(Above: The Unthanks, Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening, Lucinda Williams and Siobhan Miller from the 2019 line-up.)
Ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March we took a few moments to speak to Bev Burton, Festival Booker, about creating a balanced gender split on the Festival line-up.
Since 2017 the Festival has been committed to continuing the 50/50 gender split line-up, why has it been important for Cambridge Folk Festival to continue this and have a focus on women?
Well, the Festival has always maintained a gender balance and with PRS’s keychange initiative being rolled out, it has highlighted the gender situation within the live sector. As a booker it’s my responsibility to ensure the balance between the sexes is maintained and celebrated on our bill. We were the first festival to run two stages with female line-up’s in 2017, something I had always tried to do at some of my previous festivals, but for one booking reason or another it never happened, we also introduced the Women’s Panel. Our 2018 bill pushed beyond 50/50 balance and we were 60/40.
Being able to be gender balanced is all down to the fans of our genres who support both sexes' careers, so I owe a lot to them for this. This is why I was able to run two female stages and hopefully other genres and festivals will be able to follow the example we have set.
How are you creating a better balance of artists at the Festival?
Like I said previously, I’m very lucky in this genre of music that both sexes are supported by both the fans and the industry. But saying that, we are always bound by who's on the road, who is available within our budget, when they are routing etc. There are so many factors that go into the booking process, this year for example, we have had a huge number of men with guitars on the road, every year is so different. I don’t know what’s going to be available from year to year, but have to ensure that we have the best line- up representing all.
Have you seen changes in attitudes towards creating a better gender balance in the music industry as a whole?
It certainly is one of the big talking points at the music conferences and it’s big news in everyday life.Things are starting to change with more festivals signing up to Keychange thus being a spotlight from the artists perspective, and we have more women getting into the tech, production, stage managing, tour managing jobs and smashing it. Our own Festival now has women in key roles, I program it and book the artists and Becky ‘Fluff’ Stewart is Operations Manager, I book ‘em and she builds the beast and runs the show.
The International Women’s Day Campaign suggests that everyone has a part to play in building a better gender balanced world. How can festival customers, organisers and artists all play their part?
We have to support the careers of women in front of the mic and behind it, this nonsense argument that women don’t sell as many tickets as men is just silly, try telling that to Adele or Florence and The Machine. And if they aren’t, why aren’t they? Why are they not being managed, booked and promoted as much as men. It is our responsibility to change things, to champion all artists as it's us that manage them, book and promotes their live shows and change the mind-set of the ‘old boys club’ that is the music industry.
I think festival goers are much savvier these days and are tuned into what’s happening at their favourite festivals, from the music presented to the water bottles they use (we were one of the festivals to ban single use water bottles). They can see the festivals that have decent morals and together we can make real change across the board.
Find out more about International Women's Day HERE
Find out more about 50:50 Keychange HERE