A festival powered by people. Meet the people behind Freedom Festival Arts Trust.

Meet The Team

We bring thousands of people together through our annual festival and year-round artistic and creative programme of performances, installations, talent development programmes and targeted participatory work to excite, inspire, challenge, empower and provoke.

Not only do we produce Hull's famous Freedom Festival, we also support artists year-round, work within UK and international networks, and produce other staple work and projects in Hull's cultural calendar.

We celebrate Hull’s independent spirit and extraordinary heritage working closely with artists, creative organisations, the private sector, academic partners, third-sector organisations, families, individuals, and community groups to deliver year-round creative activity and a world-class annual arts festival.

We believe it's important to generate and nurture new ideas, so we are passionate about supporting artists to develop ideas and reinvent art forms. We believe in supporting people from all walks of life to explore the arts as we believe that the arts are central to the well-being of our society.

Our Team

General Manager & Interim CEO

Jo Hawkes

Jo is very excited to be back in Hull, after living here many moons ago. She’s worked in theatres for over a decade and was the Theatre General Manager of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, before moving with her family back up north. Jo is delighted to be working at Freedom Festival Arts Trust and is passionate about the work that we bring to the city.

Finance Manager

Vanessa Nolan

Vanessa is our Finance Manager managing everything finance-related for the Festival. Vanessa graduated in law and then switched to studying accountancy, has worked in accounts teams for 30+ years and has a wealth of industry experience (from audit, power, distribution & logistics, construction, and education) culminating in the creative arts and the Freedom Festival.  Vanessa’s a local Hull girl and was a City of Culture volunteer in 2017 and was part of Freedom Festival’s Freedom Chorus – dressed in white, singing in a flower bed.

Business Development Manager

Kathryn Biggin

Kathryn is our Business Development Manager and is responsible for building and maintaining the relationships we have with our local partners. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Theatre and Media studies and has spent most of her career in London working in business development and events covering unique venues, like the Museum of London, before moving agency-side, working on international event programmes. Following a move to Hull in 2017, Kathryn spent five years working as a charity manager, which has given her a great understanding of the third sector, as well as the local business and grant-giving landscape. Kathryn has always loved being client-facing and loves building relationships with partners, and is so excited to be working for FFAT.


Ian Morley

Ian is a creative professional and is exceptionally passionate about supporting and developing artists and creative encounters. He has worked in the arts sector in Yorkshire for over 20 years, taking on many roles from producing outdoor festivals and events to programming venues, intimate theatre projects, touring small-scale theatre, producing community theatre projects and performing, stage managing and leading creative workshops. Ian was previously Arts Development Officer at BMBC, Head of Programming and Artist Development at the Civic in Barnsley and most recently Programme Manager for The Royal and Derngate in Northampton. He is super excited to be working at Freedom Festival.

Engagement Producer

Kate Atkins

Katie is a local Hull lass with a passion for the city and its people. She graduated from Hull University in 2004 with a degree in English Literature and went on to teach in a secondary school for almost 10 years. 2017 was a transformative year for the city of Hull and Katie as she switched careers and began developing her experience in the arts through freelancing for the City of Culture programme and becoming one of Hull’s thousands of blue-coated volunteers. She joined the team who managed the Hull volunteer programme in 2018 with Absolutely Cultured, and went on to manage their community engagement programme. In 2022, Katie took on the role of Head of Volunteering in Leeds for LEEDS 2023, recruiting and deploying over 1000 volunteers to support its year of culture. Freedom Festival is one of Katie’s biggest loves and she is thrilled to have joined the team.

Administration Manager & Digital Content Coordinator

Holly Philo

As Admin Manager, Holly manages the office and supports finance and HR. After completing her degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Hull, she began her career on Hull City Council’s Events Team, working closely with VHEY and the Hull 2017 City of Culture team. She’s supported delivery of events from Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull and Gratte Ciel’s Place Des Anges, to the 2016 REYTA awards and Hull Fair. Holly also now coordinates the organisation’s digital communications, which includes everything from social media to our monthly newsletters.

Freelance Design Lead

Jessy Zschorn

Jessy is the creative behind Freedom Festival’s design and visuals. Jessy has mastery in a diverse range of visual communication skills including illustration, photography, design, and web development, and after founding her own design agency and operating as a freelance designer, she has an established reputation for her incredible work. She is a people person who enjoys immersing herself in new cultures and is often out on solo adventures, seeking to expand her knowledge and understanding of the world. She’s a powerhouse!

TG Events Ltd

TG Events are the brilliant production team backstage of the events we do. From staging to sound to safety, they do it all. Their team consists of Tim Garbutt, Adam Long, Danny Owen and Danny O’Shea as well as other great suppliers they bring in.

