Factory International and WOW – Women of the World are today announcing the first ever WOW Manchester, which will take place at Manchester’s landmark new cultural space, Aviva Studios from Friday 24 – Sunday 26 May in partnership with Factory International.

Over two days and three evenings in May the world’s biggest, most comprehensive festival celebrating women, girls and non-binary people, will see WOW take over Aviva Studios’ different spaces to bring people together 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.

On Friday 24 May, WOW Manchester presents an evening with artist and author, Melanie Brown. Celebrating the launch of her critically acclaimed memoir, Brutally Honest, Mel and journalist and co-author Louise Gannon will share 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 – and everything in between. This will be one of WOW Manchester’s headline evening ticketed events, with others to be announced. The event will go on general sale on Friday 16 February.

WOW Manchester will also feature WOW’s popular Day Ticket model with a twist, providing audiences with the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of events and discussions housed within a huge marketplace at the centre of the event – and taking place throughout Aviva Studios’ many different spaces with a different line-up each day. Day Tickets for both the Saturday and Sunday will go on general sale on Friday 2 February, as well as a weekend ticket.

Opening the festival with a powerful Moment of Unity, WOW’s founder Jude Kelly will bring everyone together to look at the highs and lows of the last five years of progress. Repeated at intervals throughout the festival, these moments will also feature performances, interviews with special guest speakers and more.

Throughout the weekend, 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 climate, masculinity, menopause myths, reproductive justice, gentrification, divorce, the murky history of the fashion industry, sandwich caring, and orgasms, to urgent conversations around women and conflict with accounts from first hand survivors. Sessions will also celebrate women and non-binary people in Manchester’s music scene, explore how iconic buildings can shape our cultural landscapes, and discuss football’s ability to transcend boundaries.

Festival-goers will be able to visit the bustling Marketplace – a hub of urgency, generosity and conversation with over 70 spaces to explore. They will witness pop-up performances from indigenous oud players, poets, choirs and dance troupes; participate in workshops led by Greater Manchester’s rich and diverse talent and explore the city with Walking Tours that celebrate the women usually confined to the footnotes of history from marriage and maternity through to protest and crime. There will also be the opportunity to meet artists from across the globe in a specially curated South Asian art exhibition.

Jude Kelly said, “We are so excited to be bringing WOW to Manchester and the Northwest for the first time. As a Liverpool girl myself, it is a joy to be able to celebrate the rich diversity of stories across the region and to build a Festival with the people of the Northwest at its heart. Factory International is the perfect partner for WOW as we continue to grow and it is a privilege to be able to take over the iconic Aviva Studios with the unique WOW blend of celebration, determination and frank conversation.”

John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Factory International says, “As a long-term admirer of the wonderful WOW festival, I’m delighted that in our very first year Aviva Studios will be taken over by the energy, ambition and imagination of this extraordinary event. We’re delighted to collaborate on the first ever WOW Manchester and look forward to many moments of inspiration as some of the most dynamic women from the region and across the globe, share their wisdom, experience and vision.”

In the lead-up to WOW Manchester, The WOW Foundation’s custom-built WOW Girls Festival Bus will park up at Aviva Studios on 1 March as part of the last leg of its UK-wide tour. Designed by artist/designer Emma Hardaker working with inspiration from Getaway Girls in Leeds, the WOW Girls Festival Bus is an interactive space created with and for young people. The Manchester stop will include WOW Speed Mentoring for up to 120 young people from the Greater Manchester area and mentors from across the UK, and school visits led by Factory International’s Creative Learning team.

The WOW Foundation is a UK Charity, set up in 2018 by Jude Kelly CBE, following 8 years of WOW as part of her tenure as Artistic Director at Southbank Centre. It operates across a global network of partners that work with the idea that Festivals and the arts can build the belief across new audiences that a gender equal world is urgently needed, possible and desirable – whilst also building the determination and optimism to further this aim. WOW is the largest network of its kind.

To date, WOW Festivals and events have taken place in over 45 places, across 6 continents, reaching over 5 million attendees. A growing programme of education and leadership for all ages has, for 2023-2024 had a particular focus on girls and non-binary young people. Alongside WOW Manchester, Festivals for 2024 include WOW Girls Festival, WOW Pakistan, WOW Istanbul, WOW Athens and WOW Rotherham.


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