Nova and Sierra Leone

Nova Studios has been working regularly in Sierra Leone since 2006. 

Our first visits helped to build a network of British Council supported school links between Freetown and Hull. Over that time we have built a strong relationship with Freetown-based youth media collective WeOwnTV which is led by our good friend and collaborator Lansana Mansaray (aka Barmmy Boy), with whom we have produced many short films and documentary projects, most recently the 2017 commissioned series ‘How Do You Have A Happy Life?’.

After 14 visits to Freetown, we have many friends there and it’s a city we love.

In January 2016 Nova Studios organised a delegation of 16 visitors from Hull – including Hull City Council deputy leader Daren Hale, 2017 boss Martin Green, Freedom Festival CEO Mikey Martins, the director of WISE John Oldfield, RIBA chair Mark Hodson, the BBCs Shirley Henry and city council Arts and Events lead Paul Holloway – on a visit to Freetown with a view to strengthening Hull/Freetown links for 2017.

This trip was planned closely with the British Council in Freetown alongside their director Simon Ingram-Hill.

Throughout 2017, both cities have run events that develop and bring life to the Hull/Freetown links.

Here’s what the British Council’s Simon Ingram Hill had to say about the year:

“I would like to say a very big thank you for the opportunity of working with you on #Hull-Freetown 2017. What started with your visit in January 2016, culminated in a series of initiatives and events spread out over this last  year that we can be justifiably proud of, and which demonstrably strengthened the historical, civic, educational and artistic links between the two cities.

Whilst  Hull2017 has achieved so much for Hull’s standing in the UK, this last year has also shown how an international city-to-city link can go far beyond civic twinning aspirations.  There have been real achievements for Freetown from its association with Hull and a legacy created for the future.   

Civic links were reinforced in official visits to Freetown in January 2016 and to Hull in September 2017. The Education links, based primarily on existing school–to-school partnerships, broadened their base during this last year with new thematic programmes, in voice and design. It was sample activities from these, brought together in one place, that we presented to the Princess Royal on her visit to Freetown in April. The civic-educational links were further given a very real avenue for expression, through Hull’s immediate financial and material response to the August mudslide disaster in Regent.    

It was the artistic cultural links which perhaps came on the longest journey as new partnerships were formed with Hull Freedom Festival and Hull Truck Theatre. At this end we see the Freetown Music and King Dus festivals both benefitting.  

At the same time the two national museums here have been able to find new audiences through two specially commissioned exhibitions, one on Modern Slavery, drawing heavily on WISE’s material and the other, 2778 Nautical Miles, developed in Hull. Living exhibitions such as these are the life-blood of any museum wishing to be a repository of both educational and artistic enterprise and a catalyst in opening minds. The long-standing association between Nova Studios and WeOwnTV strengthened further the film-making industry here, and “Freetown: This City Belongs to Everyone” is fast becoming a staple for promoting tourism and investment and “How to Have a Happy Life” a platform for exploring identity or vocational skills.  

During Hull-Freetown ‘Freedom’ week in October we used artistic platforms, film exhibition, voice to explore important current issues – the environment, modern slavery, and city planning. We would have liked to have gone further and shown the ‘House of Kings and Queens’ exhibition in Freetown, so powerfully presented  at #Hull2017 and though this has not so far happened we are currently creating the contexts for its future display 

Underpinning so much of #Hull-Freetown 2017 was recognition of the importance of bringing people and talent together, both digitally and face-to-face, of providing outlets for individuals to develop their talent further and where possible the skills to shape their futures.”

Freetown: This City Belongs to Everyone is a shot-by-shot lift of Nova Studios’ 2017 bid film film This City Belongs to Everyone.

Watch the Freetown version here.

Watch the Hull version here.


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