Tackling gender inequality in music festivals

Last night PRS Foundation celebrated getting 45 international music industry conferences and festivals to a pledge to achieve or maintain gender balance across their events by 2022.

Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Huddersfield, Spitalfields and the BBC Proms all feature in the list alongside European and Canadian events, and a host of other events I wouldn’t normally consider.

A dedicated programme of international opportunities for the 60-strong membership of musicians and composers from Estonia, Iceland, the UK, Spain, and Sweden is the practical demonstration of the Keychange initiative in action.

The event was there to make a bold, proud commitment to women in the music industry. I sat back reading the press release, skimming over the names of the other festivals and conferences I hadn’t heard of, and feeling rather small. It’s at these kind of events that classical music’s scale is put into context. Put another way, it’s at these kind of events you come to appreciate how inflated classical music’s bubble really is.

I know of people – musicians with hunger and dogged determination – who would rather that their presence on stage isn’t defined by gender, but instead because they are musicians. The Keychange pledge is the first step in positive action which, I’m betting, will see that aspiration I’ve heard others articulate a reality.

At the heart of this initiative is, inevitably, a collection of partners and sponsors, Creative Europe – funded by EU money – being one of them.

But there is someone else who I think we don’t acknowledge enough – PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed.

For me, she’s one of a handful of people within the industry who consistently delivers on her vision, translating plans into action by drawing on her enviable strength, drive and determination. She is both engaging and engaged. I think we take people like this for granted in the music industry. Sadly they are a rarity. Someone to cherish.



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