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Maxine Peake and Sandi Toksvig on bill for virtual Women Of The World festival

Maxine Peake and Sandi Toksvig (PA)
Maxine Peake and Sandi Toksvig (PA)

Maxine Peake, Sandi Toksvig and Julia Gillard are among the high-profile figures in the line-up for a virtual version of the Women Of The World (WOW) Festival.

The digital festival, on May 16 and 17, will be part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine programming and will feature talks, classes and a feminist quiz.

Former Australian prime minister Gillard will be interviewed by The WOW Foundation’s founder and director Jude Kelly, while TV star Toksvig, actress Peake and Don’t Touch My Hair author Emma Dabiri will shine a light on their favourite women from history whose stories have been silenced.

WE Day UK 2020 – London
Julia Gillard (Ian West/PA)

There will also be a debate on Chore Wars – the balance and divide of domestic tasks and childcare between genders in lockdown – a session with Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of domestic violence charity SafeLives, and a discussion about women and money during the coronavirus crisis.

Disability activists The Triple Cripples will also take part to discuss what it means to be black disabled women, and Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake will take part in a panel discussion examining how to raise sons to contribute to a gender-equal world.

Both days of the festival will begin with live morning stretches, led by basketball player Asma Elbadawi on Saturday and bodybuilder Nia Ceidiog on Sunday.

Kelly said: “At this time, when we are isolated from one another, the connections and conversations that WOW ignites are more important than ever.

“Amongst all the gravity and seriousness of the issues the WOW Festivals explore, they are also a place of warmth, inclusiveness and fun; places that are filled not just with serious intent but also with energetic spontaneous encounters, human connection, adventure, levity of spirit, and laughter.

“We will work with BBC Arts to replicate this experience online to bring people across the world together.”

Lamia Dabboussy, executive editor of BBC Arts, said: “BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine is all about working together with fantastic partners like WOW to ensure arts and culture in the UK remains open and accessible – continuing to provide inspiration to us all.

“And I can’t imagine a better way to spend a lockdown weekend than at a virtual WOW – Women of the World Festival on the BBC.

“The hugely ambitious programme responds to some of the most important global issues today whilst also providing a bit of a practical guide to surviving lockdown. It’s truly a cultural festival for now.”

– The festival will be available to watch and take part in at

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