City-centre festival that gives visitors to Hull the freedom to have fun

Hull’s flagship cultural event, and award-winning international arts festival, returns for 2023 with a packed programme of street spectacle and shows.

Taking place in galleries, museums, theatres, and public spaces across Hull between 30 August and 3 September, this year’s Freedom Festival has everything from high wire circus acts to blue hippos dancing around the city centre.

Organisers have focused the festival into five days culminating in a grand finalé weekend, featuring immersive shows including aerial spectaculars, acrobatic performances, contemporary circus, street theatre, dance, and music.

Alongside the weekend spectacles filling the streets, there will be a whole host of indoor shows, exhibitions and installations, some of which will be open for the full five days of the festival and many of them free to attend.

The varied line-up is a mix of genres and styles from music and cabaret to circus and dance, as well as a combination of exhibitions to interactive installations.

And for the first time ever, the Freedom Festival is making a stop in East Yorkshire with an afternoon of free circus performances by the sea, in Bridlington on Thursday 31 August from 12pm to 5pm just outside of Bridlington Spa.

Topping the bill this summer, is big spectacle show, UNITY by Gorilla Circus, which will be taking place in Hull’s Albion Street Car Park on both the Friday and Saturday evenings.

It includes dance trapeze, wire walking and hair hanging accompanied by a poem that is adapted for each performance’s location and workshopped with local writers. Performers are also accompanied by a ‘cast’ of mannequins that will float up from ground level.

Also being staged on both Friday 1 and Saturday 2 September is French circus company Les Filles Du Renard Pâle’s Résiste, a UK premiere, which offers an evocative fusion of experimental tightrope performance and live music. Due to limited capacity, advanced booking is recommended for this unusual duet between a high wire walker and musician.

Bringing a taste of Catalonian culture to Hull, street theatre show Hippos will see three blue hippos tour around the city centre, dancing and interacting with crowds on 2 and 3 September, while family friendly science based themed street entertainers, Hull Street Scientists, will roam the streets with card tricks, optical illusions and mind-bending gadgets.

Among other highlights will be The Freedom Music Stage from 1 to 3 September which will feature live music and DJs showcasing the local music scene programmed by Warren Records. Centred in Zebedee’s Yard – billed as “the heart of the festival” – the ‘Yard is also the venue for the UK premiere of Primus, from Belgium-based circus company 15Feet6, which revolves around a high-octane circus show, culminating in a roller-skating finalé.

For the full programme, visit

For places to stay and visitor information,

Photos: UNITY by Gorilla Circus (above) and street theatre show Hippo from Zum-Zum Teatre (below)