Women of the World Festival seeks a global stage in Beijing
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