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Joan Burnett: 'Activism takes all shapes and forms' for WoWFEST19

Joan Burnett, who has worked with a number of local arts and cultural organisations including FACT talks to us about the importance on putting LGBT+ events around the city. For WoWFEST19, our theme is 'Where are We Now?' and events include: 

4th May @ Video Odyssey 6pm - Riyadh Khalaf: Yay! You're Gay! Now what? 
7th May @ Radisson Blu Hotel 7.30pm - Munroe Bergdorf in conversation with Lady Phyll 
15th May @ LEAF 7.30pm - Queer are we now? Peter Tatchell and Cheryl Martin 

Activism takes all shapes and forms, so WoWFEST have brought some of the most vital LGBT+ activists to Liverpool for this year's festival. Both intersectional and intergenerational, in just three events, you can listen to and join in direct debate, listen and be heard. It's a dream to have Lady Phyll here in the city, the founder of UK Black Pride, which should be a template for inclusivity in all Prides, and this years' Grand Marshall for World Pride 2019 in New York. Campaigner, columnist and trade unionist, she's inspirational and has great advice about self-care - essential for surviving the demands of life in this age of gobby attention-seekers wreaking havoc all around us.

Munroe Bergdorf and Riyadh Khalaf represent a new generation of activists challenging lazy perceptions of what LGBT+ life might be. They're using their on-line expertise to enliven print media and TV, to shake up the political arena with their unswerving gaze on what's really going on. Yay, You're Gay, Now What? comes at a time when there has never been more visibility for gay men, but when that exposure isn't always positive, what does that mean for young people coming out and where can they turn? Munroe has been subjected to "word hatred", in Jude Kelly's phrase, for her principled stand on Trans rights. She has spoken powerfully about the relations between Trans and Cis-gendered women and it will be fascinating to see her in conversation with Lady Phyll - I sense we'll all take away an invaluable recipe for resilience. 

Cheryl Martin brought new inspiration for 2018's iteration of Homotopia here in Liverpool and it falls to her and Peter Tatchell to explore the 50 years of activism since the Stonewall Riots kicked off the gay liberation movement. Queer Are We Now? will pull no punches - Peter has put his life on the line to promote LGBT+ rights across the world for a life time and Cheryl, director, playwright, poet and performer, explores subjects as far ranging as colonialism and mental health in her work with searing honesty and warm wit. I can't think of two better people to take that 50 years anniversary and do something positive with it, standing witness to where we are now, making this history meaningful for a new generation. 
Change is in the air. All that is solid, like the icecaps, is melting into air. Things fall apart - can the centre hold? The rich are getting richer, but otherwise uncertainty is the order of the day; Brexit, climate change, class, feminism, gender, race, populism, fake news, digital surveillance, and more, much more, are changing and challenging all our old conceptions. The stage is now set for WoWFest19 to seek answers to the question... WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Go to www.wowfest.uk to see the full programme with over 60 events taking place all over Liverpool!  


WoWFest 2019 with Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe, Riyadh Khalaf and John Crace

Thursday 30th May
The Poly Styrene Story  

British Music Experience, Cunard Building, Canada Blvd, Liverpool L3 1DS

Poly Styrene, Punk Icon and Rebel Queen, satirised the world with a colourful playfulness setting her apart from the monochrome nihilism of punk. Her moving story is told by her daughter Celeste Bell and music writer Zoë Howe (Shine On Marquee Moon, Barbed Wire Kisses – The Jesus and Mary Chain story).

Saturday 4th May
Yay! You’re Gay!
Now What?
Video Odyssey, 37-45 Windsor St, Liverpool, L8 1XE 

Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? asks Riyadh Khalaf with his debut heartfelt guide for young queer guys.


Wednesday 8th May
The Young, Cosmopolitan City of Stories You’ve Been Missing - Tehran Now 
Toxteth Library, Windsor Street, Liverpool, L8 1XF

Join Orkideh Behrouzan,
Vahid Davar and Niloo Sharifi for
a reading and conversations about Iran's literature and culture.

