Freedom Festival 2023 - Freedom Talks


University of Hull reveals packed programme of events as part of Freedom Festival

Events coordinated by the University of Hull including a family arts trail, exhibitions, debates and science busking will take place as part of this year’s Freedom Festival which runs at various venues in Hull from 30 August to 3 September.

The programme forms part of the University of Hull’s long-standing partnership with the Freedom Festival Arts Trust. As well as contributing to the Festival’s line-up, the partnership includes creative learning opportunities for students including paid internships and volunteering opportunities.

Professor Darren Mundy is the Dean of the University of Hull’s Faculty of Arts, Culture and Education. The faculty manages the partnership with the Freedom Festival Arts Trust on behalf of the University.

Professor Darren Mundy said: “Our partnership with the Freedom Festival Arts Trust builds on our long-standing relationship and shared alignment on key issues such as social justice and sustainability. Freedom Festival is a vibrant example of the city’s culture that our students and staff can experience. We’re also proud that, thanks to this partnership, our students have the chance to take part in a range of creative learning and work experience opportunities – such as internships with the Freedom Festival team.”

We’re delighted that our partnership with the University of Hull is going from strength to strength

Mikey Martins

Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival Arts Trust


The University of Hull will be contributing and hosting some of the Freedom Talks on campus in Middleton Hall on 31 August and 1 September. The theme running through the Freedom talks is ‘The Art of Change’ and how creativity is used as a tool for recovery, to change perspectives of history and legacy and to form allegiances with multi agency partners to support society to be more equitable, adaptable and resilient.

The programme includes:

  • Dr Cassandra Gooptar, University of Hull historian and researcher, in conversation with Ebony Riddell Bamber – Programme Director of The Guardian’s legacies of enslavement project and Courtney Yusuf Producer of Today in Focus, on their experience of working on The Guardian’s ‘Cotton Capital’ special series.

  • Panel discussion on Creativity and Climate adaptation awareness Part 1, chaired by Louise Smith, Director of Aura. Featuring Dr Kate Smith of the Risky Cities project, Dr Gill Hughes focusing on the Ideas Fund, Dr Jones leading on the Youth-led Adaptation for Climate Change project and local artist Fred Garland, the driver behind the Turning the Tide project working with the University.

  • Dr Angel Urbina Garcia is chairing the discussion on Creative impact on health and well being a focus on young people where Andrew Smith (Wilberforce Institute) and Joris Herweyer (Project Coordinator of TaRMaK / Ell Circo D'ell Fuego from Antwerp) discuss their projects and their impact on children’s wellbeing.

  • A keynote by award-winning author Luis J Rodriguez, who will be introduced by Dr Jo Metcalf from the Cultures of Incarceration Centre at the University of Hull. Luis is the former Poet Laureate of Los Angeles (2014-2016), and a community and urban peace activist, mentor, healer, youth and arts advocate. He has spoken at prisons across the world to talk about the role creativity can play in carceral contexts. He will be joined by his wife, Trini Rodriguez, who will lead a healing circle inspired by Chicano and Mexica traditions. Luis will deliver the Key Note Presentation on Friday 1 September from 3pm.

Book your free tickets for the Freedom talks.

Other University coordinated events include:

  • Bringing Breathlessness Into View, Hepworth Arcade 30 August to 3 September. A multimedia exhibition co-created by local people living with breathlessness, photographic and sound artists and health researchers at Hull York Medical School to raise awareness of what it is like to live with breathlessness.

  • Science Busking: the Hull Street Scientists will be roaming the festival – on Princes Dock Street North, 2 and 3 September – revealing the hidden maths, science and psychology behind some amazing tricks.

  • Ukraine: The Price of Freedom: A charity photo exhibition in the University of Hull’s Art Gallery in the Brynmor Jones Library features 90 images by Ukrainian photographers and photojournalists documenting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The exhibition, which runs until September 2, has been curated by John Bernasconi, Director of the University of Hull Art Collection, journalist and editor Olena Hatton and Alec Gill, author, historian and film-maker who is well-known for documenting Hull's Hessle Road trawling past.

As the University’s flagship institute in social justice, the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation has played a central role in coordinating elements of the Festival’s programme that will focus on modern day and historical slavery.

These events will promote awareness and understanding of human rights and freedom, as part of the international arts festival which is named after the city’s association with the abolition of the slave trade.

Some of the Wilberforce Institute’s contributions to the programme are open to view in the run up to as well as during the festival and include:

  • Adinkra Symbol Art Trail in the Museums Quarter from August and throughout September. This free family activity trail encourages visitors to learn more about the symbols and how they link with freedom in Ghanaian culture. A free craft activity runs on Saturday 2 September.

  • Venture Smith – An American Freedom Fighter. Running in the Wilberforce House Museum Gardens from 23 August to 31 October, this exhibition tells Venture’s story – one of the most documented survivors of the slave trade.

  • The Uncovering Modern Slavery Exhibition at the Wilberforce Institute, 30 August to 15 September. This multimedia exhibition, created in partnership with the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership and the Wilberforce Institute, highlights how criminal exploitation is a growing form of Modern Slavery in the UK.

  • Homelands, co-curated with the Hull Afro Caribbean Association, this photography exhibition brings a fresh dimension to an important privately owned collection of pictures taken in Sierra Leone just prior to decolonisation from Britain. It runs from 30 August to 15 September at the Wilberforce Institute.

Dr Nicholas Evans, Senior Lecturer in Diaspora History at the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, said: “The Wilberforce Institute has been a key partner of Freedom since the Festival began in 2007. William Wilberforce’s political leadership in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade is a hugely significant part of our history. Honouring his memory is a powerful way to encourage understanding around slavery which remains a global problem today, with an estimated 50 million people trapped in modern slavery.

“It’s also important we acknowledge the roles that other anti-slavery activists played to ensure we tell the whole story of the abolition movement so we can learn the lessons of the past to help shape a freer future. The Wilberforce Institute is at the forefront of researching and tackling slavery, working in an inclusive way to give voice to the exploited and we’re proud to join forces with Freedom Festival to raise awareness and understanding of slavery of the past and present.”

Freedom Festival1
Light installation at Freedom Festival 2016

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival Arts Trust, said: “We’re delighted that our partnership with the University of Hull is going from strength to strength, and these excellent and compelling parts of this year’s Festival programme are just the tip of the iceberg, outside of the festival period we’re also painting artists up with academic experts around topics of social justice, criminology and climate adaptation, developing various student engagement programmes with creative practitioners and also working closely with arts based research.”

Formerly Symposium, Freedom Talks is an integral part of the Freedom Festival.

Inspired by the reformist legacy of Hull local William Wilberforce and the wider abolitionist movement, Freedom Festival Arts Trust build local, national and international alliances to create cultural experiences that have something to say about universal values and the future, working with artists, creative organisations, international producers, the private sector, academic partners and voluntary and community groups. The big subjects are as ever: Barriers to freedom including tackling isolation, loneliness, negative cultural perceptions and racial stereotypes, diversity, modern day slavery and effects of human trafficking.

Freedom Festival Arts Trust brings thousands of people together through its annual festival and year-round artistic and creative programme of performances, installations, talent development programmes and creative participatory work to excite, inspire, challenge, empower and provoke. Hull’s long-running Arts Festival has flooded the city with free to access thought-provoking and entertaining arts and culture for 16 years.

Freedom Festival began in 2007 to mark the 200th anniversary of the first anti-slavery act in parliament.

For full details of the Freedom Festival line up, visit the Freedom Festival website.

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