Brighton Festival 2019Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

Showing 26 to 50 of 67 items

Brighton Festival Live: DakhaBrakha

(Ukraine) plus dj set
Brighton Festival Exclusive

Plumbing the depths of contemporary roots and rhythms, Ukrainian ‘ethnic chaos’ band DakhaBrakha creates a world of unexpected new music. Rooted in Ukrainian culture but fusing Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian instrumentation, the quartet has created a truly trans-national sound. Expect moments reminiscent of Radiohead, Chicks on Speed and even Hip-hop.

With a name that literally translates as ‘give/take’, DakhaBrakha was created in 2004 at Kiev’s Center of Contemporary Art by avant-garde theatre director Vladyslav Troitskyi. Theatre has left its mark on the band, with a strong visual aesthetic remaining an integral part of its thrilling live act. 

Since its formation, DakhaBrakha has performed at festivals in over 30 countries, bringing Ukrainian melodies to the hearts and consciousness of Ukraine’s younger generation and music-lovers worldwide.

In pictures: Week 1

Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm opened with the incredible Children's Parade. We 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.

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: https://brightonfestival.org/whats_on/

Posted by Brighton Festival on Friday, 8 May 2015

Brighton Festival performance takes visitors into maze of tunnels under Old Ship Hotel

Ticket holders for Brighton Festival event Vast White Stillness will get a sneak peak into a unique Brighton space as the performance takes them deep underground into the maze of tunnels beneath the Old Ship Hotel.

Reality, imagination and memory blur in the intriguing new work which has been created by Brighton composer Claudia Molitor and director Dan Ayling. Part installation, part performance, Vast White Stillness combines music, image and theatre to create an immersive journey through the nuances of memory - the fleeting glance, the not-quite-heard, the half-remembered - that colour a lifetime.

The piece has its roots in Claudia’s personal experience of a trans-national upbringing - she grew up in the Bavarian Alps and now lives in the South of England – and how that has affected her experience of identity and memory: ”The idea of being from one place only, having only one nation that you would call home, seems quite an odd idea to me. There is always this sense of longing for the other, no matter where you are - a sense of home sickness - that you will always have because you are multiple. I don’t mean this in a negative way; it is, in fact, a sense of freedom from being bound to a particular national identity.”

One of the intentions of Vast White Stillness is for audiences to have as unmediated an experience as possible and relate what they hear and see to their own experiences and memories. On using the space Claudia said: “I had no idea the spaces under the hotel existed until Laura Ducceschi, from Brighton Festival, suggested them and took us there. We fell in love with their potential straight away. You never quite know how a space is going to inflect your work and how in turn your work might colour the space. So a sound that appears lovely in one situation - say some trickling water in a forest brook - could sound quite ominous and frightening in a dark cellar. And, as with all live work, each performance depends very much on the audience attending”

Vast White Stillness is at The Old Ship Cellars from 8-10 May 2015. Returns only

Brighton Festival Live: The Spalding Suite

Inua Ellams, Benji Reid & Fuel

A new physical theatre show inspired by the UK's basketball sub-culture. 

‘When we were young, we worshipped stars.
Gleaming long-limbed gods
framed in the act of impossible flight,
For a time we tried to follow,
to carve out our own piece of sky
with a butter-smooth arc of an arm
and a Spalding ball glued to the fingertips’

Fresh poetry combined with contemporary movement celebrates the elegance and beauty of basketball. Seen from a British perspective, The Spalding Suite gets to the heart and soul of the gravity-defying game and delves into the hopes and dreams of those who play it. Six dynamic performers mix live beat-boxing, hip-hop, music, moves and poetry, taking us from the fleeting high of the score and the robust camaraderie of the team, to the poignant lows of a body too worn to play the game.

Conceived and written by Inua Ellams
Directed by Benji Reid
Inspired by the poetry of Nick Makoha, Bohdan Piasecki and Roger Robinson, with poems from Jacob Sam-La Rose and Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Sound by Eric Lau/MC Zani
Design by Ti Green
Lighting by Benji Reid & Lee Grey

Produced by Fuel
Commissioned by Southbank Centre and Contact
Funded by Arts Council England and a Wellcome Trust Arts Award

Behind the scenes... on GLOW

With the highly anticipated children’s show GLOW opening today, Professor Anna Franklin from the Sussex Baby Lab discusses how their studies on infant vision, colour perception and what babies find most stimulating helped theatre company Flying Eye create the show

What have you found out so far in the Baby Lab?

The Rainbow Project, which is investigating how babies see colours, is still ongoing but we’ve just analysed the data from the first phase.

