Last week, was one of the most bewildering, awe-inspiring and crazy weeks of my life to date. I joined a 16-strong Hull delegation – which included Martin Green from Hull 2017, Councillor Hales and Paul Holloway from Hull City Council, Matt and Alan from Hull-based film-makers Nova Films, Kathleen from Hull Freetown Society and four teachers from Hull schools – on a week-long trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone.
There were three strands to our visit: the first to strengthen the deeply-rooted civic links between the cities of Hull and Freetown; the second to visit the partner schools linked to Hull and catch up with friends and colleagues there (the teachers took some lessons, the kids skyped each other across continents and many smiles were shared) and third, to explore potential cultural and artistic partnerships, with a view to developing shared projects in 2017 and beyond.
We received such a warm welcome and were looked after so well. We were treated to an incredibly moving tour of historical sites such as Bunce Island (I recommend you google it); we attended council meetings, met heaps of interesting artists, we even met the Vice President of Sierra Leone. We danced with local drummers, we ate some very spicy and tasty local dishes, we visited many parts of the city including the village of Wilberforce, we hung out with the mayor, we were treated to a cultural showcase, we explored and we asked many questions.
I can’t recommend the country highly enough. The history is of course so fascinating and the culture so rich. And even though the people of Freetown have suffered so much, during civil wars and the very recent horrors of Ebola, their resilience, hope, vibrancy, determination and the sense of community they share is overwhelming. We have much to learn from the people of Sierra Leone.
What a wonderful trip. As you might expect, it’s very early days in terms of discussions for projects and so I can’t give any details away at the moment. But let’s just say that our visit was so special and gave us all so much inspiration that we just can’t stop thinking or talking about our time there. (Sorry to my office buddies at Freedom HQ – I haven’t shut up since I got back.) There are numerous ideas being discussed and we will be sure to share them with you at the earliest opportunity.
Very best wishes until next time.
Artistic Director and CEO, Freedom Festival Arts Trust
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