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Brighton Festival announces major new commission for 2016 inspired by untold story of First World War

Brighton Festival - alongside commissioning partners 14-18 NOW and Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove - has today announced a major new commission inspired by the untold story of the hundreds of thousands of men who travelled from India to fight for the Allies in the First World War.  

Created by performance company Nutkhut and brought together by a creative team that includes designer Tom Piper (Tower of London poppies), the ambitious, large-scale, immersive outdoor experience Dr Blighty is the latest event revealed for the 50th edition of Brighton Festival in May 2016.

More than a million men travelled from India to fight for the Allies during the First World War, their collective experiences constituting one of military history’s great untold stories. Between 1914 and 1916, over 2000 Indian soldiers wounded on the Western Front would be brought to a temporary hospital housed in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate. 

This major new collaboration, Dr Blighty, recalls this episode in Brighton’s wartime history, bringing the experiences of the soldiers - and the locals who came to care for them - movingly back to life via an immersive walk-through installation across the Royal Pavilion Estate. Animated by actors and enhanced by immersive installations, enthralling video projections, ambient soundscapes and theatrical interludes, inspired by letters the soldiers sent back home, the event will seek to capture the essence of the hospital and those who recuperated here.

The hospital installation will be complemented by a series of related performances and participatory outreach activities, drawing parallels with contemporary events while bringing this moving episode in Brighton’s history back to life. For four nights, a spectacular after-dark production will incorporate video projections on the Royal Pavilion, evoking memories of a very distant home for the soldier convalescents. In addition, the Philharmonia Orchestra will perform in a special ticketed concert at Brighton Dome with some of India’s leading contemporary musicians, marrying Western and Eastern classical music traditions.

Ajay Chhabra, Artistic Director of Nutkhut says: “Thousands of letters were written from the Western Front back home to wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, and it’s the emotion within these letters that Dr Blighty is trying to bring into the public domain. They, alongside the propaganda and the censorship, give us an insight into the lives of these young men, and give these many anonymous soldiers a voice. The project will essentially tell a 100-year-old story, and make it a contemporary one for new audiences.’

Ajay Chhabra, Artistic Director of Nutkhut says: “Thousands of letters were written from the Western Front back home to wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, and it’s the emotion within these letters that Dr Blighty is trying to bring into the public domain. They, alongside the propaganda and the censorship, give us an insight into the lives of these young men, and give these many anonymous soldiers a voice. The project will essentially tell a 100-year-old story, and make it a contemporary one for new audiences.’

Jenny Waldman, Director, 14-18 NOW, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Brighton Festival to present this ambitious project with an amazing group of artists brought together by Nutkhut, which will offer audiences an insight into the little-known and remarkable story underpinning the city’s involvement with the First World War."

Brighton Festival marks its milestone 50th year in 2016 with the pioneering artist and musician Laurie Anderson as its Guest Director. Established in 1967, Brighton Festival has become one of the city's most enduring symbols of inventiveness and celebration over the past half century. Renowned for its pioneering spirit and experimental reputation, Brighton Festival’s inaugural programme controversially included the first ever exhibition of Concrete Poetry in the UK, alongside performances by Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and Yehudi Menuhin. Now one of Europe’s leading arts festivals, Brighton Festival is known for its ambitious and daring programme that aims to make the most of the city’s distinctive cultural atmosphere, drawing some of the most innovative artists and companies and adventurous audiences from the UK and around the world. 

