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

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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.

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.

Interview: Julian Clary discusses The Bolds on Holiday

Comedian, entertainer and author Julian Clary and illustrator David Roberts will be at Brighton Festival on 13 May to read two stories from the fantastically funny The Bolds series: The Bolds to the Rescue and new instalment The Bolds on Holiday! Here, Julian discusses the new The Bolds book and what inspired his book series.

Your children's books, The Bolds, have been hugely successful. How does writing for children compare to writing for adults?

It's delightful; I just have such a lovely time writing them. Making children laugh is a whole new thing for me, it's lovely. I’ve been doing lots of book events for children and it’s a delight – because they’re not pretending to laugh to please you. It’s a question of entering into that innocent world, a whole new world… it's obviously a world away from my usual filth but that’s liberating. It’s been a revelation.

Where did the inspiration come from for The Bolds?

From my childhood in Teddington. This is written from my point of view as a 7-year-old, because I used to daydream about the neighbours then, and wondered if they were animals. So when it came to writing the book I just regressed and that’s the story that came out. If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to do, it was be a writer.

I was very interested in Africa as a child and I was a member of the World Wildlife Fund. I’ve always liked hyenas, and once I heard my neighbours’ cackling laughs, I made up the story that they must be hyenas in disguise. I have always thought that animals are just as clever as humans. That’s where the story came from.

What about the new addition, The Bolds on Holiday? Why Cornwall?

I have such fond childhood memories of holidays by the sea in Cornwall, and St Ives, where I’ve set this book. It’s been so lovely to relive those happy times as I wrote this third story.

Why do you think they resonate so well with children?

It's not for me to say, really. But I think they're funny and morally sound, and very plot driven. I guess because I enjoy writing them so much that somehow comes across.

Will you continue with The Bolds or do you have a plan for a different series?

The Bolds are alive and well in my mind, so it's all about them. It's a bit like the Just William books, of which there were about 45. I feel like I can go on and on with them. Whether the public want me to or not.

Brighton Festival Live: Marlon James

Join us for an evening with 2015 Man Booker Prizewinner Marlon James. A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional account of an attempt to assassinate Bob Marley in 1976, a novel described by the New York Times as a ‘Tarantino remake of The Harder They Come… sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex’. Spanning three decades, the novel uses multiple voices – CIA agents, drug dealers, ghosts, beauty queens – to explore the turbulent world of Jamaican gangs and politics.

If you enjoy this live stream then you might be interested in some of the events still coming up at Brighton Festival

Five minutes with... Alexei Sayle

Alexei Sayle joins us this Brighton Festival to discuss his new memoir, Thatcher Stole My Trousers. We pinned him down for a quick, but seriously funny five minutes of questions...

I knew I wanted to be a comedian when…

I never wanted to be a comedian that’s why I seem so angry all the time.

My first public performance took place at…

My mother used to make the neighbours come around and watch me do little shows from about the age of six.

The first comedy gig I went to was…

There was a guy called John Dowie who came along just too early for the alternative comedy boom who I saw at the Bush Theatre in 1976.

The first album I ever bought was…

The Four Tops. On Top.

My favourite part of touring is…

Not touring.

My favourite comedian is…

I’ll say Louie C K because he is no threat to me.

My favourite place to perform live is…

The Soho Theatre in London. I can get the 19 bus there using my old person’s bus pass and be home again by 10.00. All for free.

The last song I listened to was…

“Circles” by Kate Tempest.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

I MC’d Glastonbury in 1985 a famously muddy year and I said from the stage “a woman’s lost a contact lens, if you could all just have a look for it...”

The best show I ever performed was…

Glastonbury 1985.

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

Eating a sugary cake such as a Lemon Yum Yum from the patisserie counter at Waitrose.

People would be surprised to learn that…

I don’t have diabetes.

Watch Again - Brighton Festival Live: Yanis Varoufakis

In his new book, And the Weak Suffer What They Must?, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis assesses the history of the European monetary union.

A passionate campaigner against austerity, Varoufakis argues that it is a fundamental threat to Europe and to the global economy. He also shows that the origins of the Eurozone crisis lie not with governments or the banks but in its founding structure. 

He will talk to Channel 4 economics editor and Guardian columnist Paul Mason about the current crisis and present his case for economic reform.

Find out more on this event.

If you enjoy this livestream, then you might be interested in some of the events still coming up at Brighton Festival:

Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal
Premiering in the UK, Silencio Blanco confronts the black silence of Chile’s mining history and the personal histories of the miners in this unique and poignant work. 

Fuga Perpetua
Meaning 'always running', this potent and thought-provoking new work by Yuval Atival combines music, sound, movement and visual projection to reflect and give insight on the situation of refugees and displaced people. 

New Writing South Annual Lecture: Nikesh Shukla
Nikesh Shukla discusses his recent calls for increased diversity in literature and asks: "Do I need to see myself in stories to enjoy them?"

