Reading and Leeds faces backlash after booking no female headliners for seventh year running

The lack of female talent on the line up came in despite of the festival doubling its headline slots


Words by: Billy Ward

Reading and Leeds festival has been criticised for its 2021 line-up, which has been branded sexist after including no female headline acts for the seventh consecutive year.

The event has come under fire in the past for its favouritism towards male artists, with Paramore being the last female-fronted act to take to the main stage back in 2014. The only other female-led act to headline in the last two decades was Arcade Fire in 2010.

After choosing to double its headline slots to six acts across two main stages for 2021, the confirmed line up will see Stormzy attempt to harness the magic of his popular 2019 Glastonbury performance, while Post Malone will headline for his third time. Other headliners include Liam Gallagher, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Disclosure, and Queens of the Stone Age.

Fans have taken to social media to voice their thoughts on the underrepresentation of female artists at the festival: “It’s actually embarrassing for Reading and Leeds to have doubled the headliner slots and still not name a woman as one, especially when there are countless options breaking through, no excuses,” one person wrote on Twitter.

While other major festivals have united by signing up to the Keychange initiative to promote line-ups with a 50:50 gender split, Reading and Leeds never has. Festivals with equal gender parity in their booking policy typically allows for an exciting and diverse roster of acts, which is polar opposite to the predictable and backwards line up that Reading and Leeds has being accused of across the years.

It’s clear that there’s still a long way to go before women are represented equally in the music industry: a recent Gender Disparity Radio Report found that British female artists are severely underrepresented on the UK airwaves compared to their male counterparts.

“Year after year, the Reading and Leeds lineups are dismissive of female talent – it’s so consistent that I am actually bored,” another fan wrote on Twitter.

Other artists announced to perform at Reading and Leeds 2021 include AJ Tracey, DaBaby, Doja Cat, 100 gecs and more.

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