History, art and culture
Matthew Pearson

WOW London: Women of the World Festival

WOW London: Women of the World is back at the Southbank Centre for a tenth year. Here’s all you need to know about the festival, including...

  • A guide to what it’s all about
  • What’s on at WOW London in 2020
  • How you can get involved
  • And much, much more

What is WOW London: Women of the World?

WOW London: Women of the World is an upcoming three day festival held at the Southbank Centre, celebrating women and girls, while exploring the issues that matter to them most, in Britain and across the globe. Held between 6th - 8th March 2020, it will feature a diverse and broad selection of talks, performances, debates and other events, put on by some of the planet’s most popular and powerful speakers, activists, writers and artists. WOW London 2020 takes place across the International Women’s Day weekend and includes both day pass and additional ticketed events. Now in its tenth year, the WOW London festival is optimistic, hopeful and celebratory when it highlights the impact of women and girls on every sphere of culture, politics and society, past, present and future. But it’s frank and honest in its exploration of the challenges they face in contemporary society and the obstacles they’ve overcome throughout history. WOW London celebrates diversity and explores division in many forms. Its programme champions the successes and causes of women and girls of all backgrounds, while exploring intersectionality, LGBTQ+ issues and racial inequality from a feminist perspective. Previous speakers and performers at WOW London include Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Angela Davis, Patrick Stewart and Salma Hayek.

So what’s happening at WOW London 2020?

It’s the 10th anniversary of WOW London in 2020, so you can be assured it’ll be bigger and bolder than ever before. It will feature both day pass and ticketed events. Here are some of our highlights...

Day Pass Events at WOW LONDON 2020 Jess Phillips in Conversation (Saturday 7th March, 12pm)

Politician and author Jess Phillips MP talks about the importance of standing up and speaking up. Guided by her pragmatic and powerful new book Truth to Power: 7 Ways to Call Time on B.S., the former Labour leadership candidate introduces simple ways to stand up for what you believe in and how to find the power to do so.

Women’s Parliament (Friday 6th, 12pm)

Panel discussion with MPs past and present. What would it be like if women ran Parliament? With more and more women leaving Parliament, citing abuse online and in the press, will we ever get 50/50 representation in the Commons and Lords?

Dolls: Life in Plastic, Is it Fantastic? (Saturday 7th, 3.30pm)

How do dolls ingrain gender roles? Can 21st century dolls help challenge gender inequality? Are manufacturers starting to care? Or are they just faking wokeness, taking the money and running?

How to Be a Difficult Woman (Friday 6th, 1.45pm)

Complex, challenging, imperfect women make history. Have well-behaved women achieved anything in the fight for equal rights? Journalist Helen Lewis explores what it means to be a difficult woman.

Women of Colour and Mental Health (Saturday 7th, 12.00)

Women of colour are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. Why is this so, what barriers prevent them from getting the help they need, and how can we challenge the status quo? Speakers include Sanah Ahsan, a trainee clinical psychologist, poet and spoken word performer.

Desi: Out and Proud (Friday 6th, 1.45pm)

Inspiring stories from the UK’s Desi LGBTQ+ scene. Hear from activists about all the highs and lows of being out and proud in the community. Panellists include Asifa Lahore, Britain’s first Muslim drag queen, DJ Ritu Khurana and activist and author Samra Habib. The discussion is chaired by Sharan Dhaliwal, editor of Burnt Roti Magazine. All day events include the WOW Marketplace, with stalls raising awareness, offering workshops and selling items from women-led businesses; WOW Bites, where you’ll find an amazing array of short talks, performances and readings; and WOW Speed Mentoring Sessions, where you can get info on how to achieve your goals, with a 15-minute session with an expert.

Ticketed Events at WOW London 2020 The Beauty Myth: 30 Years On (Sunday 8th March, 7.30pm)

Author and activist Naomi Wolf revisits her hugely influential and highly acclaimed book The Beauty Myth. Is the ‘cultural conspiracy’ against women still happening? How have the beauty and industries changed? Is Wolf’s bestseller—one of the primary feminist texts of the 20th Century—still as relevant today?

