As In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day takes place this month, meet the women run­ning the capital, who in­clude a West End star, restau­ra­teur and as­tro­naut,

Where London - - Front Page - writes Sam Rogg

Meet the ladies be­hind Lon­don’s lead­ing at­trac­tions

As the world unites to cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day (8 Mar), take the op­por­tu­nity to recog­nise and en­joy the work of some of Lon­don’s lead­ing ladies. From Florence Nightin­gale and the Suf­fragettes to Vir­ginia Woolf and Dame Zaha Ha­did, this city has been shaped by vi­sion­ary and pioneer­ing women. For 63 years we have been ruled by one of the most un­flap­pable and char­i­ta­ble mon­archs ever to take the throne: Queen El­iz­a­beth II. And while some coun­tries strug­gle to pave the way for one fe­male leader, we’re on to our sec­ond (first Mar­garet Thatcher, now Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May), as women in­creas­ingly rise to the top in other sec­tors of the capital, too.

But there’s still more work to be done. If the global events of 2016 taught us any­thing, it’s that the fight for women’s rights is far from over. Even in Lon­don, a city famed for its pro­gres­sive out­look and equal op­por­tu­ni­ties, the gulf be­tween men and women – po­lit­i­cally, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally – re­mains star­tlingly wide. In fact, the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum es­ti­mates that women around the world won’t be paid the same as men for an­other 170 years – a pro­jec­tion that many, par­tic­u­larly in the capital, are de­ter­mined to prove wrong.

‘Events of the past year have shown that, de­spite great strides by the fem­i­nist move­ment, the world still speaks a largely male lan­guage,’ says the South­bank Cen­tre’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Jude Kelly CBE, who founded this month’s Women of the World ( WOW) fes­ti­val (7-12 Mar) in 2010. ‘More than ever, we must keep up the fight for gen­der equal­ity and look at the far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate on our women and girls – from the lo­calised to the global.’

Head to the WOW fes­ti­val this month and hear from fa­mous in­ter­na­tional artists, writ­ers and ac­tivists in­clud­ing US au­thor An­gela Davis, co-founder of the Women’s Equal­ity Party Cather­ine Mayer and ac­tress Gil­lian An­der­son. They will be joined by thou­sands of women and girls, politi­cians, busi­ness lead­ers and refugees from across the UK and around the globe, for 200 events across six days, in­clud­ing talks, de­bates, live mu­sic, com­edy and work­shops. High­lights in­clude the de­bate What Does B rex it Mean for Women? (10 Mar), Chella Quint’s one-wo­man show Ad­ven­tures in Men­stru­at­ing (11 Mar ), and ses­sions to em­power women in the world of tech­nol­ogy.

Else­where in the city, you’ll be con­fronted with count­less ex­am­ples of what is pos­si­ble when women are given the free­dom to go af­ter their dreams and suc­ceed. From din­ing and cul­ture to sci­ence and en­ter­tain­ment, we urge you to ex­pe­ri­ence what these ex­tra­or­di­nary women in Lon­don have achieved. Women of the World fes­ti­val, 7-12 Mar, South­bank Cen­tre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX. T: 020-7960 4200. www.south­bank­cen­

NOMA DUMEZWENI Olivier Award-win­ning ac­tress

When Sex and the City star Kim Cat­trall had to pull out of the new play Linda at the Royal Court in 2015 due to ill health, it was Noma Dumezweni who stepped into her shoes, just seven days be­fore it opened. Dumezweni, who was born in Swazi­land and raised in Eng­land, has been loved by au­di­ences and crit­ics alike for her con­sis­tently en­gag­ing and en­thralling per­for­mances. She has acted in world-renowned the­atre com­pa­nies, from the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany to the Na­tional The­atre, and now she’s in the West End block­buster, Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child, in which she plays an adult Hermione Granger.

Af­ter see­ing JK Rowl­ing’s stage play, ac­tress Emma Wat­son (who played Hermione in the film fran­chise) said: ‘Meet­ing Noma was like meet­ing my older self and have her tell me ev­ery­thing was go­ing to be all right, which as you can imag­ine was im­mensely com­fort­ing and emo­tional.’

Still, Dumezweni’s cast­ing was not without a backlash, as some peo­ple took to so­cial me­dia to voice their anger that a black ac­tor would play the role. JK Rowl­ing re­sponded swiftly by telling fans that Dumezweni was cho­sen be­cause she was the best ac­tress for the job and that Hermione can be a black wo­man with her ‘ab­so­lute bless­ing and en­thu­si­asm’. Dumezweni once said: ‘I am so pas­sion­ate about rep­re­sen­ta­tion be­cause grow­ing up I didn’t see my­self and now peo­ple can say: “I see my­self, there.”’

What to see: Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child (Parts One and Two) is at the Palace The­atre.

DR HE­LEN SHARMAN, OBE Sci­en­tist and former as­tro­naut

In 1989, Sh­effield-born chemist Dr Sharman re­sponded to a ra­dio ad­vert, ‘As­tro­nauts wanted; no ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary’, beat­ing 13,000 ap­pli­cants to be­come the first Bri­ton in space. On 18 May 1991, fol­low­ing 18 months of in­ten­sive train­ing, she joined a Soviet Union crew for the eight-day mis­sion, Pro­ject Juno, aged just 27. ‘You can’t imag­ine how deep the [blue] colour is,’ she told The Guardian last year on the 25th an­niver­sary of her launch. ‘There was a win­dow where I slept, and wak­ing up to the world right out­side... won­der­ful.’ In 2013, the UK Space Agency in­cor­rectly de­scribed Ma­jor Tim Peake as the UK’s first of­fi­cial as­tro­naut. ‘I asked them: “What hap­pened to me?”’ she said. ‘I sus­pect some­one thought that the ti­tle would get Tim more at­ten­tion’. Last year, the Sci­ence Mu­seum cel­e­brated Dr Sharman’s ‘sil­ver space an­niver­sary’ with a spe­cial event that in­cluded trib­utes from as­tro­nauts such as Buzz Aldrin. These days, Dr Sharman still in­spires the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists, as the op­er­a­tions man­ager at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don’s chem­istry depart­ment. She once said: ‘Fame was the down­side of space. I’m a sci­en­tist, but I found my­self in in­ter­views be­ing asked where I bought my clothes. Ir­rel­e­vant.’

