Brighton Festival 2020Public booking opens: Wed 19 Feb, 9am

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Folk group Lankum score a double win at the 2018 Folk Awards

The self-called "Dublin folk miscreants", Lankum, were big winners at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on Wednesday, winning two awards on the night.

Combining distinctive four-part vocal harmonies with arrangements of uilleann pipes, concertina, Russian accordion, fiddle and guitar, and with a repertoire spanning music-hall ditties and street-songs, classic to their own original material, this Dublin four-piece are at the forefront of bringing traditional song to a new generation. Mark Radcliffe calls them ‘a turning point in folk… [the] authentic voice of the streets’. 

‘There is folk that wants to whisper in your ear, and then there is the music of Lankum: urgent, desperate and detonating.’ So wrote The Guardian’s in its five-star review of Lankum’s latest album, Between the Earth and Sky. No wonder then, that Lankum were named Best Group, beating Elephant Sessions, Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band and Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys to picking up the covetable award.

The quartet also won Best Original Track for their song The Granite Gaze, receiving the award from folk music great Ralph McTell.

Lankum will be playing on Friday the 18th of May at St George's Church. For more information, see the event page. 

Last chance for children & young adults to submit poems for Brighton Festival 2018’s Peacock Poetry Prize

The Peacock Poetry Prize is an annual competition to encourage young writers to explore the written word from a creative point of view. The aim is to get young people writing right across Sussex and encourage them to engage with the theme of ‘hard work’, a subject inspired by Guest Director David Shrigley’s book of the same title.

The competition is open to residents of Brighton & Hove, East and West Sussex aged 11 - 19. Submissions are divided into four age groups: 11-13 years, 14-16 years 13-16 years and 17-19 years.

Whether completing an assignment, building a relationship or breaking a habit, we all work hard on aspects of our daily lives. Each budding writer may submit up to three poems with a maximum length of 20 lines per poem.

Pippa Smith, Brighton Festival’s Children and Family Producer, says:

"The Peacock Poetry Prize offers a great opportunity for young people to have their writing seriously appraised and appreciated. Our panel of judges reads and discusses every poem and it is always a struggle to decide which of our many talented entrants will be invited to the finalists’ award party where the winners are announced."

William Baldwin, Principal of Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College, says:

"BHASVIC is proud to be sponsoring the Peacock Poetry Prize. Poetry is imaginations language, helping us understand and appreciate the world around us. A great poem can describe what we ourselves have no words for. As poetry is such a universal vehicle of human expression it is vital that we continue to nurture a love for it in the younger generation."

The competition is open to residents of Brighton & Hove, East and West Sussex. Each budding writer may submit up to three poems with a maximum length of 14 lines per poem. Entries must be emailed, together with full name, age and date of birth to or posted to Peacock Poetry Prize, Brighton Festival, 12a Pavilion Buildings, Castle Square, Brighton BN1 1EE.

The deadline for entries is Mon 16 Apr 2018. Finalists and their friends and relatives will be invited to a reception in Brighton Dome when the winners of each age category will be announced.

Festival Hot Seat: Attractor

Indonesia’s music duo Senyawa joins forces with two of Australia’s leading dance companies, Dancenorth and Lucy Guerin Inc to take you on a trance-noise odyssey in Attractor. Choreographers Lucy and Gideon give us the low-down on this exciting new performance.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Attractor is a work where dance and music propel each other into heightened experiences for performers and spectators. Its a collaboration with Indonesian music duo Senyawa. Eight dancers are swept up by the energy of the music that in turn responds to their physical abandonment.

Senyawa reinterprets the Javanese tradition of trance through dance and music as a powerful, secular, present-day form. Their unusual sound borrows from the metal bands they listened to as teenagers – Black Sabbath, Metallica, Iron Maiden – and Indonesian ritual and folk idioms.

20 completely unrehearsed audience members volunteer to join the artists on stage. This participatory act of doing dissolves the demarcations between dancer and non-dancer, audience and performer, professional and amateur

How and where will the work be staged?
Attractor will be presented at the Brighton Festival in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

It begins with the two musicians and the dancers setting up in a circle centre stage. The music propels the dancers into movement and the musicians respond to the physical intensity of the dancers creating a visceral experience for the audience. About two thirds of the way through, twenty members of the audience get up from their seats and make their way to the stage where they join the dancers and become an integral part of the performance.

These participants are volunteers that sign up to be part of the show beforehand. They arrive before it starts and are fitted with in-ear devices. When the time comes, they are verbally directed through their ear- pieces to go onstage and guided through a series of instructions to perform a dance that merges with the professional dancers. There are no prior rehearsals.

Why should someone come and see your show?
We think audiences will be truly inspired by Attractor. This is a work that blurs the line between performer and spectator, creating an empathetic and intense experience for the viewer. The energy and skill of the dancers is not just an opportunity to sit back and watch, but to engage with the way that dance and music can enliven and transform us.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
Gideon Obarzanek (Director/Choreographer) first met Indonesian music duo Senyawa in Yogyakarta in 2014, and travelled with them to a remote village in far eastern Java to observe a traditional trance ceremony. After two nights of prayers and offerings to the dead, dancers entered a state of trance through a series of astounding performances. Some time after that, Gideon was reflecting on his many years of creating virtuosic stage productions with highly trained dancers, in contrast with his early experiences of dance. These took place on kibbutz in Israel where he grew up as a child doing folk dancing, where participation was privileged over performance.

As contemporary artists performing to secular audiences, Rully, Wukir (Senyawa) and Gideon discussed their interest in traditional music and dance. They pondered why they and other non-religious people are drawn to this type of ceremonial performance and concluded that dance and music can create transcendent states for participants, through which they become a part of something bigger than themselves. Making Attractor comes from a shared interest to construct rituals for non-believers.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
This show is surprising on several levels. Senyawa’s music is completely captivating and like nothing you’ve heard before. It’s an impossible blend of heavy metal, noise, throat singing, operatic vocals and traditional music that somehow results in a unique coherent sound. The dancers are virtuosic in their immersion in the choreography and music and their commitment to the intensity of the show.

But perhaps the most surprising element is when 20 audience members get up out of their seats, walk on stage, and join the dancers . This breaks down the barrier between audience and performer and unites 30 people onstage in a shared experience as they collectively succumb to the inherent power of the experience. The remaining audience have a strong empathetic connection as they watch people like themselves in this exhilarating predicament. People are often amazed by the fact that the audience participants who join the dancers onstage have no prior rehearsal and are doing the show for the very first time.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Brighton Festival is an event we have heard about for years but have never experienced. To us, it inspires thoughts of an innovative artistic program linked to the places, culture and people of the city. We have high expectations!

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
We are really looking forward to seeing what’s happening in contemporary UK performance and the international work that’s in the program. Coming from Australia, it’s a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in the festival atmosphere of Brighton and understand its identity and future visions. We are also thrilled that Brighton audiences will have the chance to see Attractor.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Actors Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood give us an insight into The Flying Lovers of Vitebska new show from Kneehigh Theatre that traces the extraordinary lives of Marc and Bella Chagall. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
: The show is called The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. Fundamentally, it's a love story between Marc Chagall and his first wife Bella, their extraordinary lives and achievements and the turbulent period of history that they lived through.

Marc: The background to the love story are some of the most incredible moments of European history. I think this play is also about what it is to be an artist

Why should someone come and see your show?
It's a playful world of art, music and love that audiences can escape to for ninety minutes.