So far, we’ve found that babies can categorise colours and our analysis of recent data shows that they use the basic channels of colour vision to divide up the colour spectrum. So it suggests that when we group colours into categories such as green and blue that there is some kind of biological underpinning for how we do that; it’s not just random. And that’s been debated for a long time. People have argued that colour categories are random because there are different terms in different languages but it turns out that babies actually use the biology of their colour vision to do it, which provides some constraint on how languages can then divide up colours into different terms.

Babies have got some colour vision when they are born but it’s limited. It develops quite rapidly over the first couple of months of life and they’re trichromatic by the time they’re three months old, so three types of photo receptors are functioning. We work with babies at four months old upwards, once we are sure that they have got colour vision.

Colour perception gets a lot better as the baby develops. It actually gets better up until adolescence and then it actually starts to get worse. In toddlers we are looking at how they learn the words for colour but also how they keep colours constant in their mind when the lighting changes – something called colour constancy, which means that if you look at a banana under any colour light, you still see it and think of it as yellow. It’s basically because our brain factors out the illuminant so it can keep the surfaces constant so we’ve got a more constant world. We’re looking at that in toddlers and seeing how it develops.

Why is it important to understand these things?

It’s important for several reasons. First of all, from a scientific viewpoint, it’s important to know how the brain develops and how the brain learns to process the information in the world around it. And colour is a good way of testing questions around that - it’s a good testing ground for looking at the effect of environment on brain development and processing of stimuli. So, basic, fundamental questions about our cognition can be addressed using colour.

And there are practical implications. For example, we’ve done consultancies with toy companies on products related to infants, talking about what infants can see and what they prefer to look at and what will grab their attention.

Also, potentially there are implications down the line for how you educate children and what kinds of educational materials they respond well to. For example, if you’ve got colour vision deficiency, how would that impact on your learning in the classroom and your use of coloured education materials?

As a group, we’re most interested in the scientific questions - the goal of understanding the human brain and how we learn. But there is also practical, commercial application as well.

A huge guiding principle is that to understand how adults do something, or how the adult brain works, you need to understand how that process develops. So, for example, if you want to understand memory, then, by researching how memory develops, you can understand a lot about it in its adult form. And so the same goes with vision and with colour. Seeing things develop and seeing that development in action, you can actually understand the mechanisms much more.

How do you find your baby subjects?

We have a research assistant in the lab, Gemma, who advertises the Baby Lab studies on Facebook, and Alice keeps Baby Lab followers updated about our latest studies on Twitter. And then basically anywhere where there’s a baby in Brighton or Lewes or Eastbourne we try to get our postcards, which advertise what we’re about. A lot of people we get coming in have been told about the Baby Lab by friends who have also bought their babies in. It’s something fun that parents can do, something interesting, and they learn something about their baby in doing it.

Has anything you’ve found particularly surprised you (eg. gender differences)?

We’ve not found any gender differences before. There’s some evidence in the literature that male babies might be less good at one of the subsystems of colour vision; the red/green one. But we’ve not found any evidence of that ourselves.

The most surprising thing to me has been that infants tend to look longer at the colours that adults like. You tend to think of colour preference as being something fairly idiosyncratic – it’s just a personal choice – but actually the fact that adults’ colour preferences map on to infants looking suggests that there’s some kind of early origins of something about those colours that make us like them but also make infants look longer.

Colour is an interesting stimulus because it’s always there in everything that we look at and it can have quite subtle effects on us and our behaviour, how we process things and our emotional response. But we’re rarely really aware of that happening – it’s almost like an invisible vapour or something that you don’t really know is there but it does affect you. So it’s quite interesting from that viewpoint.

How did the Brighton Festival show come about?

Sachi and Kristina, who are the directors, just contacted me; they found the Baby Lab on the web. They wanted a play that was going to resonate with babies and that would fit with babies’ abilities in understanding and seeing. They came to the lab and we showed them some babies taking part in our research. We talked about infant vision and cognition, gave them some things to read and we just had ongoing discussion really about that so they could feed it into their play.

It was really interesting to see how science could be drawn upon in art. They’re such creative women and it was really interesting to see how they took the scientific findings and used them. I went to a couple of the shows where they were developing the different components of the play - to see how you get from the scientific work to putting it in action was really interesting for me.

Was the process quite different to how you approach things as a researcher?

Absolutely, yes. There is definitely creativity in research but their creativity has got a different goal.

I was surprised when I watched the test show how engaged babies were and how much enjoyment they got from it and also how it led to this bond between the baby and the parent. It seemed quite a rich experience for the parent to have their baby engage with something so much. When we were having conversations talking about the science and talking about their ideas, I didn’t realise that it was all going to knit together so effectively.

There’s certainly a need for more things that are directed towards infants. The GLOW show sold out on the first day that it was released and that really shows that we should be producing more things for babies. Especially because early experience is really important for shaping visual development and cognitive development, so we want to give young minds a rich experience.