City Reads 2016 novel announced

Paul McVeigh’s novel The Good Son becomes Brighton’s ‘Big Read’ as part of the 50th Brighton Festival

Brighton-based author Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son – shortlisted in The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker Prize’ annual list – has been chosen for City Reads 2016. Delivered by award winning literary organisation Collected Works CIC, City Reads is the longest running ‘big read’ in the UK conceived to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience throughout the region. The annual event will return to its cultural home in 2016 as it becomes part of Brighton Festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Paul McVeigh says ‘when I moved to Brighton a few years ago, one of the first things I did was volunteer for City Reads to celebrate books and get to know my new city. Who could believe that just a few years later my book would be chosen and my adopted city would adopt me right back. That it will be part of the 50th anniversary of the Brighton Festival is such an honour. I can’t wait to get started.’

The Good Son – chosen to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 – is a bitter sweet tale, set in 1980s Belfast. Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him ‘gay’. He has to protect his Ma and his sister Wee Maggie from the Troubles and from Da. And sometimes... you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.


Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director of City Reads says ‘This outstanding debut from Brighton based Irish writer Paul McVeigh was the perfect choice, particularly as it’s the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising this year. I defy anyone not to fall in love with its protagonist Mickey Donnelly. He’s clever, naive and hilariously funny. I hope you love it as much as we do at City Reads.

From its launch on World Book Day (3 March) to the final event at Brighton Festival on 29 May, City Reads will encompass a wide range of events and discussions themed around the novel that encourages residents across Brighton & Hove to get reading and start talking. Highlights include an Irish Whiskey Tasting on St Patrick’s Day (17 March) - from top taster Dave Broom - with readings from The Good Son and live music, a special screening on the official centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising (24 April) of Pat ‘O Connor’s 1984 film Cal (starring Helen Mirren) and of course the perennial favourite: The City Reads Book Quiz returns on 27 April.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: ‘We are delighted that City Reads is part of Brighton Festival this year - building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. It’s especially exciting for us to champion the work of a local writer as part of 50th edition of the Festival – in which we explore the concept of home and the various writers, artists and performers that live in this city on the edge.’ 

Danny Wallace’s Hamish and the Worldstoppers chosen for Young City Reads

Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival - which celebrates its 50th edition in 2016 - are delighted to reveal that Danny Wallace's Hamish and the Worldstoppers has been chosen as the 2016 'Big Read' for children across Brighton & Hove. The concept is simple: one book, by one author is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.

‘Everyone knows that Brighton has the funniest, coolest, stinkiest children in Britain - and when I heard that they’d all be reading my book, my feet fell off in delight. Brighton Young City Reads is a brilliant thing, and for Hamish to be at the centre of it this year is a real honour. Jamie and I can’t wait to see what the kids think. Now excuse me while I put my feet back on.’ Danny Wallace, Young City Reads author, Jan 2016

About the book

What would YOU do... if the whole world just stopped? Yes the WHOLE WORLD. Birds in the air. Planes in the sky. And every single person on the planet - except you. Because that's what keeps happening to ten-year-old Hamish Ellerby. And it's being caused by The WorldStoppers and their terrifying friends The Terribles! They have a PLAN. They want to take our world for their own . . . Oh, and they hate children. Especially if you're a child who knows about them. Hang on - You know now, don't you? Oh dear. Can Hamish save us from the WorldStoppers? Only time will tell…..

Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, Collected Works CIC, commented, ‘Young City Reads is all about the pure pleasure of reading. It inspires children to take time over the reading a book and then encourages them to discuss it with friends, teachers, parents or grandparents. It’s a celebration of words and pictures. And did I mention it’s also great fun!’

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: ‘Young City Reads is always a highlight of Brighton Festival; young booklovers, en masse, discussing and sharing one story before meeting the author themselves… it’s a unique event and something we’re very proud of. One theme we’ll be exploring at our 50th Brighton Festival is the future of art - who are the new voices, what will the next generation make and what role might they play? That Danny Wallace’s adventurous tale sees the fate of the world in the hands of one plucky youngster is, to me, a very fitting and apt choice for the whole city to enjoy.’

How can local primary schools get involved?

• Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for FREE) and agree to read Hamish and the Worldstoppers together in class between (3 March – 19 May 2016). The Class Teacher or Head Teacher can complete a sign-up form on the City Reads website at: cityreads.co.uk

• Throughout the project, participating classes will receive FREE weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size Hamish quizzes, puzzles and fun activities to complete.

• This is a great way for classes to get excited about a book and to experience the benefits of shared reading and the fun it brings.

Find out more on the Young City Reads page

Young City Reads 2016 - Key Dates

• 3rd March 2016 (World Book Day) Young City Reads launches at Jubilee Library

• 19th May 2016 (Brighton Festival Event) Special Young City Reads event at Brighton Festival featuring the author and illustrator LIVE.

Brighton Festival 2015 soars to a close

Brighton Festival 2015 - with award-wining author Ali Smith at the helm as Guest Director - came to a soaring conclusion this weekend.

Over the three-week Festival - the biggest and most established in England - many of Ali Smith’s ideas, interests and passions were explored in a thrilling selection of events which spanned music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate featuring artists and performers the world over from Ukrainian ‘ethnic chaos’ band DakhaBrakha to the newly Palme d’Or honoured filmmaker Agnès Varda.

