Tag Archives: Freedom Festival

Freedom Festival 2017

Freedom Festival: the three-day weekend where chaos reigns in Hull’s city centre.

I didn’t attend for full days like I have done in previous years, but in the eight or so hours, stretched over two days, that I did attend, I was captivated by so much that it is difficult to say which one aspect stood out me. I watched acrobatics like no other, sipped soup with a stranger, was attacked by prehistoric creatures and witnessed a bodiless lady drink wine through a straw.


I’ll start with the music, because when I plan any festival weekend this tends to be key features on the list. And I actually only saw one band for any length of time. Having missed Mighty and the Moon at Humber Street Sesh, I made sure to attend their set in the Speak Out Stage, as part of the Three Minute Heroes campaign run through The Warren Youth Project.

I was running late to everything that I planned, so found myself at the rear of a very busy Speak Out tent. Rushing down Queen Street I could hear Emma Fee’s sweet tones and it drew me into the tent, and I was so excited that I didn’t mind that I couldn’t see the stage. However, for the first few songs I was agitated by those small crowds of people who loitered at the opening chatting and just simply not focusing on the music, which should have been why they were there.

As difficult as it was to focus entirely on the music, I was still blown away with how fab the band are. I’ve always enjoyed Emma Fee’s sets at gigs and festivals, whether doing her solo work or performing with her band Happy Endings. When I heard that she was joining Mighty and the Moon I was so excited (I’ve said that already) because I could picture the beautiful harmony of her voice alongside Martin Clappison’s. In fact, I’d built such an aural image in my mind, that my biggest fear was that it wouldn’t sound as good in reality as in my head. But it was everything I had hoped, adding both to the Mighty and the Moon’s emotional tracks and their more uplifting, dance along sounds. Musically and lyrically, they’re just a beautiful band and you should definitely go and see them – I should go and see them more often.

I had planned to see other musicians but got caught up in a chat with a wonderful woman named Elaine. This wasn’t quite random, although for those who didn’t know that While Having Soup was happening it may have felt that way. Along Princes Dock Street, a stone’s throw from Ask, chairs sat in pairs and people chatted while eating soup. The soup was lentil soup made at Kardomah94 and was very yummy, but the menu had bites of conversation rather than food orders. The idea behind it was simple: to get people talking. You start by giving your name and being paired off with a stranger. My stranger conversationalist was a woman named Elaine who was wonderfully positive and easy to talk to. The menu is tailored to the city and we were asked to discuss whether or not a new narrative was needed when discussing Hull. We were given 15 minutes to discuss the topic, and I’m sure we went over that, never pausing, never feeling uncomfortable discussing personal opinions based on personal experiences.

FreedomFestival - While Having Soup picture with Elaine
Our morsel of wisdom

For dessert, we were asked to leave a morsel of our discussion which would then be written up onto a photograph taken of us both. These photographs of strange pairings with their offerings of wisdom were then displayed on a screen in the centre of the al fresco café.


What I loved about this the most was that as someone who often attends things on their own, I was made incredibly comfortable in volunteering myself. Elaine’s daughter joined in as well, but they were separated so that each had a different perspective. And both pairings continued conversation afterwards, introducing the others and bringing people together who wouldn’t necessarily ever speak to each other. In an age when you can sit on your phone while having a coffee alone in a café, people don’t spark random conversations, but they were forced to in this environment. And it was incredibly positive: the waitresses told us how inspiring and interesting the two days’ worth of conversations had been.

Elaine and I didn’t swap numbers or anything like that, but maybe our morsel of wisdom will help people see Hull in a different way, discuss Hull in a more positive manner.

The front page of the guide for Freedom Festival showed The Bullzini Family, famous highwire-walkers who have performed at a variety of festivals. They told a simple story of man meets woman, man and woman fall in love. But metres in the sky, far above the onlookers below, and a rope being their only means of reaching each other.

The Bullzini Family 

The acrobatics were amazing. The entire performance was terrifyingly fascinating. Not only were they walking along the tightrope, but they hung from it, twirled on it and cycled across it. There were fireworks and confetti and an overall good time was had by every person watching. The crowd was a mixture of suspense-filled intakes of breath and loud clapping in support of their amazing skills.

