By Natty Kasambala
WOW – Women of the World festival is Southbank Centre’s festival championing gender equality, celebrating the achievements of women and girls all around the world and seeking to discuss and examine the obstacles they face in their everyday life.
This year, the ever-growing festival ran in London from Tuesday 7 to Sunday 12 March with a vast range of inspiring speakers, workshops and performances scheduled across the week. With a programme as immense as this one, it can sometimes be hard to choose from all the options available. So Southbank Centre’s Youth Ambassadors shared their top picks, to give you a taste of what we were especially looking forward to at WOW festival 2017.
The first event we’d like to highlight and preview is a huge film event happening on Thursday 9 March – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. WOW have collaborated with the BFI and African Odysseys to present the London premiere of the first-ever documentary made about the late inspiring author, poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. This feature documentary is said to be an intimate perspective on one of the definitive voices of the civil rights generation who passed away in 2014 after publishing seven autobiographies, writing plays, movies and numerous books of beautifully written essays and poetry.
While her work has been widely regarded as both inspirational and exceptional, her own story has always been the basis of this. With careers ranging from dancer to sex worker to poet, Maya Angelou’s lived experiences are shared in this long-awaited film, including conversations with a number of her high-profile friends and family such as the Clintons, Quincy Jones, Common and Oprah Winfrey.
Having been received with critical acclaim at 2016 Sundance Film Festival, this screening is sold out but bound to be monumental and important. Her words have famously inspired many throughout the civil rights movement with her evocative and illustrative poetry. In our current political climate, her messages of empowerment remain timeless and universal and her story could not be more pertinent.
1. Angela Davis in Conversation (Saturday 11 March @ 6.30pm) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Conversation (Saturday 11 March @ 8.30pm)
The evening of Saturday 11 March is set to be particularly inspiring as two amazing speakers take the stage. We recommend settling in for the long haul, starting with a talk with the incredible activist Angela Davis in conversation with Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE. Angela Davis is one of the most prominent and inspirational voices around to discuss topics of race, class and feminism in the world today, as a renowned scholar and author on the subject. After speaking at and leading a branch of the Women’s March this year, she has some unmissable insight into the issues facing us in this post-Trump era.
Next up, as if that wasn’t enough, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie follows shortly after. The best-selling author of Americanah, We Should All Be Feminists, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, graces the stage to deliver a statement on modern day feminism and what it feels like to be a woman in this day and age. There is no doubt that this will be a powerful unveiling of Chimamanda’s newest work, Dear Ijeawele, not to be missed.
2. The Great Imposter (Friday 10 March @ 11.30am)
Another event that we thought looked extremely interesting is a talk regarding a concept known as the Imposter Syndrome. The term was coined in 1978, but has been gaining visibility recently with regards to gender and race inequalities and how these influence our self-perceptions. The syndrome is essentially the pattern of high-achieving individuals being unable to fully accept their accomplishments and the validity of their praise – feeling like an imposter who is undeserved of the rewards or respect they are given in or outside of the workplace. This talk discusses how this feeling can be a direct result of gender and other inequalities, and hopefully equip us with the tools to overcome these obstacles that prevent us from believing in ourselves and fulfilling our potential.
3. THEATREclub presents: The Game (Friday 10 March to Sunday 12 March @ 8.30pm) and Buying Sex (Friday 10 March @ 3pm)
The topic of prostitution and sex work is a pressing and controversial one. Southbank Centre has scheduled a few extremely important events to help combat the stigma and spark discussion surrounding both the acts of buying sex and the challenges of legislating around it. Across the weekend, THEATREclub is presenting an interactive performance The Game that seeks to explore the very act of participating in the sex work industry by incorporating male volunteers to take part in this unscripted performance. The performances sheds light on a realm of interactions that are seldom portrayed and even less frequently witnessed firsthand. The innovation and radical nature of this idea makes it one of our top priorities to get involved with at WOW festival this year.
On the legislative side of things, and coordinating with Southbank’s year-long Nordic Matters programme, there is a panel discussion addressing the challenges and experiences of implementing what has been dubbed the ‘Nordic model’ regarding prostitution. The speakers discuss what is to be learnt from countries like Norway, Sweden and Iceland that have made it illegal to buy ‘sexual services’ but not to sell them. With the growing severity of the problem of prostitution, this talk is bound to be an informative and candid insight into the complexity of the issue.
4. Women Crossing Borders (Sunday 12 March @ 1.15pm)
In partnership with Migrants Organise, WOW has organised an extremely necessary talk concerning the subject of migrant women and their stories. We think this event is so important, as it aims to give voices to the women who have fled their home countries and risked their lives for the prospect of a better future away from conflict. The talk explores just a few of the many inspiring stories of these women and how these urgent international issues of conflict connect directly to the issues ranging more broadly to gender struggles across the globe. With the growing ambivalence surrounding refugees both in Britain and across the world, the talk could not be more relevant.
5. OPEN: A Toolkit with Gemma Cairney (Saturday 11 March)
Hopefully this speaker does not need much introduction, but here goes anyway. The wonderful TV and radio personality that is Gemma Cairney presents her book, OPEN: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be on Saturday 11 March. In this new release, the Southbank Centre Artist in Residence explores issues facing young people in today’s world, ranging from mental health to relationships, to family and technology, in the format of a guide to life. To us, Gemma seems to be the perfect ambassador for youth; she’s joined by several of the young people featured in the book, to discuss the joys, the trials and tribulations of what it feels like and what it means to be a girl in 2017.