Preview: Women of the World

Preview: Women of the World (WoW) Festival. Southbank Centre, Friday 11th to Sunday 13th March. Preview by Sarah Ellen Hughes.

WoW, is a new festival launching this March at the Southbank Centre. The Southbank Centre say it is “a pioneering, groundbreaking annual festival,” and “a joyous celebration of the formidable strength and inventiveness of women”. Music and Literature complete the majority of events, with a small focus on film and debate. Artists like Annie Lennox, Paloma Faith, Sandi Toksvig and The Boxettes head up events that range from comedy and poetry, to folk, hip-hop and jazz.

The jazz element is provided by Ayana Witter-Johnson, ESKA and Jumoké Fashola.

Ayana Witter-Johnson
A former Emerging Artist in Residence at the Southbank, singer-cellist Ayanna combines the gorgeous timbre of the cello with her unique song-writing ability – a mixture of R&B and pop, with subjects ranging from muddy puddles to escalators – and jazz-influenced voice.

Currently a resident in New York, Ayanna recently won the world-renowned Amateur Night Live at the Harlem Apollo, previous winners of which include Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald.

Ayanna plays the Purcell Room on Sunday 13th March. The show starts at 8:30 and tickets start at £12.50.

Jumoké Fashola
As well as being an acclaimed singer, Jumoké is first and foremost an award-winning radio and television broadcaster. In 2005 she was names ‘Religious Broadcaster of the Year,’ and broadcast live from the 2010 BritFest at Ronnie Scott’s. Jumoké has performed in every genre of singing perceivable, including solos in Handel’s Messiah and The Wizard of Oz. Jumoké’s rich and mellow voice has a clear influence of gospel and a hint of the blues.

Jumoké plays the Foyer Bar, sharing the stage with poet Hollie McNish, on Friday 11th March. This is a free event and starts at 1pm.

For me, this will be the outstanding event of the music series. ESKA is a massively versatile singer, with the ability to belt out the high notes with thrilling passion one minute and whisper a heart-breaking phrase the next. Her new solo project “English Skies” will be showcased during this series. This folk-influenced brand of ESKA has her playing the violin alongside Matthew Herbert, showcasing every inch of her hypnotic voice. “English Skies” is the latest stop on a journey of self-discovery – after years of singing jazz, blues, soul and all other genres demanded of her, ESKA has finally settled on something personal: After appearing on hundreds of songs over the years, ESKA’s upcoming album will be her first time working solo. ESKA recently told

“It took a big effort to let myself find me. Some may have found themselves at a young age, but for me I’ve had to face a lot of fears. I really had to learn how to be ESKA.”

In my opinion, it has been worth the wait.

ESKA plays The Clore Ballroom on Friday 11th March. This free event starts at 5:30pm.

Visit the Southbank website for more information on the WoW Festival.

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