Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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VIDEO: Choreographer and designer Theo Clinkard talks about This Bright Field

Brighton-based choreographer and designer Theo Clinkard spoke to Vámonos creative agency about dance, design and his new show This Bright Field which has its world premiere at Brighton Festival on 25 May.

'It's important to me as a contemporary artist to not be making work within an arts bubble, but to be responding to the world that we are living in, and this is a time of massive change. With the new work there's been something for me about not taking for granted some of our basic human rights'


Interview: Richard Nelson on The Gabriels

Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Nelson spoke to Edwin Gilson, Entertainment Writer at Brighton’s Argus Guide about his highly-acclaimed trilogy of plays, The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family ahead of their UK premiere at Brighton Festival

When did the idea for The Gabriels first come about?

I wanted to write about an American family with three plays all around the same national event – the election. Unlike with The Apple Family Plays [the trilogy Nelson brought to Brighton in 2015], which were about people moving to the little village of Rhinebeck and finding a home, this is a family of people who feel pushed out. These people are feeling like they are losing a home.

The play was written in real time. Does the fact that you were reacting immediately to the unfolding election keep the script alive?

Yes, I think so. The goal of the play, in essence, was to try and see the world through these characters’ eyes. I was constantly reading the news and trying to figure out what they might be thinking. I wanted to make it as immediate to the time of the play as possible. The last play is set, and was performed, between five and seven at night which is why the characters never know the result of the election. Each play I would write up to the opening night. They act as three snapshots in a year.

Would it be fair to say the play is more about people and their relationships than the election per se?

It’s not about who is going to win or lose. There are little to no arguments in the play and as a writer I’m not trying to make a point in any way. I just want to show how the familial, the personal, the financial, the artistic and political are all intertwined. The ambition of the play is to present the complexity of people. In each of the plays the characters cook a meal. When you’re cooking, conversations happen in a certain way that is very different to any other time. Human beings are the only animals that cook, therefore cooking is one of the things that makes us human beings. The play is about the complexity of human beings who centre around this fundamentally human activity.

What kind of people are The Gabriels? Where would you place them in the American social scene?

They grew up in this very small village but they are very cultured and play musical instruments. These are educated people who feel the pressure of a world in which they are being forgotten – at least in terms of economics.

The blurb for Women of a Certain Age, the third play, includes the line “the game seems rigged”. Is there a sense of determinism at play?

There is a refrain in the play that is quite significant in that sense; “what about us.” That feeling goes all the way through the play and it suggests a certain futility.

In an interview you said your characters are marked by a certain sense of “exile”. Can you pinpoint where this theme comes from in your work?

I think that’s accurate. It’s that sense of home, whether that’s feeling at home, homeless or in the process of losing a home. That theme is related to that feeling of not quite fitting in or being forgotten or lost. I also think my characters are resilient and there is a strength to them in the face of some serious problems, though.

Why did you take the decision to stop the narrative before Donald Trump was announced as winner?

Well, the play is not about the election in a news-like way. I’m trying to write about how the politics relates to people in both human and complex terms. I think that’s what’s not conveyed often in the news or television. It’s much more about the horse race and who wins and loses. That’s something others do – it’s not what the play is about.

How did you go about merging the personal and the political in a subtle way, without overstating the election narrative?

I think if any of us look at our lives, politics is involved. If there’s any kind of political event it’s going to be talked about by you and your family. It might not come up as the number one thing you have to keep talking about, though – it’s more incidental than that.

What was the audience atmosphere like in the election night performance of Women of a Certain Age?

It was an extraordinary night because the audience had no idea what was happening in the voting while they were watching the play. Everybody lived in that moment, in the present. We left and there was a party with big television screens so we could see the results. Everyone in the audience and those involved with the show were very, very surprised.

This interview was originally published in the Argus Guide. Visit the website for the latest news, in-depth interviews, features and reviews on the best events in Brighton, Hove and Sussex

The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family takes place Sat 20 - Sat 27 May at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. You can book here for the individual plays, or click here to get a bundle for all three, which you can see together in one glorious sitting on Sat 20, Sun 21 or Sat 27 May, or in any combination of the performances (including evening performances on Tue 23, Wed 24 and Thu 25 May). 

