Posted: 09/12/20

Performances bring hope and optimism to Hull

Note: Since the publication of this article the date of the Vigil has changed to 3 May 2021. You will be able to book your Vigil from 10am on 1 March 2021. 

Proving it’s more than a weekend, in 2021 Freedom Festival will present two internationally renowned performances prior to its annual September festival, with an uplifting spring programme starting in March.

An organisation known for creating the unexpected, Freedom Festival is surprising the city of Hull with two intimate yet powerful performances, providing audiences the opportunity to reflect on what’s going on in the world, our place within it and where we take it next. 

In a bid to satisfy Hull’s insatiable appetite for arts and culture while bringing a sense of optimism and hope ahead of the annual international arts festival returning to the city centre in September, Freedom Festival will present two internationally-renowned performances: the UK premiere of The Vigil, a 365-day monumental performance beginning on the spring equinox (20 March), telling the story of a city coming back to life; and Luke Jerram’s celebrated Gaia, at Hull Minster from 10-30 March.

Vigil 1

The Hull Vigil

Beginning on the spring equinox, the UK premiere of The Vigil will commence in Hull with a monumental performance celebrating the choreography of a city. 

Each day for a year at sunrise and sunset a vigil will keep watch over Hull from a bespoke structure located on top of the Hull College building, overlooking Queen’s Gardens and the William Wilberforce statue. Over the course of the year 730 people will contribute to the collective vigil, watching over the city in a 365-day silent performance.

Commissioned and produced by Freedom Festival, Hull will be the first UK city to host this timely, thought-provoking and large-scale monumental work created by Australian-Belgian choreographer Joanne Leighton from Paris-based WLDN. The support of our partner Global Streets has enabled this work to be brought to Hull. We are proud to work with Hull’s Esteem group to build and install the Vigil Shelter and with Hull College to provide the venue and additional support.

Over the past eight years The Vigil has been running continuously in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. In 2021 it comes to Hull for its 10th performance. 

A community project built by Hull for the people of the city, this will be a performance with a narrative running deeper throughout the year. While each vigil stands alone, together they form a human chain and a manifestation of community, humanity and resilience. Something even more significant today. 

At sunrise and sunset, each vigil will step inside the structure without their phone to watch over the city for an hour, looking out across the Humber to the east, the urban spread to the north and across the suburbs and countryside to the west. 

Esteem and their local supply partners are assisting in the development and delivery of the project. Anyone over 18-years-old is invited to take part in The Vigil, it is free to participate and bookings will open on 20 January 2021. The unique, solitary nature of The Vigil will enable it to continue should lockdown restrictions tighten once again.  

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Freedom Festival said: “We always wanted to be more than just a moment in September. These two performances are the perfect opportunity for Freedom Festival to have a year-round presence in the city as we offer something wonderful for people to experience, engage with and reflect on. 

“We’re really proud to bring The Vigil - a powerful, internationally-renowned, participatory performance - to the UK for the first time. It's an incredibly positive and meaningful story for the people of Hull as we show the country and the world we’re the city in the north that looks out for each other in a different and considered way.

“We’re acutely aware that excellent and unique art in public space responds to very real situations in society and helps us make sense of it. The Vigil is the perfect opportunity for us to respond by spending some time taking stock of who and where we are, and hope for a more positive future after the awful time we’ve been living through. An intimate invitation to reflect on the beauty and incredible story of our city, what’s going on in the world, our place within it and where we take it next. When will you take your vigil?"    

Anthony Baker, Executive Director and Joint CEO of Freedom Festival Arts Trust, continued:We wanted to bring the city together to promote optimism and hope. We’re incredibly grateful to our partners for their continued support as we bring communities together again, in a safe and considered way with these intimate yet powerful performances.

“If you’re interested in participating in these events, sign up to our newsletter so you can be the first to hear from us. We’re also currently recruiting volunteers to help manage these events, visit our website to register your interest and get involved.”   

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