Artist’s impression of the shelter for the Hull Vigil which will be located on the roof of Hull College. Image credit Benjamin Tovo. 

From 3 May, every day for a year, at sunrise and sunset, a Vigil (person) will keep watch over Hull from a bespoke wood and glass structure located on top of the Hull College building, facing east and west, overlooking Queen’s Gardens and the William Wilberforce statue at one side, the River Humber, the docks and East Hull on the other. Over the course of the year 730 people will contribute to the collective vigil – a 365 day silent performance – watching over the city.

From 10am on 1 March 2021 you can reserve your place by signing up here. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis, with 730 places available throughout the year.

Freedom Festival, an organisation known for creating the unexpected, is proud to be commissioning and producing The Hull Vigil, as Hull becomes the first UK city to host this timely, thought-provoking and large-scale monumental work.

The Hull-based Arts Trust had planned to start The Hull Vigil in March, however the UK’s third national lockdown delayed the build of the shelter and recruitment of volunteers.

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.

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

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival said: “The Hull Vigil is an amazing artistic project which connects with and is delivered by the community. It will be built by Hull building firms for the people of Hull, with a narrative that will develop throughout the year. While each Vigil stands alone, together they form a human chain of community, humanity and resilience. Something even more significant today.

“The Hull Vigil is the perfect opportunity for us to spend some time to take stock of who and where we are, and hope for a more positive future.

“Vigil (person) will step inside the structure, without their phone or camera, to watch over the city for an hour at sunrise and sunset – looking out across the Humber to the east, the urban spread to the north and out across the suburbs and countryside to the west… when will you take your Vigil?”

This unique structure designed for the city by Benjamin Tovo and built by Hull firms for the people of Hull, the shelter is where the vigil takes place. Located on the rooftop of Hull College overlooking Queen’s Gardens, for the first time in its 10 iterations, it has been built to give unobstructed views to the east and west.

The shelter is being built by Hull Esteem Consortium LEP Ltd, along with their partners who are supporting the project through generous donations of time, expertise and resources.

Richard King, Chair of Esteem, said: “The Hull Vigil is a really unique and exciting project for the city and one we were keen to get involved in. By offering our expertise and supporting the Freedom team in getting this project off the ground, we’re proud to be playing a part in bringing this international performance to the city at a time when people need a boost and something to look forward to.

“I’d also like to thank our partners and local contractors who have got behind the project by donating materials, equipment and time to construct the shelter and erect it on site. I can’t wait to see it finished and hear about the experiences of people who take part.”

Anthony Baker Executive Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival continued: “We’re incredibly grateful to our partners at Arts Council England, Hull City Council, Hull College and Esteem for helping to make Vigil possible, alongside our creative partners Global Streets and In Situ as we work together again, in this year-long participatory performance, which will showcase the beautiful choreography of our northern city as the sun rises and sets.”

Anyone over 18-years-old is invited to participate, signing up here from 10am on 1 March.

Participants can choose their own date and time and will have their own reasons for participating. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. Only one vigil can be booked per person.

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 is the European platform for artistic creation in public space. Since 2003, it has supported more than 250 artists.

IN SITU is led by Lieux publics, European and national centre for artistic creation in public space, located in Marseille (FR) and brings together 16 partners from 13 countries: Artopolis Association (HU), Atelier 231 (FR), Ctyri dny/ Four Days (CZ), FiraTàrrega (ES), Freedom Festival (UK), Kimmel Center (USA), La Strada (AT), Metropolis (DK), Norfolk & Norwich Festival (UK), Oerol Festival (NL), Østfold Internasjonale Teater (NO), Oda, Pristina (XK), Provinciaal Domein Dommelhof (BE), Scène Nationale De L’Essonne (FR) and a consortium of 4 Italian partners: (Zona K, Indisciplinarte, Pergine Festival, Teatro Stabile Di Sardegna).

IN SITU also gathers 12 associate partners: Cifas (BE), FAI-AR (FR), Anti Festival (FI), Biela Noc, (SK), Bússola (PT), Strassentheater Detmold (DE), Tombées de la Nuit (FR), Hoooh – Tainan Street Arts (TW), Linhai Art Festival & Start Festival (CN), Seoul Street Arts Festival (KR), Sura Medura (LK).

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. @festivaldotorg

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.