Reading and Leeds festivals under fire after unveiling all-male headliners for 2021

Reading and Leeds festival organisers have come under renewed fire after revealing their 2021 headliners — all of which are men.

The dual-running events, which are put on by Festival Republic, have been criticised in the past for failing to curate gender-balanced line-ups.

Six headliners will top the bill next August, with both festivals expanding to host two main stages on each site.

Reading and Leeds festival organisers have come under renewed fire after revealing their 2021 headliners — all of which are men.

The dual-running events, which are put on by Festival Republic, have been criticised in the past for failing to curate gender-balanced line-ups.

Six headliners will top the bill next August, with both festivals expanding to host two main stages on each site.

Stormzy, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Post Malone, Disclosure, Liam Gallagher and Queens of the Stone Age were all confirmed, leaving many to question the absence of women artists.

One Twitter user said: “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.”

A list of potential female headliners was also posted and shared widely, with Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and Charli XCX put forward as worthy of the top spot.

Further down the line-up, a number of women artists were confirmed, including Doja Cat, Mabel and Beabadoobee.

At the last edition of Reading and Leeds back in 2019 — this summer’s events were cancelled due to the pandemic — women made up only 12 per cent of the line-up. Paramore, who headlined the festivals in 2014, are the only female-fronted band to do so in more than 20 years.

In 2018, 45 festivals in the UK signed up to a pledge launched by campaign body Keychange, committing to a 50/50 gender split on their line-ups by 2020.

Commenting on the initiative at the time, Festival Republic managing director Melvin Benn said: “Is that the right way to go about it – to say it’s got to be 50/50? I don’t know that it is.” Instead, he launched ReBalance, which set out to provide women artists with studio recording time, in order to “create a bigger pool of female acts” for festivals to book from.

“So actually, I do support the principle of it [gender equality],” Benn said in 2018. “I’ve chosen a slightly different way to go about it, but with the same principal aim.”

Reading and Leeds festivals will run from August 27-29, 2021.

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