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Thousands expected at Wow Festival

A festival celebrating the achievements of women and girls as well as highlighting the struggles they continue to face is expected to bring tens of thousands of people to the Southbank Centre in London this week.

Artistic director of the centre Jude Kelly said the Women of the World (Wow) Festival will be "frank" about the impediments preventing gender equality, which she said has become the "the subject of the 21st century".

A headline bill of speakers including Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman, director of rights group Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, singer-turned-activist Annie Lennox, actress and women's rights campaigner Salma Hayek Pinault and author Caitlin Moran are among more than 300 speakers and performers taking part in concerts, debates, workshops and comedy shows.

Now in its fifth year, the Wow Festival will run until International Women's Day on Sunday, with more than 20,000 people expected to attend.

Ms Kelly, who also founded the festival, said: "It's to celebrate everything that women and girls have done in history and what they are doing now but it's also going to be very frank about the impediments that have stopped gender equality and to talk about what we're going to do about them.

"Everything from domestic violence through to the pay gaps, what's happening in foreign policy, what's happening in countries around the world in regard to how girls and women are not given the same opportunities and not pretending that it isn't still the case in the UK.

"Wow is both incredibly contemporary - we have up-to-date reports from Syria about why young women are leaving to join Isis and what's happening to them when they are there - to looking at age-old issues about why history has closed the water over amazing women regardless of what they did in their time and why we apparently have no role models."

The festival will tackle topics such as porn, sexting among teenagers, sexism in popular culture and what the main political parties are promising women in the general election in May.

Ms Kelly added that while some men have been invited to talk at the event, including former head of the Crown Prosecution Service Keir Starmer, the festival remains predominantly a platform for women but encouraged men and boys to attend.

"There's a great play now on saying if you want an equal world of respect and human rights it's a world that everyone's got to contribute to making respectful, so boys and men have got to get involved in feminism, no doubt about it," she said.

"But at the same time you have got to get women to feel confident, practised and authoritative about speaking on platforms about their experiences."

She added: "I always say about the Wow Festival 'Don't forget it is actually a festival, it celebrates, it has fun, it is very energetic'."


From Belfast Telegraph