New names announced for WOW 2017

Southbank Centre’s annual flagship festival WOW – Women of the World, supported by Bloomberg, brings together women and girls of all ages, politicians, business leaders, artists, activists and refugees from all corners of the globe to share and explore experiences, achievements, fears and opportunities for the future, and create innovative solutions to life’s challenges.

WOW – Women of the World festival, from 7-12 March 2017, is a packed programme of enlightening talks and debates, performances, creative activities, comedy and networking. 

Further names announced today include Adwoa Aboah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Muzoon Almellehan, Amal Azzudi n, Jo Brand, Stella Creasy, Benjamina Eb uehi, Thordis Elva, Suella Fernandes, Jenny Jones, Lisa Hannigan, Hailey Hanson, Edna Adan Ismail, Helena Kennedy QC, Michael Kimmel, Christina Lamb, Lauren Laverne, Phyllida Lloyd, Thomasina Miers, Andi Oliver, Louise O’Neill, Anne Sofie von Otter, Mary Portas, Tulip Siddiq, Holly Walsh, Harriet Walter, and Hannah Witton.

They join leading voices including Gillian Anderson, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Gemma Cairney, Angela Davis, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Harriet Harman MP, Margaret Hodge MP, Bettany Hughes, Baroness Jenkin, Fatima Manji, Catherine Mayer, Jennifer Nadel, Elif Şafak, Sandi Toksvig and more, uniting to call for solutions to modern societal challenges for women.

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Launched by Southbank Centre in 2010, WOW – Women of the World is now a global movement, with international WOW festivals reaching over one million people across five continents, and growing year on year. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016 and this year’s festival once again marks International Women’s Day on 8 March and coincides with the first WOW Hull, p art of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, and the first WOW Finland .

Following a year of change and political upheaval across the globe, with a questioning of women’s roles and rights, WOW London asks what Trump, Brexit and beyond mean for women. It celebrates everything that women and girls have done, and will do in the future, whilst taking a candid look at wide-ranging issues that prevent them from achieving their potential.

Insightful, vibrant debates and panel discussions address critical global issues for women and girls. Experts provide practical advice on how to look after health, protect finances, boost a career, better understand politics and fully harness technology for success. 

Sessions shine a light on how to feel empowered as a social activist and become a political titan in a rapidly shifting world. Topics include the
  threat against women’s rights and protections, what the refugee crisis and climate change ,mean for women, the role of men in gender equality, the stark rates of violence against women and how to ensure women’s histories and legacies are not lost. The festival also sees a celebration of the Nordic nations, as part of Southba nk Centre’s year of Nordic programming Nordic Matters, and explores the social learnings of these countries that consistently top the gender equality indexes.

Events of the past year have shown that, despite great strides by the feminist movement, the world still speaks a largely male language. More than ever, we must keep up the fight for gender equality and look at the far-reaching implicat ions of the current political climate on our women and girls – from the localised to the global. We take the opportunity to hone in on women in politics, and the achievements of older women, a subject too often overlooked. We also look to the Nordic nations, who have long been seen as leaders in advocating gender equality, investigating the impact of their approach, and what we can learn from each other.
Founder of WOW festival, Southbank Centre Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE

Over 200 events across six days include keynote talks, panel debates, live music, comedy, workshops, theatre, the smash-hit WOW S peed Mentoring, the under-10s feminist corner and WOW Market – a range of stalls providing information, raising awareness, and showcasing craft and fashion.

WOW 2017 would not be possible without its generous sponsors and supporters – Bloomberg, UBS, American International Group, Inc. (AIG), the Chartered Institute of Insurers, Aon and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Southbank Centre is grateful to its WOW Gamechangers Richard and Rosamund Bernays, Michelle Chuang, Mary Anne Cordeiro, Caroline, Mary and Paul Cronson - the Evelyn Sharp Foundation, Ms Miel de Botton, Katie and Mark Denning, Catherine Petitgas, Lady Jill Shaw Ruddock CBE, Joana and Henrik Schliemann, India and Robert Wardrop and Mercedes Zobel for supporting WOW.

