WOW in Derry 2013

Southbank’s Centre Women of the World Festival (WOW) 2013 took place in Derry last weekend at The Playhouse. The festival celebrated the factory girls, community workers, health practitioners, entrepreneurs, educators, performers and those who were extremely brave to stand up and share their stories. Many such stories were motivating, funny, shocking and some enraging but all were relevant to women’s lives and women’s experiences.

I was both fortunate and unfortunate with the WOW festival. Fortunate as I got to experience a snippet on the Saturday afternoon and Saturday night and unfortunate that I could only attend such a small part of the event. Although it was only a small and partial appearance that I could make, I was big time impressed and came away feeling much taller and proud for having been able to attend!

I managed to catch a combination of two events on the Saturday lunchtime/early afternoon! Firstly I attended the Lunchtime With Literature Recital in the Playhouse Green Room and was blown away with the poetry and readings I heard there. There were recitals from Hilary McCollum, Kathryn Daily, the Pink Ladies, Jenni Doherty, Mary Murphy and Anita Robinson. It would be impossible to choose a favourite from this bunch as each was so very different and yet so inspiring in every way. These ladies read about real life experiences and told stories that most women hide away from. From illness to rape, from teenage frustration to homosexuality, this was women at the fore. The talent was endless but the reality was real. These women are real heroines and it was a very lovely feeling of pride to be a part of their shared experience.

I had hoped to catch Ursula and Co. singing in the auditorium on Saturday lunchtime also but the performance coincided with the Literature Recital. But I was extremely fortunate to hear the full performance in the background! The Green Room is fortunately next door to the auditorium and the literary audience could hear the beautiful music and singing coming through. It was almost like inspirational music in the background. Truly perfect and couldn’t have been better if it had been planned that way.

On Saturday night the Nerve Centre in Derry hosted an outstanding gig by Rokia Traoré. Rokia Traoré embodies a new outlook for African music. Rooted in the Malian musical tradition yet defying the confines of a single culture, her unique sound and liberating style has established her as Africa’s most inventive singer-songwriter. Her performance at the Nerve Centre had the Derry audience spellbound with her authentic voice and energetic musicians. It was an amazing end to a fabulous day in the city.

It was so lovely to meet and encounter so many of the women on Saturday night whom I met during the day at The Playhouse. From teenagers to the more mature, everyone was bopping to Rokia Traoré! And strangers in the morning were now friends by nightfall.

Women of the World festival celebrated in style in Derry. It showcased a lot of experiences and introduced many women to each other. It was a weekend to stand up and be proud. And Derry/Donegal women did just that!

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