This weekend, grab a front row seat to Freedom from anywhere in the world!

This weekend, grab a front row seat to Hull’s award-winning arts festival from anywhere in the world and get ready to experience Freedom Festival from home.

For the first time in 13 years, Hull city centre won’t be filled with crowds of people as performers dance on the side of buildings and giant giraffes parade down Whitefriargate. Instead, the team behind the city’s international arts festival has responded to unprecedented times with a programme to be broadcast digitally and via the BBC during what would have been the festival weekend.

A festival where audiences expect the unexpected, Freedom wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stop the festival fun, but with audience, artist and staff safety the top priority, this year’s festival had to look a bit different.

That’s why from Friday 4 September, while the world continues to find a new normal and stay safe, Freedom Festival 2020 will be a one-off festival to be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, with an online programme including music, dance, circus, spoken word, talks and debates.

In the first of three events taking place over the next 12 months, get ready for intimate moments with thought-provoking, playful and powerful performances addressing the world we live in. Featuring international talent alongside local acts, expect robot selfies, timely debates which tackle issues of our time and bedtime stories the kids will remember for years.

Freedom Friday – Grab a front row seat to Hull

While Freedom Friday looks a bit different to usual, tune in from 7pm

on Friday evening for BBC Radio Four’s Front Row, presenting a Freedom Talks Special exploring whether art and creativity has to be socially or politically charged to be seen as ‘great art’.

Later, over on BBC Radio Humberside, tune into a Freedom Festival Special you won’t want to miss. Hear exclusive content from Hull’s best unsigned acts and relive your Freedom Festival highlights.

In a collaboration by Lucas De Man and Company New Heroes, Hopes and Fears Across the Waterwill premiere at 6pm on Friday night. Presented in touching and inspiring online sessions, spoken word performers from the UK and the Netherlands collaborate around the urgent themes of privacy and surveillance, division and isolationism and the climate emergency in a post COVID-19 world.

If you’re after something for the whole family to watch, multi award-winning circus legends Les 7 Doigts will be joining the festival virtually, all the way from Canada. Enjoy Reversible from the comfort of your home at 7pm and then tune in again on Saturday at 7pm to watch Sequence 8.   

From playful performances to kitchen discos 

Throughout the weekend there’ll be surprises for some of the city’s young people as Luke Jerram’s sound illuminated artwork Lullaby is delivered at dusk to streets in the city in partnership with Back To Ours. Plus, there’ll be bedtime stories to remember, delivered from familiar Hull faces Mikey Martins, Peter Levy and Kofi Smiles.

Tune into exclusive DJ sets for and a dance around your kitchen with some of your Freedom faves: The Broken Orchestra, Superhallo, Alex Figueira, Superhallo, Pax Nindi, Make Noise and Matt Burr. Of course it wouldn’t be Freedom Festival without a performance from Hull’s Freedom Chorus as they perform together virtually for us.

What about dancing? Watch Pulse! 1.5 for interactive workshops using household items and gripping choreography, or sign up to take part in the Sunday afternoon Social Distancing Club with Murmuration Arts and Kingston Swing.

We know you love circus too so we commissioned Can’t Sit Still Theatre to create Play-Along with Plink and Boo. Made especially for 2-6 year olds, this special digital and physical circus-theatre experience explores what happens when people don’t fit into boxes. Ahead of the performance on Saturday and Sunday, you’re invited to make props from around your house.

Our friends at the Big Malarkey Festival will present The Reset Lab on Saturday and Sunday for a special magazine style show hosted by the city’s young people. Join them to press the reset button on what you want to keep and lose from lockdown.

For audiences who prefer to sit down, enjoy a film programme which includes the online premiere of Mind on the Run, The Basil Kirchin Story, a very moving documentary about the SESSION project and lose yourself in the beautiful ROAD movie. All films will be available to view for 72 hours over the festival weekend.

Robot selfies to Hull’s story – it’s time to get involved

Submit your selfie and see if it’s selected to be drawn by robots on an empty Hull Truck Theatre stage as creative company Kaleider, who brought PIG to the city in 2018, bring a sense of togetherness to a community physically separated for a long time. A Portrait Without Borders will premiere at Hull from Wednesday 2 September before going on a national tour.

Contribute to The Hull Story Map, a new commission from Humber Mouth, Hull’s literature festival, created by Joanna Walsh for residents of Hull to tell their stories about the city. From a single word to a short story watch as a rich, evocative mood map of Hull slowly comes into being.

On Saturday night experience a look at trust and privilege in the age of Brexit in the third of Luke Wright’s trilogy of political verse, co-commissioned by Freedom Festival. The Remains of Logan Dankworth was originally due to be showcased at Freedom Festival, so the team worked with Nova Studios to film an exclusive recording of Luke performing the piece in Hull.

The Freedom Talks programme, in partnership with The Wilberforce Institute, will see discussions debating issues such as entrenched racism and modern day slavery in our area.

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival Arts Trust, said: “While this year’s festival looks different and will certainly be an alternative experience to what we’re used to with Freedom, we’re excited to still be bringing extraordinary art and culture celebrating local and international talent direct to peoples’ homes. We know it’s not the same as experiencing the exhalation of our live festival, that can’t be replicated online, but there are certainly a few perks to an online festival. No time-slot clashes, no queues and you can take an interval any time you like!

“We take pride in the many ways we connect with communities, our internationalism and our ability to respond to what’s happening in the world and we’re extremely proud of our team and the partners and artists who’ve taken on the challenge to help us create a timely and engaging programme during lockdown.

“We know for some going online can feel a bit scary, so we’ve tried to make it as simple as possible. Much like our live festival, we’ve tried to create something for everyone and there are lots of ways to get involved. Once content becomes available it’ll be there on our website and app for you to watch over the whole weekend.”

Anthony Baker, Executive Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival, continued: “We’re really proud to have curated a programme that responds to current issues. As you’d expect from Freedom, it’s multi-layered, surprising and experimental as this year we can play with new artforms. We’re excited to try something new and delighted to have the support of the BBC as our official media partner.

“We’re incredibly thankful to Hull City Council, Arts Council England and all our local sponsors and partners for their continued support, as each of our partners has been facing their own individual challenges. We’re grateful they continue to recognise the place arts and culture has in enriching society alongside supporting economic growth.”

Events will go live from noon on Friday 4 September until 6 September.