Ladies, and a smattering of very brave gentlemen, welcome to Clarence House on this aptly timed International Women's Day. The Women of the World Festival is an astonishing creation. The brain child of Jude Kelly, it is now in its eighth year with many splendid events held at the Southbank as well as others presented across three different continents. Indeed, in 2012, I was delighted to help launch WOW Australia at Government House in Sydney, and I shall be returning there for the Commonwealth Games at the end of this month where I hope I shall be seeing it in action again.
This year, WOW will take place in 53 countries across the world. It truly is a global festival dedicated to presenting work by women and promoting equality for women and girls. It was a huge honour to be asked to be its President in 2015 although I defy anyone who has met Jude Kelly to ever say no to her.
For the past 12 years Jude has been the artistic director at the Southbank but in May of this year she will depart to promote WOW full time. Jude, thank you for all you do. Your energy is boundless. And I suspect that any country which does not already have a WOW festival had better get ready to stage one.
But before I pass the baton to the maestro herself, could we all give Jude a huge round of applause.