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

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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: 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:

stillpointtheatre.co.uk
vibrantbody.co.uk

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.

Tenor and Bass singers sought for Brighton Festival’s unique choral project

Brighton Festival & The Voice Project seek extra male voices (16+) to perform as part of a unique new choral project, The Arms of Sleep.

Set to be one of the highlights of the Brighton Festival programme, The Arms of Sleep is an unforgettable overnight sleepover experience created by directors Sian Croose and Jonathan Baker in which audiences encounter a unique dream-like and immersive night of music and stories, sound and images. 

Choir members will need to be available for up to three performances from Fri 11 May to Tue 15 May (approximately 7pm - 11pm, and returning at 6 - 8am the following morning). Brighton’s own Kirsty Martin – Choral Conductor for Brighton Festival 2018’s Depart and Musical Director for several Brighton choirs will be co-running some of the rehearsals.

Rehearsals have been underway for the last two months and are going really well. However, The Arms of Sleep Choir is still in need of male voices. If you're a Tenor or Bass and would like to be a part of our unique project, join us at one of our rehearsals below at The Basement;

Rehearsal dates for 2018 (later dates and times subject to change):

Sat 3 March - 10.30am - 4.00pm
Tue 6 March - 7.30pm - 9.45pm
Wed 21 March- 7.30pm - 9.45pm
Sat 24 March – 10.30am - 4.00pm
Tue 10 April- 7.30pm - 9.45pm
Sat 14 April 10.30am - 4.00pm
Sun 15 April- 10.30am - 4.00pm
Wed 25 April - 7.30 - 9.45pm
Tues 1 May - 7.30pm - 9.45pm

Rehearsals on site from 8th May - exact dates and times TBC

Should you decide that you would like to partake in this very exciting project, a member's fee of £20 will be required. (Please speak to the Voice Project administrators for bursary solutions).

For more information please contact info@voiceproject.co.uk

LOOK AT THIS! David Shrigley Brighton Festival Tips

Under David Shrigley's directorship, we are going to have an amazing Brighton Festival 2018 - he’s pretty good at picking and making great shows and events. Obviously, we’ve loved a lot of his work, but here are some of his picks…

Brett Goodroad
Brett and I met in 2013 when we were both on an artist-in-residency programme in Headlands Centre for the Arts which is near San Francisco. We became good friends, and he’s just a really interesting visual artist: an amazing painter, print-maker and he also make great drawings. Brett has never exhibited his work in UK: I thought it would be a great opportunity to have his work shown here.

Brett is also a truck driver because lower-income artists don’t seem to be well supported in the United States. Most people there who are visual artists have another job as well. Oddly Brett is a truck driver which is not an easy thing to do. He drives organic vegetables from northern California to southern Texas once a week. It’s an interesting job for a visual artist to do and he’s an unusual truck driver.

Shrigley Talk & Big Book Group
I’m doing a talk about my work, which is something I do periodically. I show images of my work, and I waffle on about it and try not to make it boring! Big Book Group is an event which Craig Melvin is hosting. Craig has hosted it quite several times, and this year Matt Haig – who’s Brighton based - and Jess Kid are speaking. I think that it will be a really interesting event because they’re both really fantastic writers… and then there’s me who isn’t really.

Deerhoof 
Deerhoof are a rock band from San Francisco who I made a record cover for about ten years ago. We’ve stayed in touch ever since. They’re a fantastic band, and a band whose music is not just great on record, but also really makes sense live. So, as the Guest Director, I, they were near the top of my list for bands I wanted to bring. Whenever anyone sees them play a live show, they’re always blown away by them. They’re also going to be doing a collaboration with Stargaze which is going to be well worth seeing.

Life Drawing II
Life Model II is the second incarnation of the life model piece that I made for the Turner prize show. The first one was a male, whilst this one is a female figure. Everybody who visits the exhibition is invited to make a drawing of the life model, and all the drawings will form part of the exhibition. 

Those drawings will form the two-dimensional aspect to the exhibition. It’s a piece about drawing, it’s a piece about everybody being included, about participating and making an exhibition yourself. I suppose that the arts – visual art particularly – is often seen as elitist and inaccessible. I suppose that’s what the piece is about; that art is for everybody, and that making art is for everybody too. It’s an artwork that begets other artworks and invites you to think about who’s the artist and who’s the subject.


