glastonbury's emily eavis opens up about the lack of women at music festivals

We speak to the woman heading the largest music festival in the world about how to combat the male dominated festival circuit.

by Matthew Whitehouse
09 March 2016, 3:30pm

Aside from morphsuits, the lack of female performers is the single biggest problem facing music festivals today. So much so, when Emily Eavis said that Glastonbury was going to be confronting the issue in an interview earlier this year (the women that is, not morphsuits), we were obviously very happy. The latest a long line of very visible women at the festival, Emily spoke with us about what the festival is doing to make music more equal. 

So much is written about the lack of female performers at music festivals. How much of it is a festival's responsibility and how much is it a product of the industry's structure as a whole?
I think it goes beyond just festivals and right back to labels and radio support. Obviously we're choosing from -- particularly for the major stages -- bands at a certain level. It's really important that those bands are women, and that they're nurtured from the start in the same way that men are. We spend a lot of time looking at bands to chose from, but we're just presented with so many male acts. And I think that's because it goes back to [scouts] finding less women, radio playing less women and then, as a result, agents sending us more men.

So how does a festival begin to address this?
Well it certainly involves booking more women from the start, at the start of their careers, you know? Younger bands, just starting out, or songwriters, or acts that have women in them. They're some of the things we like doing, starting bands young, giving them a chance to play here, and then booking them in the years that follow on the bigger stages.

I suppose you're in a lovely position at Glastonbury in that you're guaranteed to sell tickets whatever the line-up, so that should allow you to push a bit harder.
Yeah we have to push for it. We should be pushing for it the hardest, you know? At Glastonbury, there are so many women that are involved in the management of this festival; and that goes all the way back to the very start, from my mom to Arabella Churchill to all these women through the history of Glastonbury that kind of made it what it is. So it's really important for us to be at the forefront of booking women, addressing it so it's completely equal. Because it is hard, to be honest. Even this year, when we've consciously tried to book as many female acts on the main stages, it's still almost impossible to do because there aren't as many female acts at that level.

Do you feel a personal responsibility as a prominent woman in the industry? You must go into so many male-dominated meetings.
The thing is, my life involves a lot of meetings around tables with a hell of a lot of men and, whatever, that's just the way it is at the moment. I think it is changing but I think we still need to push for it more and more. There are a lot of old school men in music, particularly in the live industry. It's quite obvious when you look at a list of all the booking agencies, there really are only a handful of women. It's very male dominated and, yeah, I feel really strongly about it because obviously my background is working in this world with a hell of a lot of men on the industry side. But the festival itself is completely held together by women.

Is it beginning to change?
Yeah, I think it is changing. And I think we've just got to believe that it is. There are lots of exciting female MCs, there are lots of amazing female singers who are really big over here and in America and we should be really proud of them. But I think we can always go further and we should be supporting women more because it's still not as balanced and equal as it should be.

Who else are you excited about? Which other female artists?
We've booked some really interesting African women as well as some great British women who are doing very well at the moment. Obviously I can't really tell you names because it's all a bit secret, but bands like Savages are great, Grimes, and obviously Wolf Alice are doing really well, that's brilliant to see. Laura Mvula, I love.

There's one particular British woman that's doing quite well at the moment too, of course.
Of course, we love Adele. She's an incredible artist and brilliantly honest and funny and real and that's what everybody loves about her. She's a great example because she doesn't put up any pretense. There's a certain pressure on women to perform in a certain way or be giving off this kind of image, while Adele is just honest and true and funny and just about as popular as you can get.

She'd be a good headliner.
She would, wouldn't she? It would be great to get her…

Glastonbury 2016 will take place from Wed, June 22 to Sun, June 26, 2016. 

Glastonbury Festival
emily eavis
female musicians