About Freedom City 2017

Freedom City 2017 was a city-wide programme commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King being awarded an honorary degree by Newcastle University.

Dr Martin Luther King was one of the world’s greatest civil rights leaders, using the power of words and acts of non-violent protest to achieve seemingly impossible goals. His campaigns against racial inequality, poverty and war are renowned and his accomplishments studied worldwide.

His ‘I have a dream’ speech is known around the world. But few people are aware of another powerful speech he gave right here in Newcastle.

The occasion was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Dr King took time to visit the University to receive the award. Unusually, Dr King was invited to give an impromptu acceptance speech and held the audience spellbound as he spoke of his struggle for racial justice and the "three urgent and indeed great problems that we face not only in the United States of America but all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war.”

The aims of Freedom City 2017 were:

  • To bring Dr King’s legacy to life for a new generation to equip them with knowledge and skills and empower them to contribute towards tackling the great problems of war, poverty and racism.
  • To enable artists to create internationally significant work inspired by the themes of Dr King’s acceptance speech and galvanise the region’s cultural venues and landmark sites as hosts to a global audience.
  • To stimulate academic research and debate that will likewise contribute towards finding solutions to the challenges posed by war, poverty and racism.

Freedom City 2017 was a partnership between Newcastle University, Northern Roots and NewcastleGateshead Initiative.

The vision for Freedom City 2017 was devised by Adam and Patrick Collerton and the city wide programme has been curated with partners across the city.

Artists, musicians and performers from around the world joined with communities across Newcastle and Gateshead to be part of an exciting city-wide arts and cultural festival featuring high-profile outdoor events, thought-provoking theatre productions and inspiring exhibitions.

The Freedom City 2017 partnership worked with amazing cultural venues and the people of Newcastle and Gateshead to put together an exciting programme that ran throughout 2017 - early 2018, including high-profile events in October and November 2017, such as Freedom on the Tyne on Sunday 29 October.