It’s difficult to describe in words because it was watching something which on paper sounds somewhat basic but in reality is incredible. Everyone who asked, I suggested they catch this performance simply because explaining it wasn’t enough – you had to see it.

Sky-high cycling 

And, looking up at even the grey sky, I caught a bit of sun during the whole thing.

I caught a few performances, mostly dance performances. And I enjoyed them all.

I was quite excited by the blurb in the programme for Compagnie Dyptik performing D-Construction. Again, I was little late so four deep into the crowd, which made this difficult to see much of what was performed at ground-level. However, the performance involved them scaling a fence, which I could watch and was incorporated brilliantly into the dance. The blurb described the setting as a playground but that playground could have been anywhere in your imagination: with Arab hues in the music it could have reflected Syria, Afghanistan, or Palestine. With audience participation, it brought all of that to Hull. Even the choreography left your imagination to fill in the story: aggressive movements which could have been intended as playful or violent. The performance ended with the dancers on the opposite of the fence, seated amongst the Hull crowd and looking back at where they’d started, either longing for home or free from what was home or both.

The story of D-Construction inspired me, but the performance which amazed me was Joli Vyann and L’Eolienne performing Lance Moi En L’Air. Translated this means Thrown Into The Air. And that’s basically what happened. The entire dance told a violent love story and both male and female dancer pushed and threw the other around. It was a series of lifts and throws and every time they finished one terrifying lift, you assumed they’d done everything that they could, only to watch on as they performed more.

One of the many lifts 

There’s only one negative that I can consider with regards to the weekend’s events. The moaners. Every time I found myself moaning, it was about the moaners and the people who just weren’t embracing or giving their full energy to the festival and the acts that work hard to perform as wonderfully as they did. Struggling to listen to an amazing band is annoying; I understand it happens, but the conversations were unnecessarily loud and could have moved elsewhere. And those who joined the back of a crowd only to complain that they couldn’t see because of the crowd, really should have moved on. Last year I joined the back of a crowd, realised that I was missing something wonderful and made sure that I came back in time to see the entire performance when repeated. Because the majority of performances are repeated at Freedom, so that the majority of people can see and experience them. There are no excuses for moaning about not being able to see a repeated performance. And if it is a one-off performance and you’re not interested, make way for those who are.

The weekend was exceptionally chaotic and it was wonderful. The positives massively outweigh any negative. And reliving it by writing a review or looking over the photographs, you feel like you’re experiencing the joy and excitement all over again.

This has been a long one, but there is so much I’ve  not told you about. My advice? Get yourself to Freedom Festival 2018, experience it for yourself. And if you can’t do that, invite a stranger for a cup of soup and a chat.


Freedom Festival 2015 – in summary

The things which made my weekend:

It won’t strike you with much surprise that my highlight of the weekend was Streaming Lights.

When the initial programme came out, I was convinced that I would be camped outside the Yellow Bus Stage for the headline slot. And at 9:45pm I was stood clutching the barrier at the front of this stage, with thousands stood behind me watching the amazing Public Service Broadcasting.

At 10pm, however, I was twisting my way out from this crowd and into the one which had already formed in front of the Fruit Trade Music Stage.

And boy was I glad to have made this decision. Everyone I’ve spoken to said how amazing Public Service Broadcasting were, and I have no doubt in this, but anyone who saw Streaming Lights was saying the same thing. Every time I see these guys, they grow stronger. Their music is utterly fun, their energy unrelenting, making for a fast-paced and humorous set. Between Ryan’s intoxicated fist pumps to the guy in the audience who took control of the audience in chants and calls, this was a set which didn’t pause even for a breath. My chest hurt from laughing so hard, but the night ended on a high.

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan Streaming Lights - fist pump

I caught the end of Urban Astronaut on the Saturday as I headed down to the Marina. Performed by members of Highly Sprung as part of “Gone in 20 Minutes”, they told the story of the planet destroyed. The crowd was so dense however, that I could only see so much, though watching the Astronaut spinning in the air was quite fascinating.

