WoW FESTIVAL is returning to Bradford for the third time on the 17th and 18th of November with a packed programme of exciting goings-on. NATHALIE TOLMIE-THOMSON offers a preview of what to expect…
As you may or may not know the wonderful Women of the World or WoW festival returns to Bradford next weekend (17-18th November). Now I’m sure there’ll be many people, particularly blokes, reading this wondering what could possibly be in it for them in a weekend-long event that puts the POW in girl power… Well, let me tickle your fancy with a top ten list of what to expect and reasons why you basically need to attend because otherwise you’re seriously going to miss out!
- Kate Tempest – Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years you probably will have heard about this amazing lady. She’s a spoken word poet and rap artist minus all the pretension that you’d expect from typical slampoetry fare. Acting as a mouthpiece of the people, she calls out the bullshit and generally is a breath of fresh air in a time where everything feels like a mass indifference in pre-apocalyptic world. It will be an honour to have Kate with us, even more so as she intends to debut new work along with producer Dan Carey. Definitely a worthy headliner to shout about this year!
- Bradford-Oriented – For those that may be unaware, the Women of the World festival isn’t unique to our city but is a franchise event originating from the Southbank Centre in London, with the aim of lauding our awesome ladies nationwide and particularly to appeal to those issues important to people on a local level.
Thus, Bradford’s WoW is pretty Bradford-centric, which is good news because I’m one of many fiercely proud Bradfordians and we love a good reason to applaud, appreciate and celebrate all the great things we have going on in the city. Some of the Bradford-specific events you should keep an eye out for include Badass Women of Bradford, I’m Bradford Baby, Till I Die!, WOW Views On The News, and The Wedding of the Year: Radical Acts 2018.
- Family friendly – Fear not parents! There’s no reason why life-bringers can’t also benefit from the varying flavours the festival has to offer, and there are a number of events happening specifically running for the benefits of wee ones of all ages, particularly for young girls who are hungry for empowerment and inspiration as they learn and grow at such an alarming rate. That’s not to say that li’l dudes can’t also benefit, equality is for everyone after all.
Across the weekend there are story time sessions, drawing classes, an under 10’s ‘Feminist Corner’, and a couple of bits especially for our teenagers including Teens Talk Back and Listening Through The Decades.
- Issues of Race, Culture and Class – One thing I particularly love about WoW is that it isn’t some gimmicky ‘let’s-laud-women-because-it’s-trendy’ thing, it isn’t afraid to get down to the real meat and potatoes of issues that are the real social ignominies of our time, those that are often neglected in everyday conversation. For example, there are talks about arranged marriages and FGM (female genital mutilation) and CSE (child sexual exploitation).
These horrifically prevalent incidences, happening right here and now in the UK, are often left off the agenda as something associated with particular minority groups within our society. These lectures will act to dispel myths and misconceptions, and shine a light on issues shrouded in darkness. I have barely scratched the surface here about the cornucopia of fascinating talks happening throughout the weekend, but I can promise that you won’t be disappointed by what’s on offer.
- Werkshops – You’ll have to forgive me for being so colloquial with the spelling there, but it is entirely justified; there is something for everyone that will have you do more than just sit there and listen. And those of us who’d run a mile at the threat of audience participation don’t leg it just yet. The workshops and classes on offer cater everyone on the awkward spectrum, guaranteed, from grab-the-mic-it’s-my-turn folk to the eyes-glued-to-the-floor-at-all-times types.
The list includes (don’t say I didn’t warn you): WOW Morning Dance, Heroes of The Imagination, Bigger than Hip Hop, Womb Activation, WOW Choir, AfroFusion, Building Unity, Everyday Activism, Squeaky Cheese, Mother of The House of Ghetto (Voguing), Arabic Theatre, and Speed Mentoring. Yep, bet you’re curious now!
- Football – A welcome distraction from Bantams despair, it needn’t all be football doom and gloom in Bradford as WoW will be screening a documentary, We Will Share Your Story, on the tour Republica Internationale and East Cowgirls’ made to the West Bank in Palestine.
This is a sequel to feature-length film Balls, Barriers and Bulldozers (2014) so this is a real treat for people who enjoyed the first instalment of interesting insight into women’s football in a war-torn area. Stuff like this show us just how much we take footie for granted as a means of blowing off steam and nurturing relationships, and the positive difference it can bring to a community in the face of serious adversity – you don’t want to miss out on this one.
- LGBT+ – In the spirit of WoW’s spectacular myth-busting, it is wonderful to see that we are going to see representation that is hard to get hold of in mainstream media…gaysians! No literally, Gaysians (an LGBT+ alliance of South Asian charities, activists and other organisations in the UK) are going to be hosting a Desi Lesbians Where are you? panel on the Sunday where there will be a discussion about the lack of visibility of South Asian women.
This is probably going to be a highlight of my weekend as a white member of the LGBT+ community I welcome conversations that encourage better intersectionality and inclusivity, especially in the light of serious misconceptions about South Asian cultures and faith. On top of that, we’re also being treated to a Conversation with Munroe Bergdof, a British transgender model who will be talking to author and historian Emma Dabiri – an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of dual discrimination but also empower our LGBT+ POC (people of colour) as she shares the story of her success.
- Education – So in addition to WoW being an excellent weekend jaunt of fun, you’ve probably gathered that you’re in for an all-you-can-eat buffet of brain-food. This is a great opportunity to learn all-sorts whether you’re in the habit of doing so or not.
If you’re anything like me, you might be putting off essential grown-up responsibilities for the emotional energy they require in favour of going on a bit of an adventure, but what better way to justify your pathological procrastination than with a thoroughly educational experience. Take that, laundry to put away, pow! (I could detail here a list of educational events on at this weekend but as that would class as literally everything that’s happening there’s no point…)
- Activism – It’s a highly politically time to be alive at the moment, especially in the UK as it stands and there’s a lot of frustration and anger in the air about inequality and neglect of democratic responsibility. If you’re not particularly seasoned in activism, whether it’s because you’re not old enough yet or it’s never really been your bag, WoW is offering the chance to exercise those rebellious muscles with a selection of events that provides a taste of what political moving and shaking is all about.
Within the programme we have International Activism, a talk that considers the work of brilliant women from around the world and their ability to enforce change in their communities, and even countries. Other events include the aforementioned Everyday Activism workshop, Women Who’ve Won which celebrates activism success stories.
- Solidarity – Last but not least I have to ring-a-ding the most shining fantastic thing that WoW is bringing to Bradford next weekend and that is rejoicing in women, in ourselves as women and each-other, woman to woman. Far too much in our Western culture women are paired off against each-other and made to feel like the other girls in our class, the women on our team at work, that other lass in our friendship, are our competition rather than a sister-in-arms against this whole oppressive system.
No longer do I consider myself cool and unusual as I did as a Hayley-Williams-wannabe teenager for not having many women as friends, I lament the fact. Instead I now revel in the joy at being given the opportunity to meet more like-minded ladies that the WoW festival has provided us with. But you don’t have to be a woman to celebrate women, everyone can and that’s what this is all about.
Well there you have it, and although I made it as succinct as I could, there’s no way I could fully express what you’re in for, in the best of ways. For more information on WoW, to buy tickets and access to the full weekend programme check out their website here. I hope to see you all there, and feel free to say hi if you happen to bump into me – it’d be great for us to be WoWed together!