Freedom Fest: An evening celebrating young talent and diversity in London

Article and edits by CJ Calanday, Photography by @simxneshots and @martynaking

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[Image description: Performers huddled on stage, facing a crowd, with different lights focused on them. A screen is in the back with a faint Freedom Fest logo. Multicoloured words which read “Freedom Fest LDN.” are written above the performers’ heads. A silhouette of a crowd is seen at the bottom of the picture.]

Last month, I was fortunate enough to be a be a part of the first ever Freedom Fest at Rich Mix Shoreditch in East London. I shared a stage with some of the most exciting up-and-coming young musicians in London and exhibited some of my art.

The event was organised by Keaton Dekker and Sophie DeMasi - 17 year old students and musicians from London, who wanted to create a safe space promoting self-expression for young creatives of all genders, backgrounds, sexualities and respective passions. 50% of the proceeds made were donated to Stonewall UK.

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[Image description: Photo is split in half in a zig-zag shape. Sophie is on the left holding a microphone, wearing black long sleeves and black trousers, with a green light hitting her clothes and hair, while a purple light is focused on her face. Keaton is on the right wearing a blue top and blue shorts, with “Hot Reels Extreme Fishing” written on his top in red and yellow text. There are warm yellow and dark pink lights hitting him. There are pink lines and pink text illustrated around them.]

Kendra (@okenzno) is a young creative from West London interested in Art, Music and Visuals with an experimental music style.

“Freedom fest was so so special. It is experiences like it that remind you of how worthwhile everything is. The vibes were amazing, the people were amazing and honestly I feel inspired - So proud of everyone and so grateful. Thank you.” - Kendra.

[Image description: Kendra is singing into a microphone on the left hand side of the photo; she is wearing a denim jacket and a black top inside it. There are purple wavy lines doodled around her digitally. Collaged next to it is another image of Kendra playing the keyboards with her back turned away from the camera. There is a purple and pink background with the words “Kendra @okenzno” written on the top right of the photo in purple text.”

Ezria (@ezriamae) is a singer from North London with jazz and hip hop influences.

“Freedom Fest was beautiful. It was such a supportive environment where everybody had a mutual respect for each other's art, which is a wonderful thing to experience. Thank you so much for having us.” - Ezria.

[Image description: On the left is Ezria singing into the microphone; she has her face turned away from the camera and is wearing a blue and red jacket. On the right is her from the side singing into the microphone with her eyes closed. There is blue smoke behind her and pink text reading her name, as well as pink lines doodled around her.]

Sista Strange (@sistastrange) is a duo from South London consisting of Jesley and CJ. They have an eclectic sound which is influenced by everything from 90s R&B to British Grime and Punk.

“We feel so humbled to have shared a stage with the most promising and exciting musicians. We’re so thankful that we got to experience such a special evening with our friends.” - Sista Strange.


[Image description: CJ and Jesley are on stage; Jesley is playing guitar and CJ is singing into a microphone. A side-profile image of Jesley and CJ singing is collaged onto the bottom of photo. The background is pink and purple and there are yellow doodles and text on the photo.]

Atlantis Ghandi (@atlantismmg) is a singer/songwriter and producer from North West London. She cites Jill Scott and Erykah Badu as her musical influences.

atlantis pic.jpg
[Image description: Two images of Atlantis are collaged together back to back on stage. She is singing into a microphone in both images and there are strong lights hitting her, giving a heavy red/orange tinge to the photos. There is white text on the screen which reads “Atlantis” and “@atlantismmg” and white arrows and lines doodled around her digitally. The Background is purple and dark blue.]

Atlantis' group Royalty (@royaltyxofficial) is a trio who fuse Hip-Hop, R&B and Trap into their sound.

“Freedom Fest was such an amazing experience for me and for all the other talented people who got to perform! To this day, I’m still so thankful and grateful for such a great crowd who supported me through singing my solo and band originals. It was such an honour being a part of Freedom Fest and if I could relive that night I truly would!” - Atlantis.


[Image description: Royalty are performing on stage and positioned with Atlantis at the top left of the photo, Miles in the middle and Kai in the bottom right - which makes them appear like they are descending in height. At the bottom of the photo is another image of them collaged on, with a silhouette of the back of a crowd’s heads. The background has a bright hot pink light shining onto the performers, and there is light blue text and doodles around their faces and above their heads.]

Sophie De Masi (@sophiedemasi) is a singer/songwriter/producer from West London whose music has been described as having a pop structure with a hip hop beat and layered, harmonized vocals.

“Organising Freedom Fest with Keaton took a lot of hard work and planning but seeing our festival come to life was the most rewarding thing. Something we came up with on a walk home turned into a reality and seeing people be there and actually enjoy it means our goal for it was reached. Playing my first proper set was amazing, especially being to such a supportive, encouraging audience. Can't wait to see what the future holds for the festival.” - Sophie.

sophie pic.jpg

[Image description: The photo is split into two sides; the left shows Sophie singing into a mic and facing the right. There is heavy hot pink cast on the left side, while the right has a dark blue background, with Sophie facing the left; there is a bright red light shining on her - making her face and hands appear red. There is black text on the top-middle of the photo which reads “Sophie” and “@sophiedemasi”, as well as black, red and white doodles around her face and body.]

Keaton Dekker (@keatondekker) is an East London-based artist whose indie/pop music is driven by guitars and vocals.

"I can't describe that night without using the words proud and grateful. Freedom Fest was such a dream. Playing music live is something so surreal but that night, was just electric. Meeting and playing to people so lovely was such an honour. Just closing my eyes right now, I can remember so many special moments that happened that night. And that's super cool, I hope they stay in my mind for a really long time." - Keaton.

keaton pic.jpg

[Image description: A large image of Keaton singing into a microphone is on the left hand side of the photo and takes up most of the image. There is another image of him collaged on the bottom of the photo, laying on his back on stage and singing into the mic. There is a red light shining on his hair and bright green lights on his face which cast a heavy green tinge onto the photo. There is a vertical strip on the right hand side of the photo with a red to aqua coloured gradient from top to bottom. There is red text on the screen reading “Keaton” and “@keatondekker”, and red doodles around him.]

CJ Calanday (@chaariz): I got to exhibit some of my digital art at Freedom Fest, which was nerve-wracking, as it was my first time exhibiting any of my artwork, and having people physically come up to my work, look at it and ask questions was so exciting and fun.

[Image description: I’m sitting underneath 3 pieces of art which are mounted onto a colourful wall. There are yellow lines doodled around my body, with yellow text reading “@chaariz” at the top of the photo, and “CJ’ above my right shoulder.]

Freedom Fest was a truly humbling experience; an evening full of love and support between the audience and the performers alike. This event not only showcased the immense talent young people have to offer, but also the incredible things they can accomplish when given a chance.