Shazia Mirza: Coconut (Saturday 7th, 6.30pm)

Comedian Shazia Mirza performs her uplifting, thoughtful and hilarious show about survival in a world gone mad. Why’s everyone fighting? Can we really educate people? Who the hell is Alexa?

The Guilty Feminist at WOW (Saturday 7th, 7.30pm)

Have you ever felt like a bad feminist? Well, you’re not alone. Podcast/cultural phenomenon The Guilty Feminist will be recording a special live episode at WOW London. Deborah Frances-White and Susie Wokoma will be joined by special guests who’ll be encouraged to open up about what makes them a guilty feminist.

How the Hell Did I Get Here? With Sandi Toksvig (Sunday 8th, 5pm)

Join polymathic national treasure Sandi Toksvig as she interviews some of her personal and professional heroes. She wants them to contemplate one question in particular: ‘How the hell did I get here?’ Her special guests include publisher Lennie Goodings, media industry businessperson Pat Mitchell, and space scientist and science educator Dr Maggie Adern-Pocock MBE.

Emma Dabiri: Don’t Touch My Hair (Saturday 7th, 8.30pm)

Celebrated author Emma Dabiri comes to WOW London to discuss her revolutionary book, Don’t Touch My Hair. Join her as she talks about why black hair matters, tells the highs and lows of its powerful history, and heads into the cultural appropriation debates that have become a common feature of our time.

Letters Live at WOW (Sunday 8th, 8pm)

The International Women’s Day iteration of the popular letter love-in, Letters Live celebrates the lasting power of written correspondence. This special edition will feature letters written by some of my most vital, cherished and influential female thinkers, writers and artists...read out by some of the most vital, cherished and influential female thinkers, writers and artists. As with all other Letters Live events, you won’t know who’s going to be performing—or which letters they’ll be reading out—until the day itself. Previous performers have included Olivia Colman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kylie Minogue, Gillian Anderson and Nick Cave.

Where can I find the full list of events taking place at WOW London 2020?

For the full WOW London 2020 lineup, head HERE.

How do I book tickets for WOW London 2020?

You can book day pass tickets for £40. These get you into the non-ticketed daytime events and the WOW Marketplace, WOW Speed Mentoring and WOW Bites. Get your Friday Day Pass HERE and your Saturday Day Pass HERE. For individual tickets to the evening events, head HERE and scroll through the listings. Be quick about it though, WOW London is a popular festival and many of the ticketed events sell out in advance.

Tell me a little more about WOW...

WOW: Women of the World festival started up in 2010 at the Southbank Centre in London. Jude Kelly CBE, then an employee at the Southbank Centre, set up the festival to celebrate women and girls, and take a look at the obstacles that still prevent them from achieving their goals and full potential. The festival has grown over the last 10 years, both at the Southbank and in terms of its national and international reach. WOW festivals have started up throughout Britain, in cities such as Cambridge, Bradford and Cardiff, and in countries across five continents, including the US, China, Brazil and Somaliland. To date, WOW has reached over 2 million people across the planet. The London event led to tangible change in 2015, with the founding of the Women’s Equality Party. The party’s founders, Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Meyer decided on the need for a feminist political party that sought women’s equality across society, while performing at WOW London. To find out more about the WOW Foundation and the work they do, check out the video below.

So, that’s all you need to know about 2020’s WOW London: Women of the World festival. Let us know about your festival plans in the comments below. Have you been before? What did you make of it? Who are you particularly looking forward to seeing this time? Also, over HERE you’ll find our very comprehensive article regarding lates across London. Discover which of your favourite museums and art galleries stay open for after hours revelry, and when in the month these special events take place. And, to learn more about The London Pass—the handy visitor pass that gets you into lots of the most popular London attractions—give the little button below a click. You won’t regret it.

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