WOW Foundation confirms plans for first ever virtual global festival

Amrita Tanna

Senior Editor


The WOW Foundation has today announced a partnership with BBC Arts, as part of its Culture in Quarantine initiative, to curate a brand new digital WOW festival online. This weekend, the WOWxBBC Festival – the first ever WOW – Women of the World Festival to take place online – will take over a number of BBC channels with a host of inspiring talks, workshops and a quiz led by iconic women in a multitude of fields. The WOWxBBC Festival will span topics from history, health, sport, science and sexuality, and respond to the devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls the pandemic is having. It will be available to watch live on 16th -17th May on the BBC website.

The WOW Foundation has produced festivals across the world to celebrate women and girls and raise awareness globally of the issues they face for the past ten years. Amid the COVID-19 crisis there are increasing concerns about how the pandemic has worsened existing gender inequalities for women. More than ever, WOW is committed to shedding light on these issues and bringing together people from around the world to mobilise, activate and, most importantly, celebrate women and girls.

BBC Arts’ Culture In Quarantine initiative has brought together many of the live events, shows and festivals cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis, making them available through exclusive films and digitally broadcast events, providing everyone around the UK with access to arts and culture at a time of national lockdown.

Following the 10th anniversary of the WOW Festival at London’s Southbank Centre in March, and the online festival with the BBC Arts this May, The WOW Foundation has also announced it will host a major global festival to take place online from 27th-28th June (BST). WOW – Women of the World’s 24 Hour Global Virtual Festival will be the first ever female-focused worldwide festival, convening women and girls across the earth over a 24-hour period to share their local stories, celebrate achievements and together look for learnings to map out new ways to think and act in the future.

First up in May, WOWxBBC Festival will start the conversation in the UK; hosting a full programme of inspiring and influential women in a variety of fields and industries streamed on on The online weekend festival willopen on Saturday 16th May with events including an opening session featuring an interview with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and The WOW Foundation’s Founder and Director Jude Kelly, as well as appearances from co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change Hindou Ibrahim and broadcaster Afua Hirsch; Women’s Equality Chief of Staff Hannah Peaker and comedian Angie Le Mar will explore Chore Wars – the balance and divide of domestic tasks and childcare between genders in lockdown – WOW’s Big Ideas will be hosted by Gemma Cairney featuring short talks from Sex Educator Ruby Rare on orgasm inequality and activist Tea Uglow on who our LGBTQIA+ Covid-19 heroes should be; plus discussions on Women and Money in Covid-19 and Fixing the Glitch – Making the Web Work for Women with Seyi Akiwowo. The day will culminate with a closing session featuring Suzanne Jacob, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity SafeLives

On Sunday 17 May journalist Kieran Yates will host the second Big Ideas of the festival, including a talk on women and civil liberties with Baroness Helena Kennedy, Dr Devi Sridhar ON STEM role models, and disability activists The Triple Cripples on what it means to be Black disabled women in a world that insists they don’t exist. Karen Blackett OBE and Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake will discuss Bringing up Boys, a panel discussion examining how to raise sons to contribute to a gender-equal world; there will be a look through the papers in WOW favourite Views on the News with speakers including Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Head of Editorial at gal-dem Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff; writer Rebecca Solnit will be in conversation with Jude Kelly about hope in the time of Coronavirus; Comedian Sandi Toksvig, actor Maxine Peake and Don’t Touch My Hair author Emma Dabiri will bring to us their favourite women from history whose stories have been silenced. The weekend will build to a big Quiz from QI host Sandi Toksvig, Silent Witness actor Liz Carr and scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, with Aderin-Pocock’s “Putting the Fem into STEM” Science Quiz, Carr’s Trivial Her-suit *Not a Quiz About Hairy Women and Sandi Toksvig’s Great Big Lady-Lockdown History Quiz. Full programme and timings can be found at and the Festival will also appear across other BBC channels, including guest appearances on BBC Radio 4 and Asian Network. Many of the events will be available on catch up on BBC iPlayer following the event.

The festival will also include events to get people moving and inspired. Both days will begin with live Morning Stretches – Saturday’s session will be led by basketball player Asma Elbadawi, who successfully lobbied the International Basketball Association to remove a ban on hijabs and religious headwear in the professional sport. TV producer, yoga teacher, and first-time body builder aged 63 Nia Ceidiog will help us see in Sunday with her round of Morning Stretches, with audiences invited to end the festival later that day with a wind down yoga class led by Sanchia Legister. Grace Gebbie and Ebuni Ajiduah are also on hand for a WOW How To, leading the nation through cutting and styling your hair during lockdown.

The WOW Foundation’s Founder and Director Jude Kelly CBE said, “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.”

BBC Arts Executive Editor, Lamia Dabboussy said, “BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine is all about working together with fantastic partners like WOW to ensure arts and culture in the UK remains open and accessible – continuing to provide inspiration to us all. And I can’t imagine a better way to spend a lockdown weekend than at a virtual WOW – Women of the World Festival on the BBC. The hugely ambitious programme responds to some of the most important global issues today whilst also providing a bit of a practical guide to surviving lockdown. It’s truly a cultural festival for now.”

The WOW Foundation produces festivals across the world to celebrate women and girls and raise awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. Led by Jude Kelly CBE, it is an independent organisation that works to build, convene and sustain a global movement that believes a gender equal world is possible and desirable through WOW festivals and empowering women and girls.

Over the past 10 years WOW Festivals have reached more than two million people across six continents, from Baltimore to Brazil, Cardiff to Karachi.

The WOW Foundation is proudly supported by its Global Founding Partner Bloomberg and Global Partner MasterCard.