Further line-up announced for WOW Manchester 2024

20 Mar 2024

Blog Post

We've just announced further line-up for WOW Manchester, which will take place at the city’s landmark new cultural space Aviva Studios from 24-26 May.

Over two days and three evenings, WOW - the world’s biggest, most comprehensive festival celebrating women, girls and non-binary people - will bring together inspiring speakers, including Australia’s first woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard, actors Maxine Peake and Zawe Ashton, Manchester legend DJ Paulette, author Chimene Suleyman, and activist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to find solutions to the pressing issues of gender inequality and celebrate the achievements of women, girls and non-binary people both in the Northwest and globally.

Three headline evening events will take place across the weekend. On Saturday evening, long-time friends and co-conspirators Sandi Toksvig and Jude Kelly CBE will discuss their years of friendship, during which they have witnessed and been a part of huge global change and experienced personal triumphs as well as devastating setbacks. Sandi and Jude will take an uplifting look at how their personal lives have affected the work that they do and the power and importance of female friendship.

On Sunday evening musician, broadcaster and actor Jordan Stephenswill take part in a rare in-conversation drawing on his own experiences of finding fame as a teenager in Rizzle Kicks, navigating success, heartbreak, hedonism, addiction and what happens when it all comes crashing down. Jordan and a special guest host will explore how his relationship with women, men and masculinity has changed and how he’s learnt to love himself again.

As previously announced, artist and author, Mel Bwill be joined by journalist and co-author Louise Gannon on the Friday evening to celebrate the launch of her critically acclaimed memoir, Brutally Honest, sharing an unfiltered discussion on Mel’s journey from being a Spice Girl and global icon, to Women’s Aid patron and champion for survivors of abuse.

New sessions and speakers have also been announced as part of the daytime programme. Featuring a different line-up each day, audiences will be provided with the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of events and discussions housed within a huge central marketplace as well as taking place throughout Aviva Studios’ many different spaces. Household names, local activists and artists will present their big ideas to change the world, whilst inspiring thinkers, activists and world-class speakers will hold frank and lively sessions on everything from the murky history of the fashion industry to urgent conversations around women and conflict with accounts from first hand survivors. Further speakers and sessions to be announced.

Jude Kelly will open the Saturday programme with Julia Gillard as they explore the world women, girls and non-binary people face today and look to the future with optimism and hope. Conversations will follow throughout the day spanning a huge range of topics from menopause myths to football, and reproductive justice to being a basic witch.

DJ Paulette, one of the Hacienda’s only woman DJs, will explore the rich tapestry of Manchester music venues from the city’s iconic past, many of which have been lost due to gentrification. The session will look at the impact of absent women from these venues, how buildings shape our cultural landscapes and how we can build inclusive spaces that embody local histories, people and surroundings whilst honouring the shape of their futures.

Author Chimene Suleyman, whose new memoir The Chain starts in an abortion clinic and ends in finding community and sisterhood, will look at how relationships can quickly turn sour and why society allows persistent misogyny to thrive.

Sunday at WOW Manchester will explore topics such as menstrual mapping, gentrification, age, sex, and comedy. Acclaimed actor Maxine Peake joins Jude Kelly to open the Sunday programme with a session about Manchester, the arts, and what the future looks like for the creative industries.

What a bloody mess! Menstrual mood mapping will offer a fun, calming and creative workshop that explores the different phases and moods of menstrual cycles using collage techniques to chart hormone highs and lows, challenge myths and misogyny, and delve into the depiction of periods in popular culture.

The WOW Marketplace filled with over 50 pop-up stores, experiences, happenings to explore will feature talks, workshops and more led by Greater Manchester’s rich and diverse talent.

There will be a showcase of artworks, film, craft and more from across South Asia in partnership with the British Council, and Namibian artist and activist Ina-Maria Shikongo will exhibit a specially commissioned new installation commission by The Commonwealth Foundation, linking the stories of women and children in the fight for climate justice globally.

Tania Kovats will be creating "MOONMOTH", a new commission curated by Invisible Dust, working in collaboration with Dr Jenna Ashton, Heritage Studies, University of Manchester, her students and Jeanne Robinson, Curator of Entomology at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. In dialogue with the natural history collections at the Manchester Museum, Kovats will engage with the legacy of the visionary seventeenth woman naturalist, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) to produce a new work that relates to our current biodiversity crisis, supported by the prestigious Simon Industrial and Professional (SIP) Fellowship, University of Manchester.

Alongside the Day ticket programmes, we will present free events throughout the weekend. Guided history walks highlighting women confined to the footnotes of history will take place, whilst a WOW Pop-Up will host a range of activities in the Social Space including learning how to make dyes from natural ingredients, poetry and WOW bites sessions. WOW’s much-loved Speed Mentoring sessions will take place in the lower foyer offering an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with people from a huge variety of fields, including theatre directors, journalists, scientists, campaigners, artists and WOW speakers.

Jude Kelly CBE, CEO and Founder of The WOW Foundation said: “For our first festival in the Northwest we're thrilled to be joined at the iconic Aviva Studios by such an inspirational group of friends - old and new - artists, activists, thinkers, speakers who are doing wonderful things both on the ground in Manchester and right across the globe. Together with our partner, Factory International, WOW Manchester will provide a space for everyone to come together in celebration of the rich diversity of stories across the region, to create community, hold frank and determined conversations, and explore meaningful solutions as we continue to work together to achieve a gender equal world.”

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Factory International said: “It's been a joy to collaborate with WOW and people from across Greater Manchester to shape the WOW programme, continuing Factory International’s co-curation work with schools and residents. As a long-term admirer of WOW festival, I’m delighted that our different spaces at Aviva Studios will be taken over by the energy, ambition and imagination of this extraordinary event. I look forward to many moments of inspiration as some of the most dynamic speakers from the region and across the globe, share their wisdom, experience and vision.”