Boys Don't - interview with Rosemary Harris

What’s a boy to do? From the playground to the classroom, from home to the uncharted waters of online, boys learn that displaying their feelings is a no-no. But what happens to emotion that can’t be let out? Boys Don’t explores through spoken word what happens when boys show their feelings, written from real-life experiences of the diverse male cast.

Boys Don’t is the latest work from Papertale, following on from the Suitcase Trilogy of spoken word performances about migration for young audiences, directed by Rosemary Harris. We spoke to Rosemary to find out more about the show, its inspiration, working with performance poets and her thoughts on why boys don’t share their feelings.

Tell us a little about Boys Don’t. What’s the show about?

The show is a spoken word piece for young audiences, exploring cultural prohibitions on boys expressing their feelings, particularly around the act of crying. It also explores the mental and social cost to everyone (boys and girls alike) when boys feel they can’t fully express their feelings, and hopefully offers a different, more positive way of thinking about the issue.

What was the original inspiration for the story?

Working a lot with young people you become very aware of the gender structures that still persist, and how keenly they are felt by young people. Boys and girls really suffer because of this, and for boys a lot of the expression of distress goes into anger, which is a major problem for schools and for our culture as a whole. As a company committed to delivering issue-based work for young audiences, we identified a real need for further exploration of the subject.

Boys Don’t was written using the real-life experiences of the cast. How much of a cathartic experience was this for them?

Writing and performing together has been a rich opportunity for the male cast to engage with the bigger issues around this subject, drawing on the personal (which is so central to spoken word) and then moving into the bigger social and political discussions. Of course, the work is for young and family audiences, so the writing was also about trying to make the piece accessible, fun and above all real, to take the real-life experiences and make them speak to young people now.

The production features a diverse male cast. Did they find a common bond in their stories?

Definitely. One of the key points was for us all to examine how these ideas of what boys and men should be are often really central to cultural identity, which can be why they are so persistent and entrenched. And then although they may be culturally specific, there is also a great deal of common ground across cultures about notions of ‘manning up’ and what that entails. Finding common ground is key, not only to Boys Don’t, but to all of Papertale’s shows.

You’re working with some of the UK’s leading poets and performers. What’s that been like?

A total joy and privilege, because you are working with the full package when you work with artists who write and perform their own work. One of the real delights is in bringing a team of spoken word artists together who are open to collaboration, who are keen to collaborate, because spoken word is often a very solo activity. Casting people who are enthusiastic to share and engage with a team in developing their own work is a really thrilling process, because everybody’s work impacts on everyone else’s – and you end up with something so much greater than the sum of its parts! And of course all of these poets bring their own unique approach to language with all sorts of influences, including poetry, rap, stand up, dramatic monologue, and so you get a wonderful cornucopia of wordplay.

Why do you think boys have problems sharing their feelings?

That’s a huge question with a complex answer. We’ve been very clear that this is a feminist piece about boys and men, because one of the things people often fail to fully comprehend within our culture is that inequity damages everybody. In 2017 boys are still handed these antiquated, unhelpful, unwritten rules about what is permissible for them as human beings expressing emotion, and that has a serious effect on their mental health, with a knock-on effect to the wider community.

What do you think can be done to combat this and let them express their emotions?

The issue of boys’ (and young people’s) mental health is currently being spotlighted more within the media, and it is imperative to see government funding supporting initiatives to tackle these issues. It’s incredibly helpful to see more men especially, challenging the stereotypes within their own lives and work. Seeing people like Barack Obama, David Beckham, cry on TV, these are helpful role models – and Papertale’s aim with Boys Don’t is to offer role models of male performers closer to home, exploding some of the myths, and sharing their feelings. Cultural change happens slowly and we all have a part to play. We have a responsibility to young people to offer ways out of mental distress, through accessible stories and examples that entertain as well as inform.

