WOW – Women of the World has announced the full daytime programme for its 2022 London Festival, which returns to the Southbank Centre from 11-13 March, supported by Bloomberg, to mark International Women’s Day. Led by Founder Jude Kelly, the London edition of the world’s biggest, most comprehensive festival celebrating women, girls and non-binary people is back in person after some of the toughest years in recent history for gender equality.
Alongside a series of standalone headline evening events, WOW 2022 will present three packed afternoons on 11, 12 and 13 March in the Royal Festival Hall. The three-hour line-ups for each of the three days include brilliant women imagining an equal world – from those on the front lines of global movements transforming the future, to girls and young women changing our world for the better. The programme will consist of panel discussions, music, WOW Big Ideas, performances and more. Tickets are available to book for each entire afternoon and are on sale now.
FRIDAY 11 MARCH
The Festival kicks off on the afternoon of Friday 11 March by taking a frank look at the world around us whilst celebrating the joy, resilience and creativity to be found in a world in flux at Friday at WOW (2pm-5pm). WOW Founder Jude Kelly leads the opening event with Yassmin Abdel-Magied, reflecting on 2021 and all of its changes.
Jude Kelly will celebrate new beginnings with people who’ve been beacons of hope for others during the last year. She is joined onstage by Adwoa Aboah for a conversation about the turning points in their lives and their hopes for the future.
Maslaha, an organisation seeking to change and challenge the conditions that create inequalities for Muslim communities, have come together with British Fencing for a collaborative project. On Friday Maslaha Muslim Girls Fence take to the stage for a live bout, as award winning spoken word artist Rakaya Fetuga performs a selection of poems.
From suffrage to BLM and the abortion ban march in Poland, women have always been at the forefront of resistance and change, but in recent months this looks set to change. In light of the Protest and Borders Bill, WOW asks what accountability looks like if restrictions are put on our rights to publicly gather to protest. Join this phenomenal group of frontline activists for an unmissable discussion on ‘Protest and why we resist!’ featuring SaveBrickLane campaigner and academic Fatima Rajina; political activist and UK Black Pride founder Lady Phyll and Migrants Organise spokesperson.
An integral part of WOW, ‘Big Ideas’ are back for 2022. They’re an opportunity to hear about pressing conversations and important ideas for change as five different speakers talk about the issues close to their heart. On 11th March the line-up includes: Artist and writer Selina Thompson getting her freak on, talking about how The Missy Elliott Project – a project looking at Black liberation and Teenage Girlhood through the lens of Missy Elliott – is helping her redefine her life and her art on her own terms; author and journalist Sophia Smith Galer on why we’re living in a sex misinformation crisis – and how to stop it; Burnt Roti founder Sharan Dhaliwal on being queer, brown and hairy, and how her queer identity allowed her to break out of cis hetero normative ideals on beauty; and author and journalist Juno Dawson on writing YA and what her fictional characters have taught her.
The guests for Friday at WOW announced today join previously announced unmissable ticketed events on Friday evening: Black Lives Matter co-founder and former Executive Director, and TIME 100 most influential person Patrisse Cullors, in conversation with Afua Hirsch; bestselling writers Lisa Taddeo and Pandora Sykes in conversation about what happens when we are pushed to the brink; writer and poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan launching her new book, Tangled in Terror: Uprooting Islamophobia; and Grace Victory and Candice Brathwaite share how they grew their careers to encompass writing, fashion, presenting, and inspiring others in their journeys to motherhood.
SATURDAY 12 MARCH
On Saturday 12th March, WOW Founder Jude Kelly will lead an emboldening, challenging and moving afternoon of activism and celebration at Saturday at WOW (2pm-5pm). Conversations will cover everything from how to build communities, neurodiversity in love and science, representation in the great outdoors through to a dedication to the late, great bell hooks and an powerful conversation on women in Afghanistan. The afternoon opens with magic from the first woman President of The Magic Circle, magician Megan Swann.
In a year of uncertainty and turmoil, WOW hears from some of the women who have been most impacted by political upheaval in Afghanistan. Mariana Katzarova, Founder of RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR), and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, RAW’s patron, will present the 2021 Anna Politkovskaya Award to Fawzia Koofi. Fawzi is a former member of the Afghan Parliament, its first-ever female Deputy Speaker, and renowned human rights and women’s rights defender. She remained in Afghanistan, under threat to her life, with heavily-armed Taliban fighters stationed outside her home in Kabul until 30 August 2021, the day the last US forces left Afghanistan.
Fawzia Koofi, who continues to mobilise urgent support for the women and the people of Afghanistan with world leaders, and alongside Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, led a drive last year to help more than 100 Afghan judges and their families flee to safety. She will be joined on stage by Fawzia Amini, one of the judges who managed to escape. Together they’ll discuss the current situation for women’s rights in Afghanistan and the work that is happening on the ground to support women judges and human rights defenders.
Palestinian singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Rasha Nahas will perform on the Royal Festival Hall stage to perform during WOW’s annual obituary presentation to honour the lives of those around the globe who have passed away in the past year. Authors Nova Reid (The Good Ally) and Reni Eddo-Lodge (Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race) will pay homage to pioneering feminist thinker bell hooks, and reflect on how her work has impacted their lives.
Saturday’s Big Ideas will be from: Mother, teacher, priest, archdeacon and activist Mina Smallman on her family’s story and why women of colour don’t matter in the media, the police’s mentality towards women and what we must do to reform Police forces nationally; Camilla Pang, author of Neurodiversity and Explaining Humans, on what science can teach us about love and relationships; Indonesian writer, poet, researcher, editor, and interdisciplinary artist Khairani Barokka.