WOW – Women of the World highlights

  • Prominent American activist, scholar and author Angela Davis, who has been at the forefront of movements for economic, racial, and gender justice over many decades
  • Actress, writer and activist Gillian Anderson and broadcaster, writer and activist Jennifer Nade l in conversation about their new book WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, an inspiring, provocative manifesto for change
  • Best-selling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie returns to Royal Festival Hall to share her inimitable insight into raising a feminist child
  • Co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer launches her new book, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Women, in conversation with Sandi Toksvig
  • Harriet Harman, one of Britain’s most prominent campaigning politicians, discusses her groundbreaking memoir A Woman’s Work
  • Turkish author Elif Şafak and historian Bettany Hughes discuss Istanbul, how women have shaped the city, and the lives of women there today
  • Channel 4 journalist Fatima Manji t alks about racism, sexism and Islamophobia with The Guardian’s Nosheen Iqbal
  • Southbank Centre Artist in Residence, TV and radio personality, journalist and teen ambassador Gemma Cairney talks about her publishing debut OPEN: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be with broadcaster Lauren Laverne
  • Margaret Hodge MP and Baroness Jenkin of Kennington talk about their careers and experiences in Political Titans: The Secret Power of Older Women in Politics and politicians including Stella Creasy, Suella Fernandes, Jenny Jones, Tulip Siddiq and Jo Swinson feature in talks What Does Brexit Mean for Women? and How to get elected
  • Journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge presents an exclusive reading from her forthcoming book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race
  • Sandi Toksvig gives a keynote lecture looking at the last 12 months in 20 minutes The Year in Review and hosts Mirth Control – WOW’s annual night of comedy and music inspired by great women – with a nod to our Nordic neighbours, featuring internationally-acclaimed Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and comedian Holly Walsh
  • A Nordic focus throughout the festival features Nordic artists and speakers including Icelandic women’s rap collective Daughters of Reykjavik, former particle physicist, discoverer of the Higgs Boson and co-founder of start up NaturalCycles Dr Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, Iceland’s 2015 Woman of the Year, writer and activist Thordis Elva w ho with Tom Stranger discuss their new book South of Forgiveness, Iceland’s first female chief of police Sigridur Bjork Gudjonsdottir, entrepreneur Halla Tómasdóttir and pop-up performances feature the ancient Swedish vocal technique of kulning. Panel topics include what we can learn from Nordic parenting, the Nordic approach to prostitution and its legal framework, and Sweden’s feminist foreign policy
  • An extensive programme of sessions, panels and debates features model and activist Adwoa Aboah, comedian Jo Brand, human-rights barrister Helena Kennedy QC, A merican sociologist and prominent male feminist Dr Michael Kimmel, cook, writer and TV presenter Thomasina Miers, b roadcaster and journalist Lauren Laverne, disability and gender-rights activist Lydia X. Z. Brown, a nti-FGM campaigner and former first lady of Somaliland Edna Adan, founder of Karma Nirvana Jasvinder Sanghera, writer and Irish Times journalist Róisín Ingle, Chief Executive of Bradford Council Kersten England, Director of Liberty Martha Spurrier, Des James, father of Private Cheryl James whose tragic death at Deepcut barracks revealed a deeply misogynistic environment, Anna Politkovskaya Award-winners Jineth Bedoya Lima and Valentina Cherevatenko, dating and relationships YouTuber Hannah Witton, stand-up comedian and former journalist Shaista Aziz, plus-size blogger Stephanie Yeboah, British psychotherapist Susie Orbach and more
  • Chef & presenter of Saturday Kitchen Andi Oliver, Great British Bake Off contestant Benjamina Ebuehi and the Mayor of London’s food adviser Rosie Boycott discuss the often-complex relationship women have with food
  • Sessions to empower women in the world of technology featuring UK Government advisor and founder of #techmums Dr Sue Black OBE
  • A kick-boxing demonstration with former British and World champion Hailey Hanson
  • London premiere of And Still I Rise, a documentary about Maya Angelou’s multifaceted
  • career, part of the BFI African Odysseys series
  • Director Phyllida Lloyd discusses the Donmar Warehouse’s ground-breaking all-female Shakespeare trilogy with associate artist and actor Harriet Walter, company members Jade Anouka and Jennifer Joseph, and producer Kate Pakenham
  • Women on the Move Awards (run by Migrants Organise and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees) support the contribution of migrant and refugee women to UK society, and the stories of refugee women are featured throughout WOW
  • WOW Schools Da y on International Women’s Day explores the theme “I Am Perfect as Me”. Secondary school girls are invited to hear from women who have overcome 'not fitting in' to be accepted as well as how to present their identity online safely, through talks workshops and performances. Speakers include Syrian refugee and campaigner Muzoon Almellehan
  • WOW Young Women’s Rally h osted by Gemma Cairney and featuring several speakers including Amal Azzudin, a campaigner for human rights and social justice calling young women to get involved in activism, and a performance from Girls Rock London' s young women's band
  • A book club exploring Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter, considered by many to be the first African feminist book, as well as a young adult book club exploring some of the most explosive feminist books for young adults with multi-award-winning author Louise O’Neill
  • Additional free events including Action Stations throughout the weekend offering an opportunity make a personal pledge or submit an idea for change; Speed Mentoring providing a chance to share challenges, exchange ideas and stories with other women and a WOW London 5km run through central London.