Friday 10th May
The Rise And Fall

Waterstones LiverpoolONE, 12 College Ln, Liverpool L1 3DL

The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer John Crace, who coined the term
Maybot, tells the essential, hysterical tale of her first turbulent year in No 10.

Tuesday 28th May
Who Cares? Justice and Campaigning for
Human Rights
in the Care System

The Women's Organisation, 54 St James St, Liverpool L1 0AB

Join Campaigner and author Sara RyanMark Neary and Deborah Coles to discuss the desperate need for improvement in the care system. 

Wednesday 8th May
My City: Creative Writing
& Storytelling Workshop - Persian Focus

Toxteth Library, Windsor Street, Liverpool, L8 1XF

Grow your confidence, pick up some new skills in creative writing and storytelling, and learn something unexpected about the cities of Liverpool and Tehran. Feast on great stories and Persian foods. Come away with new friendships!

Liverpool Library Tour

Various Locations

Writing on the Wall will be doing a Liverpool-wide tour of events in the city's libraries as part of WoWFEST19. These will include workshops from high-profile writers, events for Children and Young People and open mic performance events.

Sunday 12th May
& Sunday 26th May

1919 Race Riots –
Centenary Walking Tour
Meeting Point: Chinese Arch, 12 Nelson Street, L1 5EW

Join us in this, the centenary year, as we walk those same streets and with the testimony of those most affected, bring this crucial piece of history back to life. 

Wednesday 29th May

Austerity and the Public Role of Drama
Friends Meeting House, 22 School Ln, Liverpool L1 3BT

Victor Merriman’s Austerity and the Public Role of Drama traces how liberal economics has led to the social catastrophe of Project Austerity


#WoWFest19 with Mike Leigh, Munroe Bergdorf, La Violette Records

Monday 13th May
Mike Leigh: Peterloo Screening and Q&A
Plaza Community Cinema, 13 Crosby Rd N, Waterloo, Liverpool L22 0LD

The 1819 massacre in St Peter’s fields, graphically brought to life in Mike Leigh’s latest epic film Peterloo, sent shockwaves throughout society. Legendary director Mike Leigh, whose credits include Abigail’s Party, Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake and Mr Turner, joins WoW for a unique screening followed by Q&A.


Tuesday 7th May 
Munroe Bergdorf in Conversation with Lady Phyll
Radisson Blu, 07 Old Hall St, Liverpool L3 9BD

Join Munroe Bergdorf (first transgender model in the UK for L'Oreal) and Lady Phyll (Co-founder of UK Black Pride) for a frank discussion on the challenges and opportunities of online activism, body image and carving out your own space. Familiar for her refreshing insight into ‘white privilege’, diversity and the LGBT+ community, model and activist Munroe Bergdorf has proven herself as a brave and bold voice. In partnership with Raddison Blu.

Friday 3rd May
La Violette Records Presents: If They Don't Read, Don't F*ck Them
Studio2 at Parr Street, 33-45 Parr St, Liverpool L1 4JN

La Violette Società presents Roy, Nathan O'Hagan, Louise Fazackerkey & Toria Garbutt. Violette Records, launched in 2013 by Michael Head (The Red Elastic Band) and friends, has won acclaim for their democratic ethos & eclectic mix of high quality music and spoken word artists. 


#WoWFest19 announcing Kerry Hudson, Helen Pankhurst and Magid Magid

Tuesday 21st May
Lowborn: Kerry Hudson Book Launch

Waterstones, Liverpool ONE, 12 College Ln, L1 3DL

Prize-winning novelist Kerry Hudson grew up in grinding poverty, moving between care home, B&Bs and council flats. LOWBORN, written 20 year later, after finding herself caught between two worlds, is Kerry’s account of revisiting the towns of her childhood to discover what being poor means in Britain’s society today.

