Skip to main content

Grant Fuels Cutting-Edge Research into Arts' Power to Shift Mindsets

8 May 2024

The Freedom Festival and the University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute and School of Criminology, Sociology and Policing have been awarded a Hull Impact and Knowledge Exchange (HIKE) grant, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to conduct a groundbreaking pilot study on measuring the social impact of the arts on audiences. This innovative collaboration aims to develop an evidence-based toolkit to capture data on how art and culture can influence societal perceptions.

Shift mindset image

Since March 2023, the Freedom Festival has been working closely with criminologists from the Wilberforce Institute to shape this cutting-edge project. The partnership has engaged an international network of artists and researchers, including a joint fact-finding trip to the Netherlands in January 2024 to explore the theme of coercive control.

"We are thrilled to partner with the Wilberforce Institute on this pioneering initiative," said Jo Hawkes, General Manager of the Freedom Festival. "By combining our artistic expertise with their academic rigour, we aim to shed light on the profound impact that art and culture can have on societal issues."

With roots in Wilberforce’s campaign to end the transatlantic slave trade, Freedom Festival recognises that the work to ensure freedom for everyone is ongoing, as slavery still exists in many forms worldwide. The annual festival does not shy away from approaching difficult topics to ensure the fight is not forgotten and to give a platform to often unheard communities and minorities.

"The concept of freedom is deeply embedded in everything we do at Freedom Festival," said Jo Hawkes. "Our work not only addresses freedom from slavery but also tackles many forms of injustice worldwide. We explore barriers to freedom and how to overcome them through creative projects that highlight societal injustices. This pioneering project will help the arts sector at large, to gauge the impact performances can have on audiences."

“The Wilberforce Institute, awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2016 for outstanding excellence, uses lessons from the past to shape a freer future and challenge the root causes of modern slavery.” 

"We are excited to collaborate with the Freedom Festival on this groundbreaking project," said Simon Green, Professor of Criminology and Victimology at the University of Hull and Wilberforce Institute. "The successful HIKE grant funding will support the pilot study, laying the foundation for a subsequent grant application to further develop and refine this first-of-its-kind toolkit.”

The pilot study will be conducted during the Freedom Festival, which attracts an audience of approximately 90,000 people annually. The festival will commission and present performances, installations, and exhibitions that address themes of social justice. Post-show discussions will allow audiences to engage directly with artists, academics, and professionals working in related fields.

Audiences will interact with the artworks and performances, through live surveys, conversations, and streamed recordings of the talks. This multi-faceted approach will enable the collection of valuable data to inform the development of a "free at the point of access" toolkit.

In September 2022, the Freedom Festival Arts Trust and the University of Hull announced a three-year partnership deal, building on the long-standing relationship between the University and the international arts festival.  Research projects, work experience for students and other opportunities are just some of the benefits of the partnership.

Shift mindset 3