We funded the Southbank Centre to support communities across the UK to put on their own Women of the World festivals.
Nine festivals were held between 2017-2019, in Bradford, Exeter, Perth, Norwich and Cardiff. The content and character of the festivals were driven by local women, who designed them to resonate with the issues and topics that were closest to them, and to create moments of empowerment, engagement and happiness for all who attended.
The funding also prompted the formation of the WOW Foundation, which is dedicated to putting on festivals all over the world, identifying the barriers which prevent women and girls from achieveing their full potential and empowering them to overcome them.
You can download the final projecty report from the festivals here.
Domino Pateman, Head of Programmes at the WOW Foundation, has answered five questions on how the project went and what they have learned from its delivery here:
1. This report shows that…
...using the WOW festival model and the core principles WOW shares with Spirit of 2012 - community cohesion, increasing the visibility of disabled people and improving wellbeing - we create events that change people’s lives and have lasting impact.
In the words of WOW Bradford programmer Saliha Rubani “[WOW] enlivens those who feel they have more to give, it educates those who can't be as active as they would like to and it has created a bonding opportunity for many local people.”
83% of surveyed audiences said their thoughts & feelings about the future had changed positively as a result of being involved.
The report shows that WOW sparked people’s imaginations and inspired them - and when that happens, anything is possible.
2. The thing I’m proudest about in this report is…
..how it shows how lives have been changed.
Through personal testimony and statistics, the report tells a story of people coming together “to laugh and listen and learn, to talk, to wonder, to explore and to share”.
From the WOWsers in Bradford who went on to create Speakers Corner with young women at its heart which now runs all year round, to Katherine Deane, who was appointed as the Access Ambassador at WOW Norwich who brought her essential expertise to the festival, the report really allows us to zoom right into people’s lives and witness what happened to them at pivotal moments in the festival.
3. The thing I would do differently if we did this project again is…
Make it bigger - and start with a Theory of Change.
Before this project, WOW did not have a Theory of Change. This was a key outcome for the project - so if I could turn back time, I’d want to apply everything we now know.
I’d also want each festival to happen three times, with WOW Warm Ups in between. The festivals captured the imaginations of so many people, and in each place there was a thirst for more. To be able to serve the interest in more sustained activity year round and over a longer period of time is an ambition for the future.
4. An interesting fact in this report is…
...it shows that the Spirit funding directly influenced the formation of the WOW Foundation. With what we learned, and the space the funding gave us to grow, we were able to build this brand new organisation, dedicated to creating WOW Festivals across the UK and globally - and finally, to achieving gender equality.
5. The thing I still wish we could understand more is…
We learnt so much - and there is so much more to learn. I wish we could understand more deeply how the connections people formed - either with ideas or with other people - had made a difference to their lives, communities and more broadly to the gender equality index of the local area. There were so many connections made, and I wish we had been able to map the relationships in the festivals across the three years, tracked how these developed and measured the impact these connections had.
For more on the WOW festivals, click here