Marc: It’s also quite unique in the way that it marries music, drama and dance seamlessly.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
Emma (our director) and her then partner Daniel (our writer) saw one of Chagall's paintings and Daniel noticed that Emma looked like Bella. They then looked into their lives and love story and Daniel wrote the play for Emma.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
It’s always important to keep telling stories, this one is about two artists falling in love and the sacrifices one of them has to make in the relationship. The themes discussed also are so relevant today and I think there’s so much in this story that people can reflect and learn from.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
We’ve had so many people of different ages and cultures watch this show when we’ve performed it before and I’m always constantly surprised from what people take from it.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
I think people will come away from this show wanting to learn so much more about Marc Chagall and his work and will be surprised about how incredibly creative Bella was, but how she took a step back in order to let Marc pursue his work.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Daisy: I’m so thrilled to bring this show to Brighton festival because I love this place and knowing that I like Brighton and I like festivals, so I'm very excited to be a part of Brighton Festival.

Marc: I’m so thrilled to bring this show to Brighton festival because I love this place and knowing that Kneehigh have such a big following here, I’m excited for them to see this show.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Marc: Taking Flying Lovers of Vitebsk to Edinburgh last year was incredible, it was my first festival and I had the most amazing time. I can’t wait to see lots of different theatre, music, comedy and be inspired by people telling stories in their own unique way.

Daisy: I'm really hoping to catch Kaya from Ceyda Tanc's all-female dance company which puts a modern spin on traditional Turkish folk dance.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Shrigley on Shrigley

Guest director David Shrigley talks us through his events at the Brighton Festival 2018. 

Best known for his darkly humorous works that comment on the inconsequential, bizarre, and disquieting elements of daily life, the artist’s offbeat take is reflected in his own events at this years festival. There's Festival commission Problem in Brighton, a brand new alt rock/pop pantomime, written and directed by Shrigley himself, and Life Model II, a follow-up to the artist’s Turner Prize-nominated installation of the same name which invites visitors to take part in a life drawing class with a sculpture of a nine-foot-tall woman as the ‘model’. Shrigley will also be doing an also an illustrated talk billed as ‘containing numerous rambling anecdotes… not in the slightest bit boring’, and a screening of a documentary about his work titled A Shit Odyssey. 

Head to our Whats On page to see the full programme
Video edited by Summer Dean

Festival Hot Seat: The Humours of Bandon

Margaret McAuliffe, writer and performer of The Humours of Bandon, talks to us about Riverdance, childhood hobbies and the competitive world of Irish Dance. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
The Humours of Bandon is a one-person coming of age comedy drama centered around the world of competitive Irish Dance.

How and where will the work be staged?
It’s on in the Brighthelm Centre at 7:30pm from 16th – 20th May. 

Why should someone come and see your show?
People should enjoy this show if they ever had a childhood passion that came to an end as adulthood beckoned, and they fancy a trip down memory lane. It will also *infotain* its audience on the competitive world of Irish Dance!

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The inspiration came from my personal experience of competitive Irish Dancing. The idea formulated once I applied for the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016 and realized the scene was prime for a dramatic telling of a coming-of-age story.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
The moment you give up something you’ve dedicated many hours to, you feel a sort of void. I’ve heard from audiences the length and breadth of the country that this play resonates with them owing to their previous exploits in swimming, football, ballet, athletics and even junior paramedics! I think it’s important to remember the skills you might have pursued in your teenage years and the impact they had on your personal development, it’s nice to reflect on your journey.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
This play is for anyone that had a childhood/teenage passion. It’s also loved by the parents or teachers of said teenagers who recognize the role they played in that teenager’s life. It’s funny to look back on those moments that were fraught with tension and great drama with the benefit of hindsight, makes for a lot of laughs.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
People are going to be surprised by how interested they become in the competitive world of Irish Dancing (no, seriously) an arena that can showcase Olympic-level athleticism mixed with art, pageantry, stock characters, common tropes and niche knowledge.

Riverdance brought Irish Dancing to the world stage in 1994 but audiences have yet to see where this talent is honed, Irish Dancers develop their skill through competitions or ‘feiseanna’ and this play brings you behind the scenes at the most important event in the feis calendar.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
This will be my first year at the Brighton festival so am very excited to see what’s on offer. I played the Dublin Fringe Festival ‘16 and last year the four weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Brighton is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and the fact that I get to perform there for the festival is very fortunate indeed.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Game Of Thrones and Band of Gold actors announced for The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety

The tempestuous relationship between sex, anxiety and music comes to a head in a remarkable new production from one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors, Calixto Bieito.

Arguably the most sought-after European opera and theatre director of his generation, Calixto Bieito will direct a quartet of actors: Cathy Tyson, Mairead McKinley, Miltos Yerolemou and Nick Harris, alongside the award-winning The Heath Quartet. Together the eight artists will blend to recreate the melody of melancholy.

Miltos Yerolemou’s credits span film, television and stage. Film credits include Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm/Disney), The Danish Girl (Working Title Films). Recent stage credits include The Fool in King Lear (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Talawa Theatre and Royal Exchange Manchester); A Midsummer Night’s Dream international tour (Bristol Old Vic & Handspring Theatre), Great Expectations (Bristol Old Vic), he is also known for his role as Syrio Forel in Game Of Thrones (HBO).

BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated actress Cathy Tyson is best known for her role in the multi-award winning film Mona Lisa and classic ITV drama series Band of Gold. On stage, Cathy has played many leading ladies from Cleopatra to Lady Bracknell with other credits including Golden Girls (RSC), Talking Heads (Bolton Octagon) and The Taming Of The Shrew (Regents Park Open Air Theatre).

Mairead McKinley’s theatre credits include Filthy Business (Hampstead Theatre) and The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, Translations and Cyrano De Bergerac (National Theatre). Nick Harris was recently in North by Northwest - a new production of the Hitchcock classic by Australian director Simon Phillips which opened at Theatre Royal Bath before transferring to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.

Known for his radical reinterpretations of classic operas and plays, Calixto Bieito turns to two maverick philosophers for inspiration for his latest work: The Burnout Society (2015) by the Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han and The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), an essay by Robert Burton, one of the first to write about psychological disorders as a symptom of modern times. Music performed by The Heath Quartet will include Beethoven String Quartet No.15 in A Minor, Op. 95 and Ligeti String Quartet No. 2.

Calixto Bieito said: “The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety is like a symphonic poem for a quartet of musicians, and a quartet of voices. It will consider the human condition today, and where anxiety and depression stem from. The show will be about how the current times are affecting the quality of our lives as well as our fears, and I hope it will be both entertaining and enlightening.”

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability

Please note: This article originally listed one of the featured pieces of music as Beethoven’s Opus 132, but this has been changed to Beethoven’s Opus 95.

Everyday Epic: Anthology of Short Stories Launched

After taking over the streets for Brighton Festival 2017, the Storytelling Army are back with their newly published anthology.

Everyday Epic is a collection of stories celebrating the Storytelling Army, a project that took place as part of Brighton Festival 2017. In a collaboration between theatre company Nabokov and 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest, the Storytelling Army was assembled: a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life and all corners of the city, including those homeless and vulnerably housed. 

Each explored Brighton Festival Guest Director Kate Tempest's theme of Everyday Epic, hosting pop-up performances across Brighton, from the local supermarket, the pub or on the top deck of a bus. Nabokov believe that theatre should be in our communities, in spaces from car parks, on the streets, in rooms above pubs, on public transport, in nightclubs and festivals and not just restricted to the traditional theatre space.