Performance highlights

  • Grime-poet Debris Stevenson curates Gyal in da Corner – a performance honouring Dizzee Rascal’s genre-defining album Boy in da Corner — featuring grime and rap artists AG the DJ, emcee TrueMendous, journalist and battle rapper Bridie Squires aka Brizzaling, Asher X, and a special collaboration between Debris and Icelandic rap band Daughters of Reykjavik
  • Led by Peter Edwards, the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, Mercury Prize nominees Eska and Lisa Hannigan, and Tunisian singer Emel Mathlouthi present Joni Mitchell’s album Héjira in an evening celebrating women's experiences of migration on International Women’s Day
  • Writers Paula Varjack, Jules Grant and Michelle Tea f eature in Polari – a platform for LGBT writers returning with a women’s special hosted by author and journalist Paul Burston
  • World premiere of Foreign Body, a debut solo show by Imogen Butler-Cole exploring healing after sexual assault, weaving together physical theatre, verbatim and an original score
  • Intimate theatre productions: Future Theatres presents a scratch performance of Offside – a new work by Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish t elling the story of four women from across the centuries who live, breathe, and play football; Choices, award-winning Irish playwright Stacey Gregg’s exploration of the complex challenges faced by two women and their choice, or not, to have a child; The Game - an interactive performance directed by Grace Dyas exploring the act of buying sex informed and inspired by women who have exited prostitution and women currently involved in sex work
  • Comedian and #periodpositive campaign founder Chella Quint b reaks taboos around menstruation in her one-woman show Adventures in Menstruating
  • Singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya gives a free Friday Lunch concert featuring music from her new EP Small Crimes
  • Octavia Poetry Collective – a poetry group for women of colour led by Rachel Long – r eturn with their response to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in an evening of poetry, dance and film
  • Divalicious Cabaret hosted by international whip-teaser Diva Hollywood which challenges and explores ideas around gender, disability and body image
  • Pop up performances from choirs RISE UP SINGING and SHE Choir; poets Indigo Jones, Zareen Roy-Macauley and Siana Bangura; all female DJ collective Scratch, and a live demonstration of the female voice from two of opera’s rising stars Eleanor Dennis and Rhian Lois, presented in association with English National Opera. 
for further press information please contact

Naomi Burgoyne, Senior Press Manager: / 020 7921 0824

Naomi French, Press Officer, / 020 7921 0678

WOW Day Passes

WOW Day Passes cost (£22) and WOW 3-Day Pass (£50)

Please note some events at WOW are separately ticketed and cannot be accessed as part of the Day Pass.

