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

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Alice O'Keefe's most anticipated Books and Debate events

Alice O’Keefe, our Books and Debate Programmer, shares her most anticipated events from three of the most exciting writers of this year's Brighton Festival.

For reader’s out there who haven’t discovered Petina Gappah yet, you are in for a treat – her event is going to be one of my highlights of this year’s festival. The short stories in her latest collection, Rotten Row, bring alive the experience of living in Zimbabwe under Mugabe – the craziness, the poverty, the lack of justice or redress, but most of all, the inventiveness and humanity of ordinary people. She is as funny and scathing about the ageing dictator as she is about the folly of the Western aid agencies – get a ticket and catch this very special writer while you can.

Another highlight is sure to be Hanif Kureishi, who will be looking back over his whole taboo-busting and boundary-breaking career in conversation with the broadcaster Mark Lawson. From his portrayal of a cross-cultural gay relationship in the film My Beautiful Laundrette, to his very early look at Islamic fundamentalism in his novel The Black Album, Kureishi has consistently proved himself to be one of Britain’s most provocative and insightful writers. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about these and his latest novel, The Nothing.

Finally, I’m looking forward to seeing Gary Younge, who is one of my very favourite writers on politics both in Britain and America. He will be talking about his shocking and brilliant book One More Day in the Death of America, and also more generally about race, guns and Trump. He is in Brighton on the special invitation of Kate Tempest, who is a big fan - and his event is essential for anyone who wants to understand the current state of the USA.

Read more about our Books and Debate programme

VIDEO: Boys Don't director Rosemary Harris on the making of the show

Boys Don't delivers insights into the male experience of growing up through funny, familiar and sometimes heartbreaking stories drawn from the real life experiences of its cast of spoken word performers and poets. Here director Rosemary Harris talks about the making of the show.



Boys Don't is at The Spire on Sunday 21 May, 2 & 4pm

Festival Hot Seat...The Hum

Breathing new life into the mundane,The Hum takes over Brighton this year to remind us of the beauty in the everyday. We caught up with director, Nic Sandiland, to find out more.

Can you tell us what your show is about?

Yes, it’s about looking at the detail of our everyday and mundane activities within the City; things we take for granted and don’t give a moment’s notice because of their overfamiliarity. Cinema is very good at showing us this; it gives us an opportunity to dwell and reflect on such details. For The Hum, we’re simply taking some standard filmic techniques: narration and soundtrack, and using a smartphone to overlay these onto the live visuals of each site; it’s like an inside out cinema.

How and where will the work be staged?

At 15 locations around the City, each within walking distance of each other. The public uses a free app to guide them to each place which, on arrival, plays a narrated soundtrack which accompanies the day to day choreography which takes place there.

Why should someone come and see your show?

To re-experience the city from a different perspective, to hear some thought provoking text set to an emotive musical score.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

I was looking to develop a location-based app to give more people access to our work. Our projects are very visual but we quite quickly realised that a tiny Iphone screen was no match for the surrounding environment, however dull it seemed to be. This made me consider what it was that smartphones could bring to such environments and how we could look at these places anew. In this case, it was navigation and sound playback. Put these ingredients together and you get The Hum.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?

So much mainstream cinema and theatre is about the big events, things that most people don’t really experience in their day to day lives. The Hum, on the other hand, is about the world of the everyday, it reflects on acts such as: waiting at a bus stop, standing on an escalator or walking down the road. These are the places that we spend most of our time in, so why not elevate their status and place frames around them.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

It’s not an action movie, it’s more a reflective and emotive one. Perhaps this is for those who want to avoid the rush of the city and “stand and stare” as W.H.Davies famously said.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

Possibly its simplicity, but mainly its content. Being an app-based event one might assume that the dramatic or reflective content is not such a priority; however, this is at the core to the work. It is a very personal and contemplative piece, mainly thanks to the dexterity and sensitivity of the writers involved.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? Do you have a favourite Festival moment?