Glow plays on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 May. For tickets, click here.

To find out more about the Sussex Baby Lab and how babies can take part in Baby Lab research, click here.

Nun on the run needed!

Award-winning theatre company seek volunteers for Brighton Festival performance

Theatre company Burn The Curtain are URGENTLY NEEDING an additional volunteer ‘nun’ to take part in stewarding their Brighton Festival 2015 performance The Company of Wolves (7 – 9 May). The company are seeking volunteers to don a habit and take part in the promenade theatre adventure created for runners and walkers across Stanmer Park. We need a Nun steward who can lead running audience members through the show. MUST be an experienced/regular runner.

The volunteer would need to be available:

Wed 6th – Sat 9th 18.30 to 11pm at Stamner Park

The performance turns Angela Carter’s macabre imagination into a spine-tingling outdoor experience; the tale unfolds as you progress along a pre-determined route which will be between two and five miles long, depending on which path you take. Those taking part can choose to either run or walk the course… with a warning that should you stray from the path for one instant, the wolves will eat you!

Those interested in getting involved are asked call Joe on 07941 471 917 

Fancy A Spot Of Bird Watching? Do The Brighton Festival Big Bird Trail

We are twitching with excitement about our Big Bird Trail! Take your bird-watching on the move – gather stickers from local businesses and venues, for a chance to win some amazing prizes.

Enjoy a luxurious Lunch for 2 at local bistro, The Manor. Grab some sweet treats from Cybercandy for the sugar enthusiasts. Appendage and Pussy Home Boutique are offering a selection of quirky goodies. Pamper yourself with a range of hair-care prizes from the North Laine Hair Co. Get your hands on a £50 Brighton Dome voucher to spend on the upcoming shows of your choice. Plus, no respectable bird-watcher’s life would be complete without a Bird Feeder from the RSPB! See the full list of prizes

The shops participating are:

• Cybercandy
• EAST
• Oxfam Books
• Fidra Jewellers
• North Laine Hair Company
• Appendage
• Pussy Home Boutique
• Whirligig Toy
• The Manor
• RSPB Shop for Nature
• Gauge
• Ticket Office- Brighton Dome

For more info and the shops addresses head this way.

Grab a copy of the trail in our Family Festival Guide, available at the Brighton Dome Ticket Office to get started.

Exploring a Beautiful Cosmos - who was Ivor Cutler?

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, coming to Brighton Festival this May, tells Cutler’s fascinating life story, interwoven with his songs, stories and poetry, but you’re out of luck if you are looking for a traditional tribute musical. Director Matthew Lenton tells The Observer it is, “an anti-Mamma Mia”, and it is only fitting that a play based on the life of a maverick defies convention. Mark Fisher from the Guardian calls it “a big grin of a show, as funny and idiosyncratic as Cutler and every bit as embraceable.” while The Telegraph describes it as “Funny, evocative and celebratory”.

Ivor Cutler was a poet, performer and certified eccentric. Born in Glasgow in the 1920s, he began writing songs and poems in the 1950s while teaching by day (a profession he took up after being dismissed from the RAF for ‘dreaminess’). Cutler began appearing on BBC Radio and after an appearance on Late Night Line-up in the 1960s, he was noticed by Paul McCartney. Cutler was subsequently championed by John Peel and released numerous albums to critical acclaim, but he remained ambivalent about his popularity and famous following, and was renowned for telling fans attempting to take his picture, “don’t you ever do that again”. He continued to ride his bike, hand out sticky labels covered with cryptic messages, and tell stories through song accompanied by his harmonium, such as I believe in bugs, Egg Meat and Mary is a cow, until his death in 2006. Cutler lived life by his own rules, his whimsical outlook and refusal to conform continues to capture the imagination and is set to enchant audiences of The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler. Read on to discover more about this wonderful man.


Ivor performing Beautiful Cosmos in 2004

As a young man, Cutler joined the RAF as a trainee navigator, but was promptly dismissed for being 'too dreamy and absent-minded' after being caught sketching clouds in mid-air.

He had an unorthodox approach to teaching and rebelled against the use of corporal punishment in his school. He cut the leather belt he had been given to discipline children with into 50 pieces, and handed them out to his students when he quit. He subsequently joined a progressive independent school ‘with no rules’ where he would challenge his pupils to improvise songs.

Cutler appeared in the Beatles psychedelic 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour as Buster Bloodvessel - the conductor of their multicoloured bus, accompanying them on their magical adventure. He was subsequently invited to teach the Beatles children but declined on socialist principles, saying, "What made their kids more special than other kids?"

