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Since it began in 2009, the festival has faced a series of challenges ranging from the tedious, such as last-minute venue cancellations, to the terrifying — a terrorist attack during a panel discussion on “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression” in Copenhagen in 2015. Filmmaker Finn Nørgaard was shot dead by an Islamist gunman, who was killed next day in a shoot-out with police. Passion for Freedom’s Agnieszka Kołek was a panellist: she decided to carry on, saying: “They want us to stop talking. Therefore, we should continue.”

Forest and her team were forced to make concessions at that year’s UK festival, including cancelling an appearance by Rafida Ahmed Bonya, widow of the murdered Bangladeshi activist Avijit Roy, because police protection would have cost £6,000 a day. Such difficulties have never shaken her resolve: for her the first ten years were a matter of “surviving or not surviving”. The festival has gained the support of artists Ai Weiwei, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou and Iranian film director Jafar Panahi, and Forest looks to the coming decade as one of opportunity. The milestone will be celebrated with a new book detailing the story of the festival and sharing some of the best art that has been exhibited so far. For this year, the usual flood of entries has arrived from across the globe. Highlights will include the work of US-based artist Kim Gongsan, whose father escaped from North Korea and who channels her anger over living in the shadow of the Korean War into a minimalist language of scorched burlap, resembling bullet holes and intended to commemorate those who died at the border or were detained in concentration camps. Tatyana Vysokova's installation Way to Freedom features a photograph of a butterfly from January 2015, one of the last taken by the artist’s son, Vladimir. He died just months later, after he was drafted into the Russian army. Vysokova recalls, “There were traces of desperate resistance on his body, but we were told he hanged himself.” A physical noose is suspended before the photograph, trapping and enclosing the butterfly within.

Though the themes are often sombre, Forest is keen to stress that much of the art is light-hearted and the festival itself has an inclusive, celebratory feel. For her, the real victory is seeing people gathered before the art and seized by debate. Feeling that recent history has left Poles highly sensitive to the threat of lost freedom, she urges us all to think about it more. “What happens if you die for freedom?” she asks. Then you rely on those that survive you to tell the story on your behalf.
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