What can audiences look forward to?

Something engaging, current, accessible and diverse, that has humour as well as meaning, that provokes discussion and speaks to young people’s lives now. Oh yeah, and great language, rapping and poetry.

Describe the show in three words.

Real, important, entertaining.

And finally, what would you like audiences to take with them after seeing the show?

An increased understanding of the issues involved, a sense that they’ve shared some great contemporary writing and performing – plus a greater sense of shared communication around the emotions we all feel, young, old, male, female, all of us!

See Boys Don't on Sun 21 May.

5 minutes with... Luke Wright

Poet, performer and broadcaster Luke Wright returns to Brighton Festival this May with a stunning new spoken word show, Luke Wright: The Toll. We took 5 minutes with Luke Wright to discover more about his passion for spoken word.

I knew I wanted to be a performer when…

When I watched Ross Sutherland support Johnny Clarke at Colchester Arts Centre. He started doing a mic check (one ... Two ... One ... Two ...) which sped up and became a poem. It was brilliant. So fucking cool. I thought, "I want to do that."

My first public performance took place at…

My sixth form college. I know, right, rock n roll. The audience were a bunch of sporty lads trying to eat their lunch. Not big poetry fans.

The first gig I went to was…

As mentioned, Johnny Clarke, Martin Newell and Ross Sutherland. It changed my life.

The first album/book I ever bought was…

Probably Martin Newell's The Illegible Bachelor. I love pun book/album titles. Half Man Half Biscuit are the masters of this.

My favourite poet / spoken word performer is…

I'm a big, big fan of Catherine Smith. I could listen to her for days.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

I'm just pleased to be here!

My favourite part of touring is…

Eating. It's all about the food.

The best show I ever performed was…

It's going to be this one in Brighton. Just you wait and see.

If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…

Richer

People would be surprised to learn that…

It's taken me seventeen minutes to come up with this final answer. And I'm not exactly thrilled with the results.

5 minutes with... Hollie McNish

Internationally acclaimed poet and spoken word artist Hollie Poetry joins us for this year’s Brighton Festival as part of An Evening with Picador Poetry. You may know her from her Brighton Festival 2015 performance with Kate Tempest and George the Poet, or from one of her viral YouTube videos (now totaling almost 4.1 million views). Take 5 minutes to learn what makes Hollie McNish tick, ahead of her next fantastic show at the Brighton Festival in May.

I knew I wanted to be a performer when…

Honestly, I wanted to be a sports coach, then an economist, then a writer. But I love this job now! I knew I wanted to carry on doing this when I met the other poets I’d be working with.

My first public performance took place at…

Poetry Unplugged, Poetry Café, Covent Garden after a good pint of cider.

The first gig I went to was…

The Hollies with my dad. I’m named after them and he was determined I’d love them. The first one of my own choice was to see MN8.

The first album I ever bought was…

Errr, Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers. I was a little obsessed with the non-radio edit version! Other than that I’d record my own on tape from the radio. You know when you used to listen so carefully to click stop before the radio presenter spoke again.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

My daughter did my sound check at Abbey Road.

My favourite part of touring is…

Meeting other poets and people from the audience after the shows.

The best show I ever performed was…

Oooh, maybe The Moon Club, Cardiff. Lots of mums heckling and a burger place round the corner that served battered gherkins. Or Oran Mor on tour last year, cos it was in Glasgow and loads of my family were there.

If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…

Doing something admin-related with spreadsheets! Or writing other things. I’d still be writing poems, just keeping them under the bed instead.

People would be surprised to learn that...

I don’t like poetry.
Just joking.
Really, I do love it.

Brighton Festival Book Swap Bus stops at the pier

All are welcome aboard Brighton Festival Book Swap Bus which will be at the entrance to Brighton Pier on Thursday 30 March, 11am-5pm.

Bring down your old favourites and swap them for something new to read. Stick around for refreshments and to enjoy your ‘new’ book, or browse the Brighton Festival brochure.

