Mel B and Jordan Stephens to headline Factory International’s first ever Women of the World festival

The festival will take place at Aviva Studios in May

By Ben Arnold | 20 March 2024

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Factory International has revealed the line-up for its first ever Women of the World festival, set to take place at Aviva Studios in May.

WOW will boast appearances from the likes of Mel B, Sandi Toksvig, Maxine Peake, activist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, DJ Paulette, author Chimene Suleyman and musician and actor Jordan Stephens.

From 24 to 26 May, the event will take over the purpose-built arts space with talks and Q&A sessions, taking in subjects from reproductive justice and menopause myths to masculinity and Manchester’s music scene.

Mel B will be joined by journalist Louise Gannon on the Friday evening, marking the release of her memoir Brutally Honest, speaking about her experiences of worldwide fame with the Spice Girls and being a survivor of abuse.

The Saturday evening headline event will see broadcaster and comedian Sandi Toksvig joined by long-time friend Jude Kelly CBE, founder of the WOW Foundation, to discuss life, work and the power and importance of female friendship.

Sunday will close the festival with an in-conversation with actor and musician Jordan Stephens, who’ll discuss how his relationships with women, men and masculinity has changed.

Jordan Stephens

Elsewhere, DJ Paulette will explore the city’s music scene and gentrification, and Maxine Peake will join a session on the arts, and what the future looks like for the creative industries.

This will be the 14th WOW festival, and the first to happen in Manchester, with other events taking place in Pakistan, Istanbul, Athens and Kathmandu this year.

Jude Kelly CBE said: “For our first festival in the Northwest we’re thrilled to be joined at the iconic Aviva Studios by such an inspirational group of friends – old and new – artists, activists, thinkers, speakers who are doing wonderful things both on the ground in Manchester and right across the globe. 

“Together with our partner, Factory International, WOW Manchester will provide a space for everyone to come together in celebration of the rich diversity of stories across the region, to create community, hold frank and determined conversations, and explore meaningful solutions as we continue to work together to achieve a gender equal world.”

John McGrath, artistic director and chief executive of Factory International said: “It’s been a joy to collaborate with WOW and people from across Greater Manchester to shape the WOW programme, continuing Factory International’s co-curation work with schools and residents. 

“As a long-term admirer of WOW festival, I’m delighted that our different spaces at Aviva Studios will be taken over by the energy, ambition and imagination of this extraordinary event. I look forward to many moments of inspiration as some of the most dynamic speakers from the region and across the globe, share their wisdom, experience and vision.”

You can find out more and buy tickets here…

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