CARLISLE represented the UK on the international stage for a festival that examined freedom and the state of the arts in Europe today.

The Freiraum Festival, that was held last weekend, saw creatives from the Carlisle area come together to provide a unique insight into freedom in Europe and how Covid has impacted the world both socially and culturally.

It was part of the Freiraum project, funded by the Goethe-Instut, which has been an ongoing collaboration between 40 cities since 2017.

Dr Jane Dudman, local curator of the festival, said: “Freiraum itself was initially set-up to really interrogate questions of what freedom is today in Europe, what it means, and it is specifically focused on Europe.

“This festival has really been about pulling together all the conversations and work that has been happening since then.

“I’m really proud of the fact that Carlisle is part of that because you see the list of cities - Berlin, Paris, Brussells, Athens, Carlisle - I feel really proud that we kept on being involved in it.

“My favourite aspect of the Carlisle contribution was that all of it was really accessible, it spoke to people in different ways, and it was honest.

“When I saw Carlisle’s contribution alongside other contributions from all over Europe, I thought Carlisle’s contribution was just really Carlisle, it has such a strong flavour of Carlisle in a positive way.”

Carlisle’s role in the festival was all online with a series of pre-recorded readings, musical performances, and a Speakeasy.

The Speakeasy, which is a monthly city event, was almost two hours long and brought together local poets and writers who shared their views on the goings on in the world.

There were multiple themes that emerged such as adjusting to lockdown, nature, and borders.

Phil Hewitson, organiser of Speakeasy, said: “We had pieces written from different times in lockdown, including some early pieces where they were getting used to being isolated and trying to figure out people’s routines and how they could cope with the situation.

“Because the Freiraum project is about freedom, we have got people reflecting on borders and the mindset behind welcoming people from different backgrounds, cultures, and accepting people.

“One of the other things that emerges is that we are very lucky to have so many talented people here.”

The festival was very contemporary as the nature of borders is often raised in the news and political debates.

However, over three years people from across the continent have been brought together under this commonality.

Dr Dudman said: “It was a real feeling of solidarity with people, people were reflecting my thoughts back to me but also giving me different points of view, different angles of what I thought.

“That’s why it is important, to be less insular and to be more open and connected with people.