Nina Simone
Nina Simone

Director's Blog: Feelings of Freedom

Posted
Wednesday 1 September 2021

In the first in a series of special blog posts, Warwick Arts Centre's Director, Doreen Foster, reflects on the theme for our reopening season, and how it continues to resonate with the world around us...

Never a day goes by without us seeing news stories that show how so many of us face almost unbearable difficulties - from crowds fighting to flee countries in the face of new regimes, to individuals who've faced grave injustices for what they believe, or who they are. 

Too many of us take our freedoms for granted, or think we are free when we are not. This season, we hope to provoke you/us all to think about these ideas, to give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy and to remember those whose struggle for freedom is, as Angela Davis said "a constant struggle."

Each season we will be presenting work that responds to a particular theme. The story behind the theme might be simple, it might be complex, but we hope that our exploration will take you on an artistic and emotional journey - that what you experience will make you to feel something, to connect and engage with the World and other people in new and enlightened, exciting ways.  

Our inaugural theme, for Autumn 2021, is Feelings of Freedom.  

Way back in 2019, when we were designing our 2021 City of Culture programme, we were exploring ways of responding to some of the ideas and issues behind the narratives laid out by the City Of Culture’s Creative Director, Chenine Bhathena. For myself, the answer came one morning whilst listening to the news, and yet another story about people who had travelled over land and water in search of a better life - a life free from war, free from famine and drought, free from hostility and persecution.

This in turn led to me ask what freedom really is. How do we define freedom? Do we only understand what it means to be free when that freedom is perceived to be under threat?

When listening to the great musician Nina Simone, I was reminded of her timeless version of I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - a song about liberation, about breaking chains, about speaking out, but also a song filled with hope, as she sings about sharing all the love in her heart to bring us all together. It's a theme she returned to time and time again.

"I'll tell you what freedom is to me," Ms Simone also said. "No fear."  

I thought about this statement through race-tinged lens, but also much more. I considered what it means to fear - fear that the rains won't come (or that they will); fear my vote would be stolen; fear the environment will be decimated; fear of war, oppression...

Now, there will always be plenty of entertainment in any season at Warwick Arts Centre, and these coming months are no exception. After the year we have all just lived through, we need something to bring us together. However, the season also covers some serious terrain, revealing societal imbalances, the effects of financial uncertainties and, within Change Festival, environmental concerns.

But as Change Festival highlights, small changes can often have a greater impact than we imagine. If we are free to make choices, then we should we not make those choices in the interest of humanity?

The Feelings Of Freedom theme may have a darkness at its centre, but it's also one filled with optimism too.

 

Doreen Foster

Director - Warwick Arts Centre