Open Access Report: Challenges for women musicians in jazz and ways forward for equal gender representation at jazz festivals

Keychanges at Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Challenges for women musicians in jazz and ways forward for equal gender representation at jazz festivals

Findings, recommendations and ways forward


This open access report documents the activities, findings and recommendations of a research project undertaken by Dr Sarah Raine in partnership with Cheltenham Jazz Festival on their Keychange pledge to programme a 50/50 gender balanced schedule by 2022. It offers a critique of the Keychange quota element as it relates to jazz festivals, provides insight into the experiences of women musicians active on the UK jazz scene, and (based upon the model provided by Cheltenham) offers a range of recommendations for other music festivals who are interested in becoming a Keychange pledgee.

It draws upon interviews with festival staff – most notably with Emily Jones, Head of Programming (2018-2019, and Festival Manager 2013-2018) – and ten women musicians who performed at the 2019 festival. It provides an overview of the gender data from throughout the Festival’s twenty-three-year history, demonstrating the continued underrepresentation of women jazz musicians and a comparative lack of instrumentalists. Data from three other jazz festivals involved in this research project (Glasgow, Hull and Manchester) also highlight similar issues with both the Keychange interpretation of 50/50 (one woman on stage) and the jazz scene more generally.

This report was drafted before the COVID-19 pandemic, however a reflection upon gender inequality at jazz festivals going forward will be published later this year.

This report is a culmination of collaborative work and testimony to partnerships between academia and industry. It was funded and supported by Midlands3Cities (M3C, Arts and Humanities Research Council) as part of their Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship scheme.

The issues explored in this research project and resulting report will be the focus of a forthcoming special issue for Jazz Research Journal, expected in Summer 2021.

A full PDF copy of the report can be downloaded here