Written by Hannah Dunleavy

In The News

WOW Cambridge: the lowdown

Standard Issue sent deputy editor Hannah Dunleavy to the Cambridge leg of the Women of the World festival on International Women’s Day.


“Boycott them. Bollocks to them.”

Katherine Hamnett is getting passionate about shopping ethically. The fashion designer believes that: “If we really care, we need to just get on with it” and only shop where we know the clothes have been made in conditions where health and safety, building safety, a living wage and human rights are a priority.

It’s the closest thing to an emotional rant I see all day and I enjoy it immensely.

image (9)I’m at Cambridge’s Women of the World Festival: a smaller sister to London’s event on International Women’s Day. The festival takes place at the city’s Junction and is spread across its gig space, theatre and in a marquee outside. It’s well attended despite the fact it’s the first sunny Sunday of the year and there’s a half marathon on.

As with any festival there are inevitable clashes: I’d have loved to hear about the she-soldiers of WWI but was watching Natasha Walter and No More Page 3’s Lucy-Anne Holmes talk about activism at the time.

There’s no denying that it’s a packed line-up, even within individual events, to the extent that there were almost too many people on the Ending Violence Against Women panel. By the time everyone had given us a bit of background as to their area of work and experience we were nearly out of time. Of course, the issues surrounding violence towards women could fill a day of talks on their own: it might be best to set a sharper focus for panels in future.

I did consider asking a question at the end of the panel event about tackling the problems raised by social media (it has been used to both name anonymous rape victims and locate fleeing domestic abuse victims). I then decided against it because the time it would take for everyone to answer would have meant that no one else got to ask a question.

image (11)

In fact if I could add anything at all to the event it would be interaction: between the panel members themselves and also between the panel and the audience. Most events were presented as a series of mini talks by each speaker, which were often too short to cover enough ground but too long to leave a decent amount of time for questions (and while I’m here could I just say, seriously, wherever you are – festival celebrating women, Comic-Con, wherever – if you get picked ONLY ASK ONE QUESTION).

The most interesting event was Women’s Bodies: Private Places, which again crammed a cornucopia of women into an hour to talk about things as varied as body hair, transgender issues and Dr Clare Chambers speaking about the Panopticon of marketing fashion and beauty – a topic that, to be honest, I could have listened to for a lot longer. image (10)

As part of this session HerStory’s Alice Wroe also conducted a small Q&A, which was the most successful format I’d seen all day. She’s a great interviewer and I very much hope the festival makes better use of her in future.

Elsewhere throughout the day there was speed mentoring, Lucy Porter’s new play, nice biscuits and a learn-to-dance like Beyoncé event that we attended as we had a six-year-old with us (plus we just felt like it, OK?). I wonder what she made of her first feminist festival. She’s wearing a crown she made at the crèche with ‘princess’ written on the side and a No More Page 3 T-shirt so there’s all to play for.

She’s had a taste today, which is what WoW offers. Yes, there’s just too much to see in one day but it’s there so people can say: “Hey, this is what we’re doing, find out more, get stuck in.”

More power to its elbow.


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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.