Spotting the set up for this performance on Sunday, I parked myself on the floor and joined the front row for the entire set. With a two year old on my knee, we watched and took photographs as the story unfolded in full. In short: the atmosphere has turned toxic, leaving the ground barren and the air dangerous to breathe. A girl wearing a dress which reflected the summer sky set the stage, forming a circle with dirt and ‘planting’ flowers around. “Look after this for me,” she asked my toddler friend, engaging with key members of her audience. From up King Edward Street, four masked figures rolled a contraption which held the Astronaut in place. He bounced up and down, launching into the air above spectators’ heads. This brought more and more people. Their dance continued as a diet, the Astronaut fearing the girl who tried to comfort him and show him that life can survive once again on Earth.

It was amazing to watch as the Astronaut launched into the air, sailing above the audience who watched in awe. Children and adults alike seemed to watch with the same intrigue.

There was the chance to vote for your favourite of the “Gone in 20 Minutes” performances. However, I was watching so intently that I didn’t note the code and number down to text my vote. And the crowd dispersed so quickly that I couldn’t catch someone to ensure this was done. I’m not even sure how I check which performance won, but if it wasn’t this one then those I missed must have been extraordinary!

Urban Astronaut - Freedom Festival 2015 Urban Astronaut - Freedom Festival 2015

Taking kids to one of the days meant that I got to experience those attractions where a single lass may not be overly appreciated. “Mums and dads” were welcomed to join in with their offspring in Tangle, and so I joined two friends and their toddlers. And in doing so, I saw how this was both a wonderful idea for kids and also something… well, not. One of the little ones was just tired enough to be overwhelmed by the whole thing; surrounded by people in an environment she wasn’t used to, a tantrum ensued. Her little friend, however, enjoyed it so much that I was literally dragged back into the queue so that we could have a second go.

Such a simple idea, this was great fun and produced a colourful piece of art when complete. Absolutely loved it, and so did most of the children who joined in.

Tangle - Freedom Festival 2015 Tangle 3

Things which didn’t work for me:

The World Village Market didn’t really seem all that worldly. I saw a range of food stalls which offered cuisine from around the world – Turkish kebabs, French crepes, Chinese noodles and some delicious hot and spicy Indian curry – but little by the way of worldly goods. Considering the theme is Freedom, I would have expected more Fairtrade stalls. There didn’t even seem to be the usual extent of local stallholders as usual. Perhaps simply worded incorrectly, but I just didn’t agree that this aspect of the festival was achieved.

More of a niggle than a criticism, there were often huge crowds for events which were quite obviously going to be popular. I missed out on seeing Faust because the crowd was already six-deep when they started. I’ll accept some of the blame, as I’d not kept track of time as well as I should have to get myself to the front of the queue, but a larger space or some seating at the front of the crowd would have solved this. The Yellow Bus Stage were no longer using their deckchairs: could these have been put to use here?

I think this is something the festival-goers need to consider next year. But also something which the organisers could give some more thought to. Many of the attractions were repeated over the weekend, but sadly Faust was not one of these.

New acts I now follow:

I caught two new acts performing on the Bridge Stage on the opening night of the festival, catching the end of their sets as I wandered over to enjoy local bands I have seen many times.

Scarlet Riot - Freedom Festival 2015

The first was Skarlett Riot, a Scunthorpe-based rock group. Frontwoman Skarlett was wearing a rather impressive outfit. Their sound is reminiscent of the wonderfully heavy nu-metal and punk rock of the 2000s, guitar-fuelled and aggressive while still rhythmic enough to move to. It was a sound I could easily get caught up in, and I would love to see them perform again.

Spring King - Freedom Festival 2015

Spring King, fresh from Reading and Leeds festival stages and about to embark on a tour supporting Slaves, instantly got my attention as their guitarist threw himself and his instrument around. Whereas two of the band seemed pretty static, this guy and lead vocalist/drummer Tarek Musa seemed to exude endless energy. It was great to see a drummer fronting a band, though he was situated quite deep into the recesses of the stage.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The idea of Freedom was everywhere, with people being given the chance to voice their opinions as well as listening to the ideas of others. The variety of music and theatrical performances, spread over the weekend for thousands to attend. And all for free!

Here’s to Freedom 2016.

Freedom Festival Headliners – LIFE


Having played a series of festivals this summer, Life showed great pride in performing as Freedom Festival headliners on Saturday night.