The Festival is a focal point of culture and new challenging work. I have many favourite moments over the years. Last year Simon McBurney’s The Encounter was a beautiful application of new technology. Embracing digital forms of presentation whist holding onto the intimate narrative he managed to conjure up a transfixing performance in an adept manner.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?

I’d like to see Theo Clinkard’s new piece, he’s working with James Keane, a fabulously talented composer who also created the soundtracks to The Hum!

To experience The Hum download the app here from the 6 May onwards.

Brighton Festival Live: Plan B for Utopia

Plan B for Utopia will be live streamed on Mon 8 May, 7.30pm 

You have a plan, and then you don’t. You have a dream, and then you wake up. You fall in love, and your heart gets broken. The question is: do you pick up the pieces and try again?

Plan B for Utopia is a playful dance theatre work by Dundee-based company Joan Clevillé Dance. Charismatic performers Solène Weinachter (Scottish Dance Theatre, Gecko) and John Kendall (balletLORENT) explore the notion of utopia and the role that imagination and creativity can play as a driving force for change in our personal and collective lives.

Filmed and edited in partnership with Brighton Metropolitan College

Belem: a lyrical melange of merriment & melancholy through interwoven folk, tango & classical traditions

Joe Fuller previews the pioneering spirit of the cello-accordion duo ahead of their Brighton Festival debut

The rhythmic momentum of Didier Laloy's accordion and Kathy Adam's cello in Belem should make for a rousing late night gig. The duo performed together in European folk band Panta Rhei, so this concert is of interest to those interested in world music, folk and tango as well as classical music fans, and the unique interplay of the two musicians should flourish in a live setting. I'll highlight some of the best moments from Belem's music below to explore the musical possibilities in this idiosyncratic fusion of poignant jollity.

The video below highlights the differences between the two musicians' styles. Kathy Adam is mostly classical focused in her recordings and performances, although she has also worked in theatre, dance and song. Adam often seems to provide the classical heart of the works, whereas Didier can come across as almost mischievous at times, the jester to Adam's bard. Personally, I like it when the two meet in a more plaintive mode, such as the ponderous playing around the three minute mark in this clip of Le puits, romaniste.


The melodic lines are closer to pop than classical in their occasional major resolutions, such as in album highlight Scampavita, the track which comes closest to traditional chamber music. The rhythms in their work are often folky however, conjuring images of storytelling, ales, jaunts, and energy to me, with a tinge of role playing video games fantasy about them too. There is also a tango lilt to proceedings that the more lithe in the audience might enjoy, and some parts even sound like sea shanties (such as parts of Le puits, romaniste) so there is certainly a wide spectrum of moods to absorb in the show. 



Belem should be praised for trying something new in the context of chamber music, which often focuses on string quartets. More attention is inevitably directed towards individual melodies and performing styles in chamber music, as opposed to the kaleidoscope of an orchestral concert, which can result in more moving, intimate concerts. One of my most memorable classical shows was Huw Wiggin's saxophone and James Sherlock's piano in a 2015 lunchtime Festival concert, when technically challenging pieces and virtuoso playing took my breath away. Belem's show therefore might be a good choice for classical fans who might want to hear different tones, moods and colours in a concert than what they might be used to.

Live reviews have been positive, noting that the audience has responded to melancholic elements, and the vocal quality of the cello playing. The terms poetic and tender have also been used, suggesting that years of playing together have ensured that Laloy and Adam know how to grab an audience's attention in a delicate, emotive way, which is an impressive achievement considering how loud the accordion can be. It's a novel proposition to explore the tender qualities of the accordion in fact, such as in the more downbeat track Valse Noire where Laloy provides a soft, mournful underpinning to Adam's pining cello, resulting in a brighter Max Richter-type drone around the 2 minute mark.

