Storyhouse presents: #WOW Chester

You don’t often see me out and about at 8.30am on a Saturday morning, but if you do, you can be darn sure something extraordinary is about to happen. And last Saturday’s Women of the World festival at Chester’s brand spanking new £37m theatre, cinema, arts centre and library complex definitely fits the bill.

 

I mean seriously, what a spectacular venue for leading female voices from across the region to discuss, debate and celebrate the theme of ambition and explore the paths to a gender equal world. I kinda missed the opening (yeah I know, where was I) and was looking for an excuse to pop my head in… because you can’t just go somewhere without a pre-set agenda, right? Okay, I suppose you could but since I already got my tickets this is not a conversation I had to have with myself.

 

 

Women of the World Festival (or WOW for short) is a festival that celebrates the achievements of women and girls as well as looking at the obstacles they face across the world. It seeks to inspire new generations of young women and girls. WOW travels the world, and has featured its events in, most notably, Cambridge, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, Australia, Iceland, New York, Sydney, Egypt… and now, Chester. Lucky us! We’re on an international stage now, baby.

 

They rammed the day full of eye-opening and empowering workshops, speed-mentoring sessions, panel discussions, film, exhibitions, poetry and stand-up comedy, and damn if my head wasn’t spinning looking at the program trying to fit it all in.

 

 

One of my favourite seminars cantered on smashing the glass ceiling, with some top Women in Business talking about cultural equality, diversity and how women can help lift other women. Chaired by Jo Henwood, Simone Roche, Sandra Green, Gabriella Gay and Jenny Garrett talked about the “inner glass ceiling”, how women sometimes stop themselves from succeeding and how sometimes, when we look through glass ceiling but don’t like what we see. We discussed the tiara syndrome and how we need to stop false modesty: our vaginas (or female identities) do not make us inferior nor should they stop us from claiming our space and saying “yeah, I am really fucking good at what I do. No apologies for talent, ladies.

 

 

And one of the most profound ones was where a full auditorium sat down and openly and honestly discussed childlessness, a taboo the society doesn’t seem to want to talk about.

 

Around 1 in 5 women in the UK will remain childless, through infertility, circumstance or choice and this number has been on the up since the 60s. Yet women who have difficulty conceiving, who have chosen not to have children or remain childless for other reasons, are often portrayed as selfish in a society that still holds on to the idea that women should be mothers. Because, we can’t have fulfilling lives without being mothers, right? Wrong.

 

This seminar, chaired by Dawn Llewellyn and featuring Jody Day and Lizzie Lowrie as speakers discussed childlessness through circumstance and choice, and highlighted the complex emotions of uncertainty, guilt, and shame that women can experience as they make sense of how the taboo of childlessness impacts their lives.

 

It was touching. I think people talking so openly and, ultimately, bravely, about something that is such a painful subject in so many ways really moved me. I ain’t ashamed to admit I had to wipe off a few tears at times. Suddenly, something that is so very lonely place, was shared by a roomful of people and it was really healing.

 

 

I went to #WOWchester looking for inspiration and left feeling empowered, educated and motivated to change the world.

 

Starting with myself.

 

Oh, and the Storyhouse is all kinds of alright as well.

 

  • Jessica Taylor

    This festival sounds amazing and empowering! I’d love to attend!

  • It sounds like an amazing gathering for women! I think the smashing the glass ceiling seminar would have been amazing to attend! It sounds so uplifting!

  • I wish there was more of this! I used to hate working with women but i just realized what kinds of environment that we paint ourselves. we need more inspiration like this.

  • So glad to see you had such a great time! It definitely sounds like an empowering experience, and I love that they addressed the various aspects of childlessness. This is something I’ve seen closely from several angles, and it really is a taboo thing in so many ways, with women being almost ashamed to find themselves childless – even my own daughters (they’re 13 and 8) have briefly discussed many times whether or not they want to grow up to be mothers, and I have tried each time to open a dialogue with them about how they are ALREADY complete. I tell them that they don’t need a date to go to a dance, they don’t need a husband to be seen as worthy as women, and they don’t need to have children in order to be validated as women.

    I hope they’re learning it.

    • That is is so inspiring and I’s sure they take heed – my mom taught me very similar lessons and they really hit home when I grew up. You’re a top mama bear. All the power to you. xx

  • WOW looks so empowering! I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it in my country!