Starting off with their debut single “In Citrus”, the band tore the stage wide open with a loud clash of pop-punk tunes and recognisable lyrics, frothing the audience into bouncing bubbles of energy. And this is what this band does. All four members ignite on stage, with Rich pounding the drums behind shape-makers Loz, on bass, and Mick, on guitar. Mez, as the frontman and lead singer, takes all of the stage, and in previous gigs I’ve seen him extend the stage to join the audience. This band is about sharing their music and about enjoying every second of it.

Life pullquote 1The band recognise the importance of connecting with their audience. As well as the movement on stage, brother Mez and Mick speak out to the crowd. Between each song, Mez spoke with the audience, declaring themselves a Hull band and stating that “nobody knows it but Hull is a great place.” Freedom Festival is evidence of this, and with bands such as Life people visiting from outside of the city are reminded of this. When performing each song, they create a kinaesthetic whirlwind as Mick and Loz criss-cross the stage and Mez just puts himself wherever he wants to be, at one point stood on Rich’s bass drum facing away from the crowd and looking ready to topple at any point.


What makes this band such a fantastic headliner is that they don’t wind anyone down, keeping the energy of the festival at a high. Finishing with their current single “Take Off With You” does mean that one of their less fast-tempo songs ends the night, but then the guys come to the front and remind us of that edge-of-the-stage feeling.

Speaking with Mez afterwards, he said it was “an honour” to perform Freedom Festival, and certainly to take the headline slot. He feels that “Life is still a new band” so they are glad to be able to perform, identifying this as a special opportunity and a pleasure.

You can see them next perform in Hull on Saturday 27th September on the main stage at Trinity Festival or at the Adelphi on Thursday 6th November.

On Monday 8th September, the band announced their 10 day tour:

Life - Nov 2014 tour

Freedom Festivals Openers – Streaming Lights


Burnsy declared the Bridge stage open with the arrival of Streaming Lights, an electro indie/pop band with more energy than anyone in their audience. It was difficult not to feel bad for the band with a sparse audience, as they commanded passers-by to “stop and watch us”.

Fact is, it’s the worst going on first. Nobody wants to seem too eager, unless they are two local music reviewers, and often time becomes a misinterpreted concept when you’re in the festival mood. They started as scheduled, at 7pm, and with the slow wander from finishing a Friday shift, it meant that the audience just wasn’t ready to be pumped up.


Steven Minns, Ryan Gibbins and Chris Flynn, on the otherhand, were very much ready. Their performance was playful and energetic, with Minns cutting instrumentals with a casual kick or dance around the stage. Gibbins was all smiles, and all three shared themselves with the growing crowd, at one point declaring “thank you to the children” who were dancing around, never emptied of energy on a Friday night.

Truth is, this band deserved more from their crowd. Their songs are full of dance-tune beats with Minns’ appealing vocals cutting through in a hypnotic manner. When you first see them stood up on stage, you can’t imagine the intense power they deliver once the music begins; a collective of electric sound with penetrating beats and a modulated voice, igniting your feet to tap along.

To catch these guys performing, they are headlining the Outdoor Festival on Saturday, 20th September, at Red Sail on St Andrew’s Quay.

Also check out their Facebook page or give them a Follow on Twitter @Streaming_Light




So you want to be involved in the Freedom Festival?

Freedom Festival is promoting itself as Hull’s “urban street festival”, relating both to some of the music acts featuring over the weekend as well as emphasising the characteristics of the city.

Hull a city which has built itself up. It has won City of Culture by simply showing the world what we already do. Other festivals, such as the Humber Street Sesh with its slogan of “a festival by the people for the people”, emphasise local talent and demonstrate the full palette of what Hull has to offer.

This year’s Freedom Festival has taken this on, ensuring that there is a bank of opportunities for visitors – local and those from further afield – to be a true part of the festivities. In Hull you do not simply turn up to watch an act, you become part of that act.

Throughout the summer, up to 400 people have been involved in creative masterclasses preparing for two of the main features of this weekend.

Saturday night features the smaller procession, leading the way to the Spellbound performance on Humber Quays. Organised by Walk the Plank who produced the torch procession at Freedom 2013, local people attended a 4-hour class on making willow lanterns, depicting the story of Rama and Sita. This is tied in with the story of Indian epic Ramayana which the Britain’s Got Talent finalists will tell on stage from 9pm. These lanterns will be carried with pride as pieces of art made by local people, with children under ten being able to join in with shadow banners.

