8 Sept 2021

Press Release

PRESS RELEASE – Wednesday 8th September 2021


  • A one-day event and digital programme bringing together activism and art to confront and change attitudes towards sexual violence
  • Actress and Model Emily Ratajkowski to discuss her debut book My Body, an investigation into body politics and the fetishisation of women and girls

  • Opening session to address scale of sexual violence in the UK with Birkbeck’s Professor Joanna Bourke; Founder Of Black Minds Rachel Nwokoro; and Best Selling Author Winnie M Li
  • Alongside WOW Founder Jude Kelly, other speakers include Soma Sara Founder of Everyone’s Invited; Poet In Residence For Consent Collective Tanaka Mhishi, authors Laura Bates and Rachel Thompson, Academic, Dr Rabiya Majeed-Ariss, and podcaster Sangeeta Pillai
  • The festival will take place at Battersea Arts Centre on Saturday 27 November

  • Digital programme To Include Phoebe Patey-Ferguson's Live, Laugh, Rage! - An Online Space To Rage

WOW - Women of the World and Birkbeck, University of London’s Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters (SHaME) project have announced the initial line-up for the inaugural Shameless! Festival of Activism Against Sexual Violence, a one-day in person event and digital programme bringing together activism and art to confront and change attitudes towards sexual violence, share ideas, and imagine a rape free world.

The festival, which is supported by The Wellcome Trust, will be a first of its kind event, bringing together national, international and grassroots organisations and charities as well as local artists, leading voices and wellness practitioners, to confront and change societal attitudes towards sexual violence. Shameless! Festival will be held at Battersea Arts Centre on Saturday 27 November and tickets are on sale now at https://bac.org.uk/ BSL interpreting and/or Captioning will be available for all events.

WOW - Women of the World’s global festivals celebrate women, girls and non-binary people, taking a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, raising awareness globally of the issues they face, and discussing solutions together. Inspired by the format of WOW, Shameless! Festival will be packed with challenging conversations but also moments of joy, spontaneity, laughter and optimism. The festival will welcome audiences to spark conversation, address the global crisis of sexual violence (in all its forms) and help eradicate the shame often attached to it.

Festival goers will be able to explore and choose from a variety of workshops, talks, performances and more on the day. There will be pop ups, a marketplace, support on site for whoever needs it, and the chance to connect with experts working to end sexual violence.

Founder and CEO of The WOW Foundation Jude Kelly said:Our WOW Festivals across the world are famous for candid conversations so we’ve created the Shameless Festival! to open up vital discussion around sexual violence. It's a day of action, but also a day to come together and build community. I'm thrilled to be concluding the day in conversation with Emily Ratajkowski, whose new book demonstrates the power of taking back ownership of your own stories. There's great solidarity in sharing stories, and Shameless Festival! will do that in a joyful and powerful day of exploration.

Professor Joanna Bourke, Principal Investigator of Birkbeck’s SHaME Project commented: Sexual violence is a global problem that needs to be addressed by us all. The Shameless! Festival encourages new ways of thinking and acting on how we can forge worlds where sexual harms have been eliminated. We want to hear your voices.”

Jeremy Farrar, Director of The Wellcome Trust: "We are delighted to be part of Shameless! Festival!. Wellcome prides itself on aiding those that have the potential to improve health challenges worldwide, which is why it is so crucial to be supporting this unique festival and its important role in addressing the global crisis of sexual violence. "

The one-day festival will include a powerful state of the nation opening session addressing the scale of sexual violence, with some of the world’s foremost experts, academics and artists including WOW Founder Jude Kelly; prizewinning author, Professor Joanna Burke; Founder of Black Minds and UK Slam champion, Rachel Nwokoro; and best selling author and survivor Winnie M Li.

The festival will thread together some of the most urgent conversations, covering everything from the lack of inclusive service provisions, to consent, sexual violence online, medical harms and rape as a weapon of war. These talks will be led by a host of speakers including Soma Sara, the Founder of Everyone's Invited who brought school sexual harassment to the fore; and poet in residence for the Consent Collective, Tanaka Mhishi. Also included in the programme will be authors, Laura Bates and Rachel Thompson, Academic, Dr Rabiya Majeed-Ariss and award winning podcaster, Sangeeta Pillai.

Concluding the day will be an evening ticketed event with the actor, model and writer Emily Ratajkowski. In conversation with WOW’s CEO and Founder Jude Kelly, this candid discussion will see Ratajkowski speak in London for one-night only about her new book My Body, exploring what it means to be a woman in a world that consumes, commodifies and violates women’s bodies, and the contempt that often accompanies taking back ownership of the narrative.

