Billy Bragg called the music industry “sexist” and “racist” as he praised The 1975’s Matthew Healy for saying he will no longer play at music festivals with a lack of female acts on the bill.

Healy made his pledge while responding to the backlash over the recently announced Reading and Leeds line-up, which is dominated by male artists.

Speaking at the NME Awards, Bragg said: “Power to Matt for talking out.

“You have to be allies. If you want these things to change then men have to speak out as well. It’s not just an issue for women, it’s an issue for all of us.”

Asked why change has been slow in the music world, the singer-songwriter said: “The industry itself is a sexist, racist industry, unfortunately, I’m sorry to say. I’m ashamed to say.

“It was back in the day when I first started and it still is.

“You have to keep on pushing. These struggles never end.”

Stormzy, Rage Against The Machine and Liam Gallagher will top the bill at the Reading and Leeds festivals this year.

Female names include Mabel, Mahalia and Lady Leshurr but the summer event is male-heavy.

Robyn, who is being crowned Songwriter of the Decade, also weighed in as she arrived at the NME Awards.

She said: “I think that there is no reason for festivals to be unbalanced when it comes to gender equality by now. There is no reason for it.

“It seems like a very unreasonable and kind of stupid way to go about booking a festival.

“There are so many talented musicians of both genders so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Comedian and presenter Katherine Ryan said: “I’ve done Reading and Leeds – they are wonderful festivals.

“I’m really tired of seeing line-ups like that, where if you remove all the male names then you are left with supporting acts, seven of them. That’s just not good enough any more.

“I was really disappointed to see that.

Katherine Ryan
Katherine Ryan (David Parry/PA)

“I see so many young women who go to Reading and Leeds festivals to have a good time, and they want to be on that stage one day. It’s just not good enough.

“Sorry Reading and Leeds! I still want to do the festival though!”

The NME Awards are being held in London, where nominees include Billie Eilish, Stormzy, The 1975, Slowthai, Yungblud, FKA twigs, Lizzo and Lana Del Rey.

American music star Eilish is up for best song in the world, best album in the world and best solo act in the world, while British grime star Stormzy is up for best festival headliner – following his Glastonbury headline stint last year – and best music video for Vossi Bop.