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The stage is set!

It’s time for Freedom Festival 2019 to take over Hull city centre with a powerhouse programme

The stage is set for an arts festival like no other as the wonderful city of Hull plays host to the 12th edition of the award-winning Freedom Festival starting on Wednesday.

This week, Hull will see artists from across the world converge in the maritime city to delight, challenge and mystify audiences with jaw-dropping circus, weird and wonderful street theatre, thought-provoking performances and talks, music from all over the world, and mischievous projects that engage all ages. For 2019, a different layer has been added to the festival, offering a new rhythm for the weekend. 

With a packed programme audiences love, Freedom Festival will begin even sooner than normal with a selection of ticketed indoor shows opening on Wednesday 28 August, extending the festival to five nights. 

“This earlier start means audiences will be able to see extraordinary productions ahead of the busy weekend,” explained Mikey Martins, Freedom Festival’s artistic director and joint CEO.  “It will also introduce a different rhythm to our festival experience leading up to the big free outor programme across the weekend.”

As the festival once again plays out in the city’s streets, squares and public spaces as it celebrates Hull’s rich heritage, visitors are encouraged to discover and rediscover a city of unparalleled potential, fuelled by hope and humanity.

“We don’t do headline act,” explains Mikey. “We want audiences to find their own festival moments instead, whatever the size and scale. It may be a small intimate one-on-one show in a tent or a big spectacle with thousands of people dancing in the streets, there are so many moments audiences will experience that makes this festival so unique.”

Having said that, Mikey has scoured the talent from across the world to bring some of the most sought-after festival shows from as far afield as Australia, Argentina, Catalonia and Belgium to Hull. 

“It has taken two years to get these shows here due to them being so in demand all over the world so I’d recommend people don’t miss out,” Mikey said.

While the vast majority of Freedom Festival is free, there will be five indoor ticketed shows at this year’s festival: Humans by Circa, UduL by Los Galindos, Un Poyo Rojo, Fidelis Fortibus by Circus Ronaldo and East by Martin and Eliza Carthy. 

Humans is a thrilling, breathtaking and heart-stopping performance from Circa, the most in-demand contemporary circus company in the world, who will open the festival with this incredible show. Described by ArtsHub, Australia as, “Courageous, ground-breaking, risk-taking - these are artists/athletes of the highest order,” 10 of the world’s finest acrobats will take audiences on a stirring journey of what it means to be human and how our bodies, connections and aspirations all form part of who we are.

UduL by Los Galindos is a unique visceral circus performance full of understanding and misunderstanding, false politeness, egos, cruelty and fear delivered with wonderful Catalan humour. 

For those wanting something for the evening, the kitsch, camp and hilarious Un Poyo Rojo is sure to delight. Fusing acrobatics, dance and physical performance and exploring masculinity and bravado in a contemporary, this is Argentinian physical theatre performance at its finest. 

Award-winning circus legend Danny Ronaldo is back in Hull following his performance at Freedom Festival 2012. This year sees Circus Ronaldo return with the UK premiere of Fidelis Fortibus, a highly unusual, comical and poetic solo performance which celebrates the grandeur of the circus.

East is an ambitious new project by Martin and Eliza Carthy; a collection of musical and poetical works from the East of England, from the furthest north of Northumberland, through Hull, right down to Suffolk. Expect a connection to the land and the coast, great stories and a real sense of what the history and traditions of the east have to offer performed in the beautiful surroundings of Hull Minster.

Taking audiences into the weekend, Freedom Festival Friday will see more happening during the afternoon in the lead up to the evening’s performance, when the party will really get started. 

Lighting up cities across Europe for the past 30 years, French street art titans, Générik Vapeur will bring their legendary show Bivouac to Hull city centre, with a loud and punky performance on Friday night. Watch in awe as blue men and women and a cast of community participants take over the streets with a pyrotechnic extravaganza, transporting the city into a daydream. 

Audiences can expect a musical journey throughout the festival, politics in public space and performances around every corner, including a new place, with Broken Orchestra’s River Walk

The city centre will be alive once again throughout the weekend with multiple commissions and events that will explore themes relating to human rights as Freedom Festival 2019 affirms its position as one of the UK's and Europe’s finest and most distinctive arts festivals. 

French theatre and dance company, Adhok return to the festival with The Great Escape, as they explore what it means to grow old in a fun promenade performance which challenges our perception of old age, the fears it carries and the treasures it hides. 

Following Haircuts by Children in 2017, Freedom favourites Mammalian Diving Reflex will be back to work with a group of local teenagers to create a series of performances, events and interventions that will positively disrupt this year’s festival. Teentalitarianism creates teen-infused environments where the youth rule the roost - with the teens in charge of Freedom Festival, what will happen? 

Expect wierd and wonderful street performances and pop up installations, create your own party in a playful interactive installation by Superhallo, go on a secret journey with mysterious silver spheres with Ray Lee, to powerful and gripping stories about modern slavery within the construction industry told through physical parkour and compelling theatre with Justice in Motion. 

As we celebrate 40 years since the birth of ska music, with its civil rights roots and 40 years since the Hull’s partnership with Freetown was established, expect non-stop dancing and a whole load of wild energy and soul power from the likes of Natty Bo and The Top Cats, alongside a host of others as the music stage returns to Zebedees Yard. 

The music doesn’t stop there. Sunday will see an international carnival take over the city, as bands from Freetown and the Rio samba master himself, celebrate the communities of Hull and the joyfulness they create, with carnival at its finest.

Mikey Martins added: “We will explore concepts of freedom deeply across the entire programme, highlight the realities of modern day slavery and discuss the multiple barriers to Freedom which are so prevalent in many aspects of our society. 

“We aim to empower our audiences and participants as we celebrate the extraordinary power of creativity. We believe art can change and alter the narrative and in these challenging times we all need to come together and strengthen our communities.

“Let’s come together, look each other in the eye and explore this wonderful place, let’s discuss the challenges we all face and discover a city of great heritage and unparalleled potential. We look forward to welcoming you to Freedom Festival, Hull.”

Freedom Festival and the year-long programme of the Freedom Festival Arts Trust would not be possible without the support of its sponsors and partners. This year’s festival is supported by Funders Hull City Council and Arts Council England; Business Partners Cranswick, Hull College, The University of Hull, Wykeland and Ron Dearing UTC; Sponsors Keepmoat, ABP, Coletta & Tyson, RSM, and CHCP; as well of hundreds of individuals and companies in the Freedom 100 Club. 

Executive Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival Arts Trust, Jenny Howard-Coombes, said: “We’re really proud of the work we do and the quality of the festival we deliver year on year and this year is no exception. We’re a small team and recognise that none of this would be possible without the unwavering commitment of the Trust but also those who support us. 

“We’re really thankful to have such great organisations as our sponsors and partners, and both our returning and new audiences for being part of this exciting journey and for helping to make this extraordinary celebration of art, community and humanity in our city possible.” 

Tickets for the five ticketed shows are on sale from Hull Truck Theatre Box Office, the rest of the Freedom Festival programme is free to access.   Freedom Festival 2019 takes place from 28 August until 1 September 2019 in Hull city centre. 

Freedom Festival and the year-long programme of the Freedom Festival Arts Trust would not be possible without the support of its sponsors and partners. This year’s festival is supported by Funders Hull City Council and Arts Council England; Business Partners Cranswick, Hull College, The University of Hull and Wykeland; Sponsors Keepmoat, ABP, Coletta & Tyson, RSM, CHCP and the Ron Dearing UTC; as well of hundreds of individuals and companies in the Freedom 100 Club.