In 2018 we opened up the discussion about gender equality in the festival industry, after it was highlighted by a Noisily Family member that there wasn’t fair representation of women on our line up. 

After acknowledging this, we made great efforts to research both female and non-binary artists, as well as investigating in a broader sense why the industry was failing in encouraging their presence and influence. The conclusions of this research can be found in our article Gender Equality in the Festival Industry here. 

Three years on and we again find ourselves with an under-representation of female and non-binary artists on the Noisily and Liquid Stages.

At this juncture it is necessary to highlight that our Nook and Parliament of Funk stages are being released in due course with more female artists on, all of whom were booked based on the quality of their music and performance, not the gender with which they identify. It is our hope, as it was in 2018, that their presence on those stages will encourage and empower aspiring producers into getting in the studio and promoting their music in the future. 

So why, then, is the pool of artists for our flagship stages so limited? 

As a team composed of both sexes, we have had open and frank discussions about this and have deduced a number of contributing factors which have compounded in the line up we have for 2021’s event.  

The first, is that in the somewhat niche genres represented on these stages there simply isn’t the depth of options when it comes to female vs. male artists, particularly on the Liquid Stage where PsyTrance is the order of the day. As such, it’s illuminating to look at specific genres and scenes, their landscapes and the subsequent implications they have on what can be considered fair representation relative to how many men or women there are actively producing. 

The PsyTrance scene is the most underrepresented, and at Ozora festival in 2019, at a panel with 3 prominent voices / artists in the PsyTrance world, when asked why, at a 7 day festival which basically represents every PsyTrance artist worth seeing, and at it’s core is an inclusive event, there were no female artists programmed at all on the main stage, these were their responses.  

One cited that PsyTrance was incredibly geeky to produce and that made it inherently masculine genre, assuming that men are more likely to squirrel away in the studio for days on end than women. We’ve not researched as to whether there is any scientific evidence behind this with regards to the makeup of the male and female brains, nevertheless it was a subjective view put forward by one artist. 

Another member of the panel, who had been active in the Psychedelic scene since the 1970’s, was inspired by the question, and remarked on how historically there had been greater female involvement but it had declined over the past decade. Why, they couldn’t say, but they were disappointed by that fact. The issue seems to be systemic. 

On the Noisily Stage it is challenging for other reasons, whilst the top line issue of fewer options then complicates the many other factors that we must take into account during the booking process. 

The main issue we have come up against whilst enquiring into artists for the Noisily stage is that due to there being far fewer established female acts in our sphere, they are hot property, and as such are either not available as they are booked elsewhere, or are disproportionately expensive compared to their male counterparts. It is something that has been continually frustrating as we have made efforts and enquiries over the past few years, and is something we sadly have very little control over, which has been exacerbated further still by our decision to remove three “heavy hitter” slots from our budget to more evenly distribute funds.  

With such small budgets getting banging beats for our buck will always take precedence over leveraging someone onto the stage because of their gender, and it is our hope that as more and more women follow in the footsteps of people such as Amelie Lens, Nina Kravitz and ANNA (Noisily 2015), that the depth of options will grow and make our booking process easier. 

Finally, we feel it’s important to discuss the imaginary line in music and the importance of diversity of sound that we wrote about in February 2018. 

Quoting that Noise Piece: “The line up needs to be complete from top to bottom, by which we mean it needs to tell a story from start to finish. Imagine it as though you’re looking at a piano keyboard, that each artist is a different key, and that together they make up a chord which together creates the soundtrack to the weekend. A duff note could throw the whole thing off, so it needs to be good music.” 

As curators of the line up we feel as though we’ve done an exceptional job over the past decade, and whilst there have definitely been some duff notes, we have learnt from them and as such Noisily strikes a beautiful chord each July. 

We are treading several precarious lines when it comes to programming, gender diversity is just one of those, and is at the forefront of our minds when it comes to the decision making process. 

The bottom line is that we are still trying, it’s not easy, and we’ll continue to do our best to represent and encourage female and non-binary artists to get in the studio, produce and play, within our means and capabilities. But at the same time, this cannot be to the detriment of our line up, therein other than a few notable “resident slots”, we endeavour not to program the same people year after year, irrespective of gender, and the music must fall on the right side of the imaginary line. 

As always we are open to solution based discussion, and also any musical suggestions which the team can then review.  

Thanks for reading,

The Noisily Team