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Freedom Festival Arts Trust Transcending Boundaries and Making Waves Globally
Freedom Festival Arts Trust Transcending Boundaries and Making Waves Globally
13 December, 2023

An evaluation report on Freedom Festival Arts Trust events demonstrates a positive impact on the city of Hull. Local and visiting audiences spent an estimated £4 million within the local economy.


First created as part of the bicentennial commemorations of the first anti-slavery act in Parliament of 1807, Freedom Festival Arts Trust continues to celebrate William Wilberforce and his work within the abolitionist movement.


The city’s cultural highlights of the year; The Awakening in March and Freedom Festival in September attracted more than 172,000 people into Hull city centre and Bridlington for a one-day touring event.


The report’s findings show 90% of attendees expressed a good or very good experience, and 84% specifically planned their trip to partake in the festivities. The economic impact is equally impressive, with an average spend of £32.16 per head.


Local engagement in a world-class artistic programme has been a cornerstone of Freedom Festival Arts Trust’s mission, with 483 participants involved in 4 programmes, contributing a staggering 3,200 hours of rehearsal and performance time. From this, 85% reported heightened confidence and increased likelihood of participating in future cultural projects.


Cllr Mike Ross, Leader of Hull City Council said:

“The Freedom Festival has grown beyond all imagination from when we set it up over 15 years ago. The festival is now cherished by the people of Hull as the premier cultural event in the city. It provides the opportunity to entertain and inform. That it has done this at the same time as generating an estimated £4million for the city, this year, shows what a tremendous part of the fabric of Hull the festival has become. It has transcended its geographical confines, setting its sights on becoming one of the world's foremost outdoor arts festivals.


“This year, the festivals were another triumph, drawing over 172,000 people into the heart of Hull, igniting ambitions to propel the Freedom Festival events to unprecedented heights, as a beacon of innovation and creative prowess.”


The commitment to accessibility shines through, with 99% of venue and performance spaces now wheelchair accessible. Furthermore, 14 performances are British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted, and 12 have audio descriptions, making the festival an inclusive experience for all.


Mikey Martins, the CEO and Artistic Director of Freedom Festival Arts Trust: said: "2023 exemplifies the evolution of our work." He highlighted the success of the 'Freedom on Tour' event in Bridlington, part of the broader plan to bring the transformative impact of Freedom Festival to diverse audiences in the wider Humber Region.


He continued: "The work we do is designed to be free to access, and to sustain this, we rely on funding partnerships and support from various sectors. It's crucial for us to diversify income streams and forge new relationships to navigate the challenges of the current economic climate.


“As Freedom Festival Arts Trust looks toward the future, the message is clear: Hull is not just a city; it's a global cultural force, and Freedom Festival is leading the way.”


The organisation’s Winter festival,  The Awakening, celebrates Hull's maritime identity, folklore, and mythology. With a dazzling array of light installations, sculptures, live music, and theatrical performances, this year attracted 80,000 visitors, generating an economic impact of approximately £2 million.


The broader 5-day Freedom Festival, featuring 270 artists from 36 companies and presenting 136 events, drew an audience of 92,000, contributing an estimated £2 million to Hull's economy. The festival's global partnerships, including its status as an Arts Council NPO and involvement in international networks, continue to elevate Hull on the international stage.


The full report can be viewed here