Our Board


Karen Hall

Karen has both a charity and commercial background and continues to support local charities with her experience in business management from her exposure to national and international operations. She has worked closely with trustee boards and executive teams, and throughout her business career has worked alongside creative and marketing teams working on many high-profile projects. She is looking forward to helping FFAT further develop the narrative and programme for the issues it seeks to represent for Hull and Freedom On Tour.


Kate Denby

Kate Denby has been Executive Director and joint CEO of Northern Stage in Newcastle since 2015, where she leads the strategic, financial and operational development of the company. Under her tenure the company increased audiences by 35% in four years, expanded acclaimed programmes of work with young people and independent theatre makers in the region, and established embedded partnerships in community settings. Kate’s background is in theatre producing and management. She was previously Executive Producer at the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill and Producer/Head of Programming & Talent Development at Hull Truck Theatre. She has led theatre tours to Europe, the USA and Southern Africa, and was involved in developing and delivering Hull’s successful bid for UK City of Culture 2017. Kate has been a member of the Freedom Festival Arts Trust Board since 2015, and became Chair in 2019.


Trish Dalby

A Hull girl through and through, Trish retired as Deputy Chief Executive from Hull City Council in 2019. Since retirement, Trish has continued her commitment to the City in a number of voluntary roles, including taking on the Chair of Generation Hull in 2021, the city’s Local Cultural Education Partnership. Generation Hull has a mission to support schools and creative organisations in Hull to work together making sure that our children and young people get the best creative experiences possible and access to the wonderful cultural opportunities in our city.


Samantha Friend

A business development specialist, Samantha has a wealth of strategic experience working in regeneration and economic development for local government, private sector and not for profit organisations, including launching the £200m Hull St Stephens development and managing high value projects at the University of Hull. Skilled in bringing together partners to achieve a common purpose, she has managed many large-scale events like Bizweek and created development strategies, including for the Fruit Market in Hull. Samantha now provides her multi-level experience to businesses as a freelance Management & Marketing Consultant.


Neil Porteus

Neil is a chartered accountant who was instrumental in the development of The Deep, an aquarium-based visitor attraction in Hull which is governed by a registered charity. In a book on the project, Neil was described as having had “as big an impact on the project as anyone”. Since opening in 2002, The Deep has welcomed almost 9m visitors through its doors, having proven itself as the most successful Millennium Commission lottery-funded project in the country. Neil came to Hull in the late 1980’s to study Pure Mathematics at the University of Hull and then studied at the Leeds Business School of Leeds Metropolitan University to become a Chartered Public Finance Accountant. Having taken the City to his heart, Neil decided to make his life in Hull after graduating, joining Hull City Council in the early 1990’s and was promoted rapidly through the organisation to the role of Group Technical Accountant, being responsible for the treasury management and capital programme of the Council. Within this role, Neil had the lead financial role in securing over £50m of funding for the establishment of The Deep and remains its Finance Director to this day. Neil is passionate about improving the life chances of the young people of Hull, having been a school/college governor for more than 20 years. Neil is currently Chair of the Constellation Trust, a £70m Hull-based Multi-Academy Trust including the secondary schools Sirius Academy West and Sirius Academy North, along with Rise Academy and seven primary schools. Neil is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy, a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics & its Applications, a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians and a member of European Mechanics Society.


Garry Taylor

As Assistant Director – Major Projects, Culture & Place at Hull City Council, Garry manages the city’s £400 million public/private capital investment programme, including highways, cultural venues, leisure and retail developments, public spaces, parks and schools. As Invest Hull’s visitor economy lead, he oversees the city centre product, branding and inward investment along with tourism, conferences, events and delivery of the city’s cultural strategy. Garry’s team previously delivered the regeneration of the city centre and its cultural venues in the lead up to UK City of Culture 2017 and the £450 million Building Schools for the Future programme. Future projects include continued investment in leisure facilities and parks, retail and housing, highways and cycle routes, school expansions and the creation of a major heritage maritime attraction.


Councillor Rob Pritchard

Rob feels honoured to live in Hull and has had a varied career, from starting out working in retail, working as a nurse, bank clerk, chief officer of several voluntary and community organisations, and now a City Councillor. He has a passion for his city and loves being involved in making it a better place to live. He loves the arts in all its forms, and feels privileged to be the Portfolio Holder for Culture, where he gets to meet amazing people from around the city and beyond. Rob believes he wouldn’t have achieved half as much as he has without his amazing wife Linda, who he has been with for over 30 years.


Sally Christopher

Sally is passionate about festivals, live events and the Arts, with a particular knowledge of festivals and over twenty years of experience and industry knowledge, including working on Glastonbury Festival, Norfolk and Norwich Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sally is also a fan of large-scale events and mass participation projects, having worked as part of the Big Dance 2010/12, the Ceremonies teams delivering London 2012 and Rugby World Cup 2015. Sally has a variety of roles under her belt along with a Masters in Arts Management and Cultural Policy and Undergraduate Degree in English Literature and Drama.