Full programme details of Brighton Festival 2016 will be announced on 17 February 2016

-ENDS-

For further enquiries, please contact our press team:

Emma Robertson, Head of Press and PR - emma.robertson@brightonfestival.org | 01273 260 803
Chris Challis, Senior Press Officer – chris.challis@brightonfestival.org | 01273 260838
Anna Whelan, Digital Marketing Officer – anna.whelan@brightonfestival.org | 01273 260825

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NOTES TO EDITORS:

About Dr. Blighty:

• Co-commissioned by Brighton Festival, 14-18 Now and Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

• The full Dr. Blighty creative team includes:
Ajay Chhabra (Artistic Director)
Shri Shriram (Composer)
Tom Piper & Amanda Stoodley (Design)
Sian Thomas (Performance Director)
Stephen Clark (Writer)
Phil Supple (Lighting Designer)
Novak (Video & Animation)
Ed Carter (Sound Designer)

About Brighton Festival:

• Brighton Festival is England’s largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival which takes place across three weeks in the city each May. It is a major milestone in the international cultural calendar and 2016 marks a landmark in its history with the 50th Brighton Festival.

• Full programme details will be announced on Wednesday 17 February 2016.

• Brighton Festival attracts inspiring and internationally significant Guest Directors who bring cohesion to the artistic programme.

• For nearly 30 years Brighton Festival has opened with the Children’s Parade, which includes participants from schools and community groups and bands across the city. One of the most spectacular community events in the UK with up to 4,000 participants and an audience of around 10,000, this year the Children’s Parade, devised and delivered by Same Sky, will be themed around Brighton Celebrates in response to Brighton Festival’s milestone year.

• Brighton Festival is an innovative commissioning and producing arts festival, offering an ambitious programme that makes the most of the city’s distinctive atmosphere.

• Brighton Festival includes visual art, theatre, music, dance, circus, books and debates, family friendly events and outdoor performances throughout the city including site-specific and unusual locations.

• Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival produces the annual Brighton Festival and also manages the three venues of Brighton Dome year round

About 14-18 NOW:

• 14-18 NOW is a programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. Their programme takes place from 2014 to 2018 and is timed to mark the centenary of the war, which raged across Europe, Asia and Africa from 1914 to 1918.

• 14-18 NOW commission artists from all art forms to look afresh at the First World War conflict and create shared experiences exploring this significant moment in time. They work with cultural organisations across the UK to commission new art, theatre, film, dance, digital, music, poetry and mass-participation events
• 14-18 NOW firmly believes in the transformative power of the arts to bring the stories of the First World War to life. Perceptions of the war have been shaped by the artists of the time, including poets, painters, photographers and film-makers – many of whom served and who reflected on the war and its effects. One hundred years later, today’s artists are opening up new perspectives on the present as well as the past.

About Nutkhut:

• Formed in 2003, Nutkhut exists to fulfil the creative vision of Simmy Gupta and Ajay Chhabra

• As an ideas-led, art focused performance company, Nutkhut creates work mixing performance, dance, film, participation and a distinctly British comedic sensibility and eccentricity. Nutkhut has been delighting audiences for over 10 years and are a major presence in the outdoor performing arts sector, working regularly with festivals and events across the UK and beyond.

• Nutkhut is led by two British Asian artists, Simmy Gupta and Ajay Chhabra. The company is unique as it draws inspiration from the Artistic Directors’ backgrounds and mixes it with a very British sense of humour and mischief. Nutkhut is highly representative of modern Britain and create work which could only have come from the here and now.

About Royal Pavilion & Museums

• Royal Pavilion & Museums is the museum service of Brighton & Hove City Council. It directly operates: The Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Hove Museum & Art Gallery, The Booth Museum of Natural History and Preston Manor

• Its collections include three which are Designated: World Art, Decorative Art and Natural History. Other collections include Local History, Archaeology, Fashion, Fine Art, Toys and Media.

• It has responsibility for a number of historically important listed buildings and monuments: William lV Gatehouse, India Gate, Northgate House, 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Portslade Old Manor, The Old Courthouse and Courtroom, Jaipur Gate at Hove Museum & Art Gallery

• The service provides advice and support to voluntary-run museums and heritage organisations within the city: The Old Police Cells Museum, the Fishing Museum, the Toy and Model Museum, West Pier Trust and West Blatchington Windmill.