Jude Kelly: 'This isn't about pointing fingers at men. It's about institutions'

 

I got a lot of signals when I was starting out that being a female theatre director wasn't going to be easy It was a constant theme in the 1970s: there were no role models, just a feeling of having to prove to critics and employers that a play would be in just as good hands with a woman as it would with a man. The conversation about equality between the sexes is one that still needs to be had vigorously and positively, and it's why I set up the Women of the World festival – to acknowledge that women are doing extraordinary things, and to look at how to release even more of that potential.

We need to solve the attitude that asks whether women can represent the world – or only other women Recently a group of teens were given a set of books, but not the authors' names. The boys and girls came up with their favourites together; the girls loved that those books were by women, but the boys admitted that were they left to their own devices, they'd never pick up a book by a woman, as it would be about "women's things". If I think I can learn from Victor Hugo, I want a boy to think he can learn from Jane Austen.

We have come a long way in improving gender equality but if you let it slow down and accept the situation as it is, you're detaching yourself from what younger women, women in the Middle East and on the African continent are trying to do.

This isn't about pointing fingers at men It's about institutions. More or less any historical play you see reiterates the story that history belongs to men, and male actors tell that history. And that tells young girls they don't have a role in history. Getting out from underneath this centuries-long sense that women don't play a central place in life is very tricky.

Can you be a feminist and vajazzle? It's a debate we'll have at the festival. I think you can decorate your body, play with your sexuality, do all sorts of things and be a feminist, as long as you don't think it is because women's only role is to be decorative and sexually attractive.

Of all the actors I directed, I most loved Ian McKellen as he is so curious about what he can investigate in a role. I also love Clare Higgins, as she is so unafraid [to explore characters]. There is a whole range of sensational older actresses: Brenda Blethyn, Harriet Walter, Janet McTeer, obviously Judi Dench, Zoë Wanamaker... They should all be doing more, in my book.

I still have great ambitions for Southbank Not many people realise its capacity – it's spread across 21 acres of land – and I'd like to hold festivals there all day, every day. The Imagine festival [which ran last month] is basically a two-week invasion by children – and there's no reason why there couldn't be a continual presence of young children, and artists from around the world.

Jude Kelly OBE, 57, is a renowned theatre director and has been artistic director of the Southbank Centre since 2005. In 2011 she set up WOW – Women of the World, a festival that returns to Southbank, London SE1 (southbankcentre.co.uk/wow), from Wednesday to 11 March

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power