Written by Standard Issue


Hull prepares to be WOWed

The WOW – Women of the World Festival will be making its debut in Hull next month. We take a look at the programme highlights with the wow factor.

Collage of WOW guests
This year is a big one for Hull. If you haven’t heard, it’s currently basking in the delight of being UK City of Culture for a full 12 months, which have already, and will continue to be, peppered with firsts.

The Hull 2017 programme set out its stall in early doors fashion – New Year’s Day to be exact – with a top drawer sound and light extravaganza, leaving no one in doubt that those in charge were going to be meaning business.

Split into seasons, the first quarter of the culture-soaked itinerary has been devoted to telling and showing anyone who’s listening what Hull is made of and what it’s given to the world.

As season one comes to an end in March, a crowd of trailblazers from the worlds of arts, politics and activism will be lining up to take part in the first WOW – Women of the World festival in Hull, like EVER.

“With the world going through incredible change, one thing that is certain is that gender inequality still remains. I hope that the women – as well as girls, men and boys – joining us for WOW Hull will be inspired to join this global movement to transform lives.”

Comedian Lucy Beaumont, actor and writer Maureen Lipman, world champion boxer Barbara Buttrick and film director Gurinder Chadha will join women from the city, as well as men, girls and boys, for a weekend of lively debate, music, comedy, art and other lovely stuff from Friday 10 March to Sunday 12 March.

Taking place at various locations across Hull, the WOW weekend has been scheduled to harness the energy and spirit of International Women’s Day (8 March).

WOW Hull festival programmer Madeleine O’Reilly says: “Globally, women are uniting and making their voices heard on a scale not seen for decades, with millions taking to the streets. The fight for gender equality is more crucial now than ever and WOW Hull provides an opportunity to come together, put the debate at the heart of our daily lives and achieve change. It also offers a chance to discover and celebrate the many inspirational trailblazing women from this city and beyond.”

At the heart of the festival will be a series of panels inspired by conversations held across the city with the women of Hull last autumn, including issues such as domestic abuse, inequality in the performing arts, equal pay, body image and championing care.

Panellists include Hull’s Bee Lady Jean Bishop, actor Maxine Peake, Kingston upon Hull North MP Diana Johnson, retiring Humberside Police chief constable Justine Curran, Hull-born entrepreneur Michelle Dewberry, Kurdish women’s rights activist Houzan Mahmoud, writer Tazeen Bari, and broadcaster and documentary producer Gemma Cairney.

WOW Hull kicks off on Friday 10 March at City Hall with composer and singer Errollyn Wallen, spoken word artist Kate Fox, who will be previewing her new solo show on body image, The Wrong Bits, and the Freedom Chorus, led by conductor Alison Bullivent.

Champion boxer Barbara Buttrick. Photo by Dana Goldstein.

The aforementioned Hull-born Lucy Beaumont and Maureen Lipman will be up next, presenting the debut live staging of To Hull and Back – Where Do You Think You’re Going? Written by Beaumont, the acclaimed Radio 4 sitcom set in Hull explores the relationship between, and day to day lives of, a mother and daughter struggling to make ends meet.

With national attention focused on Hull in its City of Culture year, WOW Hull is a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the lives of Hull women and the contribution we make to the life of this city and the country as a whole,” says Beaumont, who will also host a two-hour comedy masterclass, Laughing Out Loud, on 11 March.

“With the world going through incredible change, one thing that is certain is that gender inequality still remains. I hope that the women – as well as girls, men and boys – joining us for WOW Hull will be inspired to join this global movement to transform lives.”

Other highlights throughout the weekend include a boatload of music performances, art exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations and great theatre.

Working in partnership with Hull’s contemporary theatre festival, Heads Up Theatre, WOW Hull presents a series of performances inspired and led by women, including Ad Infinitum’s acclaimed production telling a powerful story of one Mexican woman’s fight for justice, Bucket List. Meanwhile Single Storey Theatre’s Delicate Flowers will tell the story of world champion boxer, and Hull’s very own Mighty Atom, Barbara Buttrick.

Another Hull trailblazer, composer and conductor Ethel Leginska, will be trumpeted at a special concert and exhibition, alongside debates around the lack of representation of female composers and conductors in contemporary classical music.

Haifaa al-Mansour’s 2012 film Wadjda.

The WOW Hull Film programme includes Ovarian Psycos, about an all-women bicycle crew in Los Angeles; Wadjda, the first feature-length movie by a female Saudi director; and Funny Girls, five new comedy shorts by emerging British female directors.

If you’re still wanting more, how about some speed mentoring from engineers, journalists, scientists, artists and other experts. Or WOW Bites: short talks featuring with Great British Bake Off winner Nancy Birtwhistle, accidental activist Lian Bell, former British judo champion Karen Briggs, bestselling author Val Wood and midwife Comfort Momoh, known for her pioneering work on female genital mutilation.

Then there’s the Under 10s Feminist Corner, a space where young people can discuss equality and fairness. The weekend will culminate with a red carpet screening of the new film Viceroy’s House, followed by a Q&A with director Gurinder Chadha.

And, if I’m being honest, the above represents a pretty choosy cherry-picking exercise from a very fruitful cherry tree.

No wonder WOW – Women of the World festival founder and gender equality pioneer, Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly is chuffed.

She says: “My vision for WOW – Women of the World festivals has always been that they are agents of change in each host city, providing a vibrant space for women and men – wherever they’re from and whatever their background – to come together to share stories and experiences and work together to create solutions to challenges facing women and girls today.

“We need this now more than ever, and it’s fabulous to see such an exciting and packed programme for WOW Hull, adding to the wealth of opportunities created by Hull’s new city of culture status.”

WOW Hull runs from Friday 10–Sunday 12 March at various city centre locations. Tickets are available from www.hull2017.co.uk/wow.


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Written by Standard Issue