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

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Lulu.com, sponsor of the Storytelling Army, launches a short story competition on the theme of Everyday Epic

Lulu.com, sponsor of Brighton Festival commission the Storytelling Army, has launched a short story writing competition inspired by Guest Director Kate Tempest’s theme Everyday Epic.

Lulu.com’s short story competition is open to all Sussex residents over the age of 18. Writers are asked to respond to the theme selected by Kate Tempest for Brighton Festival 2017, Everyday Epic. From extraordinary moments amongst the ordinary, to the little victories against the odds, writers are invited to reflect on the observations and achievements of our daily lives which we piece together to celebrate and share our common humanity.

Four lucky competition winners will be announced during the last week of the Festival. The winning stories will be combined into an anthology, alongside stories from the Storytelling Army, and published as a paperback book. UK based marketing and PR company Authoright will also be supporting the book with a publicity campaign once it is published; ensuring the Everyday Epic stories reach as many readers as possible after the competition ends.

Brighton Festival is working with nabokov theatre company and Guest Director Kate Tempest to assemble and mobilise the Storytelling Army: a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life - including those who are homeless and vulnerably housed – who will perform in unexpected locations throughout Brighton over the last weekend of this year’s Festival.

Nigel Lee, CEO of Lulu.com says ‘Since time began, we as a species have passed down our teachings from generation to generation through the medium of storytelling. From the camp fire to the soap box, from dusty books to the internet, storytelling is how we evolve, it is essential to our existence and vital to the fabric of our communities.

‘Everyone has a story to tell. Lulu.com has amassed our own story telling army of over a million authors in 226 countries. To get on the ground and be part of real-life story telling in Brighton and to publish a selection of those winning stories is a fantastic opportunity for Lulu to further its heart felt cause, freedom of expression and the right to share. The whole initiative speaks to our own ethos, share your story, without profit censorship, without manipulation from profiteers, without judgment.’

Entry is free and stories must be no more than 4,000 words (there is no minimum word count) and must be received electronically by midnight GMT on 15 May 2017. Entries must be submitted electronically as a word or pdf document and the document must contain: your name, your address, your age, your e mail contact details, the title of your submission, the word count, your twitter handle (if relevant). Entries should be emailed to social_uk@lulu.com.

For full Terms and Conditions visit lulu-uk.blog. Alternatively email social_uk@lulu.com for the competition entry rules.

5 minutes with... Nick Sharratt

The illustrator of more than 250 books for children, including the best-selling You Choose, Shark In The Dark and Pants, as well as Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker series, will be sharing some of his favourite books, showing how he creates his characters and handing out his drawing tips at a special Brighton Festival event.

I knew I wanted to be an illustrator when… I was nine and one of my pictures was pinned up in the school hall.

The first book I ever bought… would have been bought with a book token. It might well have been a Professor Branestawm book.

My favourite writer/illustrator…  pairing is that of Janet and Allan Ahlberg, both of them absolute masters of their craft.

The last book I read was… Love by All Sorts of Means, the biography of Beryl Bainbridge by Brendan King. I’m a sucker for biographies.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when I… was presented with a gold Blue Peter badge – there is no higher accolade as far as I’m concerned!

People would be surprised to learn that… being a children’s illustrator can sometimes be a very taxing work ( see - you don’t believe me ) and that when it’s not going smoothly I can get quite grumpy!

Nick Sharratt: Sausages, Spaghetti and Sharks in Parks is at Sallis Benney Theatre on 15 May

Interview: Tim Crouch on Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore

Brighton-based theatre artist Tim Crouch has a longstanding relationship with Brighton Festival (The Complete Deaths, I Malvolio). This year, he returns as director of Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore. Uniquely, the names of the three characters are the only words spoken in the play.

Can you tell us what your show is about?

We’re working with a script by an amazing playwright called Gary Owen, but Gary has been incredibly generous in the process in that he is aware, and we are aware, that we will discover things in rehearsal. So he’s given us the characters of Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore, the setup, and the events of the story, and our job in rehearsal has been to give flesh to those things, to find humanity, physicality and play in those things.

I think there’s a really good conversation to be had about subtexts, what’s being said underneath the words, and what do we get off people’s body language and facial expressions. Because that’s all these three characters really have to go on, they just have the energy of their expressions, the volume and the tone of their expressions, and the energy of their physicality, to communicate. That’s a really interesting subject for someone to take away from this show, really: if we remove language from the equation, how detailed we can still be in our levels of communication.

Can you tell us more about the characters?

So what we kind of have is three clowns, really. They’re not clowns like circus clowns, but they’re clowns in the European tradition of openness and idiocy and glorious stupidity and being in the present moment. We have a fantastic physical variety: we have a clown who is tall and lanky; and we have a clown who is short and bouncy; and we have a clown who is lovely and large and slow and cuddly.

Who will enjoy the play?

Well anyone who feels that sometimes their vocabulary is not as expansive as they would want it to be. It’s about trying to come to grips with the complexities of the world and having very few words with which to do it. And that’s a pretty clear state for a three or four-year old, five-year-old or even someone my age really – particularly for young people who are struggling because they have so much to say but they don’t yet have the words to say it with.

How do you hope audiences will react?

I think the thing to say above all else is it’s a really funny thing, a really funny play, it’s a play unlike any play I know, really. And when I first read it I was just aware of the hugeness of it, the scale of what it communicates. So, there’s lots in it, even though there is that limitation, there’s a huge amount in it about status, about how we coexist with each other, how we get on with our friends or our siblings, or mates that we love and sometimes hate and have difficulties with and sometimes can’t do without. It’s a joyful play, it’s a play in the true spirit of the word ‘play’. It’s not a piece of literature but it’s a piece of live theatre and I think it’ll be very responsive to the audience, to the children in the audience, to the laughter of the audience. With that kind of clowning you always play off the audience, you don’t pretend there’s a wall in front of you and the audience, you’re completely with them, in them; they affect, infect, change, influence what you do and you then have that same effect on them.

Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore is at Theatre Royal Brighton 8-9 May

Brighton Festival artist Hollie McNish wins prestigious Poetry Prize

Brighton Festival artist Hollie McNish has won the prestigious Ted Hughes Poetry Award for New Work in Poetry for her third collection Nobody Told Me.

Taken from McNish’s personal diaries, Nobody Told Me combines poetry and storytelling, describing her experiences of pregnancy and motherhood.

She was chosen over six other shortlisted artists for the £5,000 prize, which was announced at a ceremony on 29 March, and The Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award judges included award-winning poets Jo Bell and Bernard O’Donoghue and singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams.

McNish is known for her viral YouTube videos, which have collectively reached 4 million views, and her performance at Brighton Festival 2015 with Kate Tempest and George the Poet. She was UK Slam poetry champion in 2009, and has previously released two spoken word albums and a poetry collection.

Hollie McNish will be appearing at Brighton Festival this year at An Evening with Picador Poetry on Fri 19 May. The line-up includes Guest Director Kate Tempest along with Richard Osmond, Glyn Maxwell and Lorraine Mariner.

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).

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.

Luke Wright: The Toll is at The Spire on Fri 19 May.

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.

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.

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.