I wouldn't be surprised to find such a duo at a smaller, rowdier venue such as The Bee's Mouth or Komedia's Studio Bar, but the picturesque All Saints Church could emphasise the more poetic aspects of the duo's refreshing collaboration. The charismatic and energetic performers should find a receptive audience in the artful, bawdy eclecticism of a Brighton Festival crowd keen to hear something new.   

Belem performs on Fri 19 May at All Saints Church, Hove. Click for more info and tickets >

In Pictures: Chidren's Parade 2017

Poetry In Motion!
A few photos from an incredible Children's Parade. What an amazing and wonderful way to mark the start of Brighton Festival 2017.

The theme for the 2017 Children’s Parade, the largest of its kind in Europe, which is jointly produced with award-winning community arts organisation Same Sky and supported by local business Yeomans Toyota Brighton, was Poetry in Motion, and around 5,000 children from 67 schools and community groups from across the region took part.

Leading the parade was Guest Director Kate Tempest and special guests Hot 8 Brass Band, who brought a brilliant slice of New Orleans funk to the occasion. 

Participants took inspiration from poems and poets including Edward Lear, Spike Milligan, Rudyard Kipling, Christina Rossetti, Lewis Carroll and William Shakespeare, resulting in a glorious array of outfits and mannequins from an Owl and a Pussycat in a pea green boat to a giant jam sandwich!

A heartfelt thank you to everyone involved. Thank you all for your magnificent creations and for your enthusiasm and to Same Sky Brighton and our sponsors for making this an epic Children's Parade to remember.

Find out more about our sponsor Yeomans Toyota Brighton


Brighton Festival Live: Kate Tempest Opening Gig

Kate Tempest Opening Gig will be live streamed on Sat 6 May, 6.30pm

As Guest Director of Brighton Festival 2017, it is only fitting that Kate Tempest should take to the stage on the very first evening. Giving the audience a taster of what we can expect over the following three weeks this Opening Gig will be full of music and spoken word to open your minds and grant you an insight into Brighton Festival, Tempest-style. Tickets are sold out (returns only) but you can still join us here for a live streaming of the gig.

Filmed and edited in partnership with Brighton Metropolitan College



Festival Hot Seat...This Bright Field

Brighton-based choreographer and designer Theo Clinkard has built a reputation for creating affecting and visually arresting work for his company including this new piece, This Bright Field, which is in two parts and gradually builds in momentum to become a spectacle of visual and emotional power.


How and where will the work be staged?

This Bright Field will be presented at The Brighton Dome Concert Hall and is conceived in two parts. In part one, the audience enter the theatre in small groups to find themselves on the edge of the stage where they experience 15 minutes of intimate and tender solos and duets that explore touch.

In part two the audience is situated together in the auditorium and everything that has been established in part one is put to the test. Individual dancers move within a series of external conditions, both social and choreographic. The piece gradually builds in momentum to reach an epic scale, so that at one point the cast appears to be made up of hundreds of people. Live drumming and bold costumes also create memorable final scenes.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

In 2013, I was invited to make a work for the larger stage by an organisation called Dance4 and I began researching how I might rethink some of the conventions of dance presented in bigger venues.

I devised a structure where an audience might establish personal connections with the cast by initially situating them close to the action, then using the volume of the auditorium as a gentle provocation. Could the group be seen through the lens of the audience’s individual connections now that they have essentially zoomed out from the action?

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?

I believe that mankind has difficulty humanising statistics, as we struggle to grasp scale. The numbers remain abstract while our brains seemingly can’t hold the information.

A group of 'other' people can easily be dehumanised when we fail to recognise the independent lives that make up the group, and the risk is often greater when we add in different belief systems. We might be able to empathise with those on our doorstep, but when the people in question are not in our immediate sphere of experience, it becomes harder.

My work could serve as a reminder to retain a human-scale perception in the world. I went on to consider the large group of performers I was working with, and even the audience themselves. The thinking is included in the way I structured and formed the piece rather than in a theatrical sense.

