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In Pictures: Brighton Festival 2016

The 50th Brighton Festival is almost over, so we're taking a look back at the pictures from some of the shows and events we've loved the most. 

Picking out these images put a grin on our faces, and we hope it makes you smile too! 

Why not have a look through some more photos from this year's festival and re-live something special?

Photo credits: Victor Frankowski, Adam Weatherley, John Hunter

In Pictures: Week 2

The second week of Brighton Festival 2016 saw two performances from our Guest Director Laurie Anderson: the spellbinding Song Conversation, where she performed with fellow musician-composers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset, and Slideshow, a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant journey touching on projects, memories and adventures from her past. 

On top of this, there were blockbuster performances from Duke Garwood and Haçienda Classical, Children's Laureate Chris Riddell answering questions and illustrating the answers live, the sonically spiritual Lou Reed Drones, and much more besides. 

Find out what's going on in the third and final week of Brighton Festival 2016. 

Photo credits Adam Weatherley, Vic Frankowski

Watch Again - Brighton Festival Live: Duke Garwood

‘Duke Garwood is the real thing… an old soul and a saint’ Kurt Vile

Veteran blues-rock man and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood is most definitely the musician’s musician. Mark Lanegan, with whom Garwood collaborated on 2013’s Black Pudding, calls him a ‘musical genius’, while Josh T Pearson says his songs are ‘as close to heaven as you can get with a guitar’.

Newly signed to Heavenly, Garwood’s acclaimed fifth solo album Heavy Love, his first since 2011’s Dreamboatsafari, sees his intriguing brand of powerful, understated blues on top form. Special guests Smoke Fairies and Woven Entity join Garwood to perform a mix of old and new material. Don’t miss one of contemporary rock’s best kept secrets in a headline performance at Brighton Dome.

Book now for Duke Garwood.

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

Moments of Weightlessness
Pianist, inventor and performer Sarah Nicolls developed her unique ‘inside-out piano’ to explore the belly of the instrument and to coax out its hidden sounds. See this monumental piano in surprising motion, hear the beautiful melodies and textures of Sarah’s piano-songs and contemplate the moments of life where everything seems to stand still.

Beth Orton
Beth Orton has been one of the country’s most unique and beguiling voices in contemporary music for the past two decades. She returns to the UK for two shows at Brighton Festival premiering highly anticipated new material exploring her electronic roots. 

Floating Points
Dance music trailblazer Sam Shepherd – otherwise known as Floating Points – is renowned for his ambitious, forward-thinking DJ sets around the world. Performing with a full live band, don’t miss what promises to be a remarkable live performance from one of electronic music’s most perceptive new artists.

Interview: Stewart Hurwood on Lou Reed Drones

'I like to think of it as a sonic massage…'

As we host the UK premiere of Lou Reed Drones, an installation of guitars in feedback mode, Lou Reed’s long-time guitar tech and right-hand man Stewart Hurwood tells us about what it was like to work with a music legend, how the piece came about and exactly what he hopes audiences will get out of it…

How did you meet Lou Reed and how long did you work with him?

I worked with Lou Reed for the last ten years of his life. I became his right-hand man handling many more things than just his guitars, equipment and managing the stages he played on.

What was Lou like to work with?

Lou was very demanding on everyone including himself. He was always pushing his art and didn't want to stand still or rest on his laurels. This made the work extremely challenging and very rewarding.

How did Lou Reed: Drones come about? Was it something you discussed directly with Lou?

In 1975 Lou Reed released Metal Machine Music. This was a noise album featuring a constant drone of guitar feedback from start to finish, in fact, the album was made so the end would continually repeat until you lifted the needle from the record.

Around 2008 Lou wanted to tour and perform a noise type improv similar to Metal Machine Music. We did extensive testing of guitar feedback and ultimately Lou decided that we would use four guitars and amplifiers feeding back as the foundation of the Metal Machine Trio Tour. It was during this testing that Lou Reed gave the title ‘The Drones’ to the four guitar, amp wall of feedback.

During that tour in Sydney, while setting the feedback Lou shouted to me: "I feel healed in The Drones"! He was ill at the time and I fully acknowledged the gravity of his statement.

