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Freedom Talks 

Continuing the conversation all year long

Freedom Talks have been an integral part of the festival programme since 2017. This dynamic part of the festival programme invites thought and response to the dialogues of speakers from journalists to scientists, from activists to local children.

In 2019, we continued the conversation beyond Freedom Festival, as we marked the anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act with a special Freedom Talk in March with award-winning Guardian journalist Annie Kelly.

Freedom Talks

at Freedom Festival 2019

Once again, in partnership with the University of Hull and the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) we were proud to present an accessible yet challenging programme of talks, debates and participatory discussions.

The programme explored current challenges to human and civil rights with national and international artists, academics from the University of Hull and facilitators.

This year's topics included:

For the Greater Good? 

Artificial intelligence (AI), the rise of the algorithm and who really makes the big decisions on our behalf.

Modern Day Slavery

With a focus on the building and agricultural industries.

Ages of Isolation

A spotlight on loneliness, mental health and increasing isolation prevalent in modern day society.

Ask for the Moons

A panel discussion where the tables are turned and the teenagers rule the roost. The executive team of Freedom Festival and other city representatives went head to head with a cohort of young people who have been working with Canadian artists/sociologists Mammalian Diving Reflex to make a deal with the city about the future - not small things, but big things...

In conversation with Annie Kelly

March 2019

In 2019, we continued the conversation beyond Freedom Festival, as we marked the anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act with a special Freedom Talk in March with award-winning Guardian journalist Annie Kelly. The Modern Slavery Act was the first of its kind in Europe, and one of the first in the world, to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century.

In partnership with the University of Hull and the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) the event saw Annie, editor of the Guardian’s Modern-day slavery in focus series, return to the city following her successful Freedom Talk as part of Freedom Festival 2018. The evening also featured live spoken word and an exhibition of photographs from the modern-day slavery in focus series called 'Faces of Slavery'.

Let's talk about Freedom

Freedom Festival 2018

The Wilberforce Lecture presented by Dr Helen Pankhurst 

(in partnership with the Wilberforce Lecture Trust)

Freedom Festival and The Wilberforce Lecture Trust were honoured to welcome Dr Helen Pankhurst, women's rights activist and great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, to Hull, where she delivered the 2018 Wilberforce Lecture.

Dr Pankhurst led a participatory discussion on women's lives, reflecting on the changes in the UK since the right to a parliamentary vote was first granted to women in 1918, exploring how far we've really come. The session was informed by findings from her book Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women's Rights, Then and Now.

Big Picture Activism with Anja Lyngbaek

Led by Anja Lyngbaek, Associate Programmes Director of Local Futures - an NGO focused on alternatives to the global consumer culture - we explored 'Big Picture Activism': what is it, how does it work, and is it the answer to many of the challenges facing the world today?

Anja coordinates Local Futures' International Alliance for Localisation initiative and lives in rural Mexico, where she has co-founded a NGO for sustainable community action and a rural school with ecology and creativity in mind. Her talk covered topics such as the need for a global to local shift, localisation in action and people's movements.

Is There Someone Out There? with the British Science Festival

The search for life elsewhere poses many scientific questions, but also deeper questions about our existence on Earth.

What is more challenging - the thought of being alone in the universe or the idea that we may have company? We joined Brad Gibson, Head of Physics at the University of Hull, as the talked about where in the galaxy life is most likely to develop. He was joined by Stephen Burwood, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hull, who reflected on the societal implications of this research.

What Does Freedom Mean to You? with the Children's University and Youth Parliament

The children of Hull are the future of the city, but what does freedom mean to them?

Here we saw the world through the eyes of the next generation as they explored the concept of freedom.

Modern Day Slavery and Culpability with Annie Kelly

Award-winning human rights journalist and editor of the Guardian's Modern Day Slavery in Focus series, Annie Kelly, led a discussion on where responsibility for modern day slavery falls.

Why are so many companies not held to account for what happens in their supply chain?

Let's talk about Freedom

Freedom Festival 2017

The Wilberforce Lecture presented by Mr Kofi Annan

(in partnership with the Wilberforce Lecture Trust and Hull City Council)

The annual Wilberforce Lecture was established in Hull in the early 1990s in what seemed then - albeit briefly - an optimistic time, with dictatorships collapsing across the globe.

Kofi Annan, the founding chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and was the Secretary-General of the United Nations between 1997 and 2006.

What better way for us to celebrate the work of William Wilberforce than by welcoming Mr Kofi Annan to Hull during our tenth Freedom Festival!

Tent Talks

(in partnership with the University of Hull, Hull 2017 and Guardian Live)

Freedom Festival in partnership with the University of Hull presented a series of panel discussions, talks and live events during the festival weekend, which explored themes of freedom. We heard activist, artistic and academic perspectives on how creativity can inspire surprising environments for conversation to flourish.

The programme mixed traditional debates and talks with a provocative layer of live performance, exhibitions in non-traditional gallery spaces and extraordinary interventions in public spaces.

Among others, we heard from:

  • Blair Imani - Equality for Her/Black Lives Matter
  • Professor John Oldfield - WISE
  • Ruth Daniels and artists from In Place of War
  • Jenna Rossi Camus - Fashion & Freedom
  • Acclaimed artist Bob and Roberta Smith
  • and a fascinating selection of academics and journalists