It was a sad day when news broke that the fantastic Birds Eye View Film Festival was to be no more, an announcement that once again brought the fact to the forefront that even in the vibrant arts scene we’re able to enjoy in the capital, female powered art is still little supported.
Yet, as Women of the World Festival continues into its fifth year as one of the Southbank Centre’s flagship events, we are given a glimmer of hope. In fact, more than a glimmer, an exciting explosion of inspiration and faith in the incredible talents that make up the female creative force, a force to be reckoned with and a force that certainly will not be silenced.
Taking over the Southbank Centre programme and public spaces, this year’s festival (1-8 March) celebrates the power and creativity of women with a thrilling programme of talks, debates, comedy, literature, music and art featuring over 300 speakers and performers.
With a headline performance in the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday 5 March, American electro-pop musician tUnE-yArDs, aka Merrill Garbus, presents a new live experience, moving away from her usual sax and towards heavier synths and bass. Surely one not to be missed in the grand surroundings of the Royal Festival Hall. No Guts, No Heart, No Glory (5-8 March) will see the Queen Elizabeth Hall transformed into a boxing gym for this powerful and energetic immersive production based on the lives of Muslim female boxers, featuring a live electronic score. Explore the spaces for some surprising free performances throughout the week including female vocal group, Gaggle, Niamh O’Reilly’s spellbinding, inverted performance, Mimbre’s digital installation A Room of Her Own, exploring the lack of recognition for women in the arts and naughty late night cabaret from Tit Bits.
Bridget Christie (Saturday 7 March) explains everything including Michael Gove, British sexism and Muller yoghurts. Sandi Toksvig hosts WOW’s annual night of comedy, Mirth Control (Sunday 8 March), featuring Sarah Millican, a guest appearance from Hugh Grant and Sue Perkins as she conducts the WOW all female orchestra. Legendary performance artist Bobby Baker reimagines her seminal work as Drawing on a (Grand) Mother’s Experience (Tuesday 3 March) highlighting how relevant its themes still are today. Vincent Dance Theatre present a comi-tragic one woman show in Look at Me Now Mummy (Sunday 8 March) about a mother’s desire to look the part. Then it’s all eyes on Candoco Dance in their playful performance exploring performances as an opportunity to stare. Want to get a bit more intimate? Enter the safe environment of Pube (Sunday 8 March) for an up-close one-on-one performance exploring the choices we make when it comes to personal grooming.
With topics including male violence against women, women and democracy, women and risk, housework, equal pay, pornography, Gamergate and the backlash following the resurgence in feminism, WOW are holding back no punches, armed with an impressive battalion of speakers including Caitlin Moran, Eve Ensler, Bettany Hughes, Doc Brown, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Stella Duffy, Laura Bates from Everyday Sexism Project, Kate Mosse, Sarah Brown and Sarah Brown and Facebook VP EMEA Nicola Mendelsohn leading a panel on girls and technology. BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour will also be in residence throughout the week, broadcasting live in a glass box studio from the Royal Festival Hall’s cafe.
In the foyers throughout March, visit one of the free photographic exhibitions including Claude Cahun’s Beneath this Mask, exploring the perceived gender roles and identity, decades ahead of its time in her playful photographic self-portraits, many rarely seen in the UK. Sara Shamsavari’s London Veil | Paris Veil | NYC Veil highlights young Muslim women in London, Paris and New York and the beautiful ways they express their identity through their hijab styles as ‘hijabistas’.
Events take place all week with the main action focussed on the final weekend to coincide with International Women’s Day. Grab yourself a three-day pass for unlimited access to all the events or Day Passes for Friday, Saturday or Sunday or just turn up and enjoy the free events and performances that will be bringing the centre to life.
Women of the World Festival takes place 1-8 March at:
Join the conversation online #WOWLDN
Browse the full programme: wow.southbankcentre.co.uk