The COVID-19 pandemic has meant life as you know it may have changed massively and BBC Arts' Culture in Quarantine programme has been celebrating how people have adapted to continue engaging with music, theatre, art, and more. Now their team has partnered with the Women of the World Foundation to hold the first ever virtual WOW Festival. Taking place over May 16 and 17, the festival will feature famous faces and experts hosting talks spanning topics from history, health, sport, science and sexuality.
The Women of the World Foundation is a charity that celebrates and supports women and girls around the globe. Every year WOW Festivals take place to highlight the amazing work being done but also the issues that still face women and girls in the world today. During lockdown, the BBC has partnered with the charity to bring a weekend of broadcasts from incredibly inspiring people who are leaders in their fields, all of which can be streamed via the BBC Arts website.
Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and WOW Foundation’s Founder and Director Jude Kelly will open the virtual festival on May 16. They’ll speak about what to expect and why WOW Festivals are still so important. Joining the conversation will be Hindou Ibrahim, co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Form on Climate Change, as well as writer, broadcaster, and former barrister Afua Hirsch.
It’s likely that household chores have taken over during the pandemic. Women’s Equality Chief of Staff Hannah Peaker and comedian Angie Le Mar will explore this topic in their talk, Chore Wars: The Balance & Divide of Domestic Tasks & Childcare Between Genders in Lockdown. (This should be especially interesting in light of recent reports about female academics being disproportionately affected by the lockdown lifestyle change.)
Orgasm inequality and LGBTQIA+ COVID-19 heroes will be discussed with sex educator Ruby Rare and activist Tea Uglow on WOW’s Big Ideas with Gemma Cairney. Activist and campaigner Seyi Akiwowo will run two sessions for the festival: Women & Money in COVID-19 and Fixing the Glitch: Making the Web Work for Women. May 16 will then be rounded off with a session featuring Suzanne Jacob, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity SafeLives.
Kicking off the day on May 17, journalist Kieran Yates will talk to Baroness Helena Kennedy about women and civil liberties, Dr Devi Sridhar on STEM role models, and disability activists The Triple Cripples on what it means to be a black disabled women in today's world. Karen Blackett OBE will lead a discussion on Bringing Up Boys, a panel examining how to raise sons to contribute to a gender-equal world with Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake. Head of Editorial at gal-dem Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff will give her Views on the News and writer Rebecca Solnit will talk about hope in the time of COVID-19. Comedian Sandi Toksvig, actor Maxine Peake, and Don’t Touch My Hair author Emma Dabiri will discuss their favourite women from history whose stories have been silenced and the weekend will round off with The Big Quiz with host Toksvig and a panel including Silent Witness actor Liz Carr and scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
While the WOW Festival will not only highlight some of the biggest questions around gender in 2020, it’ll also tackle some of the most imminent worries we may be feeling in lockdown. They’ll be running a sleep yoga session and will offer some helpful tips and tutorials with Hair in Quarantine.
Speaking about the festival WOW Foundation’s Founder and Director Jude Kelly CBE said in a statement:
“At this time, when we are isolated from one another, the connections and conversations that WOW ignites are more important than ever. Amongst all the gravity and seriousness of the issues the WOW Festivals explore, they are also a place of warmth, inclusiveness and fun; places that are filled not just with serious intent but also with energetic spontaneous encounters, human connection, adventure, levity of spirit, and laughter. We will work with BBC Arts to replicate this experience online to bring people across the world together.”
You can catch WOWxBBC Festival across the BBC Arts website on May 16 and May 17. Parts of it will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC Asian Network.