He often communicated by handing out stickers with cryptic messages on them, both to people he knew and people he didn't: he would randomly distribute stickers bearing messages like, Funny smell, Let me out and To remove this label take it off.

Enjoy this short video of Ivor Cutler performing I’m Happy in 1986

His famous fans include: The Beatles, John Peel, Billy Connolly, philosopher Bertrand Russell and Johnny Rotten

He was in a relationship with English poet Phyllis King for over 40 years and the pair often collaborated. Despite their close relationship, they lived in separate houses to maintain their independence and Cutler lived in the same small second-floor flat surrounded by his collection of masks, paintings and sculptures until his death.

From the 1990s he was largely retired, but continued to ride around Central London on his bicycle, wearing pink flamingo shorts and a selection of curious hats and loud ties, accosting complete strangers in the street and asking them if they wrote poetry.

Book your spot now to see The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler.


Photos: Children's Parade

Our 49th Brighton Festival got off to rollicking start with the Children's Parade, co-produced by Same Sky. This year everyone surpassed themselves and the immense talent and creativity of our fair city was made abundantly clear. A plethora of winged creatures and their creators took to the streets in a flurry of colour and sound to mark this year's theme 'taking flight'.


Brighton Festival 2015 took flight with incredible Children's Parade - co-presented by Same Sky. It was truly AMAZING!...

Posted by Brighton Festival on Saturday, 2 May 2015

Photos: Brighton Festival 2015 Opening Weekend

This weekend Brighton Festival began and we had smashing time! Here are some photos that showcase the festivities and it's nowhere near over yet, as there are lots more exciting events to come - see our What’s On page for full details

Brighton Festival 2015 kicked off with a bang this weekend, with an exciting programme of events .

Posted by Brighton Festival on Monday, 4 May 2015

Brighton Festival Live: Beyond

Circa (Brisbane)

'A masterpiece that sparkles like the finest champagne' Berlin Morgenpost

After their heart-stopping performance in How Like an Angel (Brighton Festival 2013), the exhilarating Australian ensemble Circa makes a welcome return to Brighton Festival with its bold new vision of contemporary circus.

Performers explore their animal instincts as they push their bodies to extremes, combining feats of breathtaking skill with Rubik’s Cubes, blindfolds, white rabbits and a dash of cheeky humour, all set to a soundtrack of ballads, show tunes and electronica. Small red-curtained stages within stages will transport you to a cabaret, a zoo or an asylum, as a deliciously surreal and surprisingly beautiful world emerges before your eyes.

This dazzling show has been thrilling audiences the world over – so join the hugely skillful Circa as they invite you to go Beyond for a performance of audacious showmanship.

'Audiences have come to expect the earth from Circa... Beyond gives them the moon as well' The Stage

Book now

Award glory for Brighton Festival 2015 author

Fresh from winning the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 last night for her moving non-fiction work The Iceberg, author Marion Coutts will appear at the annual Brighton and Sussex Medical School debate as part of this year’s Brighton Festival.

Coutts’ book The Iceberg is not a novel, but a memoir of sorts on art, work, death and language in response to the diagnosis, illness and death of her husband, the art critic Tom Lubbock, who died of a brain tumour in January 2011. It is an exploration of the impact of death in real time, a sustained act of looking that only ends when life does and gives an account of a small family unit under assault and the inventiveness by which they tried to stay together. It charts the deterioration of Tom's speech even as it records the developing language of his child, and navigates with great power the journey from home to hospital to hospice.

The Wellcome Book Prize is an annual award, open to new works of fiction or nonfiction that have a central theme which engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness with an aim to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.

Announcing the winner, Chair of Judges, Bill Bryson, said:

'Highlighting the importance of literature in exploring the human experience within medicine, the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 has spotlighted a pleasingly diverse array of subjects and genres. From an extremely strong shortlist of books that blend exquisite writing with scientific rigour and personal experience, The Iceberg stood out.

'Marion Coutts’ account of living with her husband’s illness and death is wise, moving and beautifully constructed. Reading it, you have the sense of something truly unique being brought into the world -- it stays with you for a long time after.'

As well as winning the 2015 prize, The Iceberg was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014, the Costa Biography Award 2014, the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Award 2014 and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014.

The Brighton and Sussex Medical School debate, titled Facing Cancer, will examine the challenging subject from multiple perspectives.The author is set to appear on the panel of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School’s annual debate Facing Cancer on Sunday 24 May 2014. Given the very word ‘cancer’ elicits a strong emotional response and the fact that rates are increasing with half of us expected to develop some form of the disease during our lifetime, the engaging debate will examine the difficult topic from multiple perspectives including the medical, the ethical, the research and, most importantly, the personal.

