Thursday, February 13, 2020

Members only

If Truck's bill was bad in terms of gender balance, then that of Reading and Leeds is certainly no better. Unless, that is, the "many more to be announced" are all women...

Predictably, though quite rightly, the Guardian's Laura Snapes expressed her exasperation in no uncertain terms: "By this stage we can conclusively assume that Melvin Benn doesn't give a shit about representation. The whole thing can fuck off. Kids deserve better and they know it. And every male act playing at that festival who isn't using their power to demand better representation on bills should take a long hard look at themselves too."

Radio 1's Annie Mac agreed: "Feeling so disheartened about this Reading and Leeds line up. At the blatant lack of want to represent women. For all the 16 year old girls going to their first festival at Reading and Leeds 2020. Just know that you DO belong on those stages."

Snapes' barbed comment about male acts is probably directed in particular at headliners Rage Against The Machine and self-proclaimed feminists IDLES. They may well have been in the dark about the composition of the bill at the time they signed up, but her point is that ignorance is no defence - it's incumbent upon such acts to make a gender-balanced bill a contractual stipulation if they are to be true allies and for genuine change to happen.

The 1975's Matt Healy has publicly taken up the gauntlet, pledging to do just that going forwards on the grounds that "people need to act and not chat". He did however admit "I'm sure my agents are having kittens right now", and how it will (or would) work out in practice is anyone's guess.

Of course, it would be nice if festival bookers gave greater consideration to representative line-ups without having to have their arms twisted into doing so. Snapes has previously praised Primavera's policy, and would also presumably be heartened by the mouthwatering bill for Bluedot, which is due to be headlined by Bjork and features Anna Meredith, Pussy Riot, Lanterns On The Lake and Pumarosa alongside Holy Fuck, Beak>, Ride, !!! and Daniel Avery. With bookings of that quality, the festival - held at Jodrell Bank Observatory in late July - really has announced itself as a major player on the summertime scene.

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