Iain Shaw
Iain Shaw is also a friend of mine, from Glasgow. He’s a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Elliott Smith or Jackson C Frank. I wrote a lot of silly lyrics and he made them into some really wonderful songs, quite wistful, pop, folky type songs that he’s done largely with acoustic guitar. It’s a great collaboration.

A Shit Odyssey
A Shit Odyssey is a fly on the wall documentary about the making of Pass the Spoon, an opera I made in Glasgow in 2011. A Shit Odyssey was made by Cara Connolly and Martin Clark who are friends of mine. They are documentary film makers from the fine art world in Glasgow. It’s a project that’s taken around seven years to finally be shown! I think that will be a voyage of discovery to see a slightly younger version of myself, making a fool of myself. It is really a very interesting documentary because it’s a really, really strange project. So that will be fantastic.


Ezra Furman
Ezra Furman is, I think, one of the best writers of pop songs around today. He’s somebody I haven’t seen play, but I’ve got all his records. I’ve always managed to be out of town when he’s visited before, so this is just a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to it.

Bridget Christie
Bridget Christie is a brilliant comedian from London. Again, she’s a person whose proper show I’ve always managed to miss. I’ve seen her in a small vignette of her acts that she did at an event, but I wanted to see the full show. Fortunately, she said yes to performing at the Festival – so I’m really looking forward to that!


Malcom Middleton
Malcom Middleton is well known as a solo artist; however, he is also part of the influential indie rock band Arab Strap. Malcom and I made a spoken word record together a couple years ago and I’ve also made some artwork for album covers for him. I’m a big fan of his music. I think he’s one of the best singer-songwriters in the country at the moment, or at least of his generation.

The Problem in Brighton
The main project that I’m bringing to the festival is called Problem in Brighton and it’s a new musical theatre piece. It’s a bizarre rock and roll opera in collaboration with Lee Baker, a visual artist and a talented musician. I’m not really a writer as such, but I thought it was an opportunity to make something in Brighton, sort of my first project that’s made here – the first big project – outside my studio. It’s an opportunity to get to work with people, with a venue and it’s part funded by the festival which is really great! Lee’s writing the music and then some other people I’ve met will be playing the music on instruments I’ve created. 

Become a Brighton Festival Volunteer!

Join us at our volunteer drop-in evening on Thu 8 Mar, 5pm - 7pm 

Be part of the action and volunteer with Brighton Festival 2018.

If you are passionate about the arts, Brighton Festival 2018 would love to hear from you!

Members of staff from various Brighton Festival departments will hold a special drop-in session for anyone interested in volunteering at the Festival on Thursday 8th March from 5pm - 7pm at the Brighton Dome Café-bar.

Brighton Festival’s successful volunteer scheme has been running for several years. From greeting the public and directing customers to outdoor promotions and educational work, the scheme aims to be as varied and accessible as the Festival itself, offering a well-rounded insight into how a festival works.

As a volunteer, individuals will have the opportunity to assist in delivering a whole range of exciting events throughout the May Festival and beyond; both across Brighton Dome venues and at other festival sites around the city, working with multiple Brighton Festival departments including Marketing, Artistic Planning, Press, Production and Visitor Services.

There will be opportunities for volunteers to work weekdays and weekends, daytimes and evenings from April. Don’t worry if the hours you have free are scattered, we’d still love to hear from you! For more information about these volunteering opportunities click here

Spotlight: Cuckmere: A Portrait

Discover more about Cuckmere: A Portrait, a Brighton Festival Co-commission.

For centuries the Cuckmere River has inspired artists, sheltered smugglers and preserved a host of rare habitats and wildlife as it charts a course through some of the most evocative landscapes in southern England.

In a work of beauty and eloquence, the filmmaker Cesca Eaton and the composer/conductor Ed Hughes trace the changing moods of the Cuckmere river, from its source in the Sussex Downs to its dramatic twists and turns as it meanders to the sea at Cuckmere Haven. The score, specially composed by Ed Hughes, is played live by The Orchestra of Sound and Light in this world premiere.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability
Video edited by echovideo.co.uk

Brighton Festival launches programme with David Shrigley as Guest Director

The full programme for Brighton Festival 2018, the largest annual, curated multi-arts festival in England, was unveiled today with the Turner Prize-nominated visual artist and Brighton resident David Shrigley (b.1968) as Guest Director.