Please refer to the website for ticketing information on standalone events.


Notes to editors

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, comprising three iconic buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery) and occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Building on this rich heritage, Southbank Centre offers an extensive artistic and cultural programme including annual and one-off themed festivals and classical and contemporary music, performance, dance, visual art and literature and spoken word events throughout the year.

Southbank Centre's WOW – Women of the World festival is a global festival movement launched by Jude Kelly CBE in London in 2010 (with the first festival in March 2011) that celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential. To date, WOW has reached over one million people worldwide and this number is growing year on year. With the HRH Duchess of Cornwall as President, Southbank Centre is now planning a WOW Commonwealth festival at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 with all 53 nations. Each festival across the world - made up of talks, debates, music, activism, mentoring, pop ups and performance - celebrates women and girls, takes a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, and raises awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. It reaches girls and women, boys and men from a broad range of social backgrounds and supplies a completely different sense of action and energy than a conventional conference approach. Speakers have included Malala Yousafzai, Christine Lagarde, Salma Hayek, Annie Lennox, Gordon Brown, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart and many more including hundreds of women and men who don’t have public profiles but are working everyday to achieve gender equality. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016, thousands more have come to WOWs across the world and festival organisers have collaborated on cross-continental projects. 

2017 WOW festivals around the world

  • 18 Feb – WOW Kathmandu
  • 7 – 12 Mar – WOW London, UK #WOWLDN @WOWtweetUK Facebook 8 – 12 Mar – WOW Finland #WOWFIN @wow_finland Facebook
  • 10 – 12 Mar – WOW Hull, UK, #WOWHull
  • 23 – 25 Mar – WOW Melbourne, Australia, #WOWMelb
  • 4 – 7 May – WOW Apollo, New York, USA - #WOWApollo
  • 20 – 21 May – WOW Chester, UK #WOWChester
  • 13 – 15 Oct – WOW Exeter, UK #WOWExeter
  • 27 – 29 Oct – WOW Perth, UK #WOWPerth
  • 17 – 19 Nov – WOW Bradford, UK #WOWBradford


Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader, gives influential decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas. The company’s strength – delivering data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately – is at the core of the Bloomberg Professional service. Bloomberg’s enterprise solutions build on the company’s core strength: leveraging technology to allow customers to access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations more efficiently and effectively. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation, corporate and personal giving, supports arts and culture, education, environment, sustainability and public health charities and non-profit organisations around the world. Bloomberg's support of Women of the World builds on a long history of collaboration across Southbank Centre that encompasses a wide range of arts exhibition, public commissions and literature 

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UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS's strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets. UBS Wealth Management has recently announced a five-year plan to transform the way it serves female clients. The business has been developing new approaches for the past two years and will now scale this expertise across its organization. The initiative includes a commitment to increase the financial confidence of one million women by 2021.

Nordic Matters

Nordic Matters is a year-long festival of Nordic art and culture in 2017 at London's Southbank Centre, featuring music, dance, theatre, visual arts, participation, talks and debates, and gastronomy. Chosen from a number of international applicants, Southbank Centre is the sole recipient of a grant from The Nordic Council of Ministers for a new festival celebrating the very best of Nordic art and culture throughout 2017 – one of the biggest cultural-political partnerships of its kind. A particular emphasis will be placed on the idea of play fostering curiosity and creativity, for people of all ages but especially children and young people. Moving beyond popular perceptions of ‘Nordic Noir’ the programme is designed to embed Nordic culture and artists in Southbank Centre’s year-long artistic offer and offer a platform to some of the more ‘hidden voices’ from Greenland, Åland and the Faroe Islands.

Nordic Matters