What was Laurie Anderson’s role?

After Lou passed there was a meeting at his house. People were discussing what should happen to Lou Reed's guitars and equipment. Many said the equipment should be in a museum. I spoke up and said, "Lou would hate his instruments gathering dust, he was about moving forward and creating". I told Laurie Anderson about my experiences with Lou Reed and The Drones, how I wanted to use them as therapy for Lou and the idea of a feedback wall. Laurie Anderson said: "The feedback wall is a great idea...and YOU must do it"!

Laurie set things in motion and I performed a three hour (MM3) session at The Steven Kasher Gallery on 23rd Street in Chelsea, NYC. Laurie Anderson and Antony Hegarty were deeply moved by the tribute and a second session was scheduled...this time at The Kitchen in NYC.

Laurie was invited to perform in a tribute show for Ornette Coleman at The Bandshell in Brooklyn. She had The Drones as part of the performance. I set a soundscape foundation and Master Ren Guang- Yi (Tai Chi teacher to Lou Reed) performed The 21 a movement created for Lou Reed.

Laurie came out on stage with John Zorn and Bill Laswell and all three improvised over The Drones. was beautiful!

What exactly will the audience be able to see/hear/do?

Ideally the room will be pretty dark with some slow moving lights generated from a mirror ball. The idea is to instigate a little disorientation and second guessing about the space you're in. I will set soundscapes in motion these will encourage the listeners' imagination to open.

They can sit, lay, listen, meditate, sleep, cry, dance, chant, perform Tai Chi - whatever they get emotionally from the sounds they can react to. I would encourage people to drone along, making their own drone resonating inside their chest cavity. The sound is interactive changing with the movement of people within the space, other sound sources (musicians and instruments, or chants etc.).

How many guitars are there in the installation? Were they all owned by Lou?

I tour with seven guitars, six are leaning against the amps ready to be included in the soundscape, I can use the extra guitar to swap out a guitar and alter the tunings available to me. All the guitars and amplifiers were owned by Lou Reed...many of which people have seen Lou play live, or in videos of live gigs.

How has the installation been received to date?

The Drones fall between an installation and performance art as I manipulate and interact with them. People, even musicians as usually surprised by how musical and moving it can be.

What do you hope audiences will get out of it?

I hope that they experience the gateway of their imagination to be opened! The Drones generate so many harmonics in the air that people hear different things within the drones; some hear birds, or horns, brass bands, others hear strings, or voices. In addition the sound waves hit the body perhaps penetrating and shaking internal organs, releasing endorphins etc. I like to think of it as a sonic massage!

I had one person tell me, amazingly he slept during parts of the performance. He went on to say he suffers with insomnia and the vibration had made him feel incredibly relaxed... he had a great nap and vivid dreams. I see this as a success!

And finally…. Exactly how loud is the feedback?

Not as loud as Metallica...louder than a string times approaching the sound and volume of Lancaster bomber but more musical!

Head this way for more info on free event Lou Reed Drones

Festival-goers invited to interact with installation of Lou Reed’s guitars

Festival-goers are invited to meditate, dance, chant, and even perform Tai Chi at Lou Reed Drones, an installation of Lou Reed’s guitars and amps set in feedback mode, coming to Brighton Festival in May.

A UK Premiere, Lou Reed Drones is at The Spire Fri 13 - Tue 17 May. Lou Reed instinctively knew the power of drone music, and his 1975 album Metal Machine Music was credited with laying the foundation for the industrial and noise rock genres.

Lou Reed’s guitar technician Stewart Hurwood, the man behind the installation, says, ‘People can sit, lay, listen, meditate, sleep, cry, dance, chant, perform Tai Chi - whatever they get emotionally from the sounds they can react to. I would encourage people to drone along, making their own drone resonating inside their chest cavity. The sound is interactive changing with the movement of people within the space, and other sound sources.’

Stewart Hurwood worked with Lou Reed for the last ten years of his life, handling his guitars, and equipment. Lou Reed Drones came about when following Lou Reed’s death, Stewart came up with the idea as an alternative to Reed’s equipment gathering dust, and worked with Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed’s partner, and Brighton Festival 2016 Guest Director, to make it a reality.

