Jenny Howard-Coombes, Executive Director and Joint CEO of Hull’s Freedom Festival, is to step down after this year’s event.
She was the first employee to join Freedom Festival Arts Trust in 2012, and has been instrumental in the tremendous growth of Freedom Festival – Hull’s largest annual cultural event – as well as being a key cultural player in the city and Hull’s bid to become UK City of Culture.
Since 2013, Freedom Festival has welcomed over 650,000 audience members and become a leading international arts festival. It has funded over 100 newly commissioned pieces of work, mentored nearly 400 artists, supported over 10,000 participants and contributed £25m to the local economy.
This year’s festival, its 12th edition, will once again use the city as a stage, as artists from around the world converge in the city of Hull to delight, challenge and mystify audiences with jaw-dropping circus, thought-provoking performances, visual arts exhibitions, digital arts, debates, talks, music and mischievous projects to engage all ages. Exploring concepts of Freedom deeply across the entire programme, it has expanded its indoor programme as it extends to five days.
Freedom Festival Arts Trust Chair of Trustees Kate Denby said: “Jenny has led Freedom Festival from its earliest days as an independent trust to its position now as an award-winning and world-renowned international arts festival.
“The foundations she has laid locally, nationally and internationally will enable us to continue to build on our ambitions in the future. She has also played a significant leadership role in the city, helping to secure Hull’s cultural legacy as a UK City of Culture.
“Jenny’s passion for Hull and its people shines through the programme of work, and she has been a wonderful colleague and friend these past seven years. We thank Jenny for her dedication and commitment, and wish her all the best for her new adventures.”
Jenny will take up a new role with the National Trust for Scotland. She explained: “I feel incredibly proud and privileged to have played a role in the amazing journey that Freedom Festival Arts Trust and the city have been on. I have no doubt that both will continue to seize opportunities and maximise their global reputation as they continue to thrive.
“This has been a very difficult decision to make, however after seven years the time is right for me to embark on a new challenge. My new role at the National Trust for Scotland also means a return for me and my family to Scotland, a place where we lived for over 10 years before relocating to Hull.
“My experience with Freedom Festival Arts Trust will never be replicated. I will leave with a heart filled with once in a life-time memories and also the knowledge that, when given the opportunity, people can and do make a huge difference to our communities. Hull has been raised up by the people within and it’s been an honour to witness the city and its people being celebrated. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been on this incredible journey with me.”