Their mission is to ensure that the event of theatre is for all and reflects the current experiences and diverse voices of our generation. Many of the works published in this anthology were first shared via these pop-up performanes. Writers living in Sussex were asked to respond to the theme selected by Kate Tempest for Brighton Festival 2017, Everyday Epic, in no more than 4,000 words. The remaining four stories are from members of the Sussex-wide public who won the Everyday Epic story writing competition run by which was run in conjunction with Brighton Festival. 

Everyday Epic Anthology of Short Stories Celebrating Storytelling Army now on Sale

After taking over the streets for Brighton Festival 2017, the Storytelling Army return with a newly published anthology of short stories.

Everyday Epic is a collection of stories celebrating the Storytelling Army, a project that took place as part of Brighton Festival 2017. The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life and all corners of the city, including those homeless and vulnerably housed, was formed in a collaboration between theatre company nabokov and 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest. Each storyteller explored Kate Tempest's theme of 'Everyday Epic', hosting pop-up performances across Brighton, from inside local supermarkets, on street corners and in pubs, to on the top deck of a bus.

Nabokov believe that theatre should be in our communities and not just restricted to the traditional theatre space. Their mission is to ensure that the event of theatre is for all and reflects the current experiences and diverse voices of our generation. Many of the works published in this anthology were first shared via these pop-up performances. The remaining four stories are from members of the Sussex-wide public who won the Everyday Epic story writing competition run by which was run in conjunction with Brighton Festival. This competition asked writers living in Sussex to respond to the theme selected by Kate Tempest for Brighton Festival 2017, Everyday Epic, in no more than 4,000 words.

To purchase the Everyday Epic Anthology, see for more information. 

Festival Hotseat: XFRMR

We caught up with Robbie Thomson, artist and thearte maker to talk about XFRMR, an installation that explores the possibilities of the Tesla Coil as an instrument.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
XFRMR is a live audio-visual performance which explores the creative possibilities of the Tesla Coil as a musical instrument in its own right. The technology is based on Nikola Tesla's 1891 design which was originally developed for long range power transmission. In the show, I synthesise waveforms that manipulate the high voltage discharges from the coil to create live musical tones which is set against an underlying electronic score.

The composition itself moves between soundscapes inspired by the sounds of space weather and percussive sections rooted in industrial music and techno.

How and where will the work be staged?
In XFRMR the Tesla Coil takes centre stage, it's housed in a large steel Faraday cage that shields the 250,000 Volt arcs of plasma and the electromagnetic fields that the coil produces. The show is driven along by dynamic lighting effects and audio-reactive projections which are mapped onto the setup. The performances at Brighton Festival are taking place in The Spire.

Why should someone come and see your show?
It's a chance to experience raw electricity first hand, the Tesla Coil is a visceral phenomenon to be up-close to, and you might even smell the ozone being created from the sparks.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
I was interested in high voltage devices and so was drawn to using the Tesla coil on a visual level and from a historical perspective before I was really aware of it's musical potential. The direct correlation of the sonic and visual elements and the real physicality of the coil as an electro-acoustic instrument (the air ionising to create sound and light) made it ideal to use in an artistic context.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
The ways in which technology is being used to synthesise natural phenomena relates to so many aspects of where the frontier of science is at today. The boundaries between synthetic and natural worlds are constantly being tested (whether that be in artificial intelligence or nanotechnology) so it's interesting to consider the nature of electricity and invisible wavelengths within this context, as it is something that we usually either ignore or take for granted.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Audiences for XFRMR have been really varied in the past; I've played in clubs where the emphasis has been on dancing and in seated theatres where people have tuned in more to the nuances of the sound. I think there's something there for anyone with an interest in electronic music and technology but also for people who are more visually orientated and want to experience a dramatic display of electricity.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
I think people will be surprised by how musical the Tesla Coil can be, you can make it really expressive and create quite delicate timbres as well as distorted tones and harsh percussive stabs.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
The Wave Epoch sounds like a really interesting project; it'd also be wicked to see Deerhoof again.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: A House Repeated

A House Repeated is an interactive performance-game that combines the simplicity of bare-bones storytelling with the limitless possibilities of contemporary open-world computer games. We caught up with creator and performer Seth Kriebel to find out more.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
A House Repeated is part-show, part-game. The performers describe a place and the
audience tell us what they want to do next — go North, open the door, that sort of thing —
and then we describe the consequence of their choices… and the show unfolds from
there. In this show we’ll be exploring the Brighton Dome, as it undergoes its restoration…the audience gets to poke into the dark corners of its past, present and possible future —without leaving their seats!

How and where will the work be staged?
We’ll be in Brighton Dome during the first week of the Festival. As the show is all about the building, it’s great to be right there, in between the history and the construction as we explore and play with the fabric of the building and time.

Why should someone come and see your show?
We open the door to a world waiting to be explored. It’s not improv — it’s all there ready to be found — but it’s up to you to navigate. It’s very gentle and fun… it’s not a scary, put people-on-the-spot experience. We work together with the audience to uncover a Brighton Dome as it was, is and might become.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
It’s basically a live version of the old interactive-fiction computer games I played as a kid
in the early 80s, back before computer graphics, when it was just a glowing green line of text against a black background… so everything happens in your imagination. It’s somewhere between old fashioned storytelling and the most recent open-world computer games that give you the freedom to go anywhere and do anything you like.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
I think we get too wrapped up in the mundane bricks and mortar of the world, we forget
the possibility of the unexpected, the slightly out of the ordinary. Not the through-the-back-of-the-wardrobe fantasy of a children’s story, but the excitement of finding a spiralstaircase that leads down into the dark… and the ability to go have a look at what’s down there.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Anyone who likes storytelling, games, immersive theatre, the history of Brighton and the Dome… and the possibilities of finding out just what might be hiding behind that door…

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
How exciting it is to explore - and maybe even build - a world that exists only in the minds of you and your fellow audience members.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
I love the buzz of the city in May! It’s great to see the mix of international companies and local artists — Brighton has such a vibrant creative community. And as a local parent myself, I think I’ve walked in the children’s parade every year since 2009…

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
I’m really looking forward to Elephant & Castle… And I loved Kneehigh’s Tristan and Yseult last year, so I can’t wait for The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. Also, everyone in our house is a big fan of John Finnemore, so we’ll be front row centre for his show!

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Adopt an Author: Benfield Primary get creative with Alex Milway and Harold and Pigsticks

Adopt an Author is an exciting schools initiative which links classes with children’s authors to promote literacy, encourage writing and develop creativity. 

After 8 weeks of fun email discussions with their adopted author, classes attend a 'Meet your Author' party during the Festival. This year local primary schools Carden, Goldstone, Mile Oak and St Luke's are adopting Imogen White, Rob Lloyd Jones, Alex Milway and M G Leonard

Four participating classes from different local schools are paired up with an author and sent copies of one of their author’s books. In February they begin reading the book in class and emailing their author once a week for 8 weeks. During this time the author may set small related activities for the class and the class can ask questions of the author and share samples of their own work. The project culminates in May with a ‘Meet Your Author’ party where the author will plan a session full of fun activities for their adoptive class! 

