Over four days in September, an audience of 465,000* people across the world experienced Hull’s award-winning international Freedom Festival from afar. A feat in a year which will always be remembered as the year we stayed at home and large-scale public events - from sports matches to music festivals - were cancelled because of Covid.  

Despite being unable to host the annual event in the usual way and welcoming tens of thousands of people to the city’s streets, Freedom Festival took a chance to try something different. It responded with a timely, curated online programme broadcast digitally and via the BBC directly into homes over what would have been the festival weekend. 

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The result? The four-day festival saw 25,000 people attend a packed online ‘at home’ programme featuring music, dance, circus, spoken word, talks and debates and international talent alongside local acts. Plus, more than 440,000 people tuned into live Freedom Specials on BBC Radio Humberside and BBC Radio 4.     

The programme featured 85 local artists alongside 25 national and international artists from countries as far afield as Montreal.  

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Freedom Festival’s Artistic Director and Joint CEO, Mikey Martins, said: “We knew it wouldn’t be possible to replicate the feelings of our much-loved outdoor festival with an online programme, but we wanted to bring our artistic community and audiences together to enjoy art and culture and mark the festival weekend in what’s been an incredibly challenging year for us all.  

“We’re also proud that we were able to support so many local artists and organisations during what has been an incredibly difficult year for creatives and freelancers."

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Freedom Festival’s Executive Director and Joint CEO, Anthony Baker, continued: “Our audience is incredibly loyal and our evaluation has shown there’s still an appetite for people to come together as soon as it’s safe to do so, with over 93% saying they would attend a festival in the city centre.  

“This year also gave us the opportunity to finally launch an app - something we’ve been wanting to do for a while - with over 500 people downloading the app this year. This is a digital resource that will further come into its own once we’re able to return to the city centre with an outdoor programme of events. 

While Freedom Festival expects to return to the city centre in September 2021, it intends to be more than just a moment in the summer. Stay tuned for further announcements in the new year. To be the first to find out what’s coming, download the app or sign up to Freedom Festival’s newsletter via its website. 

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*An audience of 400,000 BBC Front Row, 40,000 BBC Radio Humberside, 25,000 online.