Image credit: The Hull Vigil, Tom Arran.

Without their phone or camera to keep them company, a different Vigil will keep a watch at sunrise and sunset every day for a year from inside the shelter with views to the west overlooking Queen’s Gardens and the William Wilberforce statue and to the east out across the River Humber, the docks the homes of east Hull and the coast.

Freedom Festival, an organisation known for creating the unexpected, has commissioned and produced The Hull Vigil, as Hull becomes the first UK city to host this timely, thought-provoking, and large-scale monumental work.

Created by Australian-Belgian choreographer Joanne Leighton from Paris-based WLDN, over the past eight years Vigil has been running continuously in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria and in 2021 it comes to Hull for its 10th iteration.

Over the course of the year, 730 people will contribute to the collective vigil in a 365-day silent performance.

Designed for the city by Benjamin Tovo, the unique structure has been built by Hull firms thanks to a partnership with Hull Esteem Consortium LEP Ltd, as companies have given their time, expertise, and materials to build and install the shelter - which was no mean feat as it was lifted onto the rooftop of Hull College.

This ambitious project is presented as part of the Global Streets and Creative Europe In Situ programmes and part-funded by Arts Council England. It is also supported thanks to funding and support from local partners Hull City Council, Hull College, Hull Maritime City and Esteem.

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival said: “We’re incredibly excited for the start of The Hull Vigil. This is an amazing artistic project connecting the city and we’re so proud its UK debut is in Hull, as we continue to show we’re a city leading the way culturally.”

“The narrative of the performance will unfold as the year progresses. While each Vigil stands alone, together they form a human chain of community, humanity, and resilience, which has even more significance as the world starts to reopen. The Hull Vigil is the perfect opportunity for us to take a moment to contemplate where we are and our hopes for the future.”

“Each day, the Vigil/participant will express their thoughts and experiences about watching over the city of Hull, with their words posted on our website as we tell the story of The Hull Vigil.”

Joanne Leighton, Choreographer & Director of WLDN, explained: “Each vigil stands for us all. As a choreographer, I’m fascinated by making large scale artwork for cities that brings people together. The Vigil asks the question: is it the vigil watching the performance of the city or is the person in the city watching the performance of the vigil?”

Anthony Baker, Executive Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival, continued: “With the Hull Vigil we showcase the beautiful choreography of our northern city as the sun rises and sets.“

“We’re incredibly grateful to the support of our partners at Arts Council England, Hull City Council, Hull College, Hull Maritime City and Esteem for helping make The Hull Vigil possible, alongside our creative partners Global Streets and In Situ.”

A number of celebratory events will take place as part of The Hull Vigil. Every three months, sharing evenings will be hosted for the vigils and companions. While at the end of the project, a celebration will bring all 730 vigils and companions together to reflect on and celebrate the year of The Hull Vigil.

Participation in The Hull Vigil was invited to anyone over 18-years-old. Participants choose their own date and time, and each have their own reasons for participating. The places were all snapped up in the first few hours of release, on a first come first served basis.

For more information about The Hull Vigil visit

The Hull Vigil is presented by Paris-based WLDN and commissioned and produced by Freedom Festival Arts Trust, supported by IN-SITU and Global Streets.


Freedom Festival

Freedom Festival Arts Trust is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2013 to deliver Freedom Festival and an in-year programme of work.

Freedom Festival celebrates, through artistic and cultural expression, Hull’s independent spirit and historic contribution to the cause of freedom. The festival, together with its related year-round programme, is Hull’s premier festival event, growing out of the 2007 William Wilberforce commemorations to become the highlight of the city’s artistic and cultural programme.

The programme – featuring street theatre, visual arts, theatre, circus, talks and debates, music, spoken word, dance and more – in which the concept of ‘freedom’ is consistently articulated, is aimed at a wide audience, bringing renowned national and international artists to Hull while providing significant opportunities for local and regional artists.

The Vigil

Created by Australian-Belgian choreographer Joanne Leighton from Paris-based WLDN, over the past eight years, Vigil has been running continuously in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria in Belfort, Laval, Rennes, Haguenau, Freiburg, Évreux, Dordrecht and Graz.

In Situ

The Hull Vigil is presented thanks to the mobility programme of the IN SITU platform in the frame of the ACT project, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

Global Streets

Global Streets is a national outdoor arts programme that is inspiring local change by bringing together local communities and cultural practitioners with international artists.

Funded by Arts Council England and managed by FESTIVAL.ORG, Global Streets gives voice to people in Barking and Dagenham, Birmingham, Coventry, Doncaster, Gloucester, Hounslow, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Slough, and Woolwich – together representing some of the least arts-engaged areas in the country.

Since 2015, more than 220,000 people have experienced a variety of international productions, each embedded with unique and locally imagined opportunities for people to get involved.

Hull Esteem Consortium LEP Ltd

Esteem is Hull City Council’s strategic estates partner that delivers regeneration projects across the city. Through Esteem, many key education, leisure, and culture projects have been developed in recent years, including Hull New Theatre, Ferens Art Gallery, Trinity Market and the £400m Building Schools for the Future programme.

Esteem has partnered with Freedom Festival Arts Trust to work on The Hull Vigil project this year, offering sponsorship and management of the construction of The Shelter, along with its various partners who are all offering support, resources, or infrastructure in kind.