The Pick - WOW - Women of the World Festival 2012

March 1, 2012

WOW - Women of the World Festival 2012

Southbank Centre, London, 6-11 March

From the co-founder of Mumsnet to a woman determined to reform India's worst prison, by way of activists, astrophysicists, comics and the latest thing in gypsy swing, the annual WOW - Women of the World Festival is a celebration of inspirational women of every kind and from many places.

Events kick off on 6 March, when journalist Hannah Pool and programme coordinator Domino Pateman discuss the ideas behind the festival and the details of this year's line-up. The following two days will see Lisa Dwan performing a powerful one-woman play, Beside the Sea (adapted from the novel by Véronique Olmi), in which a mother is driven to extremes of despair.

The pace heats up on 9 March with three days of talks, debates and shorter sessions known as WOW Bites. Journalist and recovered alcoholic Rosie Boycott discusses what it's like for your life to hit the skids with Cosmopolitan's veteran agony aunt Irma Kurtz; "Playing FTSE - women in the boardroom" considers whether anything has really changed in the world of business; "Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?" offers a masterclass in how to negotiate a pay rise; and "Enemies of Good Art" asks why women with young children so often still feel unwelcome in museums and galleries.

Subsequent days offer sessions addressing women in the military, sport and science, body politics, domestic abuse, the impact of the Arab Spring, Margaret Thatcher as feminist icon, whether straight women are supportive of lesbians, and what it would take for a woman to become president of the United States.

Also on 9 March, Birds' Eye View, an organisation celebrating female film-makers, presents a programme devoted to screen idol and movie mogul Mary Pickford, with live performances of new music by three female composers (Tanya Auclair, Anna Meredith and Roshi) accompanying screenings of Pickford's silent films The New York Hat, The Female of the Species and Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley.

Also on the bill are concerts by both established and up-and-coming artists. Sinead O'Connor performs from her new album, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, Sarah Gillespie and her quartet offer an eclectic blend of blues, ballads, vaudeville and gypsy swing, while Annie Lennox hosts a unique night of music that steps up the call for equality. Pianists Kate Halsall and Semra Kurutac, performing as duoDorT - from "duo" and "dõrt", Turkish for "four", since they are two musicians using four hands - showcase commissions from six young female composers.

The closing night is presented by Sandi Toksvig and includes words, comedy and an all-female orchestra conducted by Sue Perkins and featuring music by everyone from Hildegard of Bingen to Helen Reddy and Clara Schumann to Cyndi Lauper, as well as suffragette and composer Dame Ethel Smyth's March of the Women.

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