Freedom Park

…Pledges more commitment to arts and culture devt

By Japhet Davidson &    Prisca Duru

The popular adage which says that “failure is an orphan while success has many brothers, sisters and relations” was brought to the fore last week when the management of one of Nigeria’s leading arts and culture home, Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos, rolled out drums of celebration for its 10 years of existence.

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Ordinarily, nobody gave them the chance of survival looking at the place and what it was known for, but the one hectare ground of the first colonial prison in Nigeria which was turned into a national memorial, a historical landmark, a cultural site and an arts and recreation centre has come to stay as many who spoke testified of how it has changed the history of arts and culture in Nigeria.

It was indeed commendation galore from most of the speakers as they testified of how the management of the place has been able to whiter the storm and create something from nothing,

Speaking with art writers, at the unveiling of the 10th-anniversary logo, the designer and CEO of Freedom Park, Mr Theo Lawson said, “Freedom Park exists so that we can dig up stories and histories of those before us. The arts community was invited to be part of making space thrive and we’ve done ten years already and evidently, we’ve achieved a reputation for Freedom Park as it has become an international brand to reckon with.”

The road to success of the Park according to Lawson, has not been without challenges. The major challenge he noted, has been inadequate funding to run a sustainable world-class programme. Also, wear and tear as a result of aged infrastructure, low range season activities and attendance, parking facilities and inadequate support from the statutory   authority in provision of support services, and support referrals according to him, have all undermined the space.

The management of Freedom Park it was disclosed during the conference, is bent on putting in more efforts to grow the Park better than it is ten years after, and as such, an action plan is already in place.   In addition to several festivals and performances that take place at the park which attract people from all walks of life, including children, Theo Lawson hinted that Freedom Park is to undergo the necessary transformations in its facilities and programme contents in order to meet the increasing demands of culture lovers.

The management of the Freedom Park will among others run artists residency, upgrade exhibition space at the museum, install a retractable roof over the amphitheatre for better use during rainy season, provide more dedicated parking spaces along Campbell Street, introduce community outreach programmes targeting Lagos Island community and improve ambient lighting and water features around the park.

Theo Lawson also pointed out that the facility has in the last 10   years paid Lagos State government N50 million as revenue.

He stated that plans are underway to increase its revenue base by building a Pod hotel over the cells while extending the food court to accommodate more vendors.

Also, in the plans is the creation of children’s arena that provides adequate and comfortable space for children during visits.

Speaking earlier, co-founder of Freedom Park, Iyabo Aboaba, said “We have come a long way to do wonders at ten. We started not knowing what Lagosians wanted. We, however, started with music and arts but as time went on, we discovered that people loved music and we began doing more of that. Then we added the festival and now, we have about 12 festivals.”

Aboaba noted that the journey has not been an easy one but with support from corporate bodies and government, more will be achieved emphasising that “We are really struggling at the moment.”

Events lined up to celebrate the Park’s achievements include; ‘The Amazon Concert’, a musical show dedicated to womenfolk which took place on 14th  February; Irep International Documentary Film Festival which is also celebrating its 10th  year anniversary will hold in   March. Professor Soyinka’s week and Children’s Summer Camp begins in July. While Eko Theatre Festival takes place in August, the International Jazz Month which features Lagos International Jazz Festival comes up in April.



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