Today we're celebrating and sharing some of the wonderful work from Benfield Primary School in Portslade. The Gecko and Iguana class (Year 2) have adopted author Alex Milway. For the past two weeks, Alex has been teaching his class how to draw two characters from his latest book, Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey

You can read more from Alex Milway and his class on the Adopt An Author blog. 

Author Rob Lloyd-Jones kicked off the first week of his 'adoption' with a writing task. Rob has been adopted by Mile Oak School's year 6 class. He asked them to describe their favourite stories and why. Here's a look at what they came back with...
You can see more from Rob Lloyd-Jone's and his class on the Adopt An Author blog. 

The Adopt an Author blog provides a space to display some of the wonderful correspondences from this year’s project. To read more about the initiative and see more from  authors Imogen White and M G Leonard and their classes, visit the Adopt an Author blog.

Festival Hot Seat: The Enormous Room

In an epic new production from Stopgap Dance Company - part of the Festival's caravan biennial showcase - we follow a father and daughter gradually coming to terms with the loss of their wife and mother. In this Festival Hot Seat, Stopgap's Artistic Director Lucy Bennett talks to us about her inspiration behind the piece.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
The Enormous Room is a dance theatre show that explores a father-and-daughter relationship. They have recently lost their wife/mother and the audience gaze into how they are each going through the grieving process differently.

How and where will the work be staged?
A conventional black box theatre at The Old Market

Why should someone come and see your show?
Because it’s a beautiful and evocative piece of dance theatre. By exploring something personal like grief, everyone invested something genuine in the creative process, and this shared ownership of the work is what makes it so moving. The Enormous Room has been described as an absorbing encounter with grief and loss that comforts and provokes long after the piece has ended.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The idea first emerged when I was listening to Hofesh Shechter talking with William Forsythe as part of The Brighton Festival in 2014. As a young choreographer Forsythe had some invaluable advice from his ballet teacher. When struggling to make a piece of work his teacher said: ‘Close your eyes, imagine the piece that you want to watch and make that one’.

At that moment I did just that. I saw a small room full of clutter and dark furniture set within a big space. I saw characters appearing and disappearing through drawers and cupboards, the dancers were restricted and their limbs and faces told the story.

From there the idea meandered for two years while I explored forms and narratives. I was interested in using text for this show and one of our dancers David Toole and I had already spoken about exploring this. I became interested in him playing a character who was unable to let go of the past.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Grief touches us all, and by seeing how people react to it in different ways, it might console or support when you are faced with it eventually. In the creation process, we had diverse contributors from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as age and disability, and the breadth of perspectives have enriched and deepened how our characters each experience and deal with it. Grief makes your mood fluctuate wildly, and it was good to get perspectives of different people to explore it in the creation process.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: SHUT DOWN

Charlotte Vincent, choreographer and director of Brighton-based company Vincent Dance Theatre, tells us about her newest piece SHUT DOWN, a brother work to last Festival's VIRGIN TERRITORY.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
It’s not exactly a show! It’s a full-length production, in film installation form, that explores the pressures, contradictions and confusions of being a man today, filtered through my eyes as a female choreographer / director.

How and where will the work be staged?
SHUT DOWN film installation, shot and edited by VDT’s brilliant cinematographer Bosie Vincent, plays across six screens at ONCA Gallery, throughout the festival. This complex, humorous and visually layered production is accompanied by short works made by young men working with VDT and Audio Active as part of Mankind’s Room To Rant programme (LINK) and at The Connected Hub (LINK).  Reflecting on modern masculinity using charcoal drawing, stills photography and spoken word, Young People’s work will also be shared on Vincent Dance Theatre’s Youtube Youth Channel from May onwards.

Why should someone come and see your production?
It’s funny, sensitive and moving and relevant for us all – particularly as we see the ‘crisis of masculinity’ continuing to gather momentum all around us with the #metoo and #timesup campaigns.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
SHUT DOWN is the brother piece to VDT’s VIRGIN TERRITORY, which appeared at ONCA in the 2017 Brighton Festival and is currently on tour throughout the UK. These two partner pieces - full-length stage productions that become widely shared full-length film installations - consider the society that we have created for young people, in particular examining the impact of growing up within a gender divisive world where social media presents very real crises of confidence, online dangers and a degree of self-loathing.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
The themes we consider in both works are around the influence of pornography on our kids and how they treat each other, the pressures to be masculine and feminine when we know there is a spectrum of experience, the challenge to mental health that a body obsessed society incites and issues around absent parents, home and belonging that everyone can relate to.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Although the piece is about perceptions of masculinity and pressures on boys and men to behave a particular way, it’s relevant for anyone interested in dance, theatre and film or gender politics. The choreography is influenced by partnering, street dance and ensemble work, and there is some passionate spoken word performed by 15-year-old Eben ‘Flo from local music organisation AudioActive – a charity that supports young urban artists - in the past including Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (who is now their Patron) and Rizzle Kicks.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? 
I’ve presented work in the last three Brighton Festivals, since moving my company to Brighton from Sheffield. As an Associate Company of Brighton Dome this is how it should be – the festival is a great platform for any artist’s work and I love the way work that crosses political boundaries and challenges expected forms can be seen by such a diverse audience. Last year we had 1000 people pass through ONCA over two weeks seeing dance theatre as part of VIRGIN TERRITORY multiscreen film installation. These are audience figures that are hard to gather live on tour in one venue, so the digital model is working for us to get my choreographic work seen by non-dance attenders, film enthusiasts, general public and visual artists. 

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Artist’s blog: Rachel Blackman, theatre artist, performer and somatic educator on Collidescope

As applications are open for Collidescope 2018, we asked a former participant to reflect on her experiences of Brighton Festival’s Artist development programme

Collidescope offers a chance for a group of mid-career artists from various disciplines, to experience a large chunk of the Festival program, it is also a chance to rub shoulders with like minds, engage in a series of facilitated workshops exploring the work we’ve seen, sharing some of the work we make as well as meeting some of the Festival’s visiting artists. It is a brilliant opportunity and I’m still unpacking the myriad ways in which it has impacted my practice. More on that later.

That year, 2016, my year, we were blessed on several counts. We were ‘shepherded’ through our experience by Dramaturge Lou Cope and Arts Producer Richard Kingdom. Their presence and vast expertise offered the experience coherence, opened pathways of enquiry, brought inspiration and generally encouraged a great vibe. I think my year was fortunate also, because there was rich diversity: of age, disciplines, cultural backgrounds and themes in the room, which made for juicy engagement and feisty conversations.

I also felt fortunate because the guest director was Laurie Anderson who I much admire. I hoped I’d get a chance to meet her as I was looking forward to normalising an experience I’d had a few years before that I felt vaguely embarrassed about.

Anderson was an important early influence for me. I first came across her at 15 and was struck by her ele-gant originality. Self-directed and self-resourced. Eloquent. Ungendered. Anti-establishment. Prolific. Per-formative. She was beautiful too, but people loved her not for her beauty but her intelligence and her origi-nality. I may have been a bit in love with her…

Skip to 2012 and I have a piece of my work in the Brighton Festival that year, so they invite me in for an interview with Brighton Festival Radio. I get into the lift and who is standing beside me, but Laurie Anderson.

I don’t get star struck very often. I’ve grown up around famous people most of my life and fame isn’t, in itself, impressive to me. But every now and again, I get a massive body of work / art crush on someone and I can’t remember what ‘normal’ behaviour looks like. Arthur Miller would have been on that list, Pina Bausch, Joseph Cambell, Meryl Streep and perhaps incongruously, Vaclav Havel. I think I’d be OK with the Dalai Lama. I was fine with Keanu.

