Roll up at the double for festival fun
Two big tops to be packed with contemporary circus acts to celebrate Britain’s abolition of slave trade
THIS YEAR’S Hull’s Freedom Festival will have an accent strongly on circus. But don’t expect clowns and big feet.
Instead there will be dazzling acrobats pushing the limits of flexibility and strength, skilfully funny entertainment, and a park in the city centre transformed into a “garden of delight” with not just one big top, but two.
Now in its 12th year, the mainly free family arts festival, which attracts around 130,000 people a year, and is proud of its world-class programme, is extending to five days from August 28 to September 1.
Over 40 companies will stage 150 acts at the festival, which started in 2007 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade.
“The intention is to be able to do more for the city and present an even richer offer,” says artistic director Mikey Martins.
Three of the four ticketed shows will be contemporary circus.
Australian company Circa, which wowed with their performance in a Hull cemetery during City of Culture 2017, will open the festival with their show Humans in Queen’s Gardens.
On the bill from the Friday will be Belgian troupe Circus Ronaldo with the UK premiere of Fidelis Fortibus, a one-man show where Danny Ronaldo relates the glorious histories of his deceased circus family.
Mr Martins – once an escapologist and juggler – said: “Circus is an art form and there’s been a massive resurgence in what is generally called contemporary circus.
“If you go to a festival in Brighton, Melbourne or Montreal, what you see increasingly is circus on par with dance.
“Anyone who saw Gravity and Other Myths at last year’s festival will be blown away by what’s coming this year.”
He is inspired by stories of elephants, once part of an remarkable menagerie alongside lions, kangaroos and even polar bears in the Zoological Gardens, being led down Spring Bank to the River Hull to drink. Buffalo Bill visited with his sensational Wild West show in 1904 – and of course every year the city welcomes one of Europe’s largest travelling funfairs, Hull Fair.
“It’s building on the rich history and tradition of Hull which has always welcomed travelling shows,” adds Mr Martins. The five days will allow people to take their time seeing dozens of free acts performing across the city centre.
He said: “(With three days) it’s impossible to see everything. If you ran from show to show with a precise itinerary you could only see around 40 per cent of the entire programme.
“It’s not about getting bigger, it’s about the depth of engagement and experience everyone has.”
As well as circus, the festival offers music, dance, debates, visual arts and theatre and includes multiple commissions and events, exploring themes related to human rights.
Tickets go on sale on June 3. Visit www.freedomfestival.co.uk.
Circus is an art form and there’s been a massive resurgence The Freedom Festival’s artistic director Mikey Martins.