To round off the afternoon, award-winning comedian and Funny Women Alumni Sophie Duker performs a hilarious set live on stage, followed by an in conversation between WOW’s Jude Kelly and beloved broadcaster Sandi Toksvig on why, despite everything, we must keep laughing.
Saturday evening’s ticketed events are: Edinburgh Comedy Award, Rose D’or and South Bank Sky Arts Award winner Bridget Christie with her brand new show Who Am I?; The Guilty Feminist host Deborah Frances-White with some of her most personal ever “I’m a feminist but…” confessions; Marian Keyes will be in discussion with Kit de Waal about Again, Rachel, her eagerly awaited sequal to Rachel’s Holiday; Warsan Shire, the internationally bestselling author award-winning Somali British poet and activist, and celebrated collaborator on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Black Is King, will launch her long-awaited first full-length poetry collection Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head in conversation with Bernardine Evaristo; and Jude Kelly will lead The Urgent Conversation, a panel featuring Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Katy Jon Went, to discuss the most pressing gender equality issues – with the timely programme to be confirmed just ahead of the weekend.
SUNDAY 13 MARCH
For the final day of the Festival, the Sunday afternoon programme presents Sunday at WOW – Women & Power (11am-2pm), a one-off WOW special exploring women and leadership – both in its own right and as a mediator of power – led by Jude Kelly and special guests.
From major keynotes from leaders to lightning fast workshops on understanding your own values, the Royal Festival Hall will be filled with talks, workshops and ideas from global speakers. The afternoon is an opportunity for all leaders – from teachers to care-workers and artists to corporate executives – at any stage in their careers.
Jude is joined by leaders who are innovating for change including MP and founder of VoteMama UK Stella Creasy, and Eliza Reid, author and First lady of Iceland. There will be workshops on leadership style and communication, and The Women Leaders South West join the line up to discuss their pioneering arts leadership programme that seeks to address the gender imbalance in senior roles in arts organisations.
The Big Ideas on women and power for the afternoon come from author and founder of the everyday sexism project Laura Bates, and art curator and historian Aindrea Emelife.
The festival will conclude that day with a variety of other ticketed events and performances:
Broadcaster Elizabeth Day’s guests are announced today for her Sunday afternoon event in the Royal Festival Hall. The How To Fail presenter is joined by chef and presenter Andi Oliver and Rizzle Kicks singer Jordan Stephens, with a further special guest still to be announced.
In the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday, Booker Prize-Winning author Bernardine Evaristo and special guests – including Hannah Azieb Pool, Barbara Blake, Judith Bryan, Jacqueline Roy and Nicola Williams – journey through time rediscovering lost and hard-to-find works about Black Britain and the diaspora; and Lucy Kirkwood’s searing, timely play Maryland is performed, script in hand. Bringing joy to the final day of WOW, comedian and author Natalie Haynes celebrates the remarkable women at the centre of ancient Greek myth and there is a riotous festival finisher from Figs in Wigs – Little Wimmin – a brilliantly satirical adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic.
Closing WOW that evening, renowned scholar Professor Angela Y. Davis joins the Festival live from San Francisco in a one-off, special event to celebrate the much anticipated re-publication of her blazing autobiography – An Autobiography – nearly 50 years since it was first published, with live musical performances from Laura Mvula and Cassie Kinoshi.
WOW London 2022 will see the return of many other WOW favourites including the free-to-explore WOW Marketplace, WOW Speed Mentoring, pop-up performances and the sold-out Under 10’s Feminist Corners, which invite children to explore equality and discover what life is like for their peers across the world.
There will also be free gigs from WOW Sounds artists – WOW’s dedicated music programme for women and non-binary musicians and spoken word artists who are using music as a form of activism, from violence against women to climate justice to body positivity to the refugee crisis. Miss Baby Sol will perform with her full live band in the Clore Ballroom on Saturday 11 March; and on Sunday 12 March audiences can enjoy WOW Sounds Hour, featuring Nadia Javed and Breakup Haircut, hosted by Miss Baby Sol. Indonesian Muslim all-girl rock band Voice of Baceprot (VOB) will be WOW’s first-ever digital artist in residence.
Ahead of WOW, the Festival will launch a digital programme with events in the week of International Women’s Day between 6-8 March. On the 8 March itself Jude Kelly presents ‘WOW on International Women’s Day’ asking Women’s Equality Party Founder Catherine Mayer and WEP leader Mandu Reid, WOW Australia Executive Producer Cathy Hunt, former Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal and more guests still to be announced – what changes do you want to see and how are you going about making them? The event launches WOW Changemakers, a global network of people who believe a gender equal world is possible, desirable, and better for everyone. The network enables new conversations, initiatives and communities of diverse people; building visible, vocal and active allies in the drive towards a gender equal world.
The full digital WOW programme runs between 6-8 March and also includes: WOW Under 10’s Digital Feminist Corner; an online gathering of Grandmothers from across the UK and beyond to discuss anything and everything Grandmotherhood with Jude Kelly, activist Marai Larasi and businesswoman Sue Lawton; Writing Happiness, a workshop space for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creatives to come together and write about their joy; Drawing Breath, a restorative session and chance to take part in some simple mindful breathing practice and accompanying drawing with Tania Kovats and Jane Sassienie; a special new film from Indonesian girl band Voice of Baceprot; and Women, Power and the Brain with Suzanne Alleyne, exploring the “Neurology of Power”.