Not many may know the history of the old prison ground of Her Imperial Majesty now renamed Freedom Park on Lagos Island. The colonial masters built it in 1872 where slaves were kept during the slave trade era.
Today, the place is a beehive of activities geared towards, sanity, humanity and freedom. Rebuilt in 2009, it currently serves as a hub for creative, the industry and most forms of artistic inventions in Nigeria.
Last Friday, the management of Freedom Park met with journalists to discuss their plans and activities for the celebration of its 10th year anniversary and unveiling of the new Freedom Park logo.
In her address of welcome, Mrs Iyabo Aboaba said Freedom Park, at 10, had come a long way, “We tried all our best by introducing various programmes, and we have performed wonders. We started music, book readings, poetry, and, over the years, we figured that people liked music more than other, which made the management to introduced music performances every Friday.”
She noted that it added festivals, such as IREP, Lagos Books and Arts Festival (LABAF), Felabration, Jazz Festival, Poetry Festival, Book, Lagos fringe Festival, among others, to rev up the arts and culture scene. “We have come a long way, and it has been a very long hard step,” she noted, while appealing to individuals and corporate organisations to come to their aid, for they were struggling.
Chief Executive Officer of Freedom Park, Theo Lawson, explained that Freedom Park used to be the first colonial building in Nigeria, established in 1872, and partly shut down in 1972.
“Part of the reason why Freedom Park exists is for us to dig up the history and stories of our fore fathers and mothers that were incarcerated here for political reasons and other reasons as well,” he said.
He also said the three cardinal points on which Freedom Park was founded at the heart of Lagos Island then, which had become greatly congested and taken over by street urchins and crime, were to, first, create a place of attraction away from the traffic and, also, have a place where stories could be told, make it thrive and be sustainable.
“We want to make the arts community come in to adopt the space and, fortunately, for us, Jahman Anikulapo made the connections possible and the media to all the various programmes. He brought all the artistes, and the first troupe to use the facility was Crown Troupe of Africa.”
He informed that all Freedom Park had achieved so far was by reputation and point had become an international brand. “When you want to visit places in Lagos, Freedom Park is among the top ten tourist places to visit,” he added.
Freedom Park intends to increase its patronage by introducing a variety of food available and providing new menu at the Food Court, as well as providing daytime entertainment. “Other forthcoming initiatives include having more exhibitions, providing accommodation for artist’s residency, providing more dedicated space at Campbell Street, and creating more programmes for the art lovers,” he hinted.
“We hope to be at the forefront of live music and upgrade Freedom Park. We hope to strengthen our relationship with the arts industry and strengthen our relationship with the media. We will also strengthen our relationship with the Nigeria Police to ensure that there is security backup that will keep the place safe always,” he added.
Lending his voice, Jahman Anikulapo said Freedom Park had been a blessing to the arts community, “The place has helped to improve the career of a lot of Nigerian artistes as where they find solace for revamping their career and purpose.
“ After the destruction of the Artistes Village at National Theatre, a lot of the artistes died, as they could not find their feet again, but those that came to Freedom Park have been able to turn their fortune around positively,” he summed.