Freedom City 2017 festival launched, Martin Luther King sculpture planned for campus

The two year events programme will end with a formal commemoration

23rd November 2015

Freedom City 2017 festival launched last week to celebrate 50 years anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle and a new sculpture of Dr King will be installed on the Newcastle University campus.

Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, said: “Almost 50 years on, the ‘great and grave problems’ of war, poverty and racism that Dr King spoke about during his speech remain as relevant today as they were in 1967. The idea of social justice for all was shared by many in Newcastle at the time, and is what we aim to encompass today in our mission to be a civic university.”

On 13th of November in 1967 Newcastle University became the only place to give Dr Martin Luther King an honorary degree during his lifetime. On a notable occasion, he visited Newcastle and give an iconic acceptance speech about his struggle for racial justice and the challenges in overcoming war, poverty and racism.

Nigel Bonham, who will create the new artwork, said: “The opportunity to make a bronze statue of Martin Luther King Jr is a rare chance to portray one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. It will be a thrilling prospect to use my skill to help celebrate Dr King’s extraordinary visit and speech in Newcastle.”

This city-wide two year programme of events celebrating the occasion will also aim to bring Dr King’s legacy to life through special events, talks, exhibitions, art works, and performances involving schools, artists, voluntary groups, academics from Newcastle University and a host of partner organizations.

It will finally culminate on 13 November 2017 with a formal commemoration event in the King’s Hall at Newcastle University – the location for Dr King’s honorary degree ceremony in 1967.

His Excellency Matthew Barzun, the US Ambassador to the UK, who made a special visit to Newcastle to hear about the preparations being made for the celebrations and to take part in the launch event, said: “We are honoured to be a part of this journey. In his acceptance speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about how we are all linked ‘in an inescapable network of mutuality’. This could not be more true of the relationship between the U.S. and the North East. As Freedom City moves forward we have the opportunity to be more networked, more inclusive - we are eager to be a part of it.”

This event was dedicated to inform community groups, cultural organisations, Newcastle and Gateshead local authorities and other partners who will be involved in the two year programme about the current plans for the festival.

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, added: “When Newcastle University decided to honour Dr King, he chose to come here because we shared a vision of social justice, a world without war, poverty and racism.”

All the details for Freedom City 2017 festival will be confirmed over the next few months and everyone who is interested to keep up to date can visit the official website:

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