Sunday features the larger procession, featuring general public, local communities and companies. Running groups, art companies and music acts are just some of the groups who will be joined by families and friends of Hull who too have been willing to give up their time to make props. The procession will feature hundreds of participants of all ages, depicting Nelson Mandela’s vision for a tolerant multi-cultural society as well as maintaining Hull’s heritage.

But you want to know how you can be involved! Well, there’s even more.

Also relating to this year’s focus on Nelson Mandela, you can make a flower in his honour. Visit Studio Eleven on Humber Street between the hours of 12-6pm on Friday and Saturday and 12-3pm on Sunday, and you can join organiser Adele Howitt in making a flower out of bone china. These will feature a temporary art installation featured on the Long Walk to Freedom alongside commissioned artists – temporary as these flowers will become part of the soil as time takes control and consumes the purity from the clay. It takes 10 minutes, but you will be a part of something which will become iconic in Hull, even if only for a certain length of time.

See something on the day and fancy a go – there are workshops held by some of the acts.

For adults and children, you can work together to produce your own book with the aid of Bootworks Theatre. Cost is £5 to cover the expense of materials, but will allow people of all abilities to try something new.

There are also many free workshops. Keelan Phillips will be showing off his BMX skills and offering you a chance to test yourself. You can participate in a bit of Parkour on Hull Marina with The Urban Playground team. You can even try out some circus skills with acrobatic artists Acrojou who will feature with their German Wheel.

Unlike most festivals which offer comedy and/or music, Freedom offers you a chance to do something different, to open up your mind to new experiences and opportunities. If you want to be a part of it, then they want you to participate.

All details can be found on the Freedom Festival website.


Freedom Festival 2014 – What I’ll Be Looking Out For

 This year sees three full days of entertainment throughout the city of Hull, as well as more chances for the public to join in and take a place amongst art and theatrical installations.

Each day will feature the usual collection of music across a variety of stages, theatre performances along the street as well as in the Big Top, art installations both indoor and outdoor, the Digital Funfair and night markets open until 11:30pm. There is something for everyone, and no excuse not to find something which can interest and inspire you, whatever your age.


Mandela rainbow

Nelson Mandela is this year’s focus and inspiration, with The Long Walk to Freedom showing artwork based on the man himself and the origins of the Freedom Festival.

Friday will start in the evening, as the daytime consists, as I am sure it does for many, work. At dusk on Friday and Saturday, the Long Walk to Freedom will feature various light installations alongside commissioned artwork from a range of artists. This would be the perfect time to wander from Nelson Peace Gardens to the Tidal Barrier, where there will be access to the various music stages. Not to be missed are Streaming Lights, an electrifying indie band who are kickstarting the night for the new Bridge Stage, showcasing local bands. At the Yellow Bus Stage I aim to see the Spark! drummers who have  featured as the main image on a lot of the promotions material for this year.

Saturday will feature twelve hours of music, the Bridge Stage opening with Breeze at 11am and concluding with headliner Kate Tempest from 10-11pm. I’ll be heading there throughout the day, ensuring I conclude the night in front of Life, a fave from the Humber Street Sesh, and Kate Tempest, playwright, novelist and poet who is headlining Saturday night.

I will spend much of the daytime wandering around the various attractions, including the Sheds, returning after their success last year, and the World Music Stage down on Princes Quays for some Kingston Swing. I also plan to make a bone china flower in Studio Eleven which will feature in a piece of artwork along the Long Walk to Freedom trail.

 At 8pm, I will be partaking in the Spellbound Procession with a friend who obediently joined me at the lantern-making masterclass in preparation. Similar to the torchlight procession and Trans Express who lit the marina up in 2013, this procession will feature local people leading the way to the Spellbound performance, taking place at 9pm on the Humber Quays. Each of us will proudly display our handmade lanterns and banners depicting the story of Rama and Sita, lighting the streets of Hull alongside Jellish who will help ignite Humber Street.

Sunday, usually the wind-down – will be as big and wonderful as both previous days. All theatre and music performances will continue, with the Bridge Stage opened by Emily Moulton at 11am and closing the festival with the fabulous Hillbilly Troupe from 5:40-6:10. As I’ll probably be a bit tender from the packed events of Saturday, I will be spending most of the day by the bands on this stage. That said, I am tempted by Ready Steady Colour an interactive theatre experience where you are served in a mock café.