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 an eclectic programme spanning music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate, from Brighton Festival commission Problem in Brighton, a brand new alt rock/pop pantomime, written and directed by David Shrigley himself to a live durational reading of Camus’ seminal The Myth of Sisyphus, and performances from genderqueer rock‘n’roll hero Ezra Furman and cult-favourite Amanda Palmer.

Alongside 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’, 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, David Shrigley’s trademark wit is also evident in his brochure cover design, featuring a hammer and a bent nail and bearing the tagline ‘Strive for Excellence’. Other events close to the artist’s heart include an exclusive collaboration between orchestral collective Stargaze and one of his favourite bands, Deerhoof; an exhibition by San-Francisco-based artist and trucker Brett Goodroad; and a double bill from his friend Malcolm Middleton, one half of Arab Strap, and Scottish musician Iain Shaw, whose quirky folk song-smithery has turned Shrigley’s poems into incisive songs on albums like Awesome and Listening to Slayer.

As ever Brighton Festival 2018 features a host of commissions and co-commissions from a wide range of national and internal artists including: Calixto Bieito’s The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety, a remarkable new production from one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors; Grand Finale by Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival Associate Artist and Brighton Festival 2014 Guest Director Hofesh Shechter, a bold and powerful vision of a world in freefall; The Arms of Sleep, an overnight choral sleepover experience from The Voice Project in which audiences encounter a unique dream-like night of music stories, sound and images; Cuckmere: A Portrait, a filmic homage to the changing moods of the Cuckmere river accompanied by a live score; and Creation (Pictures for Dorian), a new piece inspired by Oscar Wilde’s iconic character Dorian Gray from acclaimed British/German arts collective Gob Squad.

Elsewhere, circus and dance make a significant appearance in the programme via an extended visit from internationally-renowned NoFit State circus who present their dazzling new production Lexicon; a collaboration from Australia’s dance luminaries Dancenorth, Lucy Guerin Inc and Gideon Obarzanek and Indonesian music duo Senyawa, Attractor; Brighton Festival commission KAYA from the Brighton-based choreographer Ceyda Tanc’s all-female company which fuses traditional Turkish folk dance with contemporary style; an award-winning debut by one of the most exciting new companies on the contemporary circus scene, Fauna; and a collaboration between Netherlands-based theatre-maker Boukje Schweigman, visual artist Cocky Eek and performer Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti in Blaas (Blow), a weird but wonderful ballet of abstract configurations.

From A Change is Gonna Come, a collaboration between three of the most gifted soul, jazz and rap artists, Carleen Anderson, Nikki Yeoh and Speech Debelle, exploring the power of the protest song to Les Amazones d'Afrique, West Africa’s first all-female super group, formed in the fight against violence towards women, and Brownton Abbey - a new Afrofuturist collective headlined by New Orleans ‘Queen of Bounce’ Big Freedia, best known for her appearance on Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ track and collaborations with Diplo and RuPaul. The contemporary music and spoken word programme is particularly wide-ranging, including a  Brighton Festival Commission with Travis Alabanza: Before I Step Outside (You Love Me), an evening of Black trans poetics with one of the UK’s leading trans voices; and performances from This is the Kit and Jungle also feature.

Alongside the return of caravan, a three-day biennial curated industry showcase of the best new theatre from across England, which is open to the public for the first time this year, theatre highlights include National Theatre of Scotland’s Adam, the remarkable, true story of a young trans man and his journey to reconciliation, directed by award-winning theatre director Cora Bissett; and Kneehigh’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Emma Rice’s acclaimed ode to Marc and Bella Chagall.

Other highlights include appearances from Lemn Sissay, Michael Rosen, Rose Tremain, Iain Sinclair, Bridget Christie, Brett Anderson, Viv Albertine, Tim Key and Shami Chakrabarti; an exhibition from controversial artist duo Gilbert & George, and a touring mobile installation from multi-award winning contemporary designer Morag Myerscough; two special classical concerts to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brighton Festival Choir, Britten’s War Requiem and Belshazzar’s Feast, and performances from Vox Luminis and Cédric Tiberghien.