Tuesday 7th May
What is to be done: Environment and Action
Toxteth Library, Windsor Street, L8 1XF 
To discuss the environmental crisis and our reactions to it, we bring together Fred PearceMagid MagidBeth Gardiner and Roscoe Blevins

Wednesday 29th May  
Deeds Not Words: Helen Pankhurst in Conversation 
The Women's Organisation, 54 St James St, Liverpool L1 0AB
Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of legendary Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, sharing findings from her book Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now. 

Wednesday 8th May
Calling All Magic Children: Scarlett Thomas' Worldquake
Liverpool Central Library 

Calling all magic children, have you heard of Worldquake? It’s “the most exciting debut in children’s fiction since Harry Potter!”. Join author Scarlett Thomas as we find out if we’re mages or hunters, tricksters, heroes...

Wednesday 8th May
Imagination and Inspiration: Writing for Children 
Waterstones Liverpool ONE

Award-winning writer Scarlett Thomas discusses the magic of capturing young readers’ imaginations alongside local writers Jude Lennon and Sally-Anne Tapias-Bowes.

Friday 10th May 
Out-Spoken Live
Studio 2
Dubbed “the golden standard of spoken word” by The Guardian, Out-Spoken, one of the UK’s premier nights for poetry and live music are on tour.

Wednesday 22nd May 
FACT Curator Tour
Join FACT’s Exhibitions Team to learn more about their new exhibition from Ericka Beckman and Marianna Simnett

Thursday 23rd May
I Want You to Know: A Writing Workshop for Refugees and People from Refugee Families
The Barbed Wire writing workshop is for refugees and people from refugee families to tell their own stories.

Friday 24th May
Building a New Catalonia
Friends Meeting House 
Building A New Catalonia is a remarkable statement on fighting for an anti-capitalist, socialist and feminist Catalonia.

First festival names in WoWFest19: Jo Brand, Ben Okri, Peter Tatchell

Change is in the air.  All that is solid, like the icecaps, is melting into air. Things fall apart - can the centre hold? The rich are getting richer, but otherwise uncertainty is the order of the day; Brexit, climate change, class, feminism, gender, race, populism, fake news, digital surveillance, and more, much more, are changing and challenging all our old conceptions. The stage is now set for WoWFest19 to seek answers to the question..

Tuesday 14th May 
7.30pm (Doors at 7pm)

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street, L1 9BP
Born Lippy: Jo Brand in Conversation
Sometimes it's hard to be a woman and sometimes it's time to be a hard woman.
Comedy’s finest Jo Brand gets gobby, as she brings Born Lippy, her straight-talking, darkly funny guide to life to WoWFEST ‘19. Join her in conversation with Emmerdale Brookside, Doctors and Waterloo Road actress, Eithne Browne as she discusses how to do female. Ticket Prices £23.5/£17.50 (Including Advance book order) £16/£10.

Wednesday 15th May
Queer Are We Now?: Peter Tatchell, Keynote Speech 
7.30pm (Doors at 7pm)
LEAF, 65-67 Bold Street, L1 4EZ

The Stonewall rebellion sparked the momentous gay liberation movement, one of the most important events in LGBTQIA+ history. 50 years on – as Trump turns the clock back and Chechnya systematically detains and tortures its supposed ‘non-existent’ LGBTQIA+ citizens, WoWFest19 asks Queer are we now? with a unique keynote Speech from human rights activist Peter Tatchell.  £12/£6. 


Wednesday 22nd May
An Evening with Booker Prize Winner Ben Okri
6.30pm (Doors at 6pm)
The Bluecoat, 8 School Ln, L1 3BX

Booker Prize-winning Nigerian writer, Ben Okri discusses his contribution to literature and his latest novel, The Freedom Artist; an impassioned plea for justice and a penetrating examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society. In a world uncomfortably like our own, a young woman called Amalantis is arrested for asking a question. Her question is this: Who is the Prisoner? £12/£6. 


