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

Digging for Shakespeare cast to go under the hammer

The knitted cast of Brighton Festival 2016 commission Digging for Shakespeare are to go under the hammer as part of the Big Heart Auction next month, a partnership between Brighton Dome and Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, which aims to raise valuable funds for the two organisations.

The twelve Shakespearean characters were immortalised in wool by Welsh knitter Annie Hardy as part of the acclaimed theatrical production which made its world premiere at the 50th edition of Brighton Festival in May. Devised by artist Marc Rees, Digging for Shakespeare took as its subject eccentric Brighton character James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, a 19th-century joker and world-renowned Shakespearean scholar who lived on the outskirts of Brighton. There in his 'rustic wigwam' (a series of conjoined sheds), he obsessively curated a huge hoard of Shakespearean rarities.

The unique promenade performance took place in the Roedale Allotments, close to the site of the eccentric recluse's former home, and imaginatively involved allotmenteers, the Hollingbury Park Bowls Club and a group of young performers. Audience members explored sheds and hideaways, discovered the Shakespearean characters reborn in knitted form along with quotes featuring herbs and plants from each of the twelve Shakespeare plays, and gathered a wealth of horticultural tips along the way.

Ahead of the auction, the knitted characters will be on display as part of a special free exhibition dedicated to Digging for Shakespeare in Brighton Dome’s Founders Room from 17 to 27 June. Also on show is artwork by graffiti artist Pure Evil which was also commissioned to feature on two specially-built sheds which journeyed through the allotments with the audience.

The individual knitted characters and artworks by Pure Evil will then be auctioned at the Big Heart Auction from 1 to 10 July. For more information please visit www.bigheartauction.org.uk.

All artworks for sale as part of the Big Heart Auction will also be on show at Brighton Dome from 1 – 5 July.

Marc Rees said: 'It's fantastic that the dozen characters can be included in the auction. Annie Hardy spent between 30- 50 hours lovingly creating each figure and all from her vivid imagination too- no pattern, just free form which I think is incredible! They were such an integral part of ‘Digging For Shakespeare’ and everyone wanted to know who made them. It's great to see the figures all together as one family in the exhibition, they are very special and deserve a special home.'