As ever Brighton Festival will kick off with the Children’s Parade - the largest event of its kind in Europe - produced by Same Sky. Other family events include Snigel and Friends from leading UK disabled dancer Caroline Bowditch’s company; the world premiere of I Wish I Was a Mountain, a re-imagined version of Herman Hesse’s classic fairytale - from writer, performer and former Glastonbury Poetry Slam Champion Toby Thompson; and the UK premiere of Apples, a wordless and charming feast for the senses.

Brighton Festival 2018 also continues its emphasis on programming work in the community with the return of Your Place - two weekends of free performances and arts activities in Hangleton and East Brighton. Delivered in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre and community steering groups, both weekends will present international and national artists alongside local artists and community groups. Your Place joins regular free, participatory events such as City Reads and Young City Reads; and Weekend Without Walls, two days of free arts in the parks.

David Shrigley says: “As a resident of Brighton and Hove the Festival is always a delight. Those who have visited the Festival before will know that having such an incredible array of events occur in our city every year is a great privilege. I’m very excited about this year’s lineup. Not only for the things that I have selected but also for the things I have only read about; one of the best things about the Festival for me is that it can be a voyage of discovery.”

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival says: “Like Brighton Festival, David Shrigley’s work is for everyone. Both powerful and funny, his work manages to speak to an incredibly wide audience. Alongside his own artwork, he is also a great advocate for the arts helping our health and wellbeing. We are thrilled that David is bringing his distinctive take to the Festival and the city he has now made his home.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Brighton Festival is one of the year’s cultural highlights, not just in Brighton itself – but nationally. It presents a programme of work that is accessible, imaginative, exciting and inspiring, engaging audiences from across the city and beyond; a programme that we are pleased to support. David Shrigley has a wonderfully dark and offbeat take on life and I really look forward to seeing his influence on this year’s Festival. Art and culture make a huge contribution to Brighton’s success and its reputation for excellence. With its international reach and fantastic programme, which spans a wide range of art-forms, Brighton Festival is a significant part of what makes Brighton such a great place to live, work and visit.”

Spotlight: Calixto Bieito: The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety

In a co-commission with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Holland Festival, the Brighton Festival presents The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety.

In this exciting production, the tempestuous relationship between sex, anxiety and music is explored and examined by one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors, Calixto Bieito.

Music and drama collide as the award-winning string powerhouse The Heath Quartet perform alongside an equally stunning quartet of actors to deliver an unmissable montage of melody and madness. These eight artists will take you on a journey through time to explore how our innermost thoughts battle with our artistic impulses.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability
Video edited by echovideo.co.uk

Spotlight: The Arms of Sleep

Discover more about The Arms of Sleep, a Brighton Festival Co-commission with Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

In one of its most ambitious and magical productions to date, The Voice Project takes us on an epic 10-hour immersive overnight experience of choral music, film and animation set in the beautiful grounds of historic stately home Firle Place.

Through dusk and darkness to dawn, drift and dream with The Voice Project Brighton Choir as you travel into the space of sleep.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability
Video produced by echovideo.co.uk
Stills by JMA Photography

Spotlight: Gob Squad: Creation (Pictures for Dorian)

Creation is the realm of gods and artists, who create beauty through sheer will and their own bare hands. But who decides what is beautiful?

British/German arts collective Gob Squad have performed all over the world for 25 years. Now middle-aged, they have no desire to exit the stage just yet. UK Premiere and Brighton Festival co-commission, Creation (Pictures for Dorian), is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s iconic character Dorian Gray, who remains eternally youthful at a terrible cost to his soul. 

There’s probably a little bit of Dorian in all of us. Joined onstage by older and younger local performers, Gob Squad peeps behind the vanity mirror to question beauty, morality and power - and ask why we so crave the eye of the beholder.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability
Video edited by echovideo.co.uk

Spotlight: Hofesh Shechter Company: Grand Finale

Discover more about Hofesh Shechter Company’s Grand Finale, a Brighton Festival Co-commission.

‘One of the British dance scene’s hottest properties’ (New York Times), Brighton Festival Associate Artist and former Guest Director Hofesh Shechter is back with his exhilarating new work.

Grand Finale is at once comic, bleak and beautiful, reflecting the uncertainty and confusion of the troubled times we are living in. Characteristically visceral, Shechter creates a vision of a world in free fall, full of anarchic energy and violent comedy.

