volumes.
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So, after much consideration given the current circumstances, and with the best of intentions, here is the first list of musical acts for Glastonbury 2020. As things stand we are still working hard to deliver our 50th anniversary Festival in June and we are very proud of the bill that we have put together over the last year or so. No one has a crystal ball to see exactly where we will all be 15 weeks from now, but we are keeping our fingers firmly crossed that it will be here at Worthy Farm for the greatest show on Earth! As always this is just a taste of what is to come, we plan to announce many more artists and attractions, area by area, over the coming weeks leading up to the full line-up in May. In the meantime we post this with much love to all. (There’s also a non-circular version of the line-up – and full text list – on our website now)
Of course, Glastonbury isn’t the first festival to achieve this but, as the biggest music festival in the world, they’re showing that booking more women isn’t a risk for major music festivals. In fact, doing so would have a knock-on effect to solving the issues some festival bookers cite when faced with a backlash over yet another male-dominated bill.
Women are so often made to feel like they don’t belong in music, or that they don’t deserve the same opportunities as the men, or that they have to work 10 times harder than the guys to have the same shot. At high school, I spent way too many music lessons with boys challenging me to prove I actually knew how to play my guitar, as if they couldn’t believe a girl possibly could. To have been able to go to a festival and see so many different women making so many different sounds would have been a humongous boost for a teenage girl made to constantly feel inadequate because of her gender. We can’t underestimate the impact a gender-equal line-up will have – the more aspiring female musicians see women on stage, the more female musicians we will have vying for those slots.
Female headliners are, apparently, a real problem for festivals. The Glastonbury 2020 line-up is starting to do the work to change that. There’s a raft of rising talent on this first poster, such as Greentea Peng, Beabadoobee, Celeste, and Clairo, who will be exposed to new fans and can, in years to come, be promoted through the ranks until they’re ready to top bills. There are also plenty of musicians listed who already could headline a festival – Kelis, Robyn, Lana Del Rey, Haim. It is irrefutable proof that not only are there plenty of women waiting to be booked out there, but incredible, eclectic women who can sell tickets and inspire minds. All you have to do is open your eyes.