Jude Kelly CBE leaves Southbank Centre to focus on Women of the World festival

Jude Kelly CBE will leave Southbank Centre in May after 12 years as Creative Director to focus on the global development of Women of the World festival.

Forming a core artistic team of some of the most respected programmers and curators in the UK, Jude oversaw an eclectic and diverse programme including a range of regular annual festivals. As part of this one of Jude’s most significant achievements has been the founding, in 2010, of the WOW – Women of the World festivals, which have now become a global movement. To date, there have been over 42 WOW’s in 23 countries across six continents. WOW celebrates the history and potential of girls and women in all fields of life and highlights the obstacles that prevent gender equality from being achieved.

Jude will present WOW worldwide via a new organisation she is launching. The WOW festival in London will continue to be presented in partnership with Southbank Centre.

Southbank Centre's WOW – Women of the World festival is a global festival movement launched by Jude Kelly CBE in London in 2010, followed by the first festival in March 2011, that celebrates women and girls and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential. Each festival across the world – made up of talks, debates, music, activism, mentoring, pop ups and performance – celebrates women and girls, takes a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, and raises awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. Speakers have included Malala Yousafzai, Christine Lagarde, Salma Hayek, Annie Lennox, Gordon Brown, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart and many more including hundreds of women and men who don’t have public profiles but are working everyday to achieve gender equality.

Over 480,000 visited Southbank Centre during WOW London 2017 and thousands more have come to WOW s across the world including WOW Karachi, WOW Apollo in New York, WOW Kathmandu, WOW Ake in Nigeria, WOW Baltimore, WOW Bradford, WOW Brisbane, WOW Derry-Londonderry, WOW Katherine and more. Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall has been President of WOW since 2015.

Jude was awarded a CBE in 2015 for services to the arts and has received 17 honorary doctorates in recognition of her work around cultural access. She was also bestowed the title of Knighthood of the Order of Dannebrog by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark for promoting Danish culture via the recent Nordic Matters festival.

Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said:

“It is difficult to imagine a more stimulating and enjoyable time than the 12 years I’ve spent at Southbank Centre and I shall miss it terribly. With the Centre in excellent hands, now is the perfect time for me to move on. In seven years WOW – Women of the World has grown from a single SouthbankCentre festival to a significant presence on six continents and is now both intensely challenging and rewarding, with a terrific future ahead. As well as turning WOW into a global movement I shall be developing new artistic projects that arise from the core WOW idea. It is a very exciting time!”

Susan Gilchrist , Chair of Southbank Centre’s Board of Governors, said:

“Under Jude’s artistic leadership, Southbank Centre has flourished as an open and welcoming centre of arts and culture for everyone. I and the Board would like to thank Jude for her hard work, dedication and energy and wish her every success in the future. We are delighted that with the ongoing presentation of WOW at Southbank Centre, we retain a close link with Jude and her work in developing this important festival.”

Image taken from WOW Women of the World festival website



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