Aaaanyway, so here I am in a lift with Laurie Anderson. Just me and Laurie and I’m thinking, you know I’m sure I could just say,

Hey Laurie, thanks for your work, it has been a powerful influence on me.
Or, hey Laurie, I’m a fan. I hear you build your own kit? … AWESOME . Tell me about New York in the 80’s. And you were the first woman I ever heard who used male voice filters in performance and you were still, just, you, somehow - you know?

Or even,

Hey, know what? i know all of the words to ‘Let x = x’ and I - I feel - feel like - I am - In a burning building. And … and… I love the way you use language so sparely and what you leave out and how you leave enough space for us to fill in an idea of a persona. I love its theatricality. Do you see it as theatrical?’ and and anyway… Tai Chi hey? *sigh*

That kind of thing.

Instead I stare at my shoes and fall profoundly silent. I can’t seem to lift my gaze from the floor and the awkwardness of the moment pans eons.

Then the lift doors open, and we exit together. It turns out we are both going to be interviewed by Brighton Festival Radio at the same time. How unbearably awkward and I avoid her eye contact, but in my peripheral vision I notice that she acknowledges me briefly and I realise it would have been fine to say hi after all - what an idiot - and the whole bottom falls out of the floor. And I manage to keep walking. And I try to do it in a way that I’m hoping is reminiscent of how I might normally do it. But I am malfunctioning robot doll thing.

I get through it.

Then I’m doing Collidescope in 2016 and Anderson is the guest director.

I enter in to it in between things in my life. I haven’t made a full-length piece of work for two years and it is bugging me. I have experienced some big changes in my personal life and I’m not sure what I am at the moment, so I turn up with imposter syndrome. I have this feeling that when I begin making again, I want it to be different - but I don’t really know what that means yet. I have an idea pressing against me - it is about a white Australian family crossing a desert in a little car and the spirits of the land leaking in and tearing the family apart (but in a good way) and it being a metaphor for the un-sustainability and precariousness of the way we are living in relation to the planet… but I don’t know where to start.

All well and good.

I think the problem is that the piece needs to be a film and I’m not a film maker. But then I see Lola Aria’s Minefield, and Yuval Avital’s Fuga Perpetua, both of which blow me away in unexpected ways. Both working with non-actors. Both dealing with real world subject matter. Not my usual fare. Not the kinds of things i would have instinctively chosen from the program to watch. in fact, things I saw in the program and thought, well I’m not going to enjoy those.

So, I am smacked in the face by my preconceptions.

And slowly, slowly over months and months, I realise the problems I am facing are more meta and way more personal. They are to do with acknowledging that my themes are changing on some deep, level and that I can no longer continue as I have been. That what draws me now is real life stories. The dawning reali-sation that it is time to start turning up in my own work - even if only as a voice. (I had only ever played fic-tional characters and happily disappeared behind them - how can I tell a story about Australian whiteness without also acknowledging that i am that? That I am part of that story). And for the first time, I want to en-gage with social realities. This is all NEW.

So now the bigger and thoroughly more exciting question is ‘HOW?’

So, it’s still 2016. And I’m with some of my Collidescope buddies in a gutted church listening to Lou Reed’s pack of guitars and amps feeding back and mutating into the darkness. The Drones. And amongst us, is the quite recently bereaved Laurie Anderson standing just over there and lots of other people standing and sitting everywhere else, scattered through the darkness. And I have this thought that we are all just collective consciousness connected to ears connected to the shared human experience of loss of love, loss of life evoked by this living legacy vibrating through each of us. And I feel the generosity of the act of placing her lover’s life’s work here in a great big pile and in such a way that it can vibrate through all of us and I feel lucky and moved and like i could stay in here forever. That through the intimate we can encounter the uni-versal. And I am aware that good art does this, vibrates through us in a way that plugs us in to some aspect of human experience.

And afterwards, in the lukewarm sunshine, I am chatting to some people and Laurie walks past. There is a moment of shared eye contact and warmth and there is this sense that she’s grateful we’ve come. And we’re grateful we’ve come. And my embarrassment has evaporated. Only gratitude for shared human experience.

And that is the end of all that.

I don’t tell her she’s changed my life, or that Tony Visconti showed me how to do Tai Chi with swords, but that’s ok. I might write to her one day about that, but in the meantime, I feel relaxed and like I am myself. We are not all separate from each other.

Collidescope helps with that kind of thing. It helps art-makers feel less isolated and more ordinary. And the extraordinary act of great art-making feels more connected to everything else that’s important.

And in response to my earlier question, how has Collidescope influenced my practice? Well what I would say is, its effect isn’t something I could have anticipated and is something I am still investigating and distil-ling. It has been hugely impactful and I am deeply grateful.

Applications are now open.

Rachel Blackman is a theatre artist, performer and somatic educator.

You can find out more about her work here:

She also co-runs Herd, a true story telling movement

Five Brighton Festival Spoken Word artists to check out before May

Take some time out to enjoy some of the magnificent wordsmithery and acts you can expect at Brighton Festival this May...

The Last Poets
Energised by the civil rights movement, The Last Poets were formed in 1968. As latter day griots, they fused politically outspoken lyrics with inventive percussion. Their albums have influenced generations of hip-hop & soul artists.

Yomi Sode
Yomi Sode balances the line between Nigerian and British cultures, which can be humorous, loving, self-reflective and, at times, uncomfortable. Tackling immigration, identity and displacement, his new performance COAT is a humorous and moving response to the mistakes made by elders that leave the next generation uncertain of what is expected of them.

Travis Alabanza
Travis Alabanza is a performance artist, theatre maker, poet and writer. In the last two years they have been noted by numerous publications as one of the most prominent emerging queer artistic voices, and also listed in OUT as an influential queer figure.

Hollie McNish
Hollie McNish’s poems have challenged stigmas around sex, breastfeeding and young motherhood, earning her a worldwide following. McNish will perform as part of Poets & Illustrators, a one-off event, that pairs some of the finest, freshest poets around with live illustrators. 

Toby Thompson
Toby Thompson is a writer and performer of thoughts and feelings. His poetry displays his delight in life’s uncertainties and absurdities and his uniquely rhythmic and musical style is lyrical, beguiling, playful and poignant. In Brighton Festival, Toby Thompson boldly re-imagines Herman Hesse’s classic fairy-tale I Wish I Was A Mountain

For more amazing Spoken Word, check out our full programme with Bang! Said the GunBridget Minamore, Toby Campion & Theresa Lola and more!

Festival Hot Seat: Bang Said the Gun

Bang Said the Gun calls themselves poetry for people who don't like poetry. Co-founder, Dan Cockrill, is here to tell us why. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
BANG! Said The Gun is a poetry event for people who don’t necessarily like poetry. We take the best Spoken Word poets around and smash them together with entertainment to create a raw and raucous rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s loud, political, trivial, serious and very funny. It will make you laugh out loud and cry tears of wonderment.

How and where will the work be staged?
We will be at St Georges Church on St Georges Road on SATURDAY 19TH MAY. Show kicks off at 7.30pm. One stage, one mic, Soul music, hand made shakers, balloons and animations. (And that is just the first 5 minutes of the show.)