Three central themes - Art and Nature, the Crossing Places between art forms, and Taking Liberty - provided a fascinating jumping off point to explore some of the key ideas and issues of the moment as well as a memorable visual image of a swift in flight which proved a fitting and popular emblem for the 2015 Festival.

The opening weekend asked audiences to ‘take flight’ for the annual children’s parade, the largest of its kind in Europe. Supported by regional businesses Class of their Own, Gatwick Airport and Riverford, the annual parade traditionally marks the start of Brighton Festival and was attended by almost 5,000 children from 83 schools and community groups from across the region; each dressed in costumes they had specifically designed and made for the event. Taking inspiration from Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director Ali Smith’s deep fascination with birds and other migratory patterns, costumes included bird life in all its forms as well as flying machines, creatures from fantasy and fable, bugs, bees and butterflies.


The Children's Parade. Photo by Jordan Hughes

During the ensuing 23 days it wasn’t just the kids who took flight – with more reviews praising the artistic excellence of this year’s programme than ever. One of the Festival’s biggest hits was the European premiere of Tony award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s highly acclaimed four play cycle The Apple Family Plays from The Public Theater, New York which was lavished with 5 stars across the board. Glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Stage and the artsdesk amongst others described them as “exemplary”, “extraordinary”, “profound” and “faultlessly directed”. This was swiftly followed by the top accolade going to violinist Isabelle Faust’s amazing feat of solo virtuosity, Paine’s Plough’s poignant exploration of love and relationships in Lungs and Nina Conti’s extraordinary tour de force of improvised comedy amongst others.


Fleeting on Brighton Beach. Photo by Chris Bethall

At just under 400 performances across 150 events, including 34 that were entirely free to the public, Brighton Festival 2015 featured the highest number of exclusives, premieres and commissions to date including a sizeable proportion of events that cannot - and could not - be experienced anywhere else outside of Brighton Festival, from Sam Lee’s intimate Nightingale Walks on the Downs to Laurie Anderson’s one-off concert All the Animals and Festival finale Fleeting, the spectacular installation over the West Pier by And Now in which hundreds of individual points of fire created shapes and swathes of glowing light and shade.

In a continuation of the Festival’s dedication to making the arts accessible for all, 2015 saw a plethora of shows - including high profile events such as physical theatre show The Spalding Suite which takes as its subject the UK's basketball sub-culture and Jess Thom’s inspiring and uplifting exploration of her experience of living with Tourette’s, Backstage in Biscuit Land - live-streamed to audiences around the world, for free. Brighton Festival also reached out beyond the centre more than ever before, working with Without Walls to present a number of family-friendly performances in Saltdean and Woodingdean for the first time as well as the enthralling 451 at Preston Barracks and playful Ear Trumpet in Queen’s Park. This was complemented by a fantastic response to community driven events such as a new children’s birdwatching trail which was generously embraced by the business community, and the return of the Guest Director’s Guests, the Peacock Poetry Prize and the Young City Reads schemes.


Backstage in Biscuit Land. Photo by Victor Frankowski

Other Festival highlights included a one off live screening of Peter Strickland’s daring masterpiece The Duke of Burgundy; the English premiere of Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland’s The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, a homage to one of Scotland's most likeable, most individual and most unexpected 20th century figures; a new lecture specially commissioned for Brighton Festival by acclaimed author Jeanette Winterson OBE on the practices and craft of writing; and the UK premiere of The Forgotten / L’Oublié(e), the directorial debut of Raphaëlle Boitel, one of the most remarkable performers on the European visual and physical theatre scene.

Brighton Festival 2015 featured 396 performances across 150 events including 45 exclusives, premieres and commissions and 34 free events.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “From the 5 stars across-the-board success of Richard Nelson’s extraordinary Apple Family Plays to the headline-grabbing performance of Kate Tempest and a very special personal appearance by newly Palme D’Or honoured Agnes Varda - this year really has been a Festival to remember. Ali Smith, as Guest Director, has been an absolute pleasure to work with and a wonderful inspiration to us all. Her remarkable sense of possibility, wonder, imagination and excitement at anything that she encounters has been evident every step of the way, from her invaluable input during the programming process to her lively and engaging presence throughout the month. The Festival’s continued ability to not only bring such an eclectic range of artists onto one bill but to make it a resounding success, is testament to the extraordinary support we have from funders, sponsors and from audiences themselves. It’s an exciting time for Brighton Festival as we look towards our 50th birthday next year. I cannot wait to lift the lid on what surprises we have in store for the city and beyond.”

In Photos: Brighton Festival Week One

Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm has been a joy so far. We've had heaps of fun and with a plethora of great theatre, circus, dance, music, classical, outdoor, family, books and debates and visual art and film events still  to come the fun is nowhere near over yet!

Take a look back over our first week of Brighton Festival 2015 right here...

The past week has flown by and lots of exciting events have happened so far at Brighton Festival 2015 and there's still so much more to come! Check out what’s up next at: http://brightonfestival.org/whats_on/

Posted by Brighton Festival on Friday, 8 May 2015