LONDON - The world of music, theatre, politics, dance, and film collided on stage ahead of One Billion Rising next week, an international call for action against violence towards women.
Dubbed as London Rising, the show was directed by seasoned stage actress Monique Wilson, who is an active member of the campaign both in the UK and the Philippines.
Speaking to ABS-CBN Europe at the event, she explained: “I wanted to conceptualize a theatrical dance party, an event where people feel that they can really dance, let go and express themselves. And feel in solidarity with all the men and women who are here supporting the cause. But also I wanted to put a lot of heart into it, and a lot of the context of why we are rising.”
Hundreds of fans and supporters packed the trendy Cafe de Paris at the heart of London’s West End to join the event, which featured performances from Hollywood actress Thandie Newton, Grammy-winner Anoushka Shankar, and award-winning writer Eve Ensler, among other talented artists.
Newton, best known for her roles in ‘Mission Impossible II’ and ‘Crash’, delivered a rousing new monologue by Ensler called “Over It”, which includes graphic descriptions of violations against women.
On supporting the cause, she told ABS-CBN News: “It’s part of my life. It’s like breathing now. Once you know about the plight of fellow human beings and there’s something you can do, it’s a joy and a vocation that keeps me up at night.”
The critically-acclaimed British actress is also on the board of V-Day, an ongoing campaign for the rights of women spearheaded by Ensler, acting as an ambassador to raise awareness of the issues facing women around the world.
“One in every three women will suffer abuse in their lifetime. Once you know that, you want to do something about it. You want to look around in your own community. Suddenly you’re more aware of it, you’re more aware of the stories in the newspaper. You just look at the world in a different way and you want to improve the world for your children and for your children’s children,” she explained.
Shankar, a sitar player, composer and leading figure in world music, performed new tracks from her upcoming album, including an emotive track called “Rise”.
“I’ve had enough. It’s just time that everyone has to stand together and say that violence against women has to stop. It affects everyone on the planet because it’s affecting one in every three women in the world, so it’s affecting men and women and we need to change things,” she said.
She also urged people to speak out about violence, saying: It’s one of those things that we need to not stay quiet about. If you know something or have a story to tell, tell it because it gives it courage to somebody else. Educate your children, raise good men, and let’s just hope and pray for a better future.”
British MP Stella Creasy of Walthamstow also supported the event, delivering a passionate speech on the upcoming Parliamentary debate on a bill that aims to educate young people about sex and relationships.
“We don't have to accept that violence against women is part and parcel of life. We can change these things. That’s why we’re voting in parliament next week so make sure that sex and relationship education is mandatory for all young people, so that we start changing ideas and changing cultures about what is acceptable in a relationship,” she explained.
Filipino artists also joined the line-up, including UK-based dance troupe Lahing Kayumanggi, delivering a delicate performance of a Filipino folk dance.
“This is close to our heart because Lahing Kayumanggi has a lot of women dancers, and to support such a cause is a really big deal,” said Goyit Landicho, a dancer from the group.
Ensler, special guest and founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising, graced the event as part of her world tour for the campaign, where she performed a monologue written specifically for the campaign, entitled “Rising.”
“You must stand up and be counted. You must get involved. You must dance and rise on February 14th. Because your voice counts and your engagement matters, because we need to be together collectively to make that change happen, to make violence against women and girls end,” said Wilson, who was thrilled at the success of show.
From the UK to the Philippines, 13,000 organizations from 190 countries are rising up for the global campaign to end violence against women.
In London, dozens of sites will be occupied, including famous landmarks like Piccadilly Circus and the London Eye.
In the Philippines, campaigners will flood the streets of Manila, alongside many other sites across the country, from Baguio to General Santos City.
One Billion Rising takes place worldwide on February 14.