Why should someone come and see your show?
To have their belief in humanity and the human experience restored. Or just to a have a good time.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
BANG! Said The Gun was started by Martin Galton and Daniel Cockrill 20 years ago as an antidote to dreary poetry and even drearier poetry nights. They wanted it to be a night that everyone could enjoy whether you liked poetry or not. The other members of the group, Rob Auton and Laurie Bolger, have added their ideas and charm to the mix to create a real Rock n Roll poetry show.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
I think people want to be alive and enjoy being alive. Everyday life can sometimes make that a difficult thing to achieve. So we created a space where people can shake away some of the dust, have a great time in the process and maybe learn something new along the way.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
People who DON’T like poetry will love this show. People who DO like poetry will also love this show. That is pretty much everyone.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
If you have never encountered a BANG! Said The Gun show you will be surprised by the raw energy and noise produced. If you have never experienced live poetry you will be surprised by just how moving words can be. A little bit of truth can be an amazing thing when you are bombarded and confronted by dishonesty and fake news on a daily basis. They will also be surprised by how much fun they will have. It’s a joyous show to be part of.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? 
Bang performed at the Festival last year to a packed crowd. We had such a great time we thought we’d do it all again this year. I studied at Brighton University in the mid nineties, so it was great coming back to see faces I hadn’t seen for years.

Meeting all the festival staff was great too. We had a right good giggle with all the tech team and festival liaisons. We were looked after tremendously by all the locals and festival team.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
I’m going to give a shout out to some of BANG’s friends, many of them have appeared on the BANG stage over the years. Jemima Foxtrot and Cecilia Knapp are appearing in a play called Rear View, which I believe takes place on a bus. 

Our good friends Hollie McNish, Bridget Minamore, Toby Campion & Theresa Lola have teamed up with some Illustrators for some live poetry and drawing which sounds like great fun. Yomi Sode has his one man show Coat at the festival. And if you have never seen Lemn Sissay perform then I would definitely go see him. I love all of those guys, so any of those shows will be a treat. 

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: Rear View

David Wheeler, artistic director of Halifax-based IOU theatre tells us about Rear View and working on the show with performance poets Jemima Foxtrot and Cecilia Knapp.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
The central idea is that the audience is lead around the town by a young woman visiting special places in her future life. We begin in an art class when she is in her sixties and we hear her thoughts as they are gradually taken over by her younger self. She then takes us out of the art class and onto IOU’s specially made open-top bus and we are taken on her journey. Everything in a sense is in the future, there is ambiguity about whether we are looking back or looking forward. An important part of the concept is that it is imagined and written from the perspective of a young women at the beginning of her adult life.

How and where will the work be staged?
Rear View starts on The Barge at Brighton Marina where the art class scene takes place and then the audience boards the Rear View bus for a journey around Brighton. Cecilia and Jemima have each written their own version of the show and the performances alternate between them, so as one group of audience board the bus, the next group begins the art class. The locations visited on the journey remain the same each time, but Cecilia’s and Jemima’s words were written independently by them and their performances are very different and personal to them.

Why should someone come and see your show?
The show presents an unusual and affecting premise for audiences to experience. The drawing class gently starts the process of looking and observing so that when the audience begins the bus journey around the town they are in a slightly altered state and more intimately connected to the woman’s character.  

Travelling through the real world listening to the words and soundscape through headphones, cocooned in a heightened sound world, creates a very immersive feeling. The small details of everyday life of people in the real world going about their daily business magically become integrated into the poetry of the words. The combination is quite moving and contemplative and at the same time it is an exhilarating experience travelling around on the very conspicuous backward-facing bus.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The words and poetry come from Cecilia’s and Jemima’s own experiences and imagination set in the context that we have created for them. IOU has always tried to make the experience for an audience surprising and unusual, putting on work in places where people don’t normally see theatre and often moving them around on mass between scenes. The bus is an obvious solution to all those years of complex logistics and risk assessments. But most of all, it is a vehicle that everyone wants to ride on!

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Because it is a story I think many of us are constantly having with ourselves already. We have an inner dialogue going on that tries to place us in time and place, thinking about what has just happened and what might happen next, planning and abandoning plans, being diverted and thinking, “is it that time already?” 

The show takes us along streets and roads that may have been here for hundreds of years, past buildings that have had generation after generation take possession. The show heightens our sense of how fleetingly we occupy these spaces and places, but the experience is life affirming and people often say how much it meant to them and how well it described their own life in the town.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
What surprises me each time I see the show is how beautifully the real world mixes with the imagined world that Cecilia’s and Jemima’s words create.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Brighton has always been a favourite festival for us and the first of many shows we performed here was TOWERS in 1977. Does anyone still have any photos?! Perhaps my favourite moment was in a night time show seeing Steve Gumbley walking out to sea wearing very large inflatable trousers, bobbing out to sea standing bolt upright like a fishing cork and disappearing into the darkness.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Gob Squad, Creation (Pictures for Dorian). I love their calm audacity; long may they reign!  

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: The Boy, The Piano and The Beach

The Boy, The Piano and The Beach is a lovingly created show by Lewes based Slot Machine Theatre. It is a story about adventure and transformation, full of warmth, music and surprises. We talked to artistic directors Nick Tigg and Nicola Blackwell to find out more.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Our show is called The Boy, The Piano and The Beach, and it’s an epic adventure told through puppetry, projection, dance, with the whole story set to live piano music. Turn it inside out and it’s a piano recital with an amazing visual story. It opens with a young boy waking on a beach - and the tide coming in fast. Before he can escape, the world of the beach begins to shift, objects start to take on a life of their own, and an unearthly sound lures him into a big adventure - into another dimension.

How and where will the work be staged?
The show is on at the Brighthelm Centre on North Road, from the 5th-7th May. Brighthelm itself is a really family-friendly venue, in central Brighton near to the station, with a great cafe and plenty of space for buggies, wheelchairs etc. 

Why should someone come and see your show?
Whole families can come and see The Boy, The Piano and The Beach together: it's not just for kids, there's something for all ages, which is how we make all of our family shows. If you like live music and a richly imaginative visual world, then this is for you.

As a show with no spoken word, it’s highly accessible for families, including those with SEN children and adults. There is a relaxed performance on the 6th of May, and bespoke touch tours available on request from box office for those with impaired sight, or those on the autistic spectrum.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
We took a lot of inspiration from Selkie myths - selkies are seal-like beings that emerge from the sea. When they take off their special coats, they can become human. There's a lot of selkie myths from around the north coast of Scotland, they're sort of like mermaids, but a bit more scary and interesting! We are also inspired by the work of our award-winning projection artist, Will Monks. Will makes amazing textural projections for theatre, dance and bands, and we’re hugely excited to be working with him.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
It’s important because it’s a story about adventure and transformation and finding your way back home. It’s also important because of it’s elements: Dance, beguiling visuals, puppetry and the incredibly varied world of piano repertoire. We are really passionate as a company about making world-class work accessible to the most diverse audiences we are able to reach. And we love work that is relevant across generations and abilities.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Cutting-edge, international work and world class performances, all brought to our city.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
We love David Shrigley so we’re looking forward to his exhibition, and the music made from his writing. Brownton Abbey looks brilliant too. Also, Hofesch Shechter, that’s exciting, No Fit State are great, Kneehigh and their Chagal show we really want to see, Blaas looks interesting, Malcolm Middleton’s versions of David Shrigley works are funny and interestingThe Wave Epoch looks good - too much, too much.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: Fauna

Fauna is a captivating exploration of primal behaviour in the animal kingdom. We caught up with the exciting new Circus company behind it to find out more...