Brighton Festival invites Brighton artists and practitioners to immerse themselves in the installation and participate in a series of Happenings that will take place during Lou Reed Drones, between the hours of 2-4pm, Fri 13 - Tue 17 May 2016. All Happenings need to be self-sufficient, non-intrusive and without amplification. Please note there is no fee.

If you are interested in responding to the Drones creatively please contact with a short description about you, your practice and how you would like to respond to the Drones. The curatorial team will get back to you to confirm if there is a space to incorporate your idea in the schedule.

Listings information

Lou Reed Drones

Fri 13 – Tue 17 May, 12pm – 5pm

The Spire, St Mark’s Chapel, Eastern Road, BN25JN



Both Lou Reed and John Cale instinctively knew the power of drones. In 1975, Reed played out that drone music on Metal Machine Music, an album credited with laying the foundation for the industrial and noise rock genres.

Lou Reed Drones is an installation of his guitars and amps in feedback mode: 24 strings set in motion from the push of magnetically driven cones; 360 partial harmonics colliding against each other, cascading, uniting, elevating, rising up like New York skyscrapers along the Hudson.

Introducing gain and sculpting sonic frequencies, a feedback loop is created with each guitar and its respective amplifier. Their overlapping harmonic structures produce pseudo-acoustic notes in which a beating sensation is then set in motion. Lou Reed Drones is a visceral, emotional and spiritual experience.

In Pictures: Music For Dogs

Brighton Festival plays host to the UK premiere of Laurie Anderson's unique concert for dogs this week. 

Brighton Festival played host to Guest Director Laurie Anderson’s Music for Dogs this week – a pair of concerts specially designed for the canine ear. Around 400 dogs were in attendance accompanied by their human counterparts at BOAT (Brighton Open Air Theatre).

This was the UK premiere of Music For Dogs following performances at Sydney Opera House, and again in New York’s Times Square earlier this year which made headlines around the world. The idea was initially prompted by a backstage conversation with cellist Yo-Yo Ma in which Laurie mused: 'Wouldn’t it be great if you’re playing a concert and you look out and everyone’s a dog?' 

Here is a selection of photographs from the evening.

Photo credit Vic Frankowski

Festival Hot Seat... Song Conversation

Our Guest Director Laurie Anderson is bringing Song Conversation to Brighton Festival, a free-wheeling collaboration with musician-composers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset. In this Festival Hot Seat Nik and Eivind tell us about the show and how they came to work with Laurie Anderson

This is your second song conversation together – How did the original collaboration come about?

Nik: I had the chance to invite two musicians for the program "Song Conversation" initiated by Thomas Wördehoff for the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele in Germany. Eivind immediately came to my mind since he is a great collaborator and we’d already played a few times together. Usually there should also be a singer on board for this program but I had a challenge to think of a person that would be inspiring to collaborate. I talked with Mr. Wördehoff and he suggested Laurie. I was immediately enthused since I loved records like “Bright Red” and “The Ugly One with the Jewels”. I listened to these records a lot when I was in my twenties. The idea of “Song Conversations” was also to include songs that were inspiring during an artist’s life.

All together we had lots of fun and also found answers to many artistic questions that were raised when we talked about “a song”. So the initial idea of covering influential songs developed into a general musical conversation about the song itself and its contexts. Of course Laurie is brilliant in this and her stories worked on several meta levels which was totally in the sense of us all.

Why ‘Song Conversation’? What exactly does the show involve?

Nik: The notion of a “song conversation” embraces the idea that songs can talk to us and they can talk to each other. Also there can be a dialogue about the song itself or we can enter the song like a house.

Eivind: We treated the subject of a “song conversation” in a kind of loose way. Not so much playing concrete songs, but more looking at the subject, and exploring different themes thru association.

Nik: We had so many ideas about the possibilities of this “conversation” that the performance jumped constantly from one meta level to the next. We played self-invented songs, songs about songs, stories about songs and we interpreted songs composed by us and other artists like Alban Bergs and Lou Reed.