Starting at 3pm on the High Street, I will be helping once more to transform Hull; this time into A World of Colour. For this, we have been warned to wear clothes which we do not mind being stained, including that of a white top to show off the bright powder paint which will be cast into the air.  

It’s going to be a very busy weekend, but one I am really looking forward to.

See ya there.



For more details and specific times, visit www.freedomfestival.co.uk

For ticketed events visit www.hullboxoffice.co.uk/


Life: In All Honesty

The word ‘life’ is everywhere. Look around the supermarket and try to argue that I’m wrong: this butter will improve your life; this magazine dissects the life of this celebrity; even long-life milk. This was the response from LIFE when asked how they chose their band name.

The band LIFE consists of brothers Mez (lead vocals) and Mick (guitar), originally from Lincoln. Mez moved to Hull for university, where he met Loz (bass) and Rich (drums), former school friends, and established the band The Neat. About a year ago, Mick was introduced and the band took an alternate spin, playing a different, cleaner sound.

As Life, the band have certainly developed, having released their first demo ‘In Citrus’ in 2013, the video to which is a kaleidoscope of colour and sound.
Since then they have played numerous events, this weekend having performed at the Humber Street Sesh and Kendal Calling, and signed with Birthday Records. The band have been working alongside Nick Hodgson in London, and putting themselves out there to ensure the name LIFE is heard in every corner of the country. We were lucky to have over half an hour talking to the band, whereas often they only get 10 minute slots with journalists to promote themselves in this need-it-now windstorm of a music industry. This isn’t enough, as these “Hull scamps” are hungry to promote their music and engage with their audience. This is evident in their live performances, where the focus is on the integration with the audience rather than on perfecting the delivery. Mez says that he treats every show like his last, giving as much of himself to the audience as he can. When I saw them last weekend, he certainly did this, spending as much time in the crowd as he did on stage. They are a true punk band who play because they love to play, recognising that their songs could be interpreted to delve into political issues though this is not always the aim.

The band have been heavily influenced by a wide range of music in addition to Literature and popular culture. Mick, who often writes the lyrics alongside his brother Mez, explained that they like the slightly egocentric manner in which they will slip in a literary reference or comment on a contemporary popular television show, giving their songs a dated and edgy feel. This promotion of their intelligence reminds me of bands such as the Manic Street Preachers, who build their academic knowledge and intellect into their music because they love to, and because they can. This gives a poetic feel to their lyrics, sung to a catchy pop-punk tune which can really get the audience moving to the music.

It’s difficult to compare this band to any specific previous musician, as a whole. They write in a similar way to the Manics, they play in the same way as most punk or indie bands, and they sound like LIFE. Though you can always hear a sense of influence – we live in a world where so much has been done, that it is nigh-impossible to create a truly original piece of any art form. ‘In Citrus’ resonates the sound of The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’, while ‘Crawling’ reminds me of the Ramones. Their current single ‘Take Off With You’ has a much cleaner sound, with controlled use of music to heighten the senses; knocking you sideways with sudden bursts of energy, taking you from shades of blue to intense moments of sunset red.

When asked why he wanted to be in a band, Mez stated that it has always been his dream to “self manage… self promote”, taking on the punk ethos of music, and to “be in a band, not working”, which he quickly pointed out is a misconception obtained in naivety (he later admitted to being the member of the band who feels he most has to control and organise). More than anything, what really came across, was that Life is a Hull band. Though they have recorded in London and played gigs across the UK, they promote Hull wherever they go and admitted that they couldn’t see themselves settling anywhere else. All members of the band are proud to have roots in Hull, and said they would like to be seen as “the leading light in Hull … show Hull in a good light.”

And I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. The band are currently finishing a string of festival dates, and then they’ll be recording again in September. Hopefully, an album is on the cards.

You can catch LIFE playing at the following places over the next few months:
Sat 9th Aug @ Boardmasters Festival, Cornwall
Thu 14th Aug @ Artrocker New Blood Festival, London
Sat 6th Sep @ Freedom Festival, Hull
Sat 20th Sep @ Southsea Festival