Where it all started

Freedom Festival began in 2007 as part of the bicentennial commemorations of the first anti-slavery act in parliament in 1807 and as a way of celebrating one of the city’s most important politicians and his work within the abolitionist movement, William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce was a politician and native of Kingston upon Hull. As leader of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, Wilberforce campaigned for almost 20 years to end the operations of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Britain, in the face of strong opposition from those who stood to benefit from its continuation. Despite several failed attempts to get the Bill passed, it finally passed on 25 March 1807, ending Britain's involvement in the slave trade.

We understand how important Wilberforce's campaigning was in ending slavery, but the work to ensure freedom for everyone is ongoing. Slavery still exists in many forms all around the world today. Here at Freedom Festival we don't shy away from approaching difficult topics to ensure the fight is not forgotten, and that people's voices are given the platform to be heard.

What does freedom mean now?

The concept of freedom is deeply embedded in everything we do at Freedom Festival. Today our work incorporates not only freedom from slavery, but much more beyond that, tackling many different types of injustice all around the world. It's important to us to give voice to often unheard communities and minorities in creative projects that highlight issues of social justice. We are always exploring what barriers there are to freedom and how to break these down.

How we tackle it

Our festivals are rooted in Hull and themes close to the heart of the city echo through everything we do. We work with cultural organisations in the UK and beyond to curate and commission projects which can be linked back to Hull's identity, that carry themes which can be integrated into our communities through participatory work, and can engage, delight and inspire an audience.

We believe the arts should be accessible. Everyone should be able to experience world-class art and take part in memorable cultural experiences. We work with our core funding partners, corporate, and creative partners, to ensure we can offer predominantly free festivals and projects for all to attend.