Following a year of change and political upheaval across the globe, with a questioning of women’s roles and rights, famous female artists, writers and activists including Gillian Anderson, Angela Davis, Sandi Toksvig, Jennifer Nadel, Catherine Mayer, Elif Şafak, Fatima Manji, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Gemma Cairney, Margaret Hodge MP, Harriet Harman MP, Baroness Jenkin, and Bettany Hughes are uniting to call for solutions to modern societal challenges for women.
In the return of Southbank Centre’s annual flagship festival WOW – Women of the World, supported by Bloomberg, female stars will join thousands of women and girls, politicians, business leaders, artists, activists and refugees from across the UK, and the globe, to celebrate women and girls and explore together the paths to a gender equal world.
WOW – Women of the World takes place from Tuesday 7 – Sunday 12 March 2017 and asks what Trump, Brexit and beyond mean for women. It celebrates everything that women and girls have done, and will do in the future, whilst taking a candid look at wide-ranging issues that prevent them from achieving their potential: from violence against women and girls, ageism, to “locker-room talk” and everyday sexism in the UK and across the world. It tackles subjects such as alcoholism, rape, toilets, intersectionality, the role of men in gender equality, refugees, and criminal justice. The festival also sees a celebration of the Nordic nations, as part of Southbank Centre’s year of Nordic programming Nordic Matters, and explores the social learnings of these countries that consistently top the gender equality indexes.
Founder of WOW festival, Southbank Centre Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE said: “Events of the past year have shown that, despite great strides by the feminist movement, the world still speaks a largely male language. More than ever, we must keep up the fight for gender equality and look at the far-reaching implications of the current political climate on our women and girls – from the localised to the global. We take the opportunity to hone in on women in politics, and the achievements of older women, a subject too often overlooked. We also look to the Nordic nations, who have long been seen as leaders in advocating gender equality, investigating the impact of their approach, and what we can learn from each other.”
Launched by Southbank Centre in 2010, WOW is now a global movement, with international WOW festivals reaching over one million people across five continents, and growing year on year. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016. This year’s festival once again marks International Women’s Day on 8 March and coincides with the first WOW Hull, part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, and the first WOW Finland.
Highlights of WOW 2017 include powerful new calls for change. Co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer launches her new book, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Women, in conversation with Sandi Toksvig. This looks at why no single country or culture has yet achieved parity and whether we will ever live in a gender equal world (Tuesday 7 March). Actress, writer and activist Gillian Anderson (The Fall, The X-Files) and broadcaster, writer and activist Jennifer Nadel also launch their new book WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, an inspiring and provocative manifesto for change, proposing a vision for a different, fairer and more fulfilling way of living (Friday 10 March). Southbank Centre Artist in Residence, TV and radio personality, journalist and teen ambassador Gemma Cairney talks about her publishing debut OPEN: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be; and Harriet Harman, one of Britain’s most prominent campaigning politicians, will discuss her groundbreaking memoir A Woman’s Work, a rare political autobiography by a woman about the last 30 years in British politics, and of a life dedicated to fighting for equality and respect for women (Saturday 11 March).
WOW also welcomes prominent American activist, scholar and author Angela Davis, who has been at the forefront of movements for economic, racial, and gender justice over many decades (Saturday 11 March).
WOW – Women of the World highlights include:
Over 200 events across six days, including talks, debates, live music, comedy, workshops, the smash-hit WOW Speed Mentoring and WOW Market – a range of stalls providing information, raising awareness, and showcasing work, craft and fashion
What Does Brexit Mean for Women? – a debate on the pros and cons of the referendum result with leading UK political voices (Friday 10 March)
Political Titans: The Secret Power of Older Women in Politics – women including Margaret Hodge MP and Baroness Jenkin of Kennington talk about their careers and experiences in politics, the double standards displayed in the portrayal of male and female politicians, and the force of older women in campaigning and party politics (Friday 10 March)
Women on the Move Awards support the contribution of migrant and refugee women to UK society, and the stories of refugee women are featured throughout WOW
A Nordic focus throughout the festival covers topics such as: what we can learn from Nordic parenting; the Nordic approach to prostitution and its legal framework; Sweden’s feminist foreign policy and its objectives; and comparing how rape and sexual assault are dealt with by criminal justice systems in the UK and in the Nordic countries
Turkish author Elif Şafak and historian Bettany Hughes discuss Istanbul, how women have shaped the city, and the lives of women living there today (Sunday 12 March)
Comedian and #periodpositive campaign founder Chella Quint breaks taboos around menstruation in her one-woman show Adventures in Menstruating (Saturday 11 March)
Under 10s Feminist Corner brings young boys and girls together for an interactive workshop on what it means to be a girl and how to start a campaign in your bedroom (Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 March)
Journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge presents an exclusive extract from her forthcoming book Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race, on the frustrations, discomfort and social implications of talking about race (Saturday 11 March)
Channel 4 journalist Fatima Manji talks about Muslim women and the media, and her own experiences of prejudice (Saturday 11 March)
Writers Paula Varjack, Jules Grant and Michelle Tea are highlights of this year’s Polari – a platform for LGBT writers returning with a women’s special hosted by author and journalist Paul Burston (Wednesday 8 March)
Mirth Control – WOW’s annual night of comedy and music inspired by great women returns with a nod to our Nordic neighbours, hosted by Sandi Toksvig (Sunday 12 March)
Des James – father of Private Cheryl James whose tragic death at Deepcut barracks revealed a deeply misogynistic environment – talks about his long battle for justice and use of the Human Rights Act for his daughter with lawyer Emma Norton and Director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier (Saturday 11 March)
Sessions to empower women in the world of technology, from discussions featuring the women making up 14.4% of the STEM industry, to free crash courses on app building, digital literacy and practical tools for online safety, with expert guidance from UK Government advisor and founder of #techmums Dr Sue Black OBE, Dr Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, former particle physicist, discoverer of the Higgs Boson and co-founder of start up NaturalCycles, and Silkie Carlo, Policy Officer at Liberty
An abundance of free activities including a Friday Lunch concert featuring singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya (Friday 10 March)