The British Council believes that gender equality and women’s empowerment are crucial to creating inclusive, open, and prosperous societies. Empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial not only as a basic human right but also has a multiplier effect across all areas accelerating sustainable development. 

The Arts programme of British Council in Turkey is focused on diversifying audiences for the arts by working outside ‘traditional’ arts spaces and identifying and developing skills of new curatorial voices and creative entrepreneurs who champion a more inclusive and accessible arts offering at new forums. Hence, supporting female leaders and artists in culture who are explicitly working to diversify audiences is a key aspect of our programme.

Our Women and Leadership in Arts and Culture programme that has been initiated to support and work with the women creatives and civil society activists working on gender equality in Turkey, started with Women Power in Culture Research. The programme continued with the women leaders’ professional development programme in the UK, #WomenPowerinCulture grant scheme for organisations showcasing UK female artists, Festival Arena - a radio programme on gender equality at Açık Radio followed by Istanbul’s input to the digital WOW Global24 festival in June 2020 and the Women of the World Festival Istanbul to be held digitally in March 2021.

WOW - Women of the World was founded by Jude Kelly in 2010, when the first WOW Festival took place at Southbank Centre. Since then, WOW Festivals celebrating women and girls, and taking a frank look at the obstacles they face, have taken place across the globe, reaching more than two million people. To date, WOW has staged over 65 festivals and events across six continents, reaching more than two million people. As one of the global partners to WOW Festivals, the British Council is proud to present WOW Istanbul in March 2021.

WOW Istanbul will create a safe, welcoming and inclusive digital space for dialogues with a priority of initiating collaborations between women professionals in the creative sectors and the civil society. 

In support of this, we have initiated an open call for a new Grant Scheme to support showcasing of four women artists from Istanbul to present works of music and performing arts (theatre or dance) online at WOW Istanbul. 

The aims of this Grant Scheme are;

-to create opportunities for women musicians, theatre and dance makers to voice their ideas on gender equality as well as showcase their arts and talents through diverse, inclusive, and innovative programming on the digital.

-provide an opportunity for artists to connect to audiences at the time of pandemic when audiences are advised not to get into closed spaces with crowds.

-share, celebrate and broaden appreciation of the artistic excellence of women artists from Turkey. 

Banu Açıkdeniz

She was born in Istanbul in 1981. She got her BA degree in Boğaziçi Üniversitesi  Political Science and International Relations and MA in Istanbul Bilgi University Cultural Studies program. Her MA dissertation was on the question of the way traditional dances challenge nation state borders, in Turkey and Greece. She is a performer working in the fields of dance and theater. From 1999 on she had been practicing in several dance and movement genres and for the last 10 years in theater practice. She has been taking part in Kardeş Türküler project and BGST Theater as a performer and choreographer. As a movement instructor and researcher she is working on various topics within performing arts and organising workshops based on these researches. For the last two years she has been practicing on the movement discipline Axis Syllabus and recently interested in working on the gestures of daily life, the possibilities of gestures as a dance material and their connections with textuality on stage.   

Dilan Balkay


Dilan Balkay (b.1995) is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/song writer. She started to play the trumpet at the age of nine. After playing in orchestras like Şile Youth Orchestra, FilmSO, and Marmara University Symphony Orchestra she started to play with Farfara Istanbul, an ethnic music band in 2013. She sang alto in Bogazici Youth Choir, in which she took part as the chief of alto section and president of the choir, and Bogazici Jazz Choir between 2014-2017 and participated in countless of concerts, and also two international choir festivals; European Festival of Youth Choirs in Basel, Switzerland, and The European Music Festival for Young People in Neerpelt, Belgium. Since 2016, she has played for the concerts and records of Turkey’s most popular alternative musicians like Evrencan Gunduz, Dolu Kadehi Ters Tut, Ozbi, Gaye Su Akyol, Canozan, Nova Norda, Sedef Sebuktekin, Eda Baba and so on. She released four singles and many collaborations since 2019 and is currently working on her first album.

Duygu Demir

Duygu Demir started music and ballet studies at an early age. After she attended Bilkent Unversity Music and Performing Art's Faculty's High Shool with full scholarship, she studied cello with Jozsef Györffy, participated in contemporary music encounters facilitated by E.Oğuz Fırat and attended post-romantic /contemporary music analysis lessons with İlhan Baran. In 2002 she was invited by the Regional Conservatory of Perpignan, and moved to France. Studied viola da gamba with Christian Sala, harpsichord with Carol Parer, electro-acoustic music repertory with Denis Dufour and participated in improvised music and dance classes. She was a member of Christian Sala's viola da gamba consort, performing multiple concerts in Spain and France. She participated in festivals and concerts together with contemporary dancers, free music improvisers, world musicians and recorded for a number of albums by renowned musicians. She played and recorded with blues, rock, independed music groups. When she returned to Turkey and settled in Istanbul. She assumed the identity of instrumentalist-interpreter as a cellist, composer, acoustic arranger and began to work on her own musical language. In 2007 she composed the original songs for the group called Septafon, they won young jazz competition and performed at the 14. Istanbul Jazz Festival. She has qualified for Cremm Artistic Residancy and took the stage at Babel Sound Festival in Balaton (Hungary) and participated Desert Vert Festival Marrakesh, Morocco. (2019) She had honorable mention for the best score for Inside Out Terrain (Independent Short Awards) Composed original scores for the documentaries called ‘Sabah Yıldızı, Sabahattin Ali’, ‘Yüzleşme’, ‘Tipi’. She will release first solo album of her compositions for solo cello.

Ekin Tunçeli

Ekin Tunçeli is a freelance dance artist who creates contemporary dance based productions with an understanding of interdisciplinary art design, blends familiar and unusual with using individual subjects, objects and popular images. Besides being choreographer, she is a contemporary dancer, singer, actress and performer. She has graduated from Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine and has BA on Contemporary Dance from MSGSÜ State Conservatory in İstanbul. She organizes impro improvisation meetings with, a community working on interdisciplinary music projects, open to artists and disciplines from all disciplines. She worked with Beyhan Murphy, TalDans, Clement Layes, Aslı Bostancı, Gizem Aksu, Fatih Gençkal, Harriet Plewis and worked in various musicals. She is a former chorus member of Bogazici Jazz Choir, still works there as choreographer and instructor. Her solo piece “ bir şey” is selected as Aerowaves Twenty20.