Festival explores issues of modern day loneliness through art

It’s an epidemic afflicting around 9 million people in the UK and yet we often find it hard to talk about loneliness and how modern day life, at all stages – from teenagers to octogenarians – can leave us with feelings of loneliness.

This year’s Freedom Festival is tackling the issue through art as it playfully yet poignantly weaves the theme Ages of Isolation through its programme of dance, street theatre, spoken word, talks and debates.

The Ages of Isolation project seeks to explore intergenerational relationships and empowerment while giving voice to the city’s unique identity and pride. It is being supported by partners CHCP Foundation and Associated British Ports (ABP).

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival Arts Trust, explained: “With nearly one fifth of the population experiencing social isolation and loneliness, this is a big problem in modern day society and an issue not just affecting older members.

“Freedom Festival is a festival for all, a festival of hope in a city of creation. Our ambitious programme aims to tackle issues and cultivate conversation and debate. This year’s festival will give voice to the young and the old in a playful and challenging programme as art fuses with activism, championing and challenging themes that explore loneliness and isolation in the modern age, the power of people and change.

“Our Ages of Isolation project seeks to explore intergenerational relationships and empowerment while giving voice to the city’s unique identity and pride.”

French theatre and dance company, Adhok return to the festival with The Great Escape, as they explore what it means to grow old in a fun promenade performance which challenges our perception of old age, the fears it carries and the treasures it hides.

While Journey with Absent Friends is an installation inside a vintage caravan which collects stories from the public on its travels, about people we have loved and lost and where their memory lives.  Born out of a personal story it has already touched over 30,000 people.

It’s Part 6 of The Grief Series, a body of work by artist Ellie Harrison.  Ellie’s work uses playful strategies to engage and change the narrative around grief.

A mobile museum, which will be based at Beverley Gate, where audiences are invited to explore artworks hidden in every cupboard, drawer, nook and cranny, and add their own memories to the audio archive and embroidered maps.

Isolation and loneliness in a modern age is not just an issue affecting an older generation; what about young people born into a digital age?

Following Haircuts by Children in 2017, Freedom favourites Mammalian Diving Reflex will be back to work with a group of local teenagers to create a series of performances, events and interventions that will positively disrupt this year’s festival. Teentalitarianism creates teen-infused environments where the youth rule the roost – with the teens in charge, what will happen?

The Freedom Talks programme also includes a talk exploring isolation and loneliness in modern day.

As part of Grief Series, Freedom Festival is working with CHCP Foundation to facilitate two workshops for older people, entitled Loving in Absence. Taking place on Thursday 29 August, artist Ellie Harrison will use her experience of grief as a jumping off point to make space for others to join the conversation about how we remember those we’ve lost.

Ellie has been working with historians from the University of Leeds to make visible forgotten histories through making performative installations and she will introduce the celebratory ritual of Ofrenda building – used to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico – as a highly visible way to represent those we are loving in absence.

Working with the group Ellie will develop ideas and small works of art to be part of the installation, participants are encouraged to bring photos or objects to add to the Ofrenda during the session.

James O’Neill, chair of CHCP Foundation’s Trustees, explained: “We’re really pleased to be supporting Freedom Festival’s Ages of Isolation project. As providers of palliative care and end of life services as well as district nursing and psychological wellbeing this is a continuation of our work, which has also included a series of ‘Celebrating life’ events to talk about death and everything surrounding it.”

Simon Bird, Regional Director for ABP Humber said: “As longstanding supporters of the Freedom Festival in Hull, we are excited that the festival organisers are tackling some of society’s key issues through this innovative programme.”