The Brighton Festival Book Swap Bus is inspired by the Book Swap Boxes that have been placed around Brighton and Hove as part of City Reads 2017, allowing anyone to informally and anonymously share books.

City Reads culminates in a Brighton Festival event on 14 May with this year’s chosen author Sharon Duggal talking about her book The Handsworth Times.

The bus has been donated for the day by Brighton Pier to mark English Tourism Week.

Festival Hot Seat… Five Short Blasts: Shoreham

Following the success of Gauge (Brighton Festival 2015) we are delighted to have Australian duo Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey back this year. Here the artists tell us more about the UK Premiere of their hotly anticipated show Five Short Blasts: Shoreham at Brighton Festival 2017.

Can you describe the show you are bringing to Brighton Festival?

The show that we are bringing her is called Five Short Blasts: Shoreham and it’s a journey in a boat, where you listen to the sound of the place and the sound of the people in the place. You listen to where you are but also you listen to voices and sounds that we have orchestrated and created for you as we traverse a journey.

How and where will the work be staged?

Audiences will arrive at a Jetty, they will be welcomed aboard the boat and then they will take off and travel the river – the river Adur in Shoreham Port – out into the sea and back again. Over that experience of time they will encounter things that are both designed and of the site. The river Adur has an incredible intersection of people who are using this space both recreationally and commercially and that gives rise to a whole lot of interesting ways of looking at and working with the water. It’s been really fun talking to the people of Shoreham about their relationship with the water. Being from somewhere else, we couldn’t do a project like this without a really great local support and a local liaison.

Why should someone come and see your show?

There is something special when you go in a boat and when you listen in a boat, it is a very different kind of thing than just going to a concert for example, obviously. There is something meditative which takes you to a different state of mind. When you hear people’s stories and you are actually sitting on the water listening to it you get a more deeply sensed appreciation of where this place is and what it means. We hope as people experience Five Short Blasts: Shoreham they will be able to see and hear something that they did not know was there before.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The work initially came out of an invitation, but also out of a respect for those people who have a connection to the water and opened that world to us. We started doing some research for the beginnings of this idea of a work on the water and the first person that we talked to had been a harbour master and he talked us through the signalling systems. Of course, as audio artists, if anybody is talking us through a system that is all about sound and its meanings - it’s so appealing! So, immediately we wanted to use that language of the sea. Five Short Blasts in marine signalling language means I am unsure of your intentions and I am afraid that we are going to collide. That’s a metaphor for what the show’s about – which is about the differing uses, the sometimes conflicted and conflicting uses and experiences on the sea.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

In this work the tides are crucial. We can only access the river around high tide - two hours either side of high tide – so, that’s a beautiful ticking process over that whole month for us. The times of the performances that are possible change, so the varieties of lights and waves and the manor of things that are happening on the water will change over that whole season.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?

It’s a great honour to come back. We really loved Brighton audiences, we had a fantastic time when we did Gauge for a month. The variety of people that come, the variety of different ways that people respond, the sorts of conversations that are possible – that is a really nice thing to be around as an artist. I am looking forward to seeing what happens this time, who we meet this time and how those people respond to what our offer is.

Five Short Blasts: Shoreham is at Shoreham Harbour Sat 6 – Sun 28 May

Festival Hot Seat… Storytelling Army

Stef O’Driscoll, the Artistic Director of nabokov Theatre Company talks to us about working with Kate Tempest, making the arts social and the formation of the Storytelling Army

How and where will the work be staged?

