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Thursday 19 June 2014

Excellent Women: The Festival Edition

I've written a few pieces about festivals already this year, so I've had a good study of most of the line-ups. Most look fantastic at a first glance, but on closer examination, there's something quite shocking about many of them. The ratio of male to female performers is still hugely unbalanced- it's starting to improve on the music stages, but have a scour of most of the comedy line-ups and you'll notice that they're often male-dominated. So I've come up with a list of some of the most excellent women you can catch at the festivals this summer - if you enjoy them, let the festival programmers know!

If you're lucky enough to have tickets to Glastonbury, then obviously, Dolly Parton is a must-see. (If you're a real fan, you've probably already practised this dance for the Dolly-mob!) Chrissie Hynde at Latitude is another real gem, as is Neneh Cherry at Festival no 6.

You might know Kate Tempest from her work as a spoken word artist, poet, novelist and playwright. She's now gone back to her roots - rapping. I was at her album launch the other night and it was phenomenal. She's such a talented lyricist and performer. You can catch her at Glastonbury, Latitude and Bestival.

There are a few brilliant comedians proving that women are funny too, damn it! You can catch Katherine Ryan who you might recognise from Nevermind the Buzzcocks at Latitude, Sara Pascoe at Latitude and Festival no 6, and the ever charming Josie Long at Glastonbury and Latitude. Better known now for her role in Game of Thrones, Gemma Whelan is also a stand-up comedian- she'll be performing at Green Man Festival. If you're there, you can also catch one of my favourite storytellers, Vanessa Woolf.

Journalist Viv Groskop decided to take on stand-up comedy and perform 100 gigs in 100 days- she wrote a book about the results; 'I laughed, I cried' is a riot of emotion. Catch her at Latitude.

Punk legend and epic excellent woman Viv Albertine is also pimping her book- the brilliantly titled 'Clothes, clothes, clothes. Music, music, music. Boys, boys, boys.' A girl after my own heart. She'll be talking about her infamous career with The Slits at Port Eliot, Bestival and Green Man Festival.

Nikki Shaill runs alternative live-drawing society Art Macabre, hosting deliciously dark, themed sessions at wonderful locations around London- and over festival season, in a field near you! Art Macabre are at Latitude (I may even be posing for them...eeek!) and at Also Festival, a fabulous newcomer kicking off this weekend. Also is run by Salon London, championing artistic, scientific and psychological ideas in a beautiful space. They have some fantastic speakers, including Pen Vogler on how to have high tea like Jane Austen, Anne Karpf on how to age, and Jessica Fellowes on how to live life at a more 'Downton Abbey' pace. 

There are lots of other activities to take part in at festivals this year. I'm particularly looking forward to catching a screening of Beyond Clueless, the documentary about the cult of teen movies, with a great soundtrack by the 90s pop culture obsessed Summer Camp, that's at Latitude but it will also come to the BFI Southbank in August.

Port Eliot are offering up the best fancy dress opportunities, with 'Get dressed with Barbara Hulanicki' and flower headdress-making with my favourite florists, The Flower Appreciation Society.

Me! photo by Gemma Hall

You might have noticed that a lot of the women I've mentioned are performing at Latitude- it's no coincidence that it's a woman who curates their arts programme. The wonderful Tania Harrison has an epic job on her hands every year, always including lots of diversity and a great range of newcomers and old pros. In fact, she has, this year, given me the chance to perform my own show, Sleepyhead, my story of growing up as a narcoleptic. With the help of classical fairytales like Sleeping Beauty, modern movies like Inception and my own experience of living a life much sleepier than most, I'll takes a look at those 'little slices of death' and how I learnt not to loathe them. So if you're at Latitude, please do come and see me at 11am on Friday 18th July in The Shed of Stories!

Want more excellent women? Check out the rest in our series.


  1. Some excellent choices there! I'm planning on seeing Dolly and Josie Long at Glastonbury (inbetween my shifts working there) plus Holly Walsh, Caro Emerald and Lily Allen. Plus we've got tickets for Shappi Khorsandi, Lucy Porter and Katherine Ryan at Edinburgh and later in the year! :-) x

    1. I LOVE Caro Emerald- will definitely be seeing her too if I can fit it in-I'm also working at Glasto!See you there!


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