THE WOW FOUNDATION announces major programme of festivals and events addressing gender inequality ACROSS THE GLOBE IN 2021

From 1st March digital WOW Festivals go live from the UKNew YorkNepalPakistanIstanbul, and Bangladesh, and WOW Think Ins take place in Taiwan and Western Australia. 2021’s WOW Festival UK takes place 1-21st March to mark International Women’s Day and includes:

  • Over 30 digital events
  • Guest speakers Kimberlé CrenshawRuby Wax, Arundhati RoySheila HetiAvni DoshiBryony Kimmings 
  • WOW pioneers new networks for different groups and generations – from grandmothers to mothers in covid and under 10s feminists
  • Workshops and discussions on themes including mental health, sex in lockdown, women in Greek myths, grief and intersectionality 
  • Available to book worldwide, WOW UK 2021’s programme includes special sessions from WOW Australia and WOW Rio de Janeiro
  • WOW and Google Arts & Culture are to launch an online exhibition featuring 100 trailblazing women from 10 cities and countries around the world
  • WOW and BBC Children in Need launch a major new project connecting over 100 marginalised girls aged 8-16 across the UK
  • WOW launches Shameless!, a new festival in November to confront attitudes towards sexual violence – a partnership with Birkbeck and The Wellcome Trust

Jude Kelly, Founder and Director of The WOW Foundation says: 

“Throughout 2021, WOW is bringing together courageous women and girls from across the globe who are driven by a desire to change the world. These brilliant activists will join WOW Festivals around the world in groundbreaking conversations, workshops and projects; focusing on gender, racial and social inequality, all of which have been exacerbated in the past 12 months.

“We can already see that women and girls have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 finding themselves in ever more precarious positions, especially those already marginalised. With cases of domestic abuse rising and access to education diminishing, the impact of the pandemic is being felt in both domestic spaces and the labour markets with devastating social and economic consequences.

“COVID-19 looks as if it could set gender equality and women’s rights back a staggering 25 years, without immediate and direct action. We must act now to build a post pandemic world which is inclusive, supportive and where the UN’s goal of gender equality by 2030 can be achieved.” 

With the support of our global founding partner, BloombergThe WOW Foundation pivoted to an immensely successful, virtual event in 2020. From 1st MarchWOW Festivals and events will take place across the world from festivals in regions including AustraliaBangladeshIstanbulNepalNew YorkPakistanTaiwan and the UK

For the first time ever, The WOW Foundation’s flagship UK festival, which is usually live at the Southbank Centre, London, will present events online daily from 1st-21st March. Recognising recent global events, 2021’s WOW UK programme will take a frank look at new obstacles women, girls and non-binary people now face; discussing creative solutions for change whilst celebrating amazing stories of resistance and progress. As in all WOW Festivals, it will be packed with challenging conversations but also moments of joy, spontaneity, laughter and optimism. This year’s opening session will bring together voices from across the globe to highlight the need for us to work together to build a more inclusive and sustainable post pandemic world.

WOW UK 2021 will include a series of In Conversations exploring themes such as sex during lockdown, radical childcare and gender equality in the tech industries. All events will be BSL interpreted and captioned, with tickets starting from £1 or audiences can buy a pass to watch the whole season from £25

Highlights include: intersectionality pioneer Kimberlé Crenshaw on the Black Lives Matter movement and her#SayHerName campaign; writers Arundhati Roy and V (formerly Eve Ensler) join forces to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism and on the role of creativity and alternative imaginations; Ruby Wax on mental health and how recent developments in technology, education, business are turning our world into a better place; Founder of the Women’s Equality Party, Catherine Mayer and her mother Anne Mayer Bird will discuss personal and communal grief and their book Good Grief, after they lost their beloved husbands just 41 days apart on the eve of the pandemic; Genre defining author of MotherhoodSheila Heti joins Avni Doshi, author of Burnt Sugar for a conversation on locating the complexity, trauma and joy in an ambivalence towards motherhood.

Elsewhere WOW has invited writers and sexperts including Lucy-Anne Holmes to host an honest and positive conversation about sex and social distancing and how life under lockdown has impacted our intimate lives; Tabitha Goldstaub brings a girls guide to AI; a special event in partnership with The Working Class Writers Festival; and author and comedian Natalie Haynes and historian Bettany Hughes tell us what we can learn from Ancient Greek goddess and the injustices in how their stories have been passed down to us.  

Yemeni Human Rights Defender Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Sky News Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and Gulalai Ismail, a threatened women’s rights and peace activist from Pakistan, will join RAW in WAR founder Mariana Katzarova, to shine a spotlight on abuses – exacerbated by the pandemic – committed against women and girls in conflict areas, and the price of speaking truth to power. 

There will be an interactive digital workshop programme as part of this year’s UK Festival for those who want to actively take part. Key workshops include Performance Artist, Musician and Screenwriter Bryony Kimmings on how to find daily joy in creativity. Speakers Corner Collective’s I Am Perfect As Me: Gratitude Workshop led by women but created for everyone; Selina Flavius, founder and author of Black Girl Finance, will present her practical steps for resetting your ‘Money Mindset’ for financial success in 2021; and WOW Australia will lead two sessions: Decolonising Songwriting with Emily Wurramara, an Anindilyakwa singer-songwriter and Irish singer-songwriter Áine Tyrrell, and The Bystander Approach to Addressing Inequality, exploring ways of calling out problematic behaviour in a safe wayOther workshops include Gabby EdlinSeyi Akiwowo and Becca Bunce on activism, friendship, and radical empathy; All Cisterns Go, a WOW plumbing workshop; WOW’s Virtual Big Sing; and a lesson in finding your personal power in a virtual environment with Sarah Blumenau.

