In this blog post, producer Beth shares updates on ArtReach’s upcoming LIBERTY UK Festival while discussing some of the challenges of working with European partners remotely.

Liberty UK is a pop-up outdoor arts festival, which will take place in Leicester this July and August. This year, the festival will expand to encompass an exhibition series that will be installed across Leicester City Centre, as well as the traditional weekend festival format. Our exhibitions will take over toilets in the public realm and giant posters displayed on buildings will create the effect of a giant fly poster campaign.

Produced by ArtReach, the festival will be a culmination and celebration of some amazing work that will xtake place in the heart of our local communities that will inspire and demonstrate our power as individuals and collectively, to create a future that we want and can be proud of.

We are delighted to present some brand new commissions as well as work that will be created by participants of our training programme for young activists called Liberty Changemakers, which is a first of its kind for ArtReach. We invite audiences to explore Leicester and search out artwork in some rather unusual places, that will show them the city in a new light and tell powerful stories about and from some of their neighbours.

The work in toilets is part of a much bigger series of work and commissioning that is taking place across Europe in Italy, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria. Accessible Art for All is a Creative Europe funded project that aims to share positive messages about tolerance and solidarity and to create a vision for a more unified society. Despite original plans to meet face to face for this project, we’ve grappled with our varying time zones and settled into Google Hangouts for all of our partner meetings. It’s not quite the same as voyaging across to Rome and Hamburg but we’ve made it work.

Time zones have been the least of our concerns though, as like many of our colleagues, we tentatively approach our festival dates in the hopes that this time we’ll be able to go ahead. Some of us are already on our second or third sets of dates for our exhibitions but we’ve kept our chins up with unwavering hope and support for each other. The message of this exhibition is really important to all of us and one that we are really excited to share with you. We’re excited to be working with a selection of talented artists and look forward to sharing more information about them soon.

For the Liberty Changemakers project, Laura Frances De Moxom will team up with Nonhlanhla Makuyana, Sophie Yates Lu and Suzanne Stellard to deliver our bespoke programme for young activists aged 13 – 25. They will teach them how to create their own powerful social action campaigns and the important place that art has and can play in creating meaningful social change. During the programme, they will explore issues close to their hearts and communities, the key mechanics of putting together a sturdy social action campaign and how to harness the power of the sun and the art of cyanotype printing to create their own poster art, which will form our giant flyposter campaign.

So far, we have been really fortunate to have the support of the Safer Communities Partnership and the YES project in Leicester. They have provided invaluable support and guidance for how we can work together with some of our most marginalised communities.

Working with our partners across Europe is both inspiring and exciting. Seeing how each exhibition grows and develops has been fascinating and our regular catch-ups have been a wonderful space for us to get to know each other. These relationships, particularly locally, are going to be important for us moving forward as we work to build more opportunities for young people to take part in Liberty Festival and use our platform as a critical platform for sharing their stories.

More of the programme will be released across the Spring and Summer along with dates for the Festival, so stay tuned as we unveil more of our plans over the coming months.

Our wonderful Accessible Art for All partners are as follows:

Explora, Rome

Explora, the children’s Museum of Rome, is a private, permanent children’s museum specialising in interactive and hands-on experiences, educational and entertainment activities for children aged 0-12, schools and families.

Altonale, Hamburg

altonale Inc. is a non-profit cultural organisation aiming at making the local and international diversity in Altona visible, at encouraging mutual acceptance and developing sustainable and open networks for art and culture.

Kristianstad Regional Museum, Kristianstad

The Regional Museum Skåne is for every resident and visitor in the region. They preserve, nurture and develop everyone’s common cultural heritage. Choose from places to visit, exhibitions, art experiences, film, interesting guests and creative activities. They always have something going on for all ages! Everyone is welcome, regardless of gender, transgender identity, ethnicity, religion, functional variation, sexual orientation and age.

Muzeiko, Sofia

Muzeiko was created and built on the initiative of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which has invested $20 million in the project.
Everything in Muzeiko’s home has been thought out down to the last detail – from the specialized architecture, through energy efficiency, to the space for interactive exhibits, each of which piques children’s curiosity about science, engineering, ecology, communication and the arts.