Women of the World Festival: The Women’s Room work-in-progress list

susanne lacey from the guardian

Suzanne Lacy, image from The Guardian

To celebrate the Southbank’s WOW -Women Of The World Festival 2013, happening all weekend at the Southbank and of course International Women’s Day, I have put together a list of women we’ve come across who have inspired Jane and I this year. It has been difficult to pick and indeed give me another hour and it might look different again, so think of it as a work in progress.

It would be interesting to know who’s inspired you this year, too. Let us know in the comments below.

The list, in no order at all…..

Suzanne Lacy (above)

I was knocked out by the artist Suzanne Lacy when we got involved in her Silver Action performance artwork this year. She is slight, elegant and fiercely determined to keep the spirit of female activism alive through her work, which brings together of women of 60plus to talk about activism and inspire a new generation of women. She certainly inspired me. Top marks to her for shouting loudly that 60plus women have important stories to tell about their experiences that we can still learn from today.

cilla snowballCilla Snowball CBE

Fess-ing up here, Cilla is a mate and it took me a while to realise that she was someone other than Rosie, Fred and Albert’s mum. I didn’t realise she was one of the most important women in advertising, she’s number 35 on the Women’s Hour Power List of 2013 (just above Claire Balding, THAT important…)

When I told her she was on my list she said the nice thing about our friendship was that it started with us being mums and her ability to combine being a proper hands on mum and still be a successful business women might be her most inspiring trait. She’d never say it was easy but she shows it can be done without turning into a macho-maniac. She is also my only friend who has a CBE which is very inspiring, even if she ignored my advice on what to buy for the Palace Visit (nude courts, hate em!)

camilla-batmanghelidjh-from-kids-compamy-609x430Camila Batmanghelidjh

Head of the charity Kids Company and all round awesome female, I have never met anyone who inspired such hope in human nature as Camila. The work she does with kids that fall through the (increasingly wider) gaps in care systems, social services and society in general has saved thousands of kids from hopelessness. If you compare any of our MPs with decision making power to Camila, they look laughably inadequate at understanding the real problems in urban environments. if The Women’s Room was in charge, Camila would be Prime Minister. Also she dresses in a wickedly exotic, colour-bomb-them-into-listening-to-me way.

drapers daily blog hadleyHadley Freeman

I think Hadley might be the new face of fashion and feminism for me. As a journalist on The Guardian, she has morphed from being a fashion-girl to an informed watcher of how women are perceived in the media. I know we all love Caitlin Moran, who has shaken the nits from the heads of right-on feminism and there’s the fabulously modern Grace Dent, both of whom make me laugh like a drain, but there’s something about Hadley’s quiet and sensible way of pointing out the darn obvious that makes me search out her weekly column. Watch out for her book coming out soon too.

patti smith by edward mapplethorpe

Image by Edward Mapplethorpe

Patti Smith

Because she’s all round awesome, wrote one of my favourite book Just Kids, and still wears braids in her hair at what ever age she is now (who cares?).

elizabeth price

image ukreuters.com

Elizabeth Price

This year’s Turner Prize winner. I listened to her talk about her art in the most articulate fashion at one of the Tate’s Turner Prize Artist Talks series, just before she won. What ever you think of her video installation art, she is an inspiration for keeping going and believing in yourself. Despite what The X Factor might say, overnight success is a long, hard road where you often think ‘what AM I doing here?’ many times before anyone say’s you are good, according to Elizabeth. And she kicked ass in her acceptance speech about the importance of arts in education.

jane shp from whistles image from coutts

image via coutts.com

Jane Sheperdson

CEO of Whistles and one of the main reasons Topshop is as cool and successful as it is today, even though she left in 2007 (and despite what Sir PG might say), Jane and her team have turned Whistles into a place to buy brilliantly delightful clothes. It took her a while to get Whistles right but every season it’s got that little bit better and summer 2013 has already got me planning my spend from the newly design website while Jane has ben in raptures about autumn 2013 . Younger women I know in the industry all hold her up as their inspiration, she’s who they all aspire to be.

grace coddingtom image from theguardianGrace Coddington

When Jane and I met Grace at her Brown’s book signing recently, we were so star struck the only question we could garble out was ‘Where do you get your hair done?’ (in defence, it did look awesome). Grace is an inspiration for anyone who just wants to do what they do well. She was a hard working, slogging-suitcases-around-the-globe stylist on Vogue (British and US) a long, long time before she became famous through The September Issue. She’s old-school and still working in her 70s. No, she’s BLOSSOMING in her 70s. And she can draw fabulous little cartoons, it’s almost not fair. Inspiring or what?

kim winserKim WInser

A very late entry (I have only just finished my interview with her as I write this) but an inspiring one. After decades in the fashion industry working for companies such as M&S, Aquascutum and Pringle,  Kim has just launched her own range of clothes for women that look so suited to what grown up women want, you wonder what’s taken so long. With the WInser range she is mining all her industry experience and seems to have cracked stylish, trend-less clothes for women. It might be early days to be being so optimistic, but I really hope she makes it work. Look out for our interview with Kim soon.

Who’s been inspiring you recently?



  • MB says:

    Sorry, maybe not completely on point, but can’t believe how plugged in I think I am on twitter etc the I missed the WOW Festival. Def want to go next year,

    Great list though!


  • Jane says:

    Next year, we are going to promotoe it ahead of time as I feel exactly the same.

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