“Girl in Red’s set made it clear how important that representation is, and there’s no reason why we can’t have more of it”
BY CAITLIN CHATTERTON
Want to know if somebody likes women? Just ask them if they listen to Girl in Red. Or, you could have rocked up to Reading’s Festival Republic tent on Sunday night to see if they were in the crowd.
Reading and Leeds Festival made its long-awaited comeback over the bank holiday weekend, as artists finally returned to stages across the two sister sites.
By Sunday evening, we were pretty exhausted from all the singing and dancing, running mostly on crisps and alcohol and dreaming of getting a proper shower. That would have to wait a little longer though, as we were excitedly joining the crowd huddled under the Festival Republic tent. The final artist on the line-up with Girl in Red, Norwegian singer songwriter and queen of queer bedroom pop.
When she took the stage it was with as much nervous energy as the crowd’s, tripping over words as she dived into every song. A lot of people were on Facetime to friends, or – like me – on strict orders to film as much of it as possible. A few people were even in tears, gripping onto their friends and partners for support. It felt reminiscent of a Hayley Kiyoko gig, perhaps just with a slightly younger audience.
Everyone went absolutely crazy for her song, girls, singing (or shouting) the words that they knew by heart as the stage lights shone rainbow. After so long stuck inside, it felt joyful to experience that atmosphere again and to feel part of a community.
Reading and Leeds has become somewhat infamous for its lack of gender diversity. This year, all six headline slots went to male artists, after more than 20 years with only one female-fronted band (Paramore, 2014) ever topping the bill. In total, women made up around 30% of this year’s line-up, admittedly still an improvement on 2019’s pitiful 12%.
While the lack of female and non-binary artists is depressing in itself, there’s hardly any queer representation either. Girl in Red’s set made it clear how important and special that representation is, and there’s no reason why we can’t have more of it. Even with travel restrictions making life hard for international acts, Rina Sawayama, Cherym, Pillow Queens, Dodie and so many others could have played. The whole benefit of festivals is that a variety of artists can play to a variety of audiences – it’s basically designed to be diverse. Having that representation on the line-up would make festivals seem more inclusive and accessible for the community, and it’s also just really good music!
Music can’t just be split between male rappers and indie boy bands. It’s time for our biggest festivals to start making space for queer female artists.
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