The first Women of the World (WOW) Festival in Leeds is calling for women and non-binary people to play an integral role in the event
Taking place during the city’s Year of Culture, the festival will include the WOW Barn – a 24-hour project where volunteers will be tasked with constructing a barn. The structure will then be used as a temporary event space.
The project has been created to break down the barriers that remain to women and girls when contemplating a career in construction.
The 2021 Office for National Statistics census showed that only 1% of skilled trades are filled by women, up just 0.7% in 10 years. However, when asked, 23% of women and girls said they want to get involved in the construction industry.
To help demonstrate the importance of diversity and inclusion in construction, the search is now on to recruit 300 “barn raisers” to deliver the WOW Barn. Volunteers are expected to include professionals in construction, architecture, engineering, building and STEAM, as well as novices and DIY enthusiasts.
Full training will be provided in bootcamps at Leeds College of Building during March and April, culminating in the 24-hour barn raising on 30 April.
The WOW Barn is a partnership between Leeds 2023 and WOW, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), delivered in partnership with Civic Engineers and Leeds College of Building.
Jude Kelly CBE, founder and CEO of the WOW Foundation, said: “WOW provides a time and place where people can come together, to celebrate and make moves towards gender equality.
“I’m excited to see how the WOW Barn will manifest that this spring – a place built by and for the people of West Yorkshire. It’s perfect that this year we can bring WOW to Leeds for the first time – a city where I have spent a significant part of my career – at a time when the whole city is coming together to celebrate culture in its many forms.”
When the barn has been constructed, 300 people of all genders from across West Yorkshire are invited to become “dream builders”, each creating a bespoke wooden tile, conceptualised by artist Emma Hardaker, that will be used to decorate the exterior of the structure.
Over the following month, the barn will be a venue for events and activities including Leeds’ WOW Festival on 13 May and a programme of evening events (8-21 May), both in and around the structure.
Women and non-binary people interested in taking part in building the WOW Barn can register their interest at https://leeds2023.co.uk/take-part/raising-the-barn.