WOW: Women of the World Festival

Things to do, Festivals
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
Angela Davis, Donald Trump, America, Southbank Centre, London

Time Out says

It’s two years since political activist Angela Davis filled the Royal Festival Hall for an emotional talk on race and class in a post-Trump landscape at WOW festival. Davis is returning for 2019, but here’s the bad news: it’s a sell-out, again. Thankfully there’s a solid line-up for the rest of the fest too, including a live conversation with ‘The Shock Doctrine’ author Naomi Klein.

Things are changing up a little. For this year only, organisers have thrown out the usual wristband format (a day pass that gave access to smaller events) to focus on two major ticketed talks, each tackling a complex web of issues concerning the progress made towards gender equality. Speakers including Annie Lennox, Australia’s first female PM Julia Gillard and ‘Game of Thrones’ actress Maisie Williams will look at the current state of feminism for an event on Friday that they’re calling ‘WOW: What Now?’. On Saturday, Munroe Bergdorf, Lily Allen, Sandi Toksvig and others will look to its future for ‘WOW: What Next?’. Each runs at a whopping three-and-a-half hours (and yes, they both have an interval).

 width=Centre: Angela Davis. Clockwise from top left: Lily Allen, Munroe Bergdorf, Maisie Williams, Annie Lennox, Naomi Klein, Jo Brand, Margaret Busby

If you’re after something a little more focused, make time for Margaret Busby, who will be celebrating 25 years of her anthology ‘Daughters of Africa’ by launching ‘New Daughters of Africa’, a collection of writing by 200 women of African descent. We’d recommend following it up with  Jo Brand’s dark, sardonic comedy, but her  ‘Born Lippy’ conversation went and sold out too.

The immense popularity of it all will have some pining for the days of those wristband passes and smaller, less starry talks and workshops.

If you’re committed to having a full WOW experience, best pack some secret bag snacks. It’s going to be one intense weekend.

Visit the WOW site to see the full programme of events and to book.

Illustration by Catherine Morton-Abuah



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4 out of 5 stars

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4 people listening

I am actually writing this review during the intermission of the performance of Joni Mitchell's album ' Hejira ' - the gig itself is incredible! The centre has really gotten together a diversely talented group of singers, as well as a jazz collective who are in house AND a small orchestra, and I hear we are being treated to a women's refugee choir in the next half!

The vibe in this building right now is amazing. There are so many things going on as part of the festival that I know I will be back again in the next few days. And probably next year, for the 8th WOW festival, too. Come and check it out while it is still on. Your best bet is to check for sessions you want to attend online, or just show up for the doors open and stick around to see what you can get up to. I am sure you will be thoroughly entertained - and inspired.


I bought a 3 day pass as that seemed good value. In the run up i felt increasingly irritated as I couldn't understand what the programme was or how it all worked. I went along on Friday from 10.30 until about 2 and managed to see 1.5 sessions and tour the 'market'. As you arrive you get a written programme that makes it clearer what's on and where. I would have thought this would a) been available easily before hand b) been an app c) been clearer about locations and etiquette.

My friend and I nearly missed the session we were aiming for as very little is signposted clearly and we ended up in the third floor auditorium - rather than the 5th floor function room we thought we were in! All of which necessitated a sharpish and quite embarrassing exit. When we did find it there was then a huge queue an it was touch and go whether we could get it - even though as it turned out there were seats. It seemed a bit ridiculous to me to have left a pretty empty auditorium to then be squashed into a tiny room. I was really interested to hear the mayoral hustings and disappointed that only Sadiq Khan and the WEP candidate actually turned up. The others sending pretty poorly briefed subs. That said Sadiq Khan was excellent and engaging and confirmed my view that he's what we need for London!

Anyway I am going back tomorrow for a whole day so can form a better opinion. But at the moment - whilst I wanted to love it I feel a bit meh.

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