THE BLOG
09/01/2018 16:58 GMT | Updated 09/01/2018 16:58 GMT

Are British Music Festivals Still The Preserve Of White Men?

Festivals are about all types of music and different types of performances

Ben Birchall - PA Images via Getty Images

Since beginning their hiatus, the members of boyband turned manband, One Direction, have all begun their respective solo endeavours. All the effort that has gone into to making Harry Styles a megastar hasn’t been completely wasted with his self-titled debut album hitting number one on both sides of the Atlantic. Niall Horan’s career started surprisingly successfully by following the well-trodden path of folk influenced pop. Liam Payne has had a child with former Nation’s Sweetheart, Cheryl Cole, Fernandez-Versini, just ‘Cheryl’ Tweedy, and is behaving like a certain Sacha Baron Cohen character from the nineties. That leaves Louis Tomlinson, a man who implied that his own solo career was pointless, before he even embarked on one.

Although Tomlinson’s solo singles are having little impact, his obtuse musings on Twitter are making a splash, with some of his tweets making Liam Gallagher’s entries on the site look like quotes from Gandhi.

This was most evidently shown yesterday, when he tweeted, “Just seen the Coachella line up …. Where the f**k are all the bands !? It’s a festival !?”. Perhaps I could see the angle Louis is approaching the topic from, if he came from a ‘band’, as opposed to a group manufactured on one of the biggest shows in British television history. His idea that guitars, and drums equal music festival are reminiscent of the comments that were made by Noel Gallagher, when he declared that hip-hop icon, Jay Z, was “wrong” for Glastonbury.

Despite what Tomlinson might think, festivals should no longer be the preserve of white men with guitars, which they have virtually been and remained since their inception. Festivals are about all types of music and different types of performances, something he could understand if he possessed more stage presence than a nervous primary school child in a school nativity.

Whilst Coachella offers a diverse range of artists, groups, and performers on it’s line-up, British festivals seem to be lagging far behind. In the 10 years that have passed since Jay Z’s set at Worthy Farm, little has been done to improve diversity amongst the headline performers at festivals across the country. BBC statistics showed that last year, 84% of headliners at music festivals were men, and from my own research, 81% of major headliners were predominantly white men.*

This continued trend was made glaringly obvious in a spelling error made by an Oasis fan account which tweeted the ‘Isle of White’ line-up. Headlined by Depeche Mode, The Killers, Kasabian, and Liam Gallagher Isle of Wight 2018 looks to have been curated for ‘Strongbow Dark Fruits Twitter’, and erases female and BAME talent from the equation.

It’s no lie that the market is becoming more and more saturated with festivals cropping up throughout the Summer months more and more frequently. Yet, with the exception of Wireless, there hasn’t been a platform given for artists that subvert the stereotype of ‘headline’ material to show their worth. It is almost as if acts that aren’t ‘bands’ in the Louis Tomlinson definition of the word, are still seen as commercial risks. This is despite grime music being one of the leading genres in the UK and female artists generating the conversation when it comes to pop culture.

Isle of Wight is one of the first festivals to announce their 2018 headliners, and it can only be hoped that other festivals don’t follow suit and instead produce line-ups which place previously underrepresented talent in the poll position. This Summer, Glastonbury is taking a fallow year, and if the right acts are given a large push by their label over the coming 365 days, it would be fantastic to see something different when it returns in 2019.

Otherwise, won’t we all get a little bored, rather than buzzed when festival season comes again? 

*‘Major Headliners’ are acts at Download, Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, Latitude, V Festival, Reading & Leeds, and Bestival.