Newcastle based This Is Tomorrow festival has just two female headline acts this year.
The festival, which takes place on the Newcastle Town Moor will be on the weekend of May 22-24. Of the 16 headliners due to perform, just two are female or have female members. This comes as the final line-up was announced last Friday.
Out of all the artists in the wider line-up, just over a third are female or have female members, which is well below the 50/50 target of many UK festivals this year.
This Is Tomorrow Festival only started last year, and Lesley Storey is a Labour councillor for the ward in which it takes place, South Jesmond.
Although she admits that having two female headliners is an improvement on last year, she says more needs to be done.
“We need to do more to get more women playing live music because there’s plenty of local female talent out there.
I’m absolutely delighted that Nadine Shaw is headlining. She’s so talented and she’s local from South Tyneside, but lots of festivals, like End of the Road festival, are really committed to ensuring their line-up is 50/50. I think every festival should be doing that.”
Keychange, an international institution set up by Creative Europe has been encouraging festival organisers in Europe for the past few years to ensure that their line-ups are 50/50 by 2020. However, just 45 events made this pledge, and North East festivals such as This Is Tomorrow will not achieve this.
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that This Is Tomorrow lacks women and non-binary artists,” Newcastle University Feminist Society’s President Sian Dickie said.
“As the festival is fairly new, they should be setting an example as to what modern music festival should look like.”
The organisers of This Is Tomorrow responded to SR News, saying they did try to get more female artists this year.
“We have worked hard to add females to the line up,” This Is Tomorrow’s promoter, Steve Davis said. “We in fact pursued Lana Del Ray for quite some time, but she wasn’t available on our dates.”
Miss Dickie also highlighted the reasons why the gender imbalance arises.
“I think it’s the fear that female artists won’t sell,” she said. “Which is obviously not true. Some of the biggest artists last year were female. I think it is crucial to know who is organising these events. Often there is an imbalance in who is organising the event itself.”
“There is a clear industry-wide issue when it comes to female headliners,” Mr Davis said. “Thankfully record labels and industry leaders are trying to address it, as are we.”
All three days of artists for This Is Tomorrow have now been announced, so changes cannot be made to this year’s line-up. However, Coun Storey attempted to address the issue last year.
“I wrote to the organisers of This Is Tomorrow on three occasions after last year’s festival,” she said. “I’m still to this day waiting for a response.”
Although the line up cannot be changed, Mr Davis encourages those attending to support the female acts who are on the bill.
“We invested strongly in local female acts including Nadine Shaw and L Devine,” he said. “We hope one day they will grow in stature and be the headliners of future years’ festivals.”