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Our show is called Fauna. It’s a captivating exploration of primal behaviour, created by six leading professional artists. The audience is welcomed into our world to witness the ritual of courtship, the aggression of competition, and the Machiavellian cunning and simple pleasures of play, brought to life by the entrancing skills of our performers. Fauna is also set to an original live soundtrack by award-winning acoustic and percussive guitarist Geordie Little.

How and where will the work be staged?
Theatre Royal Brighton

Why should someone come and see your show?
Fauna is a multidisciplinary new circus show that has entwined elements of dance, live music, high level acrobatics and physical theatre in a new and innovative way. It is also an exciting demonstration of physical strength, and pushes circus in a new artistic direction.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The idea behind Fauna came from a very organic process. All of our artists wanted to explore movement and character in terms of our animalistic tendencies. It felt like a very rich source of inspiration for creating innovative ways of performing circus, while still giving purpose for tricks and flips.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
We feel it’s important to story tell to connect with our audiences, and take them on a journey
through our world, and into the brains of our artists and their crazy ways.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Any lover of movement, acrobatics and music will love our show. Its targeted to all ages.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
The way in which high level acrobatics is entwined into a strong narrative. Also, the development of the characters and the connections between performers.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? (If you’ve been with us before, do you have a favourite Festival moment?)
Brighton Festival is a beautiful opportunity for us to perform our art to an array of open minded people, and to welcome and share with the local community.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Checking out some different performance genres and supporting the local artists!

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Programmer Picks: Brighton Festival Books & Debates events

Alice O’Keefe, freelance journalist and Brighton Festival Books & Debate programmer, picks a few, of the many, literary events she’s most looking forward to. 

Afua Hirsch and Colin Grant - Brit(ish)

In the wake of the Windrush scandal this event is incredibly timely. In Afua Hirsch's new book Brit(ish) she explores being black and British. She addresses the everyday racism that still plagues our society, and argues that we are a nation in denial about our past and our present:

"You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from?"

Afua talks to the writer Colin Grant about identity and belonging, and makes an urgent call for change. 

Brett Anderson: Coal Black Mornings
Yes, this is Brett Anderson as in Suede, and it turns out that he is a proper writer: his autobiography, Coal Black Mornings, is so much more than a rock memoir. This is a genuine literary treat, a moving and evocative account of the childhood that shaped the music we know so well. Anderson grew up on a council estate in Haywards Heath, with an artistic mother and an eccentric father (a Liszt-obsessed taxi driver). Here's a review. He will be appearing at Brighton's Theatre Royal on 20th May, talking to the Guardian journalist Alexis Petridis.

Sally Rooney and Fiona Mozley: The Journey to Publication
I've been recommending Sally Rooney's sparkling debut novel Conversations With Friends for a while now. Here is your chance to hear Sally talk about her work, in conversation with Fiona Mozley, another hugely talented young novelist whose dark and dazzling debut, Elmet, was shortlisted for the Booker. I'm chairing this event, and I'll be asking them both about their experiences of making the transition from aspiring author to published writer. This is an event for writers and readers alike. Here is more info.

Tom Hodgkinson: Business for Bohemians
Tom Hodgkinson's book, Business for Bohemians, is a witty and inspiring guide to making the most of your working life. Drawing on his experience as editor of The Idler, the book is full of practical advice about how to turn your creative ambitions into a successful and sustainable business. Hodgkinson helped to convince me that it might be possible to live a fulfilling and imaginative life, and also bring home the bacon. He even made me see the point of - no, actually enjoy - learning to use spreadsheets. So, if you've ever dreamed of getting out of the rat race and working for yourself (and frankly, who hasn't?), this is the event for you. 

Nicola Barker and Nick Harkaway: Future Perfect
What will life in a total digital society look like? Novelists have often been the first to imagine the human consequences of technological progress (see: JG Ballard, Philip K Dick). Nicola Barker recently won the Goldsmiths Prize for her novel H(A)ppy, which imagines a society in which every innermost thought is subject to total surveillance. In his epic, multi-layered novel Gnomon, Nick Harkaway (son of John Le Carre) also explores the impact of big data and surveillance on human lives. There are some eery similarities between these two books. I'll be talking to the authors about how they imagine the future and asking them for a steer on my next lottery numbers. 

For more information on the many other amazing speakers including Viv AlbertineRobert Peston, Michael Rosensee our full Books and Debate programme.

Festival Hot Seat: Elephant and Castle

Husband and wife team, Tom Adams and Lillian Henley’s show Elephant and Castle is all about Tom's sleep talking and sleep walking. We caught up with Tom to find out more…

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Hello, our show is called Elephant and CastleIt is a Gig-Theatre show all about sleep walking and sleep talking told by a married couple, me (Tom) and Lillian. It uses live music, theatre, and 300 audio recordings of me sleep talking taken from three years to tell a personal and wider story about relationships, identity and how to cope when your partner is a parasomniac. 

Some of the audio recordings are funny. Some of them are dark and disturbing. All of them tell us something. Something that is desperate to be heard. And may be catastrophic for this relationship. It is called Elephant and Castle because the first thing I said to Lillian in my sleep was “I want to get in a wardrobe and take you to ‘Elephant and Castle”.

How and where will the work be staged?
Our show is staged like a live music gig, with piano, electric guitar and microphones
dotted around the stage. We want people to feel the intimacy of our bedroom so we
have a large inflatable bed with a dark red divan in the centre of the stage which we
manipulate, lie on top of, project animation onto. Lillian and I wear paisley pyjamas
and the feel of the show is intimate, funny and a little bit dirty. It has been described
as David Lynch meets Skegness B&B.

Why should someone come and see your show?
It is a personal story told by a real life married couple about subjects that affects us all: How do we sleep? Who are we when we go to sleep? Do we really know the person we share a bed with?

The show has a strong narrative but also a dreamlike flow to the style. The music is inspired by Americana with storytelling and humour and Lillian’s voice has been called
‘extraordinarily beautiful’ by The Stage and the humour of the songs as ‘Bill Baileyesque’.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
When Lillian and I first got together, she told me that I slept talked and slept walked a lot. I did not know this really. I knew I had a slight problem, but I didn’t know it was every night.

This made me download the cool app for the iPhone called Sleeptalk that switches on at night when any sounds are made. I realised that I was saying interesting things most nights such as “Ooooh you don’t want to see this guy, Jesus” and “Can I have a potato? Um, just one thanks”. I had been wanting to collaborate with Lillian for a long time and this felt like the perfect project to work together on. A true story about us.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
I think it is an important story because it is true. We have not doctored or exaggerated any of the stories about the sleep talking or sleep walking I do. It is a clear, intimate portrayal of a couple which invites the audience to view their own relationships in another light. The show’s message is ultimately about love and compassion for each other.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Someone who wants something different from a live performance.
Someone who enjoys watching alternative comedy
Someone who is interested in the science of sleep
Someone who would usually watch live music. They will come for the live music and really enjoy the storytelling.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
There is a moment of beautiful silliness 3/4 of the way through the show that will get people’s attention.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Woe are so proud to be programmed alongside such brilliant artists.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Tim KeyThe Castle Builder, The Cult of Water and Rear View

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Five of the Best…Feminist Festival events

To coincide with International Women’s Day - a global celebration of the economic, cultural, social and political achievements of women that takes place on 8 March each year - we shine a light on just a few of the many amazing female fronted events at this year’s Festival.