Fellow panelist, academic surgical oncologist and Dean of Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) Professor Malcolm Reed said, 

‘With cancer affecting most of us, either directly or through a close family member, we wanted to take our debate wider than the purely medical. By tackling this emotive subject through a more holistic approach, and with an engaging and diverse panel, we believe Facing cancer will really hit home with our audience, many of whom will know the illness only too well.’

For more information, on the Brighton and Sussex Medical School debate Facing Cancer, click here.

Eclectic beats and kaleidoscopic visuals: Get ready for a journey through sound and space with Squarepusher

Legendary electronic producer Squarepusher joins us at Brighton Festival with new album, Damogen Furies. With a career spanning 20 years, and 14 albums under his belt, he remains at the forefront of the electronic scene - constantly pushing the boundaries with his unique sound and approach to performance. Damogen Furies was created using instruments, hardware and software of his own invention, enabling him to record each track live and in one take, and capture the energy and freedom of his live show. 

His unique approach has been met with glowing critical acclaim: with the NME praising his “dark, musical imagination” which keeps him way ahead of the game, and Louder than War giving the album 9/10, “his unique and pioneering electronic sound meets his boundary-warping drum n’ bass. In short, it’s a stonking good listen”.

His live show promises a sonic explosion, bringing together his diverse influences of acid-house, jazz and electronica, with mesmerising visuals in a high-octane show to bombard the senses. For Squarepusher, the visual elements of his show are as important as the sound, he has “hijacked the world of imagery” to forge a deeper sonic connection with his audience. This recent live session, gives you a taste of what’s to come at his live show in May: a burst of limit-pushing, bass-thumping energy which promises to take you on a “2001-esque trip to the edge of the universe...Goodbye Earth!”


Want to go on a journey with this symphonic sorcerer? Tickets are available for his hotly anticipated Brighton Festival show at Brighton Dome on the 8th May.

Read the full review by NME 
Read the full review by Louder than War

Feathered Facts: 15 more things you never knew about swifts and starlings…

This year’s Brighton Festival draws heavily from the themes of art and nature, particularly from our winged friends. The RSPB have kindly supplied us with some fascinating facts about starlings and swifts - the inspiration for this year’s Festival imagery. Keep reading and discover 15 more things you never knew about swifts and starlings…

  1. Between 1995 and 2011, we lost about a third of all the Swifts breeding in the United Kingdom.
  2. Swifts - the parent birds eat most of their chicks' droppings (possibly to recycle the mineral content); there are no great piles of droppings beneath swift nests.
  3. An adult Common Swift can eat as many as 40,000 flying insects each day.
  4. Swifts have four toes, arranged in twos, each pair pointing sideways rather than forwards, a bit like a chameleon or a koala.
  5. A swift weighs about the same as a Cadbury’s Crème Egg, Crunchy (or any other 40g chocolate bar).
  6. Swifts’ eyes are deep seated and have moveable bristles in front – sunglasses for reducing glare.
  7. At about a month old, swift “babies” do press-ups in the nest, lifting themselves up by pushing down on their outstretched wings, probably to build muscle. By the time they’re ready to go, they can hold their bodies clear of the ground like this for several seconds.
  8. Eugene Schieffelinm and his friends determined to introduce all of the animals mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to North America and in 1890 released 100 starlings. The species now has a US population of hundreds of millions.
  9. Starlings look black at a distance but when seen closer they are very glossy with with pale speckles over a sheen of purples and greens, like oil on water.
  10. The oldest known wild starling was 21 years old.
  11. Since the mid 1970’s, starling numbers have dropped by about two thirds, making them a red-listed species of conservation concern.
  12. Once a common sight in both urban and rural areas of Britain, starling numbers have dropped by a staggering 92% in woodlands.
  13. Each year during autumn, flocks of starlings form across the skies of Britain, creating "dark clouds" above fields, woodlands and reedbed, these are called murmurations. As seen annually from Brighton pier.
  14. Scientists say the birds flock for a number of reasons including safety, warmth and to "exchange" information such as feeding areas. In winter European starlings migrate to the UK swelling numbers.
  15. Starlings belong to the family of birds which includes vocal mimics known as myna birds, so they’re capable of imitating man-made sounds like ring-tones and doorbells, or the songs and calls of other birds.

And if that isn't enough facts for you can read Feathered Facts: 15 things you never knew about starlings, swifts and nightingales and also Feathered Facts: 15 more things you never knew about swifts

Vikings, snogging & spies… Behind-the-scenes with Noggin the Nog (Photo story)

You’ll never believe what happened when one man and his camera went behind-the-scenes at the rehearsals of The Sagas of Noggin the Nog!

