Artist’s impression of The Hull Vigil Shelter at Hull College. Image credit: Benjamin Tovo. 

An organisation known for creating the unexpected, we’re surprising the city of Hull with two intimate yet powerful performances in spring, providing audiences the opportunity to reflect on what’s going on in the world, our place within it and where we take it next.

In a bid to satisfy Hull’s insatiable appetite for arts and culture while bringing a sense of optimism and hope ahead of our annual international arts festival returning to the city centre in September, we’re presenting two internationally-renowned performances: the UK premiere of The Vigil, a 365-day monumental performance beginning on the spring equinox (20 March), telling the story of a city coming back to life; and Luke Jerram’s celebrated Gaia, at Hull Minster from 10-30 March.

The Hull Vigil

Beginning on the spring equinox, the UK premiere of The Vigil will commence in Hull with a monumental performance celebrating the choreography of a city.

Each day for a year at sunrise and sunset a vigil will keep watch over Hull from a bespoke structure located on top of the Hull College building, overlooking Queen’s Gardens and the William Wilberforce statue. Over the course of the year 730 people will contribute to the collective vigil, watching over the city in a 365-day silent performance.

Image credit: The Belfort Vigil, Joanne Leighton, WLDN. 

Commissioned and produced by Freedom Festival, Hull will be 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. The
support of our partner Global Streets has enabled this work to be brought to Hull. We are proud to work with Hull’s Esteem group to build and install the Vigil Shelter and with Hull College to provide the venue and additional support.

Over the past eight years The Vigil has been running continuously in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. In 2021 it comes to Hull for its 10th performance.

A community project built by Hull for the people of the city, this will be a performance with a narrative running deeper throughout the year. While each vigil stands alone, together they form a human chain and a manifestation of community, humanity and resilience. Something even more significant today.

At sunrise and sunset, each vigil will step inside the structure without their phone to watch over the city for an hour, looking out across the Humber to the east, the urban spread to the north and across the suburbs and countryside to the west.

Esteem and their local supply partners are assisting in the development and delivery of the project. Anyone over 18-years-old is invited to take part in The Vigil, it is free to participate and bookings will open on 20 January 2021. The unique, solitary nature of The Vigil will enable it to continue should lockdown restrictions tighten once again.

Gaia by Luke Jerram

Following the overwhelming success of Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon, which saw a record number of visitors to Hull Minster as part of the 2018 Freedom Festival programme, together Freedom Festival and Hull Minster will bring Gaia (Earth) to the city in March.

Almost a year after the country went into lockdown and the world simultaneously experienced a human health crisis, Jerram’s depiction of the Earth, set to be hosted by Hull Minster, will offer a poignant opportunity for audiences to gaze at our great planet with a renewed respect for nature, shared connections and responsibilities.

Measuring seven metres in diameter and created from 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, the artwork provides the opportunity to see our planet floating in three dimensions.

The installation aims to create a sense of the Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, in which common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

Subject to public health restrictions, the installation will be at Hull Minster from 10-30 March 2021. Strict Covid-19 safety measures will be in place with a limited number of tickets available for each session. The free tickets will be available from February 2021.

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival said: “We always wanted to be more than just a moment in September. These two performances are the perfect opportunity for Freedom Festival to have a year-round presence in the city as we offer something wonderful for people to experience, engage with and reflect on.

“We’re really proud to bring The Vigil – a powerful, internationally-renowned, participatory performance – to the UK for the first time. It’s an incredibly positive and meaningful story for the people of Hull as we show the country and the world we’re the city in the north that looks out for each other in a different and considered way.

“We’re acutely aware that excellent and unique art in public space responds to very real situations in society and helps us make sense of it. The Vigil is the perfect opportunity for us to respond by spending some time taking stock of who and where we are, and hope for a more positive future after the awful time we’ve been living through. An intimate invitation to reflect on the beauty and incredible story of our city, what’s going on in the world, our place within it and where we take it next. When will you take your vigil?”

Unable to host its usual festivities in the city’s streets and squares in 2020, Freedom Festival brought a flavour of its festival direct to people’s homes in September with a programme broadcast digitally and on the BBC, which engaged more than 465,000 people across the country and beyond.

Anthony Baker, Executive Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival Arts Trust, continued: “We wanted to bring the city together to promote optimism and hope. We’re incredibly grateful to our partners for their continued support as we bring communities together again, in a safe and considered way with these intimate yet powerful performances.

“If you’re interested in participating in these events, sign up to our newsletter so you can be the first to hear from us. We’re also currently recruiting volunteers to help manage these events, visit our website to register your interest and get involved.”

Dominic Black, Priest-in-Charge of Hull Minster said: “We are delighted to be hosting Gaia, the Earth, at Hull Minister in partnership with the Freedom Festival as a powerful sign of our human solidarity and interconnectedness with one another and nature.”

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The Hull Vigil

Created by Joanne Leighton. Produced by WLDN & Freedom Festival (supported by IN-SITU and Global Streets). Shelter Design: Benjamin Tovo.

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.


Gaia was created in partnership with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Bluedot and the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres. With supporting partners Culture Liverpool and Liverpool Cathedral. #EarthArtwork.