Local women take centre stage at WOW – Women of the World Bradford!

WOW – Women of the World festival is returning to Bradford on the 17 – 18 November, which celebrates and recognises the achievements of women and girls. A well as nationally and internationally recognised trailblazers, Bradfordian women will be taking centre stage at the festival’s workshops, debates and performances.

The WOW ​ ​Women of the Worldfestival, founded in 2010 by Southbank Centre’s previous Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE, is the biggest gathering of women and girls across the globe, reaching over 1.5 million people in 20 cities across five continents.

Southbank Centre has expanded its global WOW network of festivals to create nine new WOWs in five cities across the UK, of which Bradford was the first Northern city. These nine festivals are being funded by Spirit of 2012. Happening on the same date as WOW Rio de Janeiro, 2018 marks the centenary of female suffrage, and the festival programme touches on a range of different issues pertinent to women and girls in Bradford and beyond.

WOW Women of the WorldBradfordincludes an line-up of over 45 different talks, discussions, performances and workshops; all of which feature speakers from Bradford. The programme is inspired by a series of ‘Thinkins’ in March of this year, where Bradford residents and communities came together to share ideas about what they wanted to see at the festival.

As well as nationally renowned artists and activists such as poet Kate Tempest and model Munroe Bergdorf, a diverse range of Bradford based activists, community figures, performers and young people are all featured throughout the programme.

With events covering a range of hard hitting issues from Body Confidence to Everyday Activism and Environmental Racism, women from Bradford will be leading the debate. Julie Longden and members of Allerton’s Hope Rising Action Group will be speaking out against poverty and running workshops at the festival as well as Campaign Bootcamp’s Sue Balcomb, who will be leading a session teaching people how to be activists in their communities. Kat Pemberton, who is using makeup to change attitudes towards disability.

Bradfordian women of all ages are involved in the festival and teenage activists from Speaker’s Corner Collective will be the ones leading the discussion on issues such as mental health, self image on panels like I am Perfect As Meand throughout the programme.  This year’s WOWsers, a group of 15 – 18 year old volunteers, are also supporting the running of the event and have created the campaign which will form the basis of the festival’s Schools Day, focusing on overcoming familial and societal pressures an reaching aspirations. 


Julie Longden ​ ​– Activist and member of Bradford’s Hope Rising Action Group  said: “WOW Bradford is important because it gives the opportunity for local people to share their stories. It’s essential to give women of colour and working class people a platform to speak about the issues that they’re facing on their own terms, and people need to hear what a range of different women have to say.”

Madeyah Khan – Teenage activist and member of Speaker’s Corner Collective  said: “WOW Bradford is important for women in Bradford as it helps ensure that the opinions of everyone, regardless of their protected characteristics, can be shared and heard. I am Perfect As Me, the talk I am speaking on, demonstrates how WOW festivals are beneficial for all women because they help us talk about taboo issues like mental health, self image and family relationships, in a positive space.”

Kat Pemberton – Vlogger and speaker on Makeup and Mesaid:​ ​“There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK and as a disabled woman I feel that it is imperative for our voices to be heard. I am beyond grateful to WOW for giving me this opportunity and allowing my voice to be heard amongst the many powerful and inspiring women at WOW Bradford.”

Sue Balcomb – Campaigns Trainer at Campaign Bootcamp, leading Everyday Activism workshop said: “It’s a dream job for me to be able to share ideas and techniques that help people build campaigns at this year’s WOW Bradford. I’m hoping to get women fired up to make change.”

Jude Kelly Southbank Centre’s previous Artistic Director and WOW – Women of the World Founder and Director said: WOW – Women of the World Festivals are designed to be agents of change in their host cities, providing a space for women to participate in discussion, education and collaboration on the issues that most impact their lives. Launched in 2010 in London, WOW Festivals have engaged and inspired more than one and a half million women across five continents and cities in Australia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, the UK, and at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. WOW is the biggest gathering of women and girls across the globe, and I’m so pleased that Bradford is part of this story for change.”

Full programme details are available here