What to see: The Sokol space suit worn by He­len Sharman in 1991 is on dis­play at the Sci­ence Mu­seum.

FRANCES MOR­RIS Di­rec­tor of Tate Mod­ern

When you think of Lon­don’s world-class art of­fer­ings, it’s easy to fo­cus on the artists but be­hind ev­ery in­cred­i­ble gallery there’s some­one with an instinct for what to col­lect and how to present the ex­hi­bi­tions you see. For 30 years, Frances Mor­ris has been that vi­sion­ary at the Tate – first as a cu­ra­tor, then as head of dis­plays when Tate Mod­ern opened in 2000, then as di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional art and fi­nally as di­rec­tor of the en­tire gallery in 2016.

Her peers de­scribe her as ‘a bril­liant and imag­i­na­tive cu­ra­tor’ with ‘fierce in­tel­li­gence, and who stamps her own ideas on the gallery’. Re­mem­ber the gi­ant metal spi­der cre­ated by the artist Louise Bour­geois for Tate Mod­ern’s iconic opening? Through sub­se­quent ex­hi­bi­tions, Mor­ris is cred­ited with help­ing trans­form the artist from a lit­tle-known sculp­tor to the global phe­nom­e­non that she is to­day, while also ex­pand­ing the gallery’s in­ter­na­tional reach and rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women artists. She once said: ‘I en­cour­age col­leagues to dig a lit­tle more when they see in­ter­est­ing work by a wo­man artist they haven’t heard of be­fore, or to be aware of where women have been over­looked.’

What to see: The first edi­tion of the new BMW Tate Live Ex­hi­bi­tion un­veils new works by fog sculp­tor Fu­jiko Nakaya, and per­for­mance artist and DJ Is­abel Lewis.

CAMEL­LIA PANJABI Restau­ra­teur and au­thor

Widely cred­ited with rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the way In­dian food is seen in Bri­tain, Camel­lia Panjabi’s restau­rants are not your aver­age curry houses. As di­rec­tor of Masala World, she is the brain­child be­hind three fine-din­ing restau­rants: Chut­ney Mary, Amaya and Veeraswamy – the lat­ter was awarded its first Miche­lin star last year. She also pre­sides over the so­phis­ti­cated but in­for­mal Masala Zone chain, loved by Lon­don­ers for its gourmet take on au­then­tic In­dian street food. Born and raised in Mum­bai, Panjabi went on to study eco­nom­ics at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity be­fore re­turn­ing to In­dia to work with Taj Ho­tels. In 1982 she ar­rived in Lon­don and be­gan her food rev­o­lu­tion, opening the first of sev­eral re­gional In­dian food restau­rants.

‘Lon­don is al­ways rein­vent­ing it­self to be rel­e­vant for the times,’ says Panjabi, whose book 50 Great Cur­ries of In­dia has sold more than a mil­lion copies since 2004. ‘It’s the ideas capital of the world. It’s great to be a wo­man in Lon­don to­day – all doors are open to us.’ She once said: ‘The best thing about my job is cre­at­ing things which give plea­sure to peo­ple. I try to give tan­ta­lis­ing food in up­lift­ing sur­round­ings and bring mo­ments of joy into oth­er­wise pres­surised lives.’ Where to go: Veeraswamy is the UK’s old­est In­dian restau­rant – try the roast duck vin­daloo – or head to a Masala Zone in cen­tral Lon­don for a tra­di­tional thali (plat­ter).

NICA BURNS, OBE Pro­ducer and owner of Ni­max The­atres

Hop­ing to catch a West End show while you’re in Lon­don? If so, there’s a good chance you’ll be sit­ting in one of Nica Burns’ the­atres, which in­clude the Lyric, Palace, Duchess and Vaude­ville. A former ac­tor and one-time artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Don­mar Ware­house the­atre, Burns is renowned for her abil­ity to cast Hol­ly­wood stars in her plays, whether it’s Christian Slater in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (2004) or James McAvoy in Three Days of Rain (2009).

This year sees a new the­atre opening on Char­ing Cross Road – the first new the­atre to spring up in the West End for three decades. ‘[It] won’t com­pete with those al­ready in Lon­don. It will be a dif­fer­ent, very in­ti­mate space in a great lo­ca­tion, where cut­ting-edge shows can be per­formed,’ Burns said in 2012. In De­cem­ber 2016, she also an­nounced that she’s set to launch Clas­sic Spring, a new the­atre com­pany with former Shake­speare’s Globe artis­tic di­rec­tor Do­minic Drom­goole. She once said: ‘I love my work and my dream is to drop dead on stage in the mid­dle of a speech at a very ad­vanced age.’

What to see: Thriller Live, Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child, The Play That Goes Wrong and Step­ping Out are all show­ing at Ni­max The­atres.

Clock­wise from top left: Noma Dumezweni; Tate Mod­ern Tur­bine Hall; Jude Kelly CBE; Women of the World fes­ti­val

Clock­wise from top left: Dr He­len Sharman at the Sci­ence Mu­seum; Frances Mor­ris; The Play That Goes Wrong; Camel­lia Panjabi; Masala Zone Inset: Nica Burns

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