Interview with Camilla Forest, Passion For Freedom Festival Co-Funder,

 by Sara Komaiszko

It is significant that in multicultural London, Passion For Freedom Festival was
born in the circle of Polish immigrats. Can Poles teach other nations what
freedom is?

Englishmen are very cultured people. Lack of major armed conflicts with other
nations on the lands of the British Isles gave them the space needed for the
development of culture. In comparison with Englishmen, Poles throughout
centuries have differently experienced freedom, the lack of it, and the struggle
to get it back. During the partition, Poland had not existed on the map of
Europe for over a hundred years. When we finally got independence, we were
deprived of individual liberties in the time of Communism. This year Poland
celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of democracy. We still do remember
censorship, surveillance, curfew, martial law, terror and fear for our close
ones. Our history taught us to intuitively sense symptoms of losing freedom and
our Uhlan nature makes us inclined to sudden defensive reactions. Such
fearlessness and idealistic struggles are our national heritage. We have it in
our genes.

Have Englishmen not had such experiences?

Britons did not have a chance to feel the whip of enslavement on their own back.
This is why they differ so much from Poles. They are very much politically
correct, they act diplomatically, in their own style. I think that English and
Poles can learn from each other through cooperation. It is really fortunate that
Poles can promote freedom here in London through working at the festival with an
international group of friends.

How is Passion For Freedom Festival linked to Poland?

We will be bound with Poland as long as Polish artists create art about freedom.
Our artists are some of the best in the world. We are more convinced of this
every year. Moreover, since last year we have also been aided by the Polish
Cultural Institute. Support from a renowned native institution, which is so rich
in achievements and engagement in promoting Polish culture and art, is really
significant to us.

Last year one of the judges at the selection panel was supposed to be Anda
Rottenberg – former director of the Art Department at the Ministry of Culture
and Art and former director of Warsaw-based art gallery ‘’Zacheta’’. Are you
planning to organise the exhibition in Poland?

Anda Rottenberg agreed to become one of our judges, although unfortunately she
did not make it to the festival. Every year we experience hacker’s attacks on
our website and this highly impedes our communication channels like e-mails.
Today we confirm everything on the phone to make sure that special guests like
Anda Rottenberg can honour the festival with their attendance. We receive very
serious offers from Poland, but also France, Italy, Denmark, and even Canada and
Australia – to exhibit Passion For Freedom there. This is very good news. The
world needs freedom, and this produces brave idealists who want to organise
events like Passion for Freedom.

How would you convince the everydayman Kowalski that we are losing freedom in
the 21st century in the West?

I would take the person hungry for such experiences to Tower Hamlets borough in
London to meet ‘Muslim patrols’ – men expressing aggression towards people
consuming alcohol, or girls not covered from head to toe. I would invite them to
the Muslim districts in Paris, Oslo and Stockholm – where even the police are
afraid to enter. I would advise them to have a chat with a girl whose face has
been drenched with acid because she dared to walk around without a burka, or a
girl whose organs have been cut in the name of ritual circumcision. London is
the city with highest number of female genital mutilations in Europe.  May
Kowalski come to the Passion For Freedom exhibition and meet artists who have to
hide, because their lives are in danger. May he read the newspapers, from many
different sources, and may he be aware that mainstream media, such as the BBC,
is often censored.

Why did you decide to use art as a weapon in the fight for freedom? Why not
politics, protest marches or media campaigns?

Art is something that combines beauty, pleasure and good taste with something
most important, priceless and timeless – the freedom of speech. We would rather
not work alongside politicians, as their actions are usually motivated by
private profit. We trust artists, writers, journalists and filmmakers, as they
carefully watch the world around them, and show others how it truly looks. This
is why working at the festival is so absorbing – we collaborate with incredibly
talented and wise people from whom we can learn so much. Their art sensitizes,
awakes, stimulates and shocks.

The experience of looking at the paintings in our gallery is like looking
through the windows of different corners of the world. In only a few seconds the
picture conveys such information. When seeing art from Venezuela, Bellarus,
China, Afghanistan or Pakistan, one quickly starts to understand what is
happening in those places. For instance, last year’s ‘’My Little Wedding Dress’’
by Katarina Uzakova, is a look into the world of millions of six- and
seven-year-old girls who are being forced into arranged marriages in Muslim
countries. Art is a very powerful mean of communication.

London in 20 years. What is more likely to occur: Passion For Freedom as one of
the main events on the cultural calendar? Or rather: the utopian world where
festivals like yours are not going to be needed anymore?

One needs to take care of freedom like it is the most beautiful garden. One
season without the gardener is enough to have some rare species of plants go
extinct. Passion For Freedom plays a role in protecting and indicating freedom.
We assume that this festival is an event which has a future for 50 years or
longer.  Each year the winner of the festival gets the title of Freedom
Ambasador and gets a statue – Boudica. While backstage we call them ‘’Freedom

Who will be a star of the festival this year?

Each artist who is exhibited at Passion For Freedom is a hero. Special guests
this year include Miriam Elia, a young British visual artist and author of
surreal comedies, as well as twenty-five year old Venezuelan Daniel Arzola, a
versatile artist and human rights activist, who coined the term ‘’artivism’’,
expressing activism through art. One will be able to meet many talented
individuals. This year Passion For Freedom has been supported by Madonna, who in
May 2014 recognised the festival as part of her Art For Freedom Project.

The judges from our selection panel are extraordinary, and I think they will
surprise us.

Who should definitely see Passion For Freedom exhibition?

We invite everyone who would like to spend time among unusual artists. Passion
For Freedom is quite an ingenious event. Each year the winners’ gala is
prestigious and unpredictable. It is exciting that every year more and more
people want to participate in the festival. Six years ago, when Passion For
Freedom entered the gallery for the first time, three hundred people attended.
This year we are expecting over a thousand guests.  We are already looking for a
bigger gallery for the future editions. Everyone is warmly invited to the
private viewing and gala on the 8th of November in London.