The digital programme running alongside the festival will include Live, Laugh, RAGE!, an online event hosted by performance artist and academic Phoebe Patey-Ferguson alongside authors and activists to be announced. This session will provide a space to rage about the tangled mess of systemic violence and how it enables and perpetuates violence against us. The digital event will explore if rage can be used as a force for imagining and enacting a different world and if righteous rage is essential to our collective survival. Tickets will go on sale in the coming months, with another online event to be announced.

Shameless! Festivals of Activism Against Sexual Violence are presented by WOW, which is run by UK charity The WOW Foundation. The festivals are presented in collabroation and as part of Birkbeck’s SHaME project, a research hub for scholarship exploring the medical and psychiatric aspects of sexual violence. Placing medical professionals at the heart of the debates, the project seeks to address the global crisis and help move beyond the shame often attached to sexual violence. The project will take place over three years, with 2022’s Shameless Festival! to be produced by WOW Rio curators Redes da Maré in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Find out more about the SHaME project.


The WOW Foundation

The WOW Foundation was created by Jude Kelly CBE in 2018 to run the global movement that is WOW - Women of the World Festivals. The Festivals began in the UK in 2010, launched by Kelly at the Southbank Centre London, where she was Artistic Director, to celebrate women and girls, taking a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, raising awareness globally of the issues they face, and discussing solutions together.

To date, WOW has reached over 2 million people in 17 countries on six continents, in locations including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA. In 2018/19 WOW was in Rio de Janeiro, Cardiff, Bradford, Bangladesh, Brisbane, Janakpur (Nepal),Baltimore, London, Exeter, Norwich, Perth, Beijing, Ghana and Nigeria. In June 2020, WOW held its first ever worldwide online festival focused on women and girls — WOW Global 24. The festival travelled around the world everywhere from the UK to Nigeria, and Pakistan to Australia exploring the intersectional impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality, and responding to Black Lives Matter.

Over the last 10 years the Festivals have developed a reputation as a space for world renowned artists, activists, thinkers and performers including Angela Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Patrick Stewart, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Salma Hayek, to come and participate, alongside thousands of women and girls who don’t have public profiles but are doing amazing things. WOW provides platforms for people of all kinds, changes attitudes, brings communities together and provides a unique space for people to work together towards gender equality in their own communities. One example of the impact the festival has had came in 2015, with the founding of the Women’s Equality Party by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer.

In 2018 Kelly left the Southbank Centre to run The WOW Foundation full time as a charity working to build, convene and sustain a global movement that believes a gender equal world is possible and desirable through festivals and empowering women and girls. The unique festival model creates numerous pathways for participants to take part in WOW projects, amplify their own causes, or start new initiatives which have a wide impact on communities. It is the biggest, most comprehensive and most significant festival dedicated to presenting work by women and promoting equality for women and girls.

WOW festivals and events are presented by arrangement with the Southbank Centre. The President of WOW - Women of the World is HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.

The WOW Foundation is proudly supported by its Global Founding Partner Bloomberg, and Global Partner Mastercard.

About SHaME
(Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters) is an interdisciplinary research group funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is directed by historian Professor Joanna Bourke and based at Birkbeck, University of London. From multiple perspectives in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, it is unique in focussing on medical and psychiatric aspects of sexual violence. It addresses issues of child as well as adult sexual abuse, global trends and local impacts, law and medical practitioners, survivor narratives, and activism. A sustained analysis of medical and psychiatric engagement with sexual violence addresses current debates about the treatment of rape survivors and the needs of justice. The aim of the project is to move beyond shame to address this global health crisis.

About Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea Arts Centre is a home for radical artistic ideas. We believe in the power of performance and collective imagination to spark positive change.

We host welcoming and inclusive spaces where communities, artists and audiences can connect and be creative, and we give people the resources to develop artistic ideas that are bold and unconventional.

All shows at Battersea Arts Centre are now available on a Pay What You Can basis, as part of our ongoing commitment to finding new ways to break down barriers to engagement.

About Birkbeck   

Founded in 1823, Birkbeck, University of London, is a world-class research and teaching institution, a vibrant centre of academic excellence and London's only specialist provider of evening higher education. Our evening teaching allows students to progress their life goals during the day, through work, volunteering or internships.

www.bbk.ac.uk| @BirkbeckUoL | youtube.com/BirkbeckVideo

About Wellcome
The Wellcome Trust is an independent global charitable foundation that seeks to ensure that everyone can benefit from science’s potential to improve health and save lives. It supports discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and are taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and climate.

About the Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre occupying a prominent riverside location that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. We exist to present great cultural experiences that bring people together and we achieve this by providing the space for artists to create and present their best work and by creating a place where as many people as possible can come together to experience bold, unusual and eye-opening work. We want to take people out of the everyday, every day. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. The Southbank Centre is made up of the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as being home to the National Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. It is also home to four Resident Orchestras (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) and four Associate Orchestras (Aurora Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Chineke! Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain).