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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Laura Snapes

Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses, Elton John: all-male Glastonbury headliners a ‘pipeline’ problem, says Emily Eavis

Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Elton John and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses.
‘It’s about every aspect of diversity’ … (L-R) Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Elton John and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses. Composite: Getty

Festivals are struggling with a dearth of viable female headliners owing to an industry “pipeline” problem, Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis said as the festival announced a lineup of all-male headliners for this year’s event.

Following the news that Elton John would conclude the 2023 edition on Sunday, Eavis confirmed that Arctic Monkeys would headline Friday, their third time closing the Pyramid stage, while Guns N’ Roses would make their Worthy Farm debut on Saturday.

Guns N’ Roses were booked when a previously confirmed female headliner pulled out because she “changed her touring plans”, said Eavis. She declined to name names but said she hoped they would headline within the next five years. Fans had anticipated Taylor Swift, who was due to headline Glastonbury 2020 prior to its cancellation as a result of Covid – but the US leg of her Eras tour this summer obviated the possibility.

Guns N’ Roses – who added a female keyboard player, Melissa Reese, to their lineup in 2016 – had been discussed as prospective headliners pre-pandemic, said Eavis. “They’ll be brilliant and provide something totally different to the rest of the headliners.” Lizzo will open for the US rockers and has joint headline billing. “She could totally headline,” said Eavis, adding that the Pyramid stage often sees bigger crowds in the afternoon than at night. “Many of the artists could. But the headline slot had already been promised to someone else.”

Lizzo performing at the 2019 Glastonbury festival
Lizzo performing at the 2019 Glastonbury festival. Photograph: James McCauley/Rex/Shutterstock

Further down the bill, this year’s lineup includes debut performances from the Eurovision winners Måneskin, the Brit-winning girl band Flo and the US country stars the Chicks. Lil Nas X will return to play before Elton John, while Lana Del Rey will graduate from her 2014 Pyramid stage afternoon slot to headline the Other stage.

52% of the 54 names on this week’s partial lineup announcement – with many more acts still to come – are male. Eavis said she remained “entirely focused on balancing our bill. It’s not just about gender, it’s about every aspect of diversity.” 46% of those 54 names are non-white, or feature non-white members: Afrobeats star Wizkid will headline the Other stage on Friday. “We’re probably one of the only big shows that’s really focused on this.”

The music industry needs to invest in more female musicians to create future headliners, said Eavis. “We’re trying our best so the pipeline needs to be developed. This starts way back with the record companies, radio. I can shout as loud as I like but we need to get everyone on board.”

Next year’s festival should see two women headline, said Eavis – one confirmed, one close, and both of them Glastonbury first-timers. Rihanna and Madonna are among the top-billing acts who have never played the festival.

Eavis said that as a woman in the music industry she saw the matter as a personal issue, recalling the days where there was only one woman working as a live booking agent. “It’s top of our agenda, and it probably makes it a bit harder because we’ve decided to make that important to us. To be honest, sometimes it’s easier to keep your head down.”

Not, she added, that it is easy for Glastonbury to book just anyone at superstar level. To secure Elton John – for the retiring star’s last ever UK date – Eavis wrote a personal letter urging him “not to miss out on a potentially incredible moment for you, for us, for the fans,” she recalled.

“He called up and confirmed right away. People assume that because we’re the ‘Christmas of music’ we can breezily book whoever – but to get Elton doesn’t happen easily, so that’s a really big moment for us.”

Melanie C DJing at Glastonbury 2022.
Melanie C DJing at Glastonbury 2022. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock

She denied the perpetual rumours – stoked by the group themselves – that the Spice Girls would appear. “That is not a conversation we’re having at the moment,” said Eavis, but added that Melanie C would perform solo.

In October, Glastonbury made headlines when it announced that ticket prices would rise by £55 to £340 (including booking fee). “We put it up [by] the minimum we could,” said Eavis. “In order to do the exact same show as last time, we would have had to put £100 on the ticket. That’s the amount that costs have gone up.”

Glastonbury costs £50m to run, said Eavis, adding that she remained focused on creating value for attenders. She highlighted their free tickets for children – and free rides in the kids’ area – as well as free programmes and tote bags. The festival is working with food vendors on affordable options, as well as tackling the issue of confectionary wrappers, having previously banned single-use plastic and crisps in non-compostable packets.

After last year’s festival, Mendip district council recommended that the event improve crowd control, following massive turnouts for the likes of Wet Leg and TLC. Eavis admitted that there were some surprise performers, such as Sugababes, who “were a bit too big for the stages that they were booked on. We’re making sure that doesn’t happen this year by not having big surprises in small places”.

The vast crowd for Wet Leg at the Park stage in 2022.
The vast crowd for Wet Leg at the Park stage in 2022. Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

With Wet Leg, she added, the Isle of Wight indie duo’s profile blew up so much in between their booking and their performance that they probably could have headlined the Other stage. “There is a degree of flexibility this year,” she said. “We might have to move a couple of things like that if they suddenly explode.”

When the festival returned last year after Covid, Eavis said her team became aware of attenders behaving differently: staying out for the whole day rather than returning to their tents – making 2022 the first year they had leftover free firewood, usually snapped up by Wednesday afternoon – and taking children to the nightclubbing zones. “They wanted to savour every moment after two years away,” she said.

This year, families will not be allowed in the notorious after-hours south-east corner after 10pm and will be encouraged to seek out child-friendly areas across the site such as the theatre and circus fields, and the campfire in the new Woodsies area. The John Peel stage would also be renamed Woodsies, said Eavis, part of a push to name stages after the fields that they stand in, such as West Holts and Silver Hayes. “We’ve had 20 years of John Peel and it’s been an honour to use his name.”

The shift was not a response to a minor 2022 petition calling for a name change owing to Peel having married a 15-year-old girl when he was 25 (then legal in Texas, where they were wed). “I haven’t got involved in that because it’s not our area,” said Eavis. “We’ve had a really good relationship with the Peel family and everyone’s on board.”

Since 2000, Eavis has steadily taken over the running of Glastonbury from her father, founder Michael Eavis. Now 87, “he’s in fine form and having lots of fun,” she said. Last year, Eavis’s family took in two Ukrainian sisters, who loved the festival: “Veronika ended up doing loads of translation and Nadya was raving.” While Veronika has returned to Kyiv, “Nadya met a guy locally and has moved in with him.”

Glastonbury 2023 takes place from 21-25 June. Three months out, Eavis said her main hope was that “people will come and experience the joy that it brings to so many. The news is so depressing – I can’t bear it. We need things that bring people together to remind us of those good feelings. That is what it’s about.”

The lineup so far

Arctic Monkeys
Guns N’ Roses
Elton John
Alison Goldfrapp
Amadou and Mariam
Becky Hill
Candi Staton
Carly Rae Jepsen
Cat Burns
Central Cee
Christine and the Queens
Ezra Collective
Fatboy Slim
Fever Ray
Fred Again
Hot Chip
Joey Bada$$
Lana Del Rey
Lewis Capaldi
Lil Nas X
Loyle Carner
Maggie Rogers
Manic Street Preachers
Nova Twins
Rina Sawayama
Royal Blood
Stefflon Don
Sudan Archives
The Chicks
The War on Drugs
Weyes Blood
Young Fathers
Yusuf/Cat Stevens

• This article was amended on 3 March 2023 to remove the description of the headliners as “all-white”, as the members of Guns N’ Roses include people of colour. The number of announced artists was also reduced from 55 to 54 after an artist had been wrongly included in the initial lineup by Glastonbury organisers.

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