Why should someone come and see your show?

Because they believe that dance can tap into something instinctive and human that other art forms struggle to touch upon. Also, because they are interested in how live music can radically increase the nature of performance and because they are not shy of work that comes from and speaks to the heart.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Someone who enjoys films or other artworks that require them to sit forward and figure it out for themselves, who loves to see skilled dancers in a creation that works with, empowers and celebrates their differences. Also, someone who is curious about humankind and how we see the world and believes that contemporary work has a duty to draw upon the world as it is right now.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

The set-up in two parts, which is unusual in terms of where the audience is situated and what this does to their attention. The considered design that creates numerous distinct worlds on stage and the stirring live music.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?

As a local, Brighton Festival means great work from around the world right on my doorstep. As an associate at the Dome, I feel I have a base from which to be in dialogue with the extraordinary work that comes through its doors, to be part of a bigger worldwide conversation and celebrate all that unites us with other worlds and contexts. It is necessary now more than ever before.

This Bright Field by Theo Clinkard is on at Brighton Dome on 25 May from 5.10pm

Brighton Festival welcomes Bernie Sanders for special Festival Extra event

Former Democratic candidate for President of the United States Bernie Sanders will speak about his new book Our Revolution at a special Brighton Festival Extra event on Thursday 1 June, with tickets on sale from Wednesday 3 May at 10am (members pre-sale Tuesday 2 May at 10am).

Bernie Sanders will join Brighton Festival’s diverse Books and Debate programme, which includes Gary Younge discussing the role of guns in Trump’s America; Tariq Ali on his portrait of Lenin, and how we might challenge capitalism today; Palestine’s leading writer Raja Shehadeh on the Israeli occupation of Palestine; celebrated novelist Hanif Kureishi looking back on a career in which he has explored identity, cultural difference, and religious fundamentalism; and Democracy Debate: What Comes Next? in which Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee chairs a panel of top thinkers and politicians to debate the future of our political system.

Bernie Sanders stormed to international headlines after running an extraordinary campaign for the Democratic primaries that saw over 13 million people turn out to vote for him, and changing the global discussion surrounding US politics. But how did a complete unknown and an avowed socialist make such waves?

In Our Revolution, Sanders provides a unique insight into the campaign that galvanized a movement, sharing experiences from the campaign trail and the techniques that shaped it. And it wasn't just his use of new media; Sanders' message resonated with millions. His supporters are young and old, dissatisfied with expanding social inequality, struggling with economic instability and who rebelled against a political elite who has long ignored them. This is a global phenomenon, driving movements from Syriza in Greece to Podemos in Spain and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

Drawing on decades of experience as activist and politician, Sanders outlines his ideas for continuing this political revolution. He shows how we can fight for a progressive economic, environmental, racial and social justice agenda that creates jobs, raises wages and protects the environment. Searing in its assessment of the current political and economic situation, but hopeful and inspiring in its vision of the future, this book contains an important message for anyone tired of 'same as usual' politics and looking for a way to change the game.

Bernie Sanders ran to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. He is currently serving his second term in the U.S. Senate after winning re-election in 2012 with 71 percent of the vote. Sanders previously served as mayor of Vermont's largest city for eight years.

Bernie Sanders Our Revolution: A Future to Believe in is coming to Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Thursday 1 June. 

Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival Members pre-sale: Tuesday 2 May at 10am. Tickets go on general sale: Wednesday 3 May at 10am

Interview: Eddie Otchere

Best known for his photographs depicting hip hop culture since the 1990s, acclaimed photographer Eddie Otchere will be creating The Bright Room, a community darkroom at Brighton Festival. We caught up with Eddie to find out more

Can you tell us about your involvement in Brighton Festival this year? How did it come about?

