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Jude Kelly, Founder and Director of The WOW Foundation says: “Throughout 2021, WOW Festival Live Online is bringing together courageous women and girls from across the globe who are driven by a desire to change the world. These brilliant activists will join WOW Festivals around the world in groundbreaking conversations, workshops and projects; focusing on gender, racial and social inequality, all of which have been exacerbated in the past 12 months.”

WOW Festival 2021

The agenda

  1. From 1st March digital WOW Festivals go live from the UK, New York, Nepal, Pakistan, Istanbul, and Bangladesh, and WOW Think Ins take place in Taiwan and Western Australia
  2. 2021’s WOW Festival UK takes place 1-21st March to mark International Women’s Day and includes:
    • Over 30 digital events
    • Guest speakers Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ruby Wax, Arundhati Roy, Sheila Heti, Avni Doshi, Bryony Kimmings
    • WOW pioneers new networks for different groups and generations – from grandmothers to mothers in covid and under 10s feminists
    • Workshops and discussions on themes including mental health, sex in lockdown, women in Greek myths, grief and intersectionality
    • Available to book worldwide, WOW UK 2021’s programme includes special sessions from WOW Australia and WOW Rio de Janeiro
       
  3. WOW and Google Arts & Culture to launch an online exhibition featuring 100 trailblazing women from 10 cities and countries around the world
     
  4. WOW and BBC Children in Need launch a major new project connecting over 100 marginalised girls aged 8-16 across the UK
     
  5. WOW launches Shameless!, a new festival in November to confront attitudes towards sexual violence – a partnership with Birkbeck and The Wellcome Trust

Jude Kelly: “We can already see that women and girls have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 finding themselves in ever more precarious positions, especially those already marginalised. With cases of domestic abuse rising and access to education diminishing, the impact of the pandemic is being felt in both domestic spaces and the labour markets with devastating social and economic consequences.

“COVID-19 looks as if it could set gender equality and women’s rights back a staggering 25 years, without immediate and direct action. We must act now to build a post pandemic world which is inclusive, supportive and where the UN’s goal of gender equality by 2030 can be achieved.”

With the support of our global founding partner, Bloomberg, The WOW Foundation pivoted to an immensely successful, virtual event in 2020. From 1st March, WOW Festivals and events will take place across the world from festivals in regions including Australia, Bangladesh, Istanbul, Nepal, New York, Pakistan, Taiwan and the UK.

First time WOW UK Festival goes online

For the first time ever, The WOW Foundation’s flagship UK festival, which is usually live at the Southbank Centre, London, will present events online daily from 1st-21st March. Recognising recent global events, 2021’s WOW UK programme will take a frank look at new obstacles women, girls and non-binary people now face; discussing creative solutions for change whilst celebrating amazing stories of resistance and progress. As in all WOW Festivals, it will be packed with challenging conversations but also moments of joy, spontaneity, laughter and optimism. This year’s opening session will bring together voices from across the globe to highlight the need for us to work together to build a more inclusive and sustainable post pandemic world.

WOW UK 2021 will include a series of In Conversations exploring themes such as sex during lockdown, radical childcare and gender equality in the tech industries. All events will be BSL interpreted and captioned, with tickets starting from £1 or audiences can buy a pass to watch the whole season from £25.

Festival highlights

Highlights include: intersectionality pioneer Kimberlé Crenshaw on the Black Lives Matter movement and her #SayHerName campaign; writers Arundhati Roy and V (formerly Eve Ensler) join forces to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism and on the role of creativity and alternative imaginations; Ruby Wax on mental health and how recent developments in technology, education, business are turning our world into a better place; Founder of the Women’s Equality Party, Catherine Mayer and her mother Anne Mayer Bird will discuss personal and communal grief and their book Good Grief, after they lost their beloved husbands just 41 days apart on the eve of the pandemic; Genre defining author of Motherhood, Sheila Heti joins Avni Doshi, author of Burnt Sugar for a conversation on locating the complexity, trauma and joy in an ambivalence towards motherhood.

Elsewhere WOW has invited writers and  sexperts including Lucy-Anne Holmes to host an honest and positive conversation about sex and social distancing and how life under lockdown has impacted our  intimate lives; Tabitha Goldstaub brings a girls guide to AI; a special event in partnership with The Working Class Writers Festival; and author and comedian Natalie Haynes and historian Bettany Hughes tell us what we can learn from Ancient Greek goddess and the injustices in how their stories have been passed down to us. 

Yemeni Human Rights Defender Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Sky News Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and Gulalai Ismail, a threatened women’s rights and peace activist from Pakistan, will join RAW in WAR founder Mariana Katzarova, to shine a spotlight on abuses – exacerbated by the pandemic – committed against women and girls in conflict areas, and the price of speaking truth to power.

Workshops

There will be an interactive digital workshop programme as part of this year’s UK Festival for those who want to actively take part. Key workshops include Performance Artist, Musician and Screenwriter Bryony Kimmings on how to find daily joy in creativity. Speakers Corner Collective’s I Am Perfect As Me: Gratitude Workshop led by women but created for everyone; Selina Flavius, founder and author of Black Girl Finance, will present her practical steps for resetting your ‘Money Mindset’ for financial success in 2021; and WOW Australia will lead two sessions: Decolonising Songwriting with Emily Wurramara, an Anindilyakwa singer-songwriter and Irish singer-songwriter Áine Tyrrell, and The Bystander Approach to Addressing Inequality, exploring ways of calling out problematic behaviour in a safe way. Other workshops include Gabby Edlin, Seyi Akiwowo and Becca Bunce on activism, friendship, and radical empathy; All Cisterns Go, a WOW plumbing workshop; WOW’s Virtual Big Sing; and a lesson in finding your personal power in a virtual environment with Sarah Blumenau.

As part of the three week festival, WOW will create discussion groups for those wanting to participate in conversations around specific subjects such as radical childcare and intersectionality. These will begin at WOW and then go on to form networks around the UK and world connecting strangers with things in common. Grandmothers, often overlooked in their needs, will have an opportunity to connect, as will girls and boys interested in gender equality with the return of Under 10s Feminist Corner.

Music

WOW UK 2021 will also feature WOW Sounds, a series of performances from musical artists who are also known for their activism from around the globe. In addition, a special online event to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March will be announced shortly. The previously announced WOW Live at the Royal Albert Hall, which was due to take place on 8th March, has been postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. We are working on a new date for this event later in the year.

For more information and the full WOW Festival 2021 programme, visit thewowfoundation.com or book on https://wow.ticketco.events/uk/en

You may also enjoy reading: https://darlingmagazine.co.uk/women-to-watch/jude-kelly-obe/

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