Freedom Festival, Hull

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The Freedom Festival is an annual music and performance arts festival held in the city of Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is named in honour of the slave trade abolitionist, MP and son of Hull, William Wilberforce. The festival was established in 2007 to mark the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's law, the Slave Trade Act 1807, to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire.[1]

The eclectic mix of entertainment catered for at Freedom welcomes a varied audience, experiencing music, dance, art, street theatre and entertainment from across Europe. During its history has welcomed acts such as Pixie Lott, JLS, The Saturdays, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas and The 1975, as well as many local bands and artists.


Originally held in the summer of 2008, the main festival stage was in Queen's Gardens in the city centre, along with smaller stages in Queen Victoria Square and Trinity Square (The Marketplace).[2] The headlining act was The Magic Numbers.


The second staging of the event, in 2009, was a much expanded occasion, coinciding with the launch of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from the Hull Marina on the weekend of 11–13 September. Around 150,000 people attended various events around the city centre, including a spectacular fire display by French street art group Carabosse around the old fruit market warehouse district, and along the Humber waterfront.[3]

Major pop acts, as well as local talent performed on several stages throughout the city centre, including Peter Andre, Florence and the Machine, JLS, Pixie Lott and Grooverider.

Queen's Gardens – Live music and activities on Saturday and Sunday plus the two fountain bars.

Humber Quays – Live pop acts on Saturday and the start of the Clipper 2009–10 Round the World Yacht Race on Sunday.

Jazz in the Boatshed – Hull's hugely popular Jazz festival featured as part of the Freedom Festival celebrations on the Saturday and Sunday.

Queen Victoria Square – A link-up with the BBC's Last Night of the Proms, live from the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.

Fruit Market – Thursday, Friday and Saturday saw French company lit up the streets with fire installations, to the sounds of DJs and artists,[4]

The Saturday night played host to a huge firework display, and as part of the Clipper Race boat departures, the Marina staged a Red Arrows flypast on the Sunday.


The third annual Freedom Festival took place on the weekend of 10–11 September 2010 with a spectacular centrepiece display by French art group Plasticiens Volants consisting of a parade of enormous inflatable Monsters. The artists indicated that the piece was inspired by installations of large fibreglass toads placed around the city in celebration of the Larkin25 commemorations for renowned late Hull poet Philip Larkin.[5]

The full programme of events for the festival in 2010 included artists, comedians and performers of international standing alongside musical acts such as 2010 Mercury Prize nominees Foals, The Saturdays, Alesha Dixon, The Wanted, Fyfe Dangerfield, Diana Vickers, Starman, Roll Deep, Skepta and McFly[6] Freedom Festival also showcased local bands and artists in the marina and Fruit Market districts.


The fourth annual free Freedom Festival was extended from three to a four-day event and took place on Thursday 1 September, Friday 2 September and the day and evening of Saturday 3 September.

This year the "big" pop stars of previous festivals like JLS and The Saturdays were dropped in favour of more local acts, to widen the festival's appeal. About 75,000 people attended music, dance and comedy events in 2011.

The line-up for 2011 included: King Charles, Fenech-Soler, Kyla La Grange, The Belle Collective, The Neat, Zagros Band, Ice House Project, Tribes, The Baghdaddies, White Pilots, Punjabi Akhara, Humba Rumba, Rory Motion, Sean Taylor, Jody McKenna, Roger Davies, Jess Graham Band, Camille O'Sullivan and The Hull Freedom Chorus. £100,000 in Arts Council funding helped to stage this year’s festival.


The fifth Freedom Festival, Hull's showpiece cultural event, took place between Friday, 7 September, and Sunday, 9 September with what was described as "a spectacular mix of events". It boasted "a broad range of programmes including street theatre, cabaret, dance, comedy and live music".[7] The headline act was Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.


The 2013 Freedom Festival took place between Friday 6 September and Sunday 8 September. According to reports over 80,000 people went to the three-day event, which this year was also in support of Hull's Bid to be named UK City of Culture 2017 against three other cities.[8]

In June 2013, some of the details were revealed including that the event will open with a torchlight procession of over 600 local torchbearers moving throughout the city centre culminating in a rendition of Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream'. Up and coming Manchester band The 1975 headlined along with Akala, local comedy star Lucy Beaumont, comedy trio Pappy's and French pioneers of modern street theatre, Transe Express. As well as plenty of local music on the Fruit Trade Music stage, acts such as The Talks, Felony and The Happy Endings also performed.[9]

Craig Charles recorded his BBC Radio 6 Soul and Funk Show from the event on the first night. Also Ziggy, an exhibition of never-seen-before Ziggy Stardust photographs and fan memorabilia from the 1970s, featuring Hull born Mick Ronson. It is also in support of Hull being a finalist in the UK City of Culture 2017 list.


The 2014 Freedom Festival took place between Friday 5 September and Sunday 7 September.[10]


The 2015 Freedom Festival took place between Friday 4 September and Sunday 6 September.[11]


The 2016 Freedom Festival took place between Friday 2 September and Sunday 4 September.[12]


The 2017 Freedom Festival took place between Friday 1 September and Sunday 3 September and was part of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 offering.[13][14] Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was awarded the Wilberforce Medallion at the festival.[1][15]


The 2018 Freedom Festival took place between Friday 31 August and Sunday 2 September.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Kofi Annan gets Wilberforce honour at Freedom Festival". BBC. 2 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  2. ^ "Freedom Festival comes to Hull". BBC Humberside. BBC. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  3. ^ "Events generate £9.3m for Hull and East Yorkshire". BBC News Online. BBC. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  4. ^ [1] Archived 11 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Dazzling night-time parade of floating monsters for Freedom Festival". The is Hull and East Yorkshire. Northcliffe Media Ltd. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Freedom 2010 is coming..." Visit Hull & East Yorkshire. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  7. ^ "'Spectacular mix of events' lined up for Hull's Freedom Festival". This is Hull and East Riding. 2 June 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  8. ^ "Record crowds for Hull's Freedom festival". BBC News. BBC. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Acoustic trio The Happy Endings becomes a full band". BBC. 10 October 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Freedom Festival 2014 date set". Hull Daily Mail. 21 September 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Freedom Festival 2015 Guide" (PDF). Hull Daily Mail. 5 September 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  12. ^ "A Rather Flavoursome Freedom Festival 2016". Hull 2017 UK City of Culture. 22 June 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Hull's Freedom Festival 2017: what to expect". Hull Daily Mail. 19 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Freedom Festival". Hull UK City of Culture 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Wilberforce Lecture Trust". Wilberforce Lecture Trust. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Freedom Festival 2018 events, road closures, timings and everything else you need to know". Hull Daily Mail. 1 September 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2018.

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