As part of the three week festival, WOW will create discussion groups for those wanting to participate in conversations around specific subjects such as radical childcare and intersectionality. These will begin at WOW and then go on to form networks around the UK and world connecting strangers with things in common. Grandmothers, often overlooked in their needs, will have an opportunity to connect, as will girls and boys interested in gender equality with the return of Under 10s Feminist Corner. 

WOW UK 2021 will also feature WOW Sounds, a series of performances from musical artists who are also known for their activism from around the globe. In addition, a special online event to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March will be announced shortly. The previously announced WOW Live at the Royal Albert Hall, which was due to take place on 8th March, has been postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. We are working on a new date for this event later in the year. 

For more information and the full WOW Festival 2021 programme, visit or book on

Alongside WOW’s own UK programme of events, WOW UK plans to create solidarity and celebration with organisations across the nation who are celebrating International Women’s Day throughout the month of March. Launching today, WOW’s International Women’s Day Map will bring together inspiring events, talks, workshops, performances and more – from the huge and important to the more niche, unusual and unmissable – from all across the UK. Event producers are encouraged to submit their events via the WOW website. 

Also launching from 1st March are WOW Festivals in Nepal (1st-7th March) and WOW Pakistan (5th-8th March), both presented by British Council. The first ever WOW Festival in Istanbul, presented by British Council and Sabanci Foundation, runs over the International Women’s Day weekend from 5th-7th March. The fourth WOW Apollo, presented by New York’s Apollo Theater, runs from 21st-22nd March

Adding to the festival line-up, WOW Think Ins will take place for the first time in Taiwan, ahead of a full festival later in the year with National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying)WOW Australia’s 2021 festivals and events, presented in partnership with Of One Mind, have been re-imagined into a series of smaller, scalable events in response to possible on-going restrictions. These will take place in regional and rural areas of the State, and include four mini festivals in Western Queensland (Charleville 5th-6th June and Longreach 7th-8th July)Cairns 6th-7th August and Logan 8th-9th October, as well as partnerships with other events in the Channel CountryScenic Rim and Katherine, and a new version of WOW Australia’s DomestiCITY created for the Brisbane Festival

WOW and Google Arts & Culture to launch online exhibition featuring 100 trailblazing women from 10 cities and countries around the world

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021WOW and Google Arts & Culture will launch a major online exhibition in March featuring 100 women from 10 cities and countries around the world, from Kurdistan region of Iraq to Rio de Janeiro.

Across the 10 countries and regions, WOW’s exhibition – photographed by 10 up and coming female photographers – will tell a story of global feminisms and women’s movements through the stories of 10 women from each region, each looking at 10 themes including Peace and JusticeFinance and Culture. These significant female stories will chart the changes they have seen in their own world and cast a light of the global picture, but more importantly they will act as a catalyst for the work that has to be done in the upcoming decade to keep the issue of gender equality at the forefront of everyone’s minds. You will be able to explore the online exhibition and read the incredible stories via Google Arts & Culture.

WOW launches major new project connecting over 100 girls from communities across the UK

The WOW Foundation has been awarded a 10 month grant of £88,800 from BBC Children in Need. The funding has been awarded through BBC Children in Need’s impact programme focused on children’s mental health, A Million & Me

The funding award will support the WOW Foundation to deliver a 10 month project designed to engage 120 girls and non-binary young people aged 8-16 from communities across the UK who have benefited from support from BBC Children in Need funded projects that address local disadvantage. The project will encourage participants to explore activism and gender equality in a fun and accessible way. They will convene monthly online to discuss the issues that matter most to them regarding gender equality and will use these discussions as stimulus to create new artworks that will form the world’s first ever Lending Library curated with, by and for girls. Through taking part in the project the girls will officially become WOWsers and ambassadors for WOW. 

Paddy Sloan, Project Director for A Million & Me, said: 

“WOW shares our ambition to empower and inspire young people whilst building their emotional wellbeing, and we are pleased to support this work with girls who have creative contributions to make in re-setting norms.  Now is an important time to support opportunities for collective activity and sharing stories can be a powerful medium for innovation and positive action. We look forward to seeing the impact of this funding on young lives.”

WOW to collaborate on a new festival to confront attitudes towards sexual violence

The WOW Foundation is partnering with Birkbeck, University of London and The Wellcome Trust on Shameless! Festivals of Activism Against Sexual Violence (26th-27th November), a series of cross-arts festivals combining academic research, activism and art. The festivals will bring together national, international and grassroots organisations and charities as well as local artists and wellness practitioners, to confront and change societal attitudes towards sexual violence. Produced in partnership with WOW, the festivals will take place over three years in the UK and Brazil, with the first taking place in London from 26th-27th NovemberShameless! Festivals of Activism Against Sexual Violence is part of Birkbeck’s SHaME Project, a research hub for scholarship on the interlinks between sexual violence, medicine and psychiatry. Placing medical professionals at the heart of the debates, the project seeks to address the global crisis and help move beyond the shame often attached to sexual violence.

The WOW Foundation is proudly supported by its Global Founding Partner Bloomberg, and Global Partner Mastercard.

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