My involvement with the Brighton Festival came about when I finally met Kate Tempest in daylight hours, in Vauxhall for a shoot. We got into this amazing conversation about raving, life and love. She spoke about the Brighton Festival because she was just excited that was she able to do it. She had a vision for the Festival, about the community, about society, and we talked about that.

We left it there, but then I got into a conversation about making work for the Festival with the Festival Producer, Beth Burgess. I thought let’s do something active with an open-door policy, then people can come in and be a part of the art. Let’s create a darkroom, make it transparent and clear, and get people to come in to create images and stick them on the wall. It would be their gallery; like some kind of great socialist utopia. That was general feeling of it but as I’ve started to get more into Brighton, I realise it’s something Brighton might embrace in terms of people and art almost being the same thing, at the same time.

How did you first meet Kate Tempest? What interests you about working with her?

I first met Kate in a rave in Peckham. Her and her squad were celebrating a birthday party, I was with a guy called Gerald and I was photographing him and these rambunctious people, enjoying every moment of it. At the end of the night Kate comes up to me and asked me to thank Gerald for a great set. It was two in the morning and I was not focussing on what was going on, but when I went back to look over my photos from that night Kate’s drummer was in them and I realised I must have met her.

What interested me about working with her is that everything she does is loaded with a sense of motive. It’s more like love than anything else and you can’t help but feel empowered by that. The first time I ever heard her speak, in the Battersea Arts Centre, she did the poem ‘The God’s are in the Betting Shops’ and it blew my mind that words from the mouth of someone so young could be so perceptive, so poetic and yet so street. It was like, finally we have a Shakespeare, a Shakespeare meets Joan of Arc in the 21st century. Finally, we’re advanced enough to actually understand this level of humanity. We can allow ourselves to listen this person and gain power from this person so that we can go about our lives not feeling challenged or afraid. That person, in the back of my mind is always Kate Tempest.


You will also be taking part in Your Place at Hangleton and Whitehawk. Can you tell us what you’ll be doing for that and what attracted you to the initiative?

I went to Whitehawk and bumped into Lorraine Snow, the centre manager of the The Crew Club, a community centre there, and was inspired to record her story. I wanted to know about her life in the heart of a community. The same thing happened when I went to Hangleton, I caught the bus up there and went to their community centre and the door wasn’t locked so I just walked in. Some kids were doing circus practice and I was struck that it was a living centre, beautifully run, and the reach of the Brighton Festival should extend here to the outlying communities.

I want to give people some sense of what photography is in the traditional sense. To say, here’s a roll of film, I want you to shoot your Brighton and I want that to be on display in The Bright Room, so press that button and let the camera tell your story. With that came the idea of the contact sheet as being a photographic motif of narrative; that you can just shoot a roll of film and all those 36 shots are like 36 chapters in your day in Brighton, your story.

You have described your work as a type of ‘mass observation’. Can you tell us what you mean by the term and what interests you about that approach?

Mass observation was an idea I came across that happened in this country in the 1940’s. I think it was a team of photographers who went to the working class communities of the north and started photographing everything. The images are of peoples’ lives in situ just as they were; a slice of life. I felt that I wanted to experience that for myself in regards to East Sussex and the South Coast, just turn up and start photographing.

Even in the last two weeks we’ve been walking around Lewes, Alfriston and the villages outside of Brighton just to circumnavigate the environment and the lives people live. That means walking past a house and seeing a man in wellies, in a river, cutting water-cress. You start talking and that’s actually his life, that’s what he does when he gets up in the morning. Just to observe and to allow the people of Brighton to become a part of this mass observation. I understood this idea to record working-class life not as art but more as a sort of social document. But I’m now trying to make more about art, it’s mass observation as art.

What are you hoping people will take away from The Bright Room?

I’m hoping people will come into The Bright Room to walk away with a skill; to have learnt how to develop a roll of film and print an image. To have learnt how to just go out there, take pictures and have conversations with people. To have learnt how to see themselves and their work amongst other people’s work and see that we are all one. Did I really just say that? I’m just giving you my whole world outlook, sorry!