The legendary adventurer Noggin the Nog joins us this May at Brighton Festival. Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s iconic stories have been theatrically reimagined by Third Party Productions. 1970s classic The Sagas of Noggin the Nog will be playfully and affectionately brought to life and imaginatively retold using puppetry, original music, film and a cast of silly Vikings.

Third Party Productions and Mischievous Theatre have been busy rehearsing. Take a look at the photos below and see what fun to expect this May.

Noggin the Nog at Brighton Festival Groliffe the Ice Dragon is put through his paces



Noggin and Nooka meet!

Noggin and Nooka take a break


Nooka ... will she be the new queen of the Nogs?


A mock up of the new Ronf, the little man from the Hot Water Valley, in rehearsal


Nogbad the Bad spies! 

Snogging the Snog

Whether you are familiar with the tales or this is your first time, the performance is perfect for adventurous children and adults alike - book now 

Feathered Facts: 15 more things you never knew about swifts…

This year we draw inspiration from the avian world - starlings, swifts and nightingales feature in several Brighton Festival events this May. In this series of posts we celebrate our feathered friends with some fascinating facts. This week we explore the lives of swifts - read on to discover 15 more things you never knew about these birds…

  1. Swift nests need to be high-up as the birds legs are too weak to launch themselves into the air. They literally have to fall into flight.
  2. Swifts were once known as devil birds and were believed to nest in pond mud. The name may refer to their scream-like call, their forked tails, dark colouring or the mystic qualities of their lives.
  3. Despite appearances, swifts are not related to swallows or house martins. Their nearest “bird” relatives are the New World’s hummingbirds.
  4. As the sun sets swifts will gather and chase each other, screaming as they go, before rising to an altitude of some 10,000 feet, where they’ll sleep on the wing.
  5. The oldest recorded age for a swift is eighteen years. This individual would have travelled four million miles; the equal of eight trips to the moon and back.
  6. Swifts migrate to the UK around May, staying to lay eggs and raise their chicks, departing for Africa’s warmer climes in August.
  7. Each morning, swifts will descend from their high altitude sleep to fly around their nests and feed their young.
  8. Swifts gobble-up airborne insects and spiders. These bugs are collected into a ball or “bolus” in the swift’s throat to regurgitate for their young back on the nest.
  9. Each bolus (ball of food) brought to the babies weighs just over a gram, and contains 300 to 1000 individual insects and spiders. The average is 300-500 food items per bolus.
  10. The first three to four years of a swift’s life are spent in the air. Only when they’ve reached adulthood will they touchdown on solid ground to nest and raise their first brood.
  11. Swifts are able to navigate through different wind speeds while sleeping, automatically adjusting their flight to stay on a specific course.
  12. In the early days of radar in the 1950s, air traffic controllers would routinely spot unidentified flying objects, referred to as "angels". It’s now thought these blips could have been sleeping swifts.
  13. Approximately 80,000 pairs of swifts migrate to Britain each summer, although the numbers have been declining. 
  14. Originally cave, tree-hole and cliff dwellers, swifts have nested in high man-made structures, (under tiles, in the eaves, in lofts, spires and towers) since Roman times.
  15. The parent birds eat most of their chicks' droppings (possibly to recycle the mineral content); there are no great piles of droppings beneath swift nests

Explore events relating to the theme of art and nature

Facts kindly supplied by the RSPB.

Read even more bird facts.

5 minutes with... GoGo Penguin’s Chris Illingworth

Returning to Brighton Festival this year, GoGo Penguin’s groove-heavy, lyrical acoustic-electronica sound and exhilarating live shows have made them the band to see on the UK’s contemporary jazz circuit. We caught up with GoGo Penguin’s Chris Illingworth to find out a little more about him…

The band / artist that made me want to be a musician was…

Alfred Brendel

The first gig I went to was…

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist

The first album I ever bought was…

Mezzanine by Massive Attack

The proudest moment of my musical career was when…

We signed to Blue Note Records earlier this year

My favourite part of touring is…

When we get the occasional day to explore the city we're gigging in

The best show I ever performed was…

So far, Uber Jazz in Hamburg last year

My favourite song to perform live is…

One Percent

The last song I listened to was…

Cream Puff War by Grateful Dead

People would be surprised to learn that…

I like to draw and paint portraits in my free time


Video: Emily Gravett illustrates The Imaginary Girl from The Imaginary

Take a moment and watch the award-winning Emily Gravett illustrate The Imaginary Girl from A.F. Harrold's The Imaginary in this beautiful time lapse video.

You can meet the creators of this frightening, captivating and funny tale at Brighton Festival on Sat 9 May. Find out more about this event 26 Letters event.


