Here is the first of our blogs documenting our time in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This project, part of Grow, the theatre's artist development programme, is seeing three of the theatres supported artists and I travel to Freetown to make a new piece of work in collaboration with three artists from the city, organised by the British Council. This is happening as part of the Hull-Freetown celebrations, a year long programme of civic, educational and cultural work between the twinned cities as part of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017.
The artists working alongside me are Sam Caseley (The Herd Theatre), Lizi Perry (The Roaring Girls) and Katie Norris (Norris and Parker) from the UK. We are joined by Fanta, Rashid and Mamadu from Freetown. The artists from Sierra Leone all work in a variety of disciplines and have a strong commitment to the idea that theatre is a force for social change.
The first thing to say is that this city is amazing. After eighteen hours of traveling we arrived at night, and there is very little electrical light here so we couldn't really make anything out. Moving through the busy streets by car just gave us glimpses to this busy, lively city. Then we awoke to this view from our window (see above).
The performance we are creating will be part of the Hull-Freetown Freedom week organised by the British Council, an arts festival that will see many other results of creative collaborations between the two cities shared. Yesterday we discussed Freedom and what it means for us all. It was a revealing conversation that showed that we, despite being from different cultures, traditions and geographically several thousand miles apart are living in a small world. A free writing exercise showed us that as artists in our 20s we share many of the same fears about this worlds future but are also excited about how it will shift and change and the part we are hoping to play in this.
It is also clear we are living in a world in which where you are born still has a tremendous impact on the freedom you have. This project was meant to start in May in Hull, as part of Hull Truck Theatre's annual artist development festival. However due to the refusal of visas to the artists from Sierra Leone we have had to start it five months later here in Freetown. This was also, understandably, a big topic of conversation on day one.
Having only been here two days it seems to me Hull and Freetown share more than just moments of historical connections (namely our roles in the abolition of the slave trade) in common. We are both cities that are viewed by some through the lenses of our past. Places that people think they know, but are wrong about. Places that that are challenging these pre-conceptions. Places that pride themselves in having an independent identity. Places full of life and adventure.
500 words is by no means enough space to talk about the experiences we have had so far and Katie, Sam, Lizi and I are all tweeting using the hashtag #HTTFreetown - follow it to keep up to date with our adventures!