We Are Chester editor Angela Ferguson goes along to a planning workshop for a new festival coming to Chester next year – the Women of the World Festival – and feels pretty darn inspired.
Chester’s first ever Women of the World Festival is set to take place next May – and I think it’s fair to say that it’s going to be one humongously inspiring and empowering event.
I was invited along to the first of a series of planning workshops, called Thinkins, to find out just what topics, issues and debates and which potential guest speakers would make for a WOW Fest to remember in Chester.
The thinking behind the WOW Festival initiative is that men, women and children should gather together to celebrate women and girls and equality in all of its forms and to discuss what obstacles may be faced by women and girls in this day and age.
If previous WOW Fest events are anything to go by, then we are in for a treat, with a thought-provoking series of talks, workshops, activism, networking and discussion, alongside entertainment in the form of comedy and music. The festival is being brought to Chester by arts and cultural organisation Storyhouse.
“Who knows, maybe I’m turning into a bit of an activist in my old age.”
At the first Thinkin event, it feels rather decadent to be sitting in the imposing surroundings of Chester’s beautiful town hall, sipping coffee and discussing ideas for the WOW Fest. I am thankful that the event coincides with my day off and so I can squeeze in a bit of fascinating discussion and networking with likeminded folk before I dash off to do the school run. I hope I don’t sound too trite when I say that the workshop strengthens my resolve to pay more attention to the legacy that we leave to the next generation when it comes to equality.
Indeed, I come away from the first Thinkin event feeling like a part of something really special, that will hopefully become a regular fixture in our city and empower generations to come. As a mum of three children, including two daughters, I now feel more determined than ever that society should be striving to remove any obstacles faced by women and girls. I think, for me, it is also heartening to know that I am not alone in feeling like this and in wanting to join forces with others to make a difference. It is really rather powerful. And who knows, maybe I’m turning into a bit of an activist in my old age.
It’s also a real thrill to get to meet the team from Southbank WOW in London, who founded the festival in 2011, along with comedian and actor Sara Pascoe, who has written a book about the female body, and screenwriter and poet Molly Naylor.
Given that this will be the first time a WOW Fest has taken place in the city, the organisers at Chester arts and cultural organisation Storyhouse are determined to pack as much in as possible to the two day event and plenty of intriguing ideas are discussed.
These range from the need to boost body image confidence due to the likes of Photoshopped images being used in parts of the media to tackling issues relating to mental health. The ideas certainly flow and I don’t envy the organisers in trying to sort through them all and then cram as much as possible into one weekend.
WOW Fest Chester will take place in the city’s new cultural centre, Storyhouse, on 20 and 21 May next year.
Two more Thinkin events will take place this month. On Thursday 24 November and Friday 25 November there’ll be workshops at the Unity Centre on Cuppin Street, at 7-9pm and 10-12pm respectively. Then between 10.30am and 12.30pm on Saturday 26 November another session takes place at Whitby Hall in Ellesmere Port.
Now, how soon can I book my tickets for Chester WOW Fest? It’s already firmly marked in my diary.