The making of... Brighton Festival 2015 trailer

By Leonora Lonsdale of Hoi Poilloi

One day I received a call from Pete Shuttleworth, a Producer who I had long wanted to work with, saying he had a job for me. It was for the Brighton Festival and the brief was to try and create a visual piece to accompany Ali Smith’s vision for this year’s festival. Ali had written about how she wanted this year’s festival to focus on the meeting places between the art forms, on what happened when the borders between them opened up and melted. 

I was fascinated how Ali in her own work, particularly ‘Artful’, jumps forms, time and perspective constantly. One minute you are present day observing something, and within the same sentence you are examining a memory one year-old. She references with relish James Williamson’s short “The Big Swallow” where a man essentially eats the camera and the viewer. These references, playful and obsessed with the permeable screen, were what gave me the idea of how to bring Ali’s ideas to the screen. It seemed a little mad, and a bit ambitious, but we thought we’d try and show many different art forms, and navigate seamlessly between them using the transitions as the “meeting place” and the opportunity to blend perspective. 

We had some fantastic people come together to make this film. The aerialists from Starfiz who you see whirling on the sphere up in the air have been working together since the age of 8 years old. I would have loved to include more of their work, it was spellbinding to watch. We had an incredible actress and ballerina, Azzurra Caccetta who braved the elements to come and dance and mime on Devil’s Dyke in Brighton. British skydiving champions, FreeFly Euphoria, gave us their footage to use. Tanya, our producer, plays the violin having studied in a Russian conservatory as a teenager.

Little Lily came in as the little girl at the end and was a total natural. And then the team at Brighton Dome helped us put together all the difficult projections and rigging. It was a huge effort, particularly from Alex our wonderful editor who did all the VFX shots and Xavi our fantastic DP. It’s definitely a surreal little film that could not have been made without the support of many wonderful collaborators. We hope you enjoy.


Feathered Facts: 15 things you never knew about starlings, swifts and nightingales…

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? This year's Brighton Festival celebrates, in as many ways as birds have songs, the vital crossovers between nature and the arts. Starlings, swifts and nightingales feature in a number of events this May and in this series of posts we celebrate our feathered friends with some fascinating facts…

  1. This years' Big Garden Birdwatch found that the Top Three most common garden birds in Brighton & Hove are, in order of most common first: house sparrows, starlings and feral pigeons.
  2. The highest densities of nightingales in the UK are found in the south east: Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex.
  3. Between 1995 and 2008, the UK’s nightingale population more than halved (53 per cent).
  4. The song of the nightingale has been described as one of the most beautiful sounds in nature, inspiring songs, books, and a great deal of poetry.
  5. Southern England is the northern limit of the nightingales’ range. They breed in forest and scrub in Europe and south-west Asia, and winter in West Africa.
  6. The name nightingale is more than a 1000 years old and means 'night songstress'. Early writers assumed the female sang when it is in fact the male.
  7. Each year during autumn, flocks of starlings form across the skies of Britain, creating 'dark clouds' above fields, woodlands and reedbed, these are called murmurations. As seen annually from Brighton pier.
  8. Single males sing regularly at night to attract a mate. Singing at dawn is assumed to be important in defending the bird's territory.
  9. Homer (not Simpson), Sophocles and Ovid all referenced nightingales in their writings. T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land also evokes the nightingale's song.
  10. Other literary references to nightingales have included John Milton's sonnet To the Nightingale (1632–33) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem, printed in 1798.
  11. Modern ornithologists dispute the facts behind the popular World War II song A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (published 1939), believing it unlikely to be a nightingale and most probably a blackbird.
  12. Swifts are uniquely aerial creatures, spending almost their entire adult lives in the air; they eat, mate and even sleep on the wing.
  13. Swifts are considered the fastest birds in sustained flight, achieving average speeds of around 70 mph (peregrine falcons can achieve more than 200 mph in a dive).
  14. In a single year the common swift can cover at least 200,000 km, that’s the equivalent of circumventing the earth five times.
  15.  Swifts Latin name is Apus apus, from the Greek ἄπους, apous, meaning ‘without feet’. They have very short legs as they rarely need to stand rely on their wings to manoeuvre in their nests.

Explore events relating to the theme of art and nature

Facts kindly supplied by the RSPB.


Exploring a Beautiful Cosmos - who was Ivor Cutler?

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, coming to Brighton Festival this May, tells Cutler’s fascinating life story, interwoven with his songs, stories and poetry, but you’re out of luck if you are looking for a traditional tribute musical. Director Matthew Lenton tells The Observer it is, “an anti-Mamma Mia”, and it is only fitting that a play based on the life of a maverick defies convention. Mark Fisher from the Guardian calls it “a big grin of a show, as funny and idiosyncratic as Cutler and every bit as embraceable.” while The Telegraph describes it as “Funny, evocative and celebratory”.

