Women of the World Fes­ti­val seeks a global stage in Beijing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE - By CHEN NAN

The Women of the World Fes­ti­val will make its China de­but in Beijing’s Tian­qiao Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter this Septem­ber.

The month­long WOW event’s ex­ten­sive pro­grams in­clude ex­hi­bi­tions, per­for­mances, work­shops and fo­rums, which will cel­e­brate women’s achieve­ments and ex­plore the chal­lenges that women are still fac­ing today.

“When I launched the fes­ti­val in 2010, I wanted to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day.

“Now, it has be­come the largest arts event for women in the world, which is far be­yond what I have ex­pected in the begin­ning,” says Jude Kelly, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Lon­don’s South­bank Cen­tre, among Bri­tain’s largest cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions. She was in Beijing to at­tend the open­ing cer­e­mony at Tian­qiao Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on April 15.

“Al­though the WOW fes­ti­val started in Lon­don, it’s not a Bri­tish thing, it’s a global thing. It be­longs to China, be­longs to Kathmandu, be­longs to Pak­istan and be­longs to Aus­tralia, any­where that the girls and women, boys and men want to gather to speak of what the fu­ture could look like and how to make that fu­ture hap­pen,” Kelly says.

So far, the fes­ti­val has been held in 20 cities, in­clud­ing Mel­bourne and New York as well as the main venue in Lon­don, and over 20,000 peo­ple have at­tended the event.

In March 2016, the UK-China Work­shop for Se­nior Arts Cen­ter and The­ater Man­age­ment was held at the Tian­qiao Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

The two or­ga­ni­za­tions signed a strate­gic part­ner­ship agree­ment of hold cul­tural ex­change events in the fol­low­ing three years, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Li, gen­eral man­ager of Tian­qiao Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

Zhang notes that the event’s con­tent is still un­der dis­cus­sion and she looks for­ward to some in­spir­ing key­note speak­ers.

One of four daugh­ters of a civil ser­vant and a teacher, Kelly grew up in 1960s Liver­pool. As a child, her pas­sion was to gather chil­dren in her neigh­bor­hood and tell them sto­ries or per­form plays with them.

She earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in drama and the­ater arts from Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity in 1975 and founded So­lent Peo­ple’s Theatre a year later. In her ca­reer, she has di­rected over 100 the­atri­cal pro­duc­tions. In 2005, Kelly took over as artis­tic di­rec­tor of South­bank Cen­tre, ea­ger to in­spire women of the next gen­er­a­tion.

“We need a fes­ti­val that re­ally cel­e­brates ev­ery­thing that girls and women have done. We also need the fes­ti­val to ask ques­tions about why we still have an un­equal world,” she says.

For Kelly, the most re­ward­ing part of hold­ing the fes­ti­val is to have women’s voices heard.

The fes­ti­val also gets men ac­tively in­volved.

“Men are speak­ing at the event and we have men on the pan­els to dis­cuss equal­ity for women,” she says.

“There are mo­ments when this fes­ti­val af­fects you too much. For ex­am­ple, a young woman comes to the fes­ti­val and says that it makes her feel that she could fight for what she wants to do. A man, who has a daugh­ter or a niece, says that he hopes to make some changes,” Kelly says.

Al­though the WOW fes­ti­val started in Lon­don, it’s not a Bri­tish thing, it’s a global thing ...” Jude Kelly, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Lon­don’s South­bank Cen­tre

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