Fri 24th & Sat 25th May
A Self-Help Guide to Being in Love with Jeremy Corbyn 
7.30pm (Doors at 7pm)

Unity Theatre, 1 Hope Pl,  L1 9BG
Following the success of her first show, Burning Books, which received five-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe and on its national tour in 2015, Jess returns with a rousing, lyrical and humorous look at modern politics; a show which received critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe and saw Jess win the BBC Poetry Slam, which led her to having a cup of tea with the man himself! £15/£10.

Thursday 23rd May

Citizens of Nowhere with Jennifer Makumbi and Dina Nayeri 
6.30pm (6pm)

The Bluecoat, School Ln, L1 3BX
How can refugees and migrants be heard in such a hostile environment; What happens after you are displaced; What does it mean to truly belong; Does the story of a refugee finish when asylum is won? Award winning authors Jennifer Makumbi and Dina Nayeri discuss migration and refuge, providing insights into resettlement, identity and community. £8/£5.

20th May
‘Crime’, Punishment & The Politics of Fear
6.30pm (Doors at 6pm)

Bluecoat, 8 School Ln, L1 3BX.  
Renowned criminologists and sociologists Tony Platt (University of California) and Phil Scraton (The Violence of Incarceration & The Hillsborough Report) discuss the social and political consequences of criminalisation, particularly mass incarceration, in a climate of fear and the responsibilities of researcher-activists to prisoners, their families, their communities and to the wider public. £12/£6. 

Wednesday 29th May 
Inside Pale Eyes: A Dream Noir Book Launch
7pm (Doors at 6.30pm)

Bluecoat, 8 School Ln, L1 3BX
Writer Dave Ward reads from his new publication Inside Pales Eyes (Hawkwood Books, 2019), a unique collection of flash fiction and observations of urban life accompanied by drawings from Bryan Biggs. Free, booking required. 7pm.


Divided Cities 
7pm (Doors at 6.30pm)

81 Renshaw, 81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool, L1 2SJ.
If you know where to look, urban landscapes can inspire journeys through the melting pots of ideas, cultures and histories built into its concrete. Writers Bahriye Kemal, Paul Scraton and Gary Budden share vivid portraits of their cities, from militarised borders to remembering divided pasts and places more imagined than real. £6/£3.

Thursday 2nd May
Common People – Class in the Margins in Writing and Publishing  
7pm (Doors at 6.30pm) 

Toxteth Library, Windsor Street, Liverpool, L8 1XF.
Almost half of all authors, writers and translators in the UK come from professional, middle-class backgrounds, compared with just ten per cent of those from a working-class background. So where are the working-class writers? The answer is right here. This exciting event brings together writers from two breakthrough anthologies, Common People (Unbound) and Know Your Place (Dead Ink). £6/£3.

Thursday 16th May
The B-Word: Where Are We Now? 
7pm (Doors at 7pm)

 LEAF, 65-67 Bold St, L1 4EZ
The B-word has haunted global headlines since June 2016 with the most unprecedented political move in modern history and it’s been swings and roundabouts ever since. Join writer James Meek, Daily Mirror Lead Feature Writer Ros Wynne-Jones, author Costas Lapavitsas and Guardian Journalist Anita Sethi to discuss what happens now. £8/£4.



World Book Day - Our Team's Picks

To celebrate World Book Day 2019, we've asked the team to share their current top reads of the year and provide a brief explanation why it's their favorite. Check out WoW's team picks below...

Alice: The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri 

This year I have loved reading The Freedom Artist by award winning writer Ben Okri. What I most loved about this book is the chapters are short, it seems like you’re in a fast paced, ever moving world, the characters’ emotions are fleeting yet profound. What happens when you live in a post truth world? What happens when artists and writers disappear from the world? The book is a mixture of Kafka, Orwell and a bit of Coelho – all things love, politics and history interweave in this harrowing yet beautiful tale. 