Ivor Cutler was a poet, performer and certified eccentric. Born in Glasgow in the 1920s, he began writing songs and poems in the 1950s while teaching by day (a profession he took up after being dismissed from the RAF for ‘dreaminess’). Cutler began appearing on BBC Radio and after an appearance on Late Night Line-up in the 1960s, he was noticed by Paul McCartney. Cutler was subsequently championed by John Peel and released numerous albums to critical acclaim, but he remained ambivalent about his popularity and famous following, and was renowned for telling fans attempting to take his picture, “don’t you ever do that again”. He continued to ride his bike, hand out sticky labels covered with cryptic messages, and tell stories through song accompanied by his harmonium, such as I believe in bugs, Egg Meat and Mary is a cow, until his death in 2006. Cutler lived life by his own rules, his whimsical outlook and refusal to conform continues to capture the imagination and is set to enchant audiences of The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler. Read on to discover more about this wonderful man.


Ivor performing Beautiful Cosmos in 2004

As a young man, Cutler joined the RAF as a trainee navigator, but was promptly dismissed for being 'too dreamy and absent-minded' after being caught sketching clouds in mid-air.

He had an unorthodox approach to teaching and rebelled against the use of corporal punishment in his school. He cut the leather belt he had been given to discipline children with into 50 pieces, and handed them out to his students when he quit. He subsequently joined a progressive independent school ‘with no rules’ where he would challenge his pupils to improvise songs.

Cutler appeared in the Beatles psychedelic 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour as Buster Bloodvessel - the conductor of their multicoloured bus, accompanying them on their magical adventure. He was subsequently invited to teach the Beatles children but declined on socialist principles, saying, "What made their kids more special than other kids?"

He often communicated by handing out stickers with cryptic messages on them, both to people he knew and people he didn't: he would randomly distribute stickers bearing messages like, Funny smell, Let me out and To remove this label take it off.

Enjoy this short video of Ivor Cutler performing I’m Happy in 1986

His famous fans include: The Beatles, John Peel, Billy Connolly, philosopher Bertrand Russell and Johnny Rotten

He was in a relationship with English poet Phyllis King for over 40 years and the pair often collaborated. Despite their close relationship, they lived in separate houses to maintain their independence and Cutler lived in the same small second-floor flat surrounded by his collection of masks, paintings and sculptures until his death.

From the 1990s he was largely retired, but continued to ride around Central London on his bicycle, wearing pink flamingo shorts and a selection of curious hats and loud ties, accosting complete strangers in the street and asking them if they wrote poetry.

Book your spot now to see The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler.


Marcus Coates talks birds, shamanism, intoxicated animals and Brighton Festival with the Artsdesk

Marcus Coates brings his work Dawn Chorus to Fabrica this year. This immersive piece uses unique digital methods to explore the relationship between birdsong and the human voice, drawing out similarities between the behaviour of birds and humans. Recently, he spoke with Thomas H Green for The Arts Desk about his influences and works, past and present.

‘Coates tendency towards the bizarre and comic mask a deeply held desire to explore humankind’s understanding of nature and the world around.’

Find out more about the artist himself and his work in an enlightening interview with The Arts Desk.

‘Birds are particularly interesting because their lives mirror our own. They build homes, they have very complex ways of communicating vocally, a lot of their culture is similar to ours. Birdsong is a very interesting parallel because even the form of their song - repetition, endurance, musicality - is reflected in how we use music and language in song. We can see so much of ourselves in what birds are doing.'

Read the full interview






Photos: Brighton Festival Street Art by Sinna One

Brighton based artist and illustrator Sinna One has been busy creating some brilliant Brighton Festival pieces and transforming these utilitarian boxes around town. Featured in a number of books and exhibitions, Sinna One’s work ranges across a wide spectrum and includes large-scale murals, live paint display for events, festival sculptures, illustration and more.

Spray painted around our fair city, there are plenty to see. Take a look at the photos below to see how these wonderful beasts take form…






Video: Squarepusher - Most Valid Reason

Producer, bass virtuoso, composer and sound artist, Squarepusher aka Tom Jenkinson has constantly strived to push the boundaries and limits of music, drawing on influences as broad as drum and bass, acid house, jazz and electroacoustic music - with pretty incredible results. Watch him now in this new video performing Most Valid Reason via VICE Japan or - even better - experience Squarepusher live in action on Fri 8 May at Brighton Dome.

Back with eagerly anticipated new material, Squarepusher brings his all-new live show to Brighton Festival 2015. Jenkinson Told BBC 6Music,

‘It’ll be very fast, very experimental, it’ll be an evening of extremity… the music I’m writing is born to be heard at a very high volume on stage, accompanied by a visually slamming presentation.'


And we can't wait...