Marking the UN International Women’s Day, here’s the highlights from the incredible Women of the World (WOW) Festival taking place this weekend…
By Suman Bhuchar
IT’S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH and The Women of the World London festival or WOW, as it’s known to everyone, is back for its 13th year at the South Bank this weekend, from March 10 -13.
WOW is the biggest festival celebrating women, girls and non-binary people in the UK and one of the largest festivals of its type anywhere in the world too – and this jam packed weekend has a range of talks, free events and other interactive sessions to enjoy. Since it first started in 2010, it has grown and spawned editions in other countries but this is the original and the largest WOW.
There are headline events every evening which are ticketed separately (links below) but you can get a day pass to explore talks, music, pop up performances, market place and just hang out and talk to your friends and peers. And there is speed mentoring too, should you be interested.
We’ve highlighted a few things here below, but you can see the whole programme on the WOW website (link below).
Friday, March 10 (Opening)
Festival founder Jude Kelly will be discussing Women, Power and Misogyny on the opening day on Friday (March 10); there is a conversation between performer Beverly Knight and artistic director, Kate Prince of Zoo Nation talking on bringing the story of Pankhurst family to life in the hip-hop musical currently running at the Old Vic. (You can read our review here). Zoo Nation is a theatre-dance outfit that has just celebrated its 20th anniversary (2022) and looks to create full length creative work “strongly influenced by hip hop culture and music”. The Old Vic shows are sold out and many critics have pointed out how a story set in Victorian times has been able to engage and inspire young people from diverse backgrounds.
A BSL signed session about Life as a Deaf Woman led by the Deaf Ethnic Women’s Association and speakers include Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, Maral Mamaghanizadeh, Sonia Choudhury, Yvonne Beckford and Nadia Nadarajah. This session will be translated into spoken English. (See times below).
Disability campaigner Shani Dhanda talk about what most motivates them in WOW Big Ideas. (See more below).
Later author Liv Little will be in conversation with actor, Lucy Boynton about her debut novel ‘Rosewater‘. Little is the founder of the online and print magazine, gal-dem (2015) and her first novel has been widely acclaimed, while Boynton is a long-time friend.
Saturday March 11
There is a packed programme to enjoy from sessions on allyship to rage, home, alopecia, climate, cost of living and political organising. The late author, Mala Sen was part of a group of activists who broke into empty buildings, pressured the council to improve housing for the local Bengali population and challenged racism. Hopefully she will get a shout out in the session: From the Squatters movement to #SaveBrickLane: A History of Bengali Activism in the UK.
Speakers include academic Dr Fatima Rajina; award-winning arts educator Farzana Khan; Head of Research at Runnymede Trust Dr Shabna Begum; and poet and disability rights advocate Raisa Hassan.
Munroe Bergdorf, the model and trans-activist will also be in conversation about her book, ‘Transitional‘ with Azieb-Hannah Pool, Artistic Director/CEO of Bernie Grant Arts Centre. Actor Kathy Burke is in conversation with Jude Kelly as well.
Sunday, March 12
On this final day of WOW, there will be discussions on the news, DIY, addiction and recovery, the Big V on labelling your labia, documentary filmmaking, and female artists being excluded from art. Some highlights include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe In Conversation with her local MP, Tulip Siddiq; and WOW Big Ideas session featuring actor, Shobna Gulati reading from her moving memoir, ‘Remember Me?’ and much more to enjoy.
Friday March 10
10.30am-11.30am Friday Opening Session – Women, Power & Misogyny (Jude Keliy, Julia Gillard, Vera Eggleston, Laura Bates, Elif Shafak and Joesphine Kamara) – Royal Festival Hall (RFH)
12pm-1pm Bringing the Pankhursts to the stage (RFH)
12pm-1pm Deaf Becomes Her – Life as Deaf Women (Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq)
1.45pm-2.45 WOW Big Ideas – speakers including disability campaigner Shani Dhanda and Labour Coventry MP talk about the things that they most care about in the world… (RFH)
5pm-6pm Liv Little in Conversation with Lucy Boynton (RFH)
Saturday March 11
12pm-1pm From the Squatters movement to #SaveBrickLane: A History of Bengali Activism in the UK – Level 4 Green Bar
12pm-1pm Munroe Bergdorf in Conversation with Azieb-Hannah Pool – Level 4 Blue Bar
3.30pm – 4.30pm Kathy Burke in Conversation – (RFH)
Sunday March 12
12pm-1pm Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Conversation with local MP Tulip Siddiq
1.45pm-2.45pm WOW Big Ideas – Shobna Gulati talking about her memoir; former Crown Prosecution Service Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal about tackling male violence; writer Alice Sherwood about what she’s learnt from conwomen; Vice and Vice UK editor-in-chief Zing Tsjeng on forgotten women from history; Sadiq Khan, Mayor London, on allyship.
WOW London Headliner events
All these take place at 7.30pm (RFH)
Friday March 10 – Off Air with Jane Garvey & Fi Glover recording their new podcast and the duo will be joined by Meera Syal – https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/talks-debates/air-jane-fi-wow
Saturday March 11 – The Big O with Oloni, a ‘sexpert’ who will be discussing sex, love and relationships
Sunday, March 12 – will see feminist, and cultural critic, Roxane Gay in conversation with broadcaster Afua Hirsh.
WOW London Festival, March 10-13, Southbank Centre (Royal Festival Hall building), Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX – https://thewowfoundation.com/