My first festival experience was short lived as I was helping my friends to hand flyers for their magazine at Glastonbury. When I have been to other festivals out of London they have tended to be full of either locals, middle class or mainly white people. It’s not just about punters attending but acts booked to play. An investigation recently revealed most UK festivals are not fully representative; over the past ten years out of 321 headline acts; 89 included one member who was BAME; 47 were all female or included one woman. Glastonbury headliners have been predominately Men and 70% White. Far from representative across the board.
The likes of Skepta, Stormzy or any act with a mass following are unlikely to see any of their core fans at key festivals. The problem is due to ticket availability, location, demographic and general ethnic mix of people attending. Broadcaster and DJ Eddy Temple Morris was concerned about the type of people who attended Wilderness Festival, he highlighted his concerns on his Facebook page: “In four hours at Wilderness and we saw one Black person who wasn’t working there as security or bar staff. I’ve never felt so uncomfortable at a festival. I’m still feeling freaked out by the experience. Fact UKIP has greater diversity.”
That is a worrying statement. I am glad Eddy shared his experience, it’s horrific to hear. Festivals like Wilderness should embrace diversity in every form but they are failing to reach out and connect with a wider audience. I wonder how many BAME’s are involved with Wilderness. It would be interesting to note and get a clearer picture of whether diversity initiatives are being assessed or put in place behind the scenes.
I recently spent two days at Standon Calling in Hertfordshire, it was diverse, varied mix of ethnicities along with different age groups. Standon are certainly in touch with their attendees. They are reaching out to ensure all types of people are represented. Whilst I was there I didn’t feel alienated or the token Black guy DJing or dancing in the crowd. So what’s gone wrong? Why did Eddy Temple Morris feel uncomfortable? Why have Wilderness failed to address this? It’s not just Wilderness at fault but this has been happening at other festivals. It boils down to gentrification and ignorance to address the class divide. The gap is getting wider between social classes. General stereotypes are still being placed on people from ethnic backgrounds. Goldie recently addressed this too, he blamed gentrification for “***** up clubbing”.
It’s important to note diversity is at the top of the agenda for the Government. If Broadcasting and Arts are key priorities surely that should be reflected in the music sector as well? But it seems it has been overlooked by festival organisers. I will highlight this to Culture Minister Matt Hancock MP. It’s time for this institutionalised mindset to be swept away. Legislation must be put in place to ensure festival organisers who fail to address diversity in their line up and attendees are accountable and ensure diversity is on their agenda. It’s the only way we can step forward to ensure the festival industry can adapt to be a fully integrated part of our society.
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