What the UK’s first all-women festival gets wrong

Woman Fest wants to create an inclusive safe space for women, but is already policing bodies and offers some questionable events

The UK is set to experience its first all-women festival this summer. Called Woman Fest, the four-day event will take place in Somerset this August, and describes itself as a “Radical Participation” festival intending to “celebrate all things Woman”, inviting “everyone to Show Up and be a part of everything!” That is, unless you are a non-binary person with a penis, because “we have to draw the line somewhere.”

Given that the festival aims to be empowering and inclusive, it seems strange to be so concerned about policing bodies and excluding people based on their anatomy (non-binary people with vaginas are welcome). Surely the idea of creating a safe space should also coincide with an underlying logic of not being discriminatory; why promote togetherness but exclude certain non-binary people and not others?

On the bill at Woman Fest, instead of what The Observer describes as “deafening indie music” and “boozed-up moshing” (because women can’t possibly enjoy indie music and moshing?), festival-goers can look forward to vaginal steaming, basket weaving workshops, and a sacred womb tent. Although there will also be comedy and punk music, it feels a little regressive to assume that the only things women want to do when not in the company of men is vagina-related activities, ancient hand crafts, and writing their insecurities on pieces of paper. Of course, these activities might be perfect for some people, and the festival does offer some more progressive and interesting events – including a talk on empowering women in the film industry – but it seems there could be fewer stereotypically feminine options too.

Plus, steaming your vagina is actually really bad for you and TBH not something we’d recommend doing in the middle of a Somerset farm.

Priced at an exclusionary £225 (although profits will be donated to tree-planting charity TreeSisters), the festival is reminiscent of the women-only island in Finland which absolutely encourages inclusivity, as long as you can afford it.

There’s no doubt that women-only safe spaces are needed, and an all-female festival could be a wonderful thing, but it needs to be done in a way that’s inclusive, doesn’t patronise potential guests and generally chills the fuck out. Take Statement Festival in Sweden for example – happening for the first time this summer (with a max ticket price of approx £100) – the event is open to all women (cis and trans) and non-binary people, and follows a traditional festival format but with an all-female line-up.

Statement’s progressive approach shows there’s no need to go overboard on the vagina-related activities – why not have some bands, some beers, and feminist workshops? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.