Women of the World Festival – Review – Hull City Hall
By Roger Crow, March 2017
I don’t know what to expect from Hull’s inaugural hosting of Women of the World Festival. In truth I’m just at the City Hall to see Lucy Beaumont and Maureen Lipman perform a reading of an episode of Lucy’s Radio 4 sitcom To Hull and Back. Anything else is a bonus.
However, as I know how much hard work went into organising the weekend’s events, it’s fascinating to see the months of planning come together. Like many I’d never heard of powerhouse boxer Barbara Buttrick until she was featured on the news earlier in the week, so when I see her being led to her seat by another woman, I can’t take my eyes off the veteran pugilist who hails from Hull and now lives in Miami.
Long before Team GB’s Nicola Adams wowed everyone, Ms Buttrick had proved a force to be reckoned with in the boxing ring. The woman showing her to her seat turns out to be actress Maxine Peake, breathtaking in person, and not the only person to take the breath away this evening.
“WOW is one event that lives up to its name”
Following Lucy and company’s superb reading, complete with foley artist for door knocks, footsteps and the like, and Red Dwarf’s sublimely understated Norman Lovett, there’s a speech from John Prescott and Councillor Mary Glew, the announcement of a cream-coloured plaque in aid of pianist, composer, conductor and music educator Ethel Leginska.
And then one of the highlights of this or any other night. Classical all-female quartet Bond are aptly named. They look like they’ve stepped off the set of the latest 007 epic, especially Hull’s own mesmerising cello player Gay-Yee Westerhoff. She’d be perfect for a remake of The Living Daylights, 30 years after the last James Bond, cello-centric epic wowed the masses. A niche plot admittedly, but one worth revisiting.
Events like this either succeed or fail on the strength of those linking the eclectic attractions, and City of Culture CEO Martin Green and poet Kate Fox’s off-script banter make them a delight. They compare themselves to Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox (presenters at the worst Brit Awards ever), but in a perfect world they’d have their own show.
Though I only catch the opening night’s events, it reminds me how lucky I am to have this wealth of events around 30 minutes from my front door. We’re already a quarter of the way through the City of Culture’s offerings, and over the past three months I’ve seen some stunning gigs, from the mainstream appeal of John Williams’ work, to the avant garde sound of Basil Kirchin, and Jimmy Carr bringing the house down with an outstanding stand-up set. All under the same roof.
WOW is just as entertaining and definitely one event that lives up to its name.