The Storytelling Army are a collective of diverse voices, of people from all walks of life that will pop up all over Brighton during the Festival – be it in the local supermarket, the pub or on the top deck of a bus - and tell their stories which celebrate the theme of Everyday Epic. Everyday Epic looks at us as human beings, at what we do on a daily basis and celebrates those little achievements - whether it is that today I am sober, or I have managed to take my kids to school and I suffer from depression, or whether it’s my first day of paid work - whatever that everyday epic is, it’s the chance to celebrate that and tell that story.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The idea really came from looking at Kate Tempest’s philosophy of making the arts less exclusive and more social. Kate is an absolute mastermind and I’ve been very fortunate to work with her over the years in terms of directing some of her plays. A couple of years ago, we started to think about other ways that we could work with each other and we could engage new audiences in theatre and storytelling. We started talking about what happens if you have someone just walk in to a pub and start telling a story, but you don’t realise they’re actually telling a story. How would that even function? How would that even work? Could you do that? Could you just be sat at the bar with someone and then they start delivering a poem or telling a story? So, that was the birth of the idea and then when Kate became a Guest Director of the Festival we started to rethink about that idea and whether this would be the right platform to do that. Hence the army of storytellers was born!

How did you begin to research and develop the project?

We started to have a conversation about the different groups that we’d like to work to champion people’s stories. In Brighton, there’s lots of issues in terms of drug use and addition, there’s lots of homelessness and vulnerably-housed people and so we started to identify different organizations and charities that we’d want to work with in partnership to create that army of storytellers.

Why do you think it’s important that these voices are heard?

I think it’s really important that we champion diverse voices in regards to storytelling so that people have stories that they can relate to. Within our theatrical landscape there’s a lot of communities and a lot of voices that are not championed and are not heard. There’s a really important exchange that happens when you see a story where you understand that world, or you identify with that character - you as an audience member are able to understand what your role is within the world. For example, Kate Tempest’s novel, The Bricks that Built the Houses talks about a South London that I know, that I’m a part of. It deals with subcultures that were very much a part of my experience of growing up. There’s a beauty and magic that happens from reading a book that exists for me championing my world, that speaks in a language that I understand. So, we have to champion diverse voices from all walks of life to be able to give that experience to wider communities, for people to actually engage in the arts – people that wouldn’t normally. Otherwise it’s going to remain an elitist thing, which can’t happen.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

The main hope is to engage new audiences in to accessing the arts by breaking down those barriers. So, for someone who wouldn’t normally expect to experience the arts, to just stumble across it. They could be doing their shopping and they come away with a story, with identifying with something or just in part be entertained. It becomes a joyful experience that you haven’t had to pay for.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

The beauty of this project is that it is pop up – almost like flash mob-esque. So, as an audience member you could be on your morning commute on your way to work, and you’re on the top deck of a bus and you experience an epic, beautiful poem, or this story that you weren’t really expecting. So, what will they expect? I think the unexpected. 

Sponsors pledge to support Brighton Festival 2017

A plethora of sponsors have pledged to support Brighton Festival as playwright, novelist, poet and respected recording artist Kate Tempest takes the role of Guest Director.

New sponsors Yeomans Toyota Brighton and Lulu.com join Gatwick Airport, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, GM Building, Griffith Smith Farringdom Webb, Nutshell Construction, University of Sussex, Selits, and ZSTa in sponsoring the largest and most established annual multi-arts festival in England.

This year sponsors will be supporting a number of events including the popular Children’s Parade, the programme of events taking place at The Spire, Brighton Festival International and Family Programmes, 26 Letters, and accessibility at Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival.

Luke Devitt-Spooner, General Manager of Yeomans Toyota Brighton says ‘Yeomans Toyota Brighton are excited to be sponsoring Brighton Festival for 2017. Based on South Coast Road, we have been serving the Brighton area since 2001 with New and Used car Sales, Servicing, Parts and Motability. We look forward to a successful partnership with Brighton Festival.’

Ben Copper, CEO of Nutshell Construction says ‘Brighton Festival is a hugely important part of not only Brighton’s - but also the nation’s cultural heritage – attracting large audiences of to its wonderfully eclectic array of events. Through the medium of the Festival, Nutshell can talk to both existing and potential clients in a very different atmosphere to the building site! In short, Nutshell Construction is delighted to be a very real part of Brighton Festival. We enjoy it immensely – we hope you do too.’