How much of the show is improvised? What do you enjoy about that approach?

Nik: We improvise a lot, to serve the song and its context. We will also improvise with the moods around Laurie’s stories, some flow directions are agreed but then the moment decides how the piece develops. I like the approach to have a flexibility while respecting the songs’ integrity.

What is it like to work with Laurie Anderson?

Nik: Very inspiring of course. I like the story telling singing and her approach to always think about the meta level of content and context. We also seem to share an interest in ironic or droll moments in music and performances, whilst also an appreciation of the serious spiritual deepness in them.

Eivind: I have been a fan for many years, so it was a fantastic for me to be invited to work with Laurie. I was even more impressed after working with her. Just hearing the sound of her voice, experiencing the timing she has when telling a story, and having my sound being a part of this, was a very inspiring experience. She also has a very clear, playful, creative and focused mind, with this beautiful ability to come up with conceptual ideas that go beyond music, crossing borders of art forms in a very organic way, and all the time, it seems to me, with the aim to get a deeper message or meaning across.

Will the show cross all genres of music?

Eivind: I think the show reflects our different personal sounds, and therefore is totally undogmatic when it comes to genre. Even though I often play at jazz festivals I don´t really consider myself to be a jazz player, my background is more rock and ambient music. And Nik has a very personal touch and with aesthetics that go beyond genres. Laurie is a genre of her own.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Eivind: I think people who are interested in all kinds of music and poetry will enjoy it.

Nik: The good thing with music is, that you never know an answer to this question...

Have you visited Brighton before? What were/are your impressions of the city?

Nik: When I was a teenage student, long ago in a kind of bizarre phase of my life, I visited Brighton whilst staying in Hastings. I am happy now to have a second chance to enjoy this famous place for such an inspiring festival with such fantastic artists!

Eivind: I have been to Brighton a couple of times before, and enjoyed it a lot, but previously my visits have been too short. Luckily this time I will have the chance to stay for longer, so I am very much looking forward to it.

Book now for Song Conversation

Combined ticket deal with Laurie Anderson's Slideshow available in person or on the phone

In Pictures: Week 1

Brighton Festival 2016 kicked off in grand sunny style with the Children's Parade (click to see more photos) on Saturday, and we've been celebrating since then! 

Here are a few photos from the first week, from the touching Portraits in Motion to a very special canine concert in Music For Dogs. 

Photos by Vic Frankowski, Tom Oldham, John Hunter and Adam Weatherley. 

10 Things you might not know about Guest Director Laurie Anderson

Henry Holloway of The Argus brings us this list of surprising facts about our Guest Director Laurie Anderson. Laurie is bringing two shows specially to Brighton Festival: Slideshow and Song Conversation. Click to find out about the shows, or read on to discover more on the pioneering artist herself.

1. Her relationship with JFK

As a student politico she wrote to John Kennedy, who was waging his campaign for Presidential candidacy, seeking advice and the young politician responded.

Anderson said: “He sent me a telegram and some roses. It was a long crazy love story between a kid and a politician.”

2. She has invented two musical instruments

The first was a tape bow violin in 1977. The instrument uses magnetic tape instead of horsehair across the bow, enabling her to play pre-recorded sounds on the instrument.

The second is the talking stick, a 6ft long baton which can replicate any sound.

3. She was the first and last Artist in Residence at NASA

The world’s leading space agency brought Anderson on board to be their official artist.

She toured the facilities and staged a show titled The End of the Moon, before the $20,000 programme was scrapped.

4. She won a Prize for her Outstanding Contribution to the Beauty of the World

The full description for the Gish Prize awarded to Anderson is “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life”.

She won the award in 2007.

5. She performed a concert exclusively for dogs

One of the events Anderson will be bringing to the Brighton Festival is her concert for dogs.

Based on the simple musing “what if you looked out from the stage and the audience were dogs?” Anderson performs music audible only to the canine ear.

6. She created a self-playing violin

Anderson modified a violin with a built in speaker and amplifier – producing music without the human touch.

The piece is now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and featured in the making music exhibition in 2008.

