WOW – Women of the World festival has expanded beyond Southbank Centre to tour the globe, uniting people from all corners of the world and society.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, launched WOW London in 2011 to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day. Jude conceived WOW as a major global festival that not only celebrated women and girls around the world, but also looked at the obstacles they face. It would be a place where hundreds of women’s stories could be shared, feelings vented, fun had, minds influenced and hearts expanded.
WOW quickly grew beyond the 21 acres of the Southbank Centre in response to an enthusiastic demand for a global network of festivals. Within a year of its debut in London, the festival began to expand.
Since its launch in 2011, WOW has grown internationally with 20 festivals across five continents to date and over one million women and girls, men and boys taking part. From Finland to Folkestone and Derry to Dhaka, crossing further continents to Harlem and Hargeysa, Brisbane and Baltimore, WOW continues to grow and cross borders around the world.
WOW is for everyone. It is bold and broad-based in its approach, both lively and serious, and feeds the demand to discuss anything and everything, from revolutionary women, economics, politics and health, to sex, pop culture, sport and the arts. It brings people together from all corners of society – both speakers and audience members – energising and providing the inspiration and tools to make change.
The festival is planned through a series of community ‘think-in’ sessions and made up of talks, debates, performances, speed-mentoring, exhibitions, workshops and networking opportunities.
Past speakers have included Malala Yousafzai, Gordon Brown MP, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Shami Chakrabarti, Salma Hayek, Annie Lennox, Caitlin Moran, Vivienne Westwood, Grayson Perry, Sandi Toksvig, Leymah Gbowee, and Christine Lagarde.