You are committed to traditional photography and the art of darkroom printing. Why do you prefer this method and what are the benefits of this photographic approach?

I love film photography because it’s a skill and it’s using your eyes in a way we don’t do anymore. With back-projected screens and photons coming out of telephones, things are being thrown at us; we’re not looking at reflected light we’re looking at emitted light. I think we still have to remember to look at things in reality. I want people to experience film photography so they can experience what’s actually there. You can only manipulate so much in film, you have to be honest.

I’m using 8 x 10 paper so each image is small enough to stick on your fridge and you don’t have stand back and look at it. And what a gift. It’s difficult in the world we live in but I still want people to put things on their wall. For when they open their eyes in the morning they see that image and it takes them forward. We are losing that engagement. As soon as you wake up in the morning you go straight to your phone.

How did you first get into photography?

My mum had a camera and I had a chance to play with that once or twice and my generation inherited records and cameras from their grandparents. You take a camera and you put a roll of film in to to see if it still works, you go out shooting and you capture things around you. I think the first photographs I took were of a pair of trainers, the most important thing I had ever bought! After that I went to college and that was it. The minute I got to the darkroom I knew I would love photography. It was not just taking pictures, it was the whole process of developing the picture, printing it and then showing it to someone you photographed and seeing them react.

It was only in 1993 when someone offered to buy a picture of mine that I realised that you can make money from photography and it built up from there. It allowed me to make prints, making prints meant I could do shows, doing shows meant I could understand what curating is and then I could reassign my understanding of art history and add these social spaces where people, art, music and food all interact and people’s minds could be changed. You walk into a show with one mindset and by the time you walk out from that experience you have a different mindset.

For me, the minute I look through the lens at someone you see how the light frames them and you start to look so deeply that you fall in love. It is a bit oversimplified but the image ends up capturing what I see when I am in love with someone. This happened with Kate, you can see it in the contact sheets. That emotive quality, you can’t beat the rush. There aren’t many jobs that give you that level of satisfaction.


You have photographed many of the icons of the Hip Hop scene. What interested you about the capturing the scene?

At the time I started it was an underground scene, very small but very influential and there were so many characters within it who had their own voice, their own manner, their own language; they were like super-beings to me. Whether it was Method Man, Coolio or any one you can think of in that scene, they were such characters. When you turn a camera on them, you feel like you fall in love with them but also you feel like you just captured a God of some kind in the height of their prowess. Hip hop is one of those things that is very empowering.

In England it was slightly different, we didn’t really have MC personalities – our MC’s were our DJ’s in a way. Someone like Fatboy Slim who has the same energy as a rapper except he isn’t lyrical, but when he gets behind the decks and he mixes tunes together he is genuinely having a moment and your in that moment with him. When I photographed Fatboy Slim his record was number one and he was on top of the world and I love it when artists are in that moment. You can’t help wanting to photograph that as you see it happen. I still get that buzz now.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?

I’m look forward to everything this Brighton Festival, it is so strong across the board. I am looking forward to being there and recording the performers, recording the people that come to see it, recording the parts of Brighton that the performances are happening in. Celebrating the fact that Brighton has a festival! Brighton is not England’s first, second or even third city, it is way down the league but its celebrations are bigger than anything else, maybe only second to Notting Hill Carnival in my head anyway! And unlike Notting Hill Carnival which was never supported by the council, it is beautiful because it is a combination of community and the organisers’ vision for Brighton, and Brighton’s vision for itself. It is such a powerful thing to see a city celebrate itself like that. I am looking forward to being able to record it on camera and let the world know that this is how a city gets down!

The Bright Room Workshops will take place from Tuesday 23 – Friday 26 May, 4 – 7pm, 114 Church Street. Works created will be on display in The Bright Room Gallery, Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 May, 11am – 11pm, 114 Church Street.