Festival800 to celebrate the Magna Carta’s gift of freedom of speech

claimed musicians Billy Bragg and the Levellers; author, screenwriter and comedian Shappi Khorsandi; YouTube sensation Alfie Deyes; Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL; and a host of national and international artists and human rights activists will visit Lincoln between 28th August and 6th September celebrating freedom of speech as part of Festival800, an artistic response to Magna Carta.Caption: The Levellers in 2014

Acclaimed musicians Billy Bragg and the Levellers; author, screenwriter and comedian Shappi Khorsandi; YouTube sensation Alfie Deyes; Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL; and a host of national and international artists and human rights activists will visit Lincoln between 28th August and 6th September celebrating freedom of speech as part of Festival800, an artistic response to Magna Carta.

Organised by cultural solutions UK on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Festival800 will offer ten days of live music, comedy, spoken word, street theatre, lectures and debate. Unlike previous celebrations of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, Festival800 will focus on how the document’s powers of liberty, justice and freedom of speech have shaped today’s society.

David Lambert, festival director:

The sealing of Magna Carta essentially gave us our freedom of speech and this is something that needs to be celebrated.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the Magna Party and the official opening of Lincoln Castle and the new home of the city’s copy of the 800 year old charter and we felt it was equally important to celebrate the freedom of speech that the signing of the document bestowed on us. We have a diverse range of artists coming to Lincoln for what will be an eclectic, challenging, exciting and memorable festival for the people.

Festival800 will launch on Friday 28th, with Billy Bragg performing at Lincoln’s Drill Hall on Saturday 29th. The successful protest songwriter will also be talking at The Collection on Sunday 30th. During Progressive Patriot he will discuss how his sense of Englishness has been shaped by history, childhood, thinkers and artists such as George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, The Clash and the impact of Magna Carta, the civil war and the miners’ strike.

Shappi Khorsandi
Shappi Khorsandi

Named after a 17th-century radical democracy movement founded in England during the English Civil War, the Levellers have a long and illustrious career. Their highly politicised lyrics and mix of folk, rock and punk influences have attracted a large and loyal audience who have seen them perform at festivals, such as Glastonbury and medium sized venues, such as the Engine Shed in Lincoln. This time around, as part of Festival800, they will play a much more intimate venue.

An incredibly popular comedian, Shappi Khorsandi has appeared on Live At The Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross and Have I Got News For You. She will visit Festival800 and Lincoln Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) with a brand new show on Thursday 3rd September. Her involvement in a celebration of freedom of speech is perfectly mirrored to her childhood, when, in 1979, her father, Iranian writer and comic Hadi Khorsandi, was forced to flee to Britain following the Iranian revolution and his perceived criticism of the new regime.

Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg

Festival800 is offering a wide and varied programme, including YouTube Vlogger Alfie Deyes who will be signing copies of his ‘Pointless Book’ in Lincoln on Tuesday 1st September. The 21 year old has, in just six years, developed a loyal following of over 3.7 million people on YouTube, who watch his videos 35 million times each month.

Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL; Gillian Clarke, the National Poet for Wales and Imtiaz Dharker, Holder of the Queen’s Award for Poetry, were commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council to write a poetic response to Magna Carta. The works were central parts of the royal opening of Lincoln Castle on 8th June. Festival800 is bringing them Poets Laureate back to the city on 5th September to read their Magna Carta Poems and other associated work, in front of just 130 people at The Collection.

As well some of the UK’s most thought provoking and talented performers, festival organisers are also finalising arrangements to bring a host of international artists to Lincoln as part of the festival.

The Executive Member for Culture and Heritage at Lincolnshire County Council, Councillor Nick Worth said:

Festival800 will be a memorable event. It will bring to life many of Magna Carta’s themes and celebrate the many liberties it bestowed on us. We will hear from people who cannot talk openly in their homelands for fear of being imprisoned or executed.

We will hear from people who have campaigned successfully for freedom of expression and equality. We will see some amazing art and listen to some very moving stories and challenging views. The freedoms granted in Magna Carta, which is so strongly associated with Lincoln, have spread around the world and during Festival800 we will welcome many international performers, artists and speakers to Lincoln.

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England, added:

Festival800 promises to be an exciting, challenging and unique series of events. Our investment will help bring a wide array of national and international talent to Lincoln and people will see that having the freedom to develop art, music, theatre, videos and poetry that expresses views and opinions, which are not necessarily shared by the majority, is a vital part of liberty and is in the essence of Magna Carta: I think it is something that we should appreciate and celebrate.

As well as its main programme of events, Festival800 will also be partnering with the annual Steam Punk Festival, the Children’s Festival of History and Hartsholme Country Park Magna Carta Trail, all of which take place at the end of August and beginning of September.

The full Festival800 programme will be announced shortly but in the meantime, further information can be found at www.festival800.co.uk, facebook.com/festival800 and twitter.com/festival800. Tickets for Billy Bragg and the Levellers are available from www.lincolndrillhall.com

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