Each year, Brighton Festival attracts inspiring and internationally significant Guest Directors who bring cohesion to the artistic programme. This year’s Guest Director Kate Tempest is often recognised as the voice of a generation. Her highly anticipated new album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ was released in October 2016.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says ‘We wouldn’t be able to present the sheer number of quality performances, installations and exclusive talks that make up Brighton Festival without the help of sponsors, many of whom also support the work of Brighton Dome year-round. It is thanks to their continued help that we can make Brighton Festival unique and the city itself such a magical place to be in May.’

During Brighton Festival - which runs from 6-28 May 2017 - many of Tempest’s interests, passions, and inspirations are explored in an eclectic line-up spanning theatre, dance, visual art, film, music, debate, comedy and spoken word - and featuring the likes of Brighton-based rapper Ocean Wisdom, who appears on a bill hosted by influential UK hip hop label High Focus Records, and poetry slam champion Tommy Sissons who performs alongside fellow spoken word stars Patience Agbabi and Dizraeli.

A series of outdoor sight-specific works will encourage audiences to see the ‘Everyday Epic’ in the landscape of the city and engage with their environment anew including For the Birds, an intricate light, sound and kinetic sculpture trail experienced as an immersive night-time adventure through a woodland location. Storytelling in all its forms is celebrated in a number of events such as The Gabriels, Tony-award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s extraordinary depiction of one American family, written and set in real time during the turbulent US election year.

Reflecting Tempest’s belief that: ‘The arts should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes’, Brighton Festival 2017 sees two new ventures: The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life who will be performing in unexpected locations around the city from bus stops to supermarkets, and Your Place, a diverse line-up of mixed arts programmed in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre, Festival artists and local residents in the Hangleton and Whitehawk communities.

Sponsoring Brighton Festival and Brighton Dome allows businesses to raise their profile, reach new customers, and meet corporate social responsibility objectives. To find out more, please contact Kata Gyongyosi on 01273 260 810 or email kata.gyongyosi@brightondome.org

Festival Hot Seat… For the Birds

We caught up with Jony Easterby, lead artist and Producer of For the Birds on the immersive night-time adventure he is exclusively bringing to Brighton Festival 2017

How and where will the work be staged?

For the Birds is an immersive walk through a secret woodland location in Brighton. Within that landscape we are going to be placing various different sound and light installations which you will be able to discover. All the installations share a common theme which is based around our observations and love for birds and all things avian. So, flight, bird-song, movement and other narratives based around extinction and migrations, but also a celebration of their life and beauty.

Why should someone come and see your show?

One of the unique things about the show is that we have a lot of separate pieces, which are actually quite small, intimate works but added together they actually create a large landscape composition. As you move around the site sometimes you find yourself by yourself and then you might turn around the corner and then be with a crowd experiencing something quite magical. You will hear sounds come from near, from far, you’ll be able to get up very close to the work as well. We hope everyone is going to enjoy it as much as we do.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The idea for the work actually came from quite a dark place in a way. I had been working as part of a research project up at the Centre for Alternative Technology to try and address ideas on environmental change, climate change, degradation of landscapes and extinction stories and I realised that if I concentrated too much on the negative aspects of things then I was startling myself in to non-activity. So, the bird narrative arose out of a way of actually both celebrating nature but also identifying that birds are really an indicator of the health of our own humanity and our planet and the way that we treat it. They literally are the canary in our coal mines.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the piece?

I’m hoping it will allow people to take away a sense of wonder and joy that we felt as we’ve been creating the work. I also want people to feel that sense of togetherness and conviviality - the way that people are drawn together to come and experience something communally, which is a really rare and beautiful thing to find in this day and age.

Finally, what does it mean to you to be a part of Brighton Festival?

Well to be a part of Brighton Festival for me is a real privilege. I’ve got almost a 30-year history of working in Brighton - the very first piece of theatre that I created was in 1987 after the great storm with a Brighton based company called Red Earth in Stanmer woods. So, to come back to Brighton for Brighton Festival is a fantastic sort of creative homecoming for me.

Book now for an immersive night time adventure where sound and light take flight with For the Birds, at Brighton Festival Sat 6 - Sun 28 May (except Mon & Tue)