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Community Correspondents

James Johnson, Community Correspondent


As I have grown up I’ve seen many things about Hull change. One of the best things about Hull, for me, is the arts and culture in the city and Freedom Festival has been crucial as part of that. It has made me proud to say I am from Hull.

Whether I’m at the KCOM stadium supporting Hull City or taking a windy walk across the Humber Bridge, I love this area and this city. As a Community Correspondent it excites me that I can promote the city and continue to prove to people what the city has to offer. I can continue to show the changes being made around the city to put Hull firmly on the cultural map.

“Our history, these streets and these waterways – they don’t exist anywhere else”: An interview with Graham Chesters

By James Johnson

When retirement is reached, it is natural to assume that life will slow down. For Graham Chesters, Chair of Freedom Festival Arts Trust’s Board of trustees, retirement has meant the exact opposite. Unknown to him at the time, the role of Freedom Festival Board Chair would become – and still is – an enormous part of his life.

Our meeting takes place in the fitting setting of the mulberry tree at William Wilberforce house. More than three years after becoming Chair and following the last three, hugely successful events, Graham often faces the questions most people involved with Freedom Festival face: ‘Where do we go now? ‘How can it get even bigger and better?’

“The idea is always to get a reconnection with the main theme of Freedom,” Graham explains, as he talks about how the connection to freedom must always run throughout the event to make it different to the numerous “pop festivals” held across the UK.

He continues: “In the last few years, it is noticeable that the festival has taken a different route away from a pop festival. It’s an urban street festival, which celebrates freedom and celebrates our city and its links to freedom. It celebrates the fact that these streets, these waterways don’t exist anywhere else”

Graham is looking forward to the ‘spectaculars’ of the festival this year, which he says are always highlights – Wired Aerial Theatre’s As the World Tipped, and Danbor Talks (Clash of Drums) on the festival’s opening night, for example. More importantly, he says – by his own admission, a cliché – that the festival is about the people. “For me, the highlight is always the joy and pleasure on people’s faces as they leave, people of all ages.”

And that sums up what Freedom Festival is about: it’s the people, a chance for Hull to be in the spotlight. Who knows how big that spotlight will be in the future, but for now this festival is a proud jewel of this city and can be its cultural focal point for years to come.

To Hull And Back – Karl Bushby’s 20-year Freedom Journey

By James Johnson

It may be impossible to define the true definition of freedom, as the concept is different for everybody. This year, Hull celebrated the 75th anniversary of aviation heroine Amy Johnson’s death. When Amy took flight to Australia in 1930 it seemed like the doors of possibility had been opened up and the search for freedom had taken on a new perspective. What impact have Amy’s incredible adventures had on others who also wanted to take on the ultimate in exploration and the search for personal freedom?

Cue Karl Bushby, a former paratrooper from Hull, who he has taken on arguably the biggest exploration challenge known to man: the ‘Goliath Expedition’, which involves walking an unbroken path of 36,000 miles from Punta Arenas in Chile all the way back to Hull. Beginning in 1998, Karl’s journey was due to be finished in 2006 – however due to big delays and a small matter of being banned from Russia for five years, his earliest finish will now be 2018.

Despite delays and problems, it is expected that the city will show Karl the great warmth it is known for on his return, with a hero’s welcome. Much like Amy Johnson did, Karl is paving a path and saying ‘anything is possible’, a sentiment mirrored in the city’s own development and expansion in recent years. Hull has changed considerably since 1998; when Karl does eventually return after his epic 20-year journey, we should all be proud of the city he left behind and the city he is returning to.