About Freedom City 2017

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

Dr 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. Dr King gave an impromptu acceptance speech and held the audience spellbound as he spoke of his struggle for racial justice.

"There are 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.” Dr Martin Luther King Jr, 1967

Drawing on the themes of war, poverty and racism highlighted by Dr King in his acceptance speech, which remain as relevant today as they were in 1967, 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.

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