WOW Women of the World Festival 2021 launches online programme
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the WOW Women of the World Festival, which usually takes place in London’s Southbank Centre, will present a series of online events designed to inspire and celebrate women all over the world. A varied programme will see writers, performers, entrepreneurs, musicians and other artists from all walks of life express their vision and tackle urgent topics that need to be addressed and discussed widely. The pandemic has caused many inevitable problems and unforeseen inconveniences across all aspects of life, but it has also brought to the surface the cracks and imbalances that already existed within society. Many of these issues relate to women, and the festival aims to ensure that they no longer go ignored.
WOW founder and director Jude Kelly launched the 2021 online festival on 1st March. In a conversation with entrepreneur India Gary-Martin, the effect of the pandemic on women was discussed at length. The two voiced their concern that lockdowns, redundancies, childcare and furloughs have brought about a sort of regression in terms of equality, as the pandemic saw women automatically fall back into the role of home-carers, and female professionals were also more readily sacrificed in the workforce than their male counterparts. Perhaps this is a sign that the progress made over the past decades has not been so deeply ingrained as to resist a global crisis.
During the opening talk, Jude gave an overview of where women stand in terms of power, economic success, work-life balance and security. She presented disconcerting figures and, even more worryingly, how widely accepted this state of affairs is. Such a level of inequality, she states, calls for a revolution, but as women have been conditioned to accept their passive roles in society, the required strong response has not yet manifested. In the meantime, Jude has brought together brilliant women from around the globe to keep the conversation alive, draw awareness to vital issues, and showcase some great talent.
The online events, available to view or join as participant, cover a wide range of interests. There is a talk between writers Arundhati Roy and V (formerly Eve Ensler), who exchange insights from India to America via the UK, where writer Preti Taneja interviews from. They bring up surprising facts and stories related to the pandemic and its sociopolitical effects. Another conversation celebrates working class writers and looks at the challenges posed by the infrastructures of the arts and publishing industries on women with fewer privileges. Natasha Carthew, artistic director of the Working Class Writers Festival, is joined by writers Sharon Duggal, Sadie Hasler and Mahsuda Snaith to discuss how taxing it is to achieve success whilst tending to full-time jobs and home responsibilities, and only working on their craft in their spare time. They share interesting views on identity and discuss how one’s life experience is affected by one’s social background, but that the self is not necessarily aware or attached to the labels placed on it by society.
A workshop with playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and director Nicole Charles is dedicated to their Olivier Award-winning play Emilia and how it was created. As they retell the life of 17th century poet and feminist Emilia Bassano, they emphasise the importance of storytelling and also how crucial it is that the story be told by people who will record it faithfully, without the influence of ulterior motives. The talk is joined by author Kate Mosse, whose bestselling historical novels have required her to spend much time in libraries and archives. She makes a valuable contribution to the conversation and explains how easily women’s stories vanish from history, and how exceptional they had to be in order to have their lives chronicled in the first place. She adds that this disparity in representation is far from over, and encourages a shift in this regard, starting from something as seemingly trivial as adding entries on Wikipedia, which is currently updated by a substantially higher percentage of male contributors than female.
In a workshop dedicated to empowering women financially, Selina Flavius, founder of the coaching platform Black Girl Finance, gives practical tips to participants to help them get paid their worth and thrive beyond the unsatisfactory limits that they are told to accept. The festival covers topics as varied as childcare, mourning, songwriting, mental health, and much more. The whole is interspersed with musical performances by talented females of different backgrounds.
The WOW festival is a thought-provoking celebration imbued with a sense of urgency and hope. Of course, the atmosphere of a real life festival will always be unmatched in terms of energy and interaction, but this online edition is so rich of content and powerful messages that every single part of the programme will leave the viewer inspired in some way. This is a timely event for people of any age, gender and background.
WOW Women of the World Festival is on from 1st March until 20th March 2021. For further information visit here.
Watch a trailer for the festival here: