What Women Want

SOH's Ann Mossop on what makes a good talking point and why starting the conversation is half the battle

AAW 2015 images Prudence Upton 041
Photography by Prudence Upton 


Most women will take any excuse for an extended chat and the All About Women festival encourages just that.

Now in its fourth year, the female-focused festival points the cultural compass to issues both for and about modern women, with a series of talks presented by inspirational (and inspired) guests.

“The aim of All About Women is to showcase women speakers and ideas that matter to women,” the event’s co-curator, Ann Mossop explains. “It’s an opportunity for women’s voices to be heard across a whole range of diverse topics but also to have some discussions about things that really matter to women in contemporary Australia.”

Numbers are expected to surpass the 10,000 that attended in 2015, owing to a renewed interest in the discussion of women’s issues in the public arena.

“We really noticed this when we did an event in 2012 which was kind of the precursor to All About Women,” says Ann, who also holds the role of Head of Talks and Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. “We just saw that there was a huge interest – women really wanted to come, they wanted to talk about things and they were doing so with real excitement so we felt that there was a real passion about this.”

The range of experiential and cultural backgrounds ensures a broad stroke of female (and male) perspectives. This year’s line-up includes speakers as prominent as filmmaker, artist and author Miranda July and Orange is the New Black writer Piper Kerman but also those as diverse as North Korean defector Hyeonseo Lee who will discuss her escape from the oppressive regime and Canadian Crystal Lameman and Australian Amelia Telford who will be part of a dialogue focusing on the shared Indigenous experiences the two Commonwealth countries.

“We’re really looking for ideas that are relevant now and also looking for speakers that we think our audience really want to hear from,” Ann explains of their speaker selection process. “It’s a mixture of ideas but also stories [and] particular things that individual women want to talk about. We keep it quite broad and fluid in that way.”

This selection method has certainly proved successful thus far: the appearance of tireless anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty at last year’s festival stands as an exemplary example of the types of powerful and meaningful conversations that begin when women have the opportunity to gather and talk.

“She started a conversation that I really think is continuing,” Ann notes.

This year, conversation catalysts will also come in the form of Ann’s most personally anticipated speaker, the Former Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department under Hilary Clinton, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who will tackle the eternal female conundrum of ‘having it all’, as well Mexican-American journalist Jennifer Clement on the stolen generations of Mexican women and several other speakers from across the literary, medical and academic world.

“What we’re doing here is being part of a conversation, we’re launching some ideas onto the public, we’re providing a focal point for women to get together and talk about these things,” Ann explains. “Those people who are in the audience and those who come as speakers take those ideas into a whole lot of arenas and then, they will act on them.”


The All About Women festival program for 2016 at Sydney Opera House has just been launched! Don’t miss out on talks, panels and performances that delve into the heart of ideas that matter and explore the experiences and voices of fascinating women.

Collective Hub members, click here to gain priority access to All About Women multipacks before they go on sale to the public on Monday 7th December

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