7. Her friends accused her of being a “sell out”

She enjoyed her most commercial success with the track O Superman – which went to number 2 in the charts in 1981.

She said she had no interest in the pop world but when the song charted well he friends told her she was a sell out.

8. Her first piece was a symphony played on car horns

One of her earliest recognised pieces was a symphony at a drive-in theatre using cars.

She used the horns and other car parts to create the spectacle entitled An Afternoon of Automotive Transmission in 1972.

9. She once froze herself into two blocks of Ice

Another of Anderson’s early works featured her performing a duet with herself with her feet frozen into two blocks of ice.

Wearing ice skates she stood and performed until the ice blocks melted, which signalled the end of the show.

10. She created a video game

As part of her album Bright Red she released an interactive CD-Rom called Puppet Motel.

The game involves people exploring the motel with 32 surreal rooms with names like Violin, Ice, the Hall of Time, Ouija and Motel.

Book now for Slideshow and Song Conversation

The Melody and Eloquence of Laurie Anderson: A World Premiere

Music buff and journo Joe Fuller brings us another take on upcoming events at Brighton Festival 2016 - this time on our Guest Director Laurie Anderson's shows Slideshow and Song Conversation

The world premiere of Laurie Anderson's Slideshow next week is the centrepiece of the Festival, and at the heart of its theme of home and place. Anderson can alternate between elegiac ruminations about death and humorous anecdotes about her dog's clogs without blinking an eye, which appositely reflects the diverse tone of Brighton Festival itself. Her output over the last ten years has included some of her most enjoyable and accessible work, such as the melodic, string-heavy album Heartland and the contemplative recent film Heart of a Dog, so this is a chance to see the latest piece from an artist at the height of her powers.

The short trailer for Heart of a Dog below gives you a good impression of Anderson's mastery of matching eloquent commentary to varied visual techniques such as animation and home video, carefully aligned to a beautiful soundtrack. The film is loosely based around her pet Rat Terrier Lolabelle, but also delves into the subject of death in a lighthearted way, as well as discussing the climate of surveillance post-9/11 and her own life. The Heart of A Dog soundtrack and Homeland are available on Spotify if you want to sample her softly spoken style.

Anderson has explained that Slideshow is a “collection of adventure stories about love, cities, diners, Mars, how we see, living by rivers, Dollywood, my home town and many other places along the way”. It sounds like it could be similarly autobiographical to Heart of a Dog so it will be fascinating to see what pathos, humour and social commentary she conjures up from her experiences in her brand new monologue.

Song Conversation will be a different sort of evening altogether: a “freewheeling walk through sonic spaces” discussing the notion of song with fellow improvisers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset. The first iteration of Song Conversation took place in Stuttgart last year and I recommend using Google Chrome to translate this review to get a feel for the format. The show sounds fantastic, with the trio discussing inspirations from William Shakespeare to Alban Berg in “atmospheric conversations”, as well as using “piano as a percussion” and “guitar as a synthesiser”. Google Translate comes up with some poetic turns of phrase itself, enigmatically describing a “great discourse thicket” and explaining how the “sound images completes wonderful”. Praise indeed!

Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch has performed as a solo artist, with acoustic group Mobile (performing 'rituals' of up to 36 hours) and in the funk-inspired Ronin group, all of which sound quite jazzy and experimental. Bärtsch should therefore have some intriguing ideas about song structures to discuss with Anderson, who often retains pop sensibilities in her work.

Eivind Aarset utilises avant-garde techniques in various genres; in this video for example he lurches from Pink Floyd-like prog solos and jamming into a jutting, darker vamp. I would personally bet that Aarset will be in a calmer mood at the Dome however, more along the lines of the video below.

We can assume that the shows will be warm, melodic and moving if they are going to be like Laurie Anderson's previous work, but who really knows what to expect? At the time of writing in the week before the concerts, Laurie is still working on Slideshow, and Song Conversation is inherently improvisational. The thrill of the unknown in new work is one of the joys of Brighton Festival, and I look forward to settling into my seat next week expecting the unexpected.

There are still tickets from £10 for both shows and also a brilliant joint ticket offer from £15 (available on the phone or in person)
Song Conversation