Les Amazones d’Afrique 
Les Amazones d'Afrique is a supergroup of 10 incredible West African female performers, both international stars and local musicians. Members include Mariam Doumbia, part of Amadou & Mariam, Nneka, Mariam Koné, Mouneissa Tandina, Rokia Koné, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Massan Coulibaly, and Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo. Using music as a weapon, the group fight against gender inequality. For example, money earned from their single ‘I play the Kora’ provided extra funding for the Panzi Foundation, a service that supports and treats survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As sung in ‘I play the Kora’, Les Amazones d'Afrique encourage their listeners to "rise up and fight injustice because we're all equal”.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Thu 24 May, 7.30pm. Book now on the event page. 

Bridget Christie
Bridget Christie is an English stand-up, actor and writer, often acclaimed for her feminist material. This May she is here with her latest show What Now?. Christie burst onto the Comedy scene with A Bic for her (named after the pen manufacturer who released a biro with a “slimmer barrel designed to fit more comfortably in women’s hands” and available in a range of “pretty pastel colours”) in 2013. Not only is Christie a proud human rights campaigner, but she also worked closely with Leyla Hussein - a psychotherapist and female genital mutilation survivor and campaigner. The pair made a short film for the 2017 Stand Up for FGM benefit in London. Since its production the film has been used to educate police officers, GPs and children.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Fri 18 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page

Viv Albertine
Viv Albertine is not only former lead guitarist of iconic riot grrrl female trio The Slits, but she’s also a celebrated writer. The Slits defied expectation, becoming a strong figurehead for young and empowered women at the time. Albertine's memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a brutally honest portrayal of growing up in the Thatcher years. It was a Sunday Times, Mojo, Rough Trade, and NME Book of the Year in 2014, as well as being shortlisted for the National Book Awards. 
Brighton and Hove High School, Tue 22 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.

Shami Chakrabarti
Shami Chakrabarti is a British Labour Party politician and member of the House of Lords. She is a barrister, and was the director of Liberty, an advocacy group which promotes civil liberties and human rights. Chakrabarti describes inequality as ‘the greatest human rights abuse on the planet’, and in her new book, On Women, she lays out the huge challenges women still face with honesty and clarity. Gender injustice, Shami Chakrabarti shows, is an ancient and continuing wrong that is millennial in duration and global in reach.
Brighton and Hove High School, Sat 26 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.

Ursula Martinez: Free Admission
Ursula Martinez is a London-based Anglo-Spanish British writer, performer, and cult cabaret diva noted for her use of nudity and non-actors. Martinez fuses theatrical concepts, personal experience and popular forms to create innovative, challenging, experimental theatre that is highly entertaining and reflective of our contemporary, post-modern world. She will be bringing Free Admission to Brighton Festival, a one-women play about absurdity of modern living.
The Old Market, Mon 14 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.

Interview: Jonathon Baker from The Arms of Sleep

In one of its most ambitious and magical productions to date, The Voice Project has created an epic 10-hour choral work to be performed overnight in the grounds of historic Firle Place. We talk to Jonathan Baker, co-director of The Voice Project with Sian Croose.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the amazing Arms of Sleep?
It's a 10-hour durational piece. The audience gets to experience an entire night in the company of singers, including a large choir, some soloists and instrumentalists. There will be lots of vignettes - individual film events and visual things - which happen through the night.

Where did the idea and inspiration for the show come from?
Well, we’ve had this idea over a long period of time really. I think The Arms of Sleep stemmed from the way in which sleep just seems very fascinating and mysterious. What we wanted to try and develop was an overnight piece that would allow the audience to go to bed, but at the same time, for them to experience extraordinary things.

We wanted to develop a piece about dreams which most people seem to be interested in to a certain extent. Most people are interested in the mystery of sleep, why we sleep– how we sleep– all those things. We hooked up with a real expert, who’s from Brighton actually – professor Annul Seth – at the University of Sussex. He’s the head of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness. We’ve been having quite a lot of conversations with him about various sleep cycles and how to in-train Alpha states and Betas states and things like that.

We’ve been concentrating on those elements. And there was one more element that became very important to us as we were developing the show. This was the idea of the ‘second sleep’: the segmented sleep pattern, which is what people used to do much more than they do now, and still do in lots of agrarian regions in the worlds.

They would wake up in the middle of the night and go around each other’s houses for food or beer or a chat – any kind of activity in the middle of the night. We thought that was quite fascinating. The history of that has largely been lost because it wasn’t a particularly urban act, it was quite a rural activity.

What was it that interested you about creating an overnight experience?
I think there’s something very beautiful about watching people sleep, I think that’s quite amazing. I think there is something very beautiful about watching people watching people sleep as well. So, the idea that the choir are amongst the audience in some ways or get to see the audience sleeping is really quite special, and very restful.

I think this goes back centuries and centuries when we used to sleep in large groups of people for safety. I think there’s something we’ve forgotten, I really think we have, we’ve become a lot more atomised and fragmented within our society.

Why did you decide to form a new community choir? What are the benefits of this approach?
Sian and I have been working together for a long, long time and I think we have a very particular approach. We want to work with un-auditioned choirs, we want to work with people who think they can sing, and people who think they possibly can’t. People with experience and people with no experience at all. That has always been very important to us.

What does it mean to you to be commissioned to be part of Brighton Festival?
It’s really exciting. Brighton Festival is amazing. It’s a cutting-edge festival in the world of Arts and culture worldwide. Its renowned. It’s extremely exciting to be a part of that, so we’re really pleased. Actually, it’s lovely to do a co-commission together with the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It’s so brilliant to see Artistic Organizations working together across the country, sharing things out and becoming more expansive, which I think is really important. 

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.
To find out more, watch our Spotlight film on the Arms of Sleep. 

Festival Hot Seat: Wot? No Fish!!

In our first Hot Seat Interview of 2018, Danny Braverman talks us through his one-man performance in Wot? No fish!!, an intimate look at lost art of his Great Uncle Ab.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Wot? No Fish!! is a remarkable story about discovering the art of my Great-Uncle, Ab Solomons. Ab drew a picture once a week for his wife Celie over 55-years of their marriage. The story is about lots of things, including love, art, history and catering.

How and where will the work be staged?
At the Brighthelm Centre, 8th and 9th May at 19:30pm

Why should someone come and see your show?
Audiences and critics across the world have loved the show; people laugh and cry and tell me it’s memorable and meaningful to them.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
Initially, I wanted to share the hidden art work of a remarkable ‘outsider artist’.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
The story resonates differently for different people; it may be “historical”, but it’s also fiercely contemporary. To some, the heart of the story is about the struggles of the children of immigrants; for others, the story of the institutionalisation of Ab and Celie’s disabled son Larry is the most affecting part; for others, perhaps most people, the show is about the power of love.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
This is a show that crosses divides. Bring with you someone you love; friend or family. It crosses generations. It’s a Jewish story and my fellow Jews will recognise a lot of the references. But it is also universal, most recently received very warmly in China!

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
There are a lot of astonishing revelations. The ending is a surprise and a treat too.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
It’s great to see a festival so diverse and political - that balances exciting emerging artists with established names.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
The range is amazing. I’m a massive Miles Davis fan, so the reinterpretation of Kind of Blue is exciting. I’m also hugely looking forward to StopGap Dance and Amanda Palmer.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.