Katrina: I Was Somebody Before This by Kitti Jones

I have just finished reading I Was Somebody Before This by Kitti Jones. I think it’s an incredibly important book in such a powerful time while we are experiencing the #MeToo movement. Female empowerment is so crucial in this day and age, and this book highlights the hold money and power can play over someone’s life, so much so they don’t see their own family in years and shows the process of breaking that hold and becoming yourself again. I think I Was Somebody Before This is the first book in a list of many to begin exposing a sickening side to the music industry and will be pivotal in changing the way we all perceive it.

Lauren: Becoming by Michelle Obama 

My favourite book I’ve read this year is Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming a brutally honest journey from her working-class childhood in the South Side of Chicago, to the most inclusive White House America has ever known. This heartfelt, warm and witty book is an essential read showing hard work, determination and fair-mindedness. A wonderful insight into the iconic First Lady we know her as today.  

Steph: Kingdomland by Rachael Allen

“A girl, large-eyed
pressure in a ditch
grips to a dank and
disordered root system”
I’m currently reading Rachael Allen’s Kingdomland. From the first untitled poem, I was immediately taken by Allen's incredible restraint with language. I think what she’s doing with nature and environments is so impressive and important. The scenes she creates feel both familiar and disturbing, which I think tells us a lot about the vulnerability of our ecological landscapes and current situation. 

Emma: Dayglo The Poly Styrene Story by Celeste Bell and Zoë Howe

Growing up in a household where the choice was The Sex Pistols or David Essex it isn’t hard to guess which musical influences I sided with. Sat in my dad’s car I clearly remember the first time I heard ‘The Day the World Turned Day-Glo’. For my dad it may have been his proudest moment, for me, I had just heard a female voice that echoed the angst I felt, growing up in a world that didn’t fulfil my expectations. Poly Styrene’s lyrics are still as important to me today as woman as they were then with lines like ‘When you see yourself, does it make you scream?’ Day-Glo by Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell and writer Zoë Howe is an important reminder of what a pioneer Poly was and how much we still need to challenge today. 

Ciarán: Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

I’ve been rereading Scarlett Thomas’ Our Tragic Universe – it’s a really interesting novel of how a story can save a life. The main character, a writer struggling to start her passion project, is being bogged down by doing gonzo journalism features on self-help holistic books. It pulls in really beautiful discussions on quantum psychics, language, Zen stories, psychology and philosophy. At one point it can feel like a domestic drama between the main character and the people in her live, the next an accessible and intellectual debate about narrative and storytelling, the next a guide to holistic remedies and magic. 

Madeline: Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Fenton

Longlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize, Yvonne Battle- Fenton’s Remembered is reminiscent of Tony Morrison’s Beloved. Beginning with a haunting, Remembered opens in Philadelphia in 1910 where Spring, a former slave, harbours secrets that must be told for the sake of her son Edward. This is a beautifully written debut novel which attests to the importance of coming to terms with the past, no matter how painful, for progress to be made.   

Mike: When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by Fred Pearce

When the Rivers Run Dry, Water-The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by veteran scientist, environmentalist and writer Fred Pearce, finishes on a note of optimism, a notion of hope as the last to leave Pandora’s Box, but what precedes it is a devastating and chilling account of the global mismanagement of water on so many levels it is hard to comprehend, and that water, which should flow freely in every household, is a political issue that sees communities cut off and deprived of water if their neighbour upstream deems it better to divert it to irrigate their crops or supply the new towns they have built. There are tales of the water table being drained dry in many regions to supply farms and industry, which is most worrying as this is water gathered over many thousands of years, which will take lifetimes to replenish. A brilliant book, and a ground level view of why, as is the case on virtually all environmental issues, man is the problem, and the only one who can solve it.