The Apollo Theater will gather artists, activists, and leaders from around the globe for the return of the WOW – Women of the World Festival, a four-day festival presented in collaboration with the Southbank Centre London on May 4-7, 2017. Founded in 2010 by Southbank’s Artistic Director Jude Kelly and originating at Southbank Centre, London, the international festival celebrates women and girls and promotes gender equity. The Festival made its New York premiere at the Apollo in 2015. This year will feature a unique mix of performances, discussions and workshops celebrating the work of women from diverse backgrounds and exploring a variety of issues across cultural, civic, and social boundaries with a focus on empowerment and activism. Part of the institution’s current artistic season, the WOW Festival extends the Apollo’s role as a cultural and civic anchor dedicated to providing forums for meaningful discussion and exchange. Since its premiere in 2011, WOW has grown into a global movement with 20 Festivals over five continents.
“We are so honored to unite these powerful voices for the second Women of the World Festival here at the Apollo, and celebrate women from all parts of the globe who impact the world through their groundbreaking achievements and dynamic leadership,” said Kamilah Forbes, Executive Producer of the Apollo Theater. “Throughout our 83-year legacy, we continuously look for ways to celebrate and extend the Apollo Theater’s global influence on creativity. It’s important that we also provide platforms that nurture and advance women’s leadership through the arts, and provide a springboard here in Harlem for artists and leaders from the United States and internationally to discuss issues critical to our community in New York.”
Highlights of the Apollo 2017 WOW Festival include: a tribute to civil rights activist and legendary songstress Abbey Lincoln in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, featuring powerhouse jazz vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Esperanza Spalding under the musical direction of GRAMMY Award-winning composer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington; WOW Teen Summit produced by the Apollo Theater’s Young Producer’s Club, which explores topics from self-esteem and body politics to teen activism, featuring a talk by Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe – presented in partnership with the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature ; a keynote conversation with the organizers of the Women’s March, Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory; a WOW Bite talk by former WWE Wrestler, AJ Mendez Brooks; and special reading of speeches to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage in New York State. The Festival will also cover discussions on women in politics, immigration rights, islamophobia and what it means to be a feminist in the 21st Century.
In addition, the weekend will feature an evening of powerful storytelling with The Moth, an innovative arts organization dedicated to the art of storytelling and celebrating the diversity and commonality of the human experience through narrative. Since its inception in 1997, The Moth has developed a large cult following and presented over 20,000 stories to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. Each week, the Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour is heard on over 450 radio stations worldwide, while garnering 44 million podcast downloads yearly. The Moth Mainstage features true, personal stories by luminaries in the arts and sciences, as well as an astronaut, an undertaker, a voodoo priestess and a retired NYPD detective, among many others. Each show features five carefully selected storytellers who develop and shape their stories with The Moth’s directors.
Southbank Centre Artistic Director, and founder of WOW, Jude Kelly CBE, said “WOW is a unique global movement, the largest single community of women in the world, and we’re looking forward to bringing the WOW phenomenon to the Apollo Theater again. Women’s stories of triumph, tragedy, progress or setback are a crucial source of knowledge and by connecting women’s voices from all backgrounds, we can make new solutions together. In using all our creativity to support each other, we can find the courage to move beyond our own circles and learn how other women face challenges different from our own. WOW celebrates and learns from diversity of all kinds – and welcomes everyone to be part of this global movement for change.”
The Festival schedule will also include special presentations of Apollo Signature Programs (Live Wire, Apollo Comedy Club, Apollo Music Café, and Apollo Uptown Hall) among other sessions and workshops.