This year’s Festival of Freedom seeks to tackle polarisation in society


The annual Festival of Freedom, which organises many of the November 17th celebrations, will offer a wide-ranging programme in dozens of cities across the country. Visitors can look forward to concerts, theatre shows, discussion panels and readings in some of the iconic locations of the Velvet Revolution. The main theme of this year’s festival will be the support of discussion in society.

Since it was first introduced in 2016, the annual Festival of Freedom has served as an umbrella for the wide range of cultural events and happenings that take place during the anniversary of November 17th. This year’s programme will have its broadest range yet, spanning 36 cities across the country.

For the first time, celebrations will be held across the whole area between Prague’s Národní Třída and Jungmann Square, hosting a variety of different events. Highlights include a special literary programme on the National Theatre’s piazzetta named the “Václav Havel sitting room” and a large concert on Wenceslas Square. Here speakers will include not just Czech celebrities and intellectuals, but also some of the authors of the presidential campaigns for Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron.

Commemorative events at symbolic locations, such as Prague’s Albertov Street, will feature speeches from academics as well as students. In the evening the non-profit organization Post Bellum will hand out this year's Memory of the Nation awards at the National Theatre in Prague.

The occasion of the 100 years anniversary of Czech independence is also reflected in the programme, as Jan Gregar, one of the festival’s organisers, explains.

“This year we are doing a big national poll, which is called ‘Key question for the Czech Republic’. Since it is the 100 year anniversary, now is the time to think, evaluate and on the basis of that look into the future. Therefore we prepared this poll which asks what freedom means to people these days. Is it still important? What does it mean to them? And what unites us?”

Voting opened up on the 28th of October and will close on November 17th, although it may be extended. Mr. Gregar says that over 5,000 people have voted in the poll thus far and that it is also connected to the main theme of this year’s festival.

Those interested in the details of the programme in Prague and other cities can access the Festival of Freedom website:

“This year we have a special topic – focusing on discussion. It is related to the current polarisation of society. We want to show that we should listen to each other when we are discussing something. This cultivated discussion should start in society and politics. Solving the problems of everyday life as well as the big issues will be much easier, because we will not perceive each other as enemies but friends in a discussion. That is the main message for the present.”

Aside from the multitude of celebratory events, the festival will also feature an international conference that will discuss the changing media scene in wide ranging context and a demonstration against the use of hate speech and lies.