Matty Healy has pledged that The 1975 will no longer play festivals that feature too few female and non-binary artists in the line-up.
It’s a big statement from the band’s frontman, who made the promise after the line-up for the UK’s Reading and Leeds festival copped serious backlash.
In a Twitter exchange with Guardian journalist and Deputy Music Editor, Laura Snapes, Healy committed himself and the band to be “true allies” to female and non-binary artists.
Healy was challenged by Snapes to “only play festivals that commit X% (ideally 50%!) acts that include women and non binary (sic.) performers”.
Healy took up the challenge, saying “people need to act, not chat”.
“Take this as me signing a contract,” he wrote, “from now I will and believe this is how male artist (sic.) can be true allies”.
Take this as me signing this contract – I have agreed to some festivals already that may not adhere to this and I would never let fans down who already have tickets. But from now I will and believe this is how male artist can be true allies ❤️ https://t.co/1eaZG2hEze
— ?? (@Truman_Black) February 12, 2020
And though he didn’t specify the proportion of female acts he would insist on, this is a huge (and spontaneous) step for the crowd-pulling festival regulars. Healy said he is sure agents would be “having kittens” over his promise – and I’m sure festival organisers would be too – but insisted that “times up (sic.)” for festivals that don’t support diverse acts.
Point is that Reading and Leeds with more women would be honestly the best festival in the world that place is vibeyyy. Let’s not judge people and give the benefit of the doubt that people are going to start to listening ❤️❤️I can feel the change !!
— ?? (@Truman_Black) February 12, 2020
Gender balance in festivals has been a hot topic for a hot minute – since about 2015 – and Reading and Leeds has been in some really, really hot water before for their male artist skew.
In 2020, out of the 91 artists on the initial line-up, only 20 are female or feature women. And only three of 18 main stage acts include women. That’s cooked.
— Lucy ⚰️ (@lucy_mccourt) February 11, 2020
And although progress has been made – with more than 300 festivals and music organisations signing the Keychange initiative (aiming to achieve 50/50 gender balance by 2022) – women are only making up 8% of the year’s major festival headliners (according to the BBC).
In an interview with The Guardian after making his pledge, Healy said the issue is as simple as making people “feel more included and more represented”.
All the best art for me made me feel personally addressed.
All this said, it really isn’t a bad line-up; it’s just a little testosterone-heavy. And as with any debate about diverse representation, equal opportunity and inclusion, there is so much grey area to trip over and unpack.
Many fans have expressed their frustration for the lack of female representation, and are celebrating Healy’s commitment to being supportive of minority artists.
I am obviously really gassed about the headliners of @OfficialRandL, BUT the lack of female acts across the festival is really dissapointing. It shouldn’t be that difficult to make a concerted effort to make the lineup more balanced & there would be no negatives from doing so!
— Tim HB (@TimHillierBrook) February 12, 2020
Reading and Leeds have done so much right this last decade – that festival, while always fun, was going in the direction of irrelevance. It’s such a youthful place now. It’s revitalized. Eclectic. Excellent value. Just book some fucking women. Be the change we want to see
— james (@jamesjammcmahon) February 11, 2020
And whilst female and non-binary representation is abysmal, the festival has booked a fair few non-white artists. And that’s a big deal in itself, given how often entertainment industry events are called out for being #SoWhite.
Let’s remember: women aren’t the only minority. And smothering others’ achievements to point out where we miss out isn’t helpful.
The music industry still needs to go a long way regarding representation and diversity at festivals, but as an off white kid, who was often the only brown kid on a stage, it’s good to see that tide turning too. Festivals by all. For all. That has to be the aim.
— Sam Duckworth (@forgetcape) February 11, 2020
Sure there may be fewer women in the industry, but representation and visibility is a powerful thing. How do you encourage someone to pursue something when they don’t see they can be taken seriously? What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
We’re not asking for women to replace worthy male artists in the line-up. What we are asking is for artists of minority identities to be given a look-in. Festivals have nothing to lose from giving them the stage, and they’ve got so much to gain.
Image Sources: Instagram (@the1975)