With an exceptional international ensemble of ten dancers and six live musicians, Grand Finale is part gig, part dance, part theatre, and wholly original.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability
Video edited by echovideo.co.uk

Spotlight: Your Place

Your Place returns to the Brighton Festival with another exciting programme of free theatre, art, dance, music, outdoor games and workshops. For the past year, the community steering committees of East Brighton & Hangleton have been working together to create a vibrant weekend of arts and activities for their local communities.

Brighton Festival, Brighton People’s Theatre and the community steering groups are proud to bring back Your Place for a second year following its wonderful success in 2017. Expect new and exciting additions including bouncy castles, delicious food and more activities for people of all ages.

Artists joining us this year include David Shrigley, The Ragroof Players, The Future is Unwritten Theatre Company, Herringbone Arts, Joanna Neary, Kate McCoy, Culture Clash, Touched Theatre, Dundu and Worldbeaters, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts and many more.

Video produced by echovideo.co.uk

Spotlight: Your Place

Your Place returns for a second year with another exciting programme of free theatre, dance, music, art, outdoor games and workshops. For the past year, the community steering committees of East Brighton & Hangleton have been working together to conjure up a weekend of adventure for the people of their local areas.

Now, Brighton Festival, Brighton People’s Theatre and the community steering groups are proud to bring back Your Place following its wonderful success in 2017.This year will feature lots more exciting additions including bouncy castles, delicious food and more activities for people of all ages.

Artists joining us this year include David Shrigley, The Ragroof Players, The Future is Unwritten Theatre Company, Herringbone Arts, Joanna Neary, Kate McCoy, Culture Clash, Touched Theatre, Dundu and Worldbeaters, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts and many more.

Video produced by echovideo.co.uk

Title revealed for City Reads 2018

Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country chosen for city-wide 'big read' as part of Brighton Festival

Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival are delighted to reveal that Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country has been chosen as this year’s City Read across Brighton & Hove and beyond. The concept is simple: one book, by one author, is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.

Sacred Country tells the story of Mary Ward who one day stands shivering in an England field in February 1952 and realises she is meant to be a boy. She is six years old. From its opening pages Sacred Country vows to take the reader on a compelling literary journey through Mary's fight to become Martin. Spanning three decades, from the oppressive English countryside of the 1950s, to London in the Swinging Sixties, to 1970’s America, Sacred Country follows Mary in her plight to find a place of safety and fulfilment in a savage and confusing world.

Fox Fisher, trans artist and activist said: ‘As a trans person myself, I never saw trans characters in books (or in ‘real life’, for that matter) growing up. Although Sacred Country is written by an author that isn’t trans, I was utterly gripped with the storyline and characters. The audiobook is read by a trans man which adds to the authenticity and is an example of the level of care and consideration when creating this book. As a film-maker, I could really visualise how well this would translate to a feature length fiction. And when the time comes, I hope the person to make the film is me!’

Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, City Reads commented: 'Sacred Country tells the compelling story of Mary, born in the wrong body and their arduous journey to become Martin. Despite being written in 1992, Sacred Country is a novel that deserves to be re-discovered as it is still a hugely relevant work. Mary’s story is told with skill, compassion and empathy. Rose Tremain is one of the UK’s most respected writers and we are delighted to be welcoming her to Brighton & Hove in May to discuss this groundbreaking novel with readers across the City.’

Rose Tremain was one of only five women writers to be included in Granta’s original list of 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 1983, and was made a CBE in 2007. Her award-winning novels and short stories have been published worldwide in 27 countries. Sacred Country won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and Prix Femina Etranger. It has oft been compared to Virginia Woolf's iconic novel Orlando through its reconsideration of the essence of gender. 

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: ‘We are delighted that City Reads is part of Brighton Festival again this year - building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. To have a writer of the calibre of Rose Tremain as our selected author is particularly exciting and we look forward to people reading and enjoying the book together over the coming months.’

Victoria Murray-Browne, Senior Editor, Vintage said: ‘We’re thrilled that Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country has been picked for this year’s City Reads. Set in rural Suffolk in the 1950s, it tells the story of Mary who, aged six, has a sudden revelation: I am not Mary. That is a mistake. I am not a girl. I'm a boy. It’s a story about the search for identity and finding fulfilment in an unforgiving world that resonates as strongly today as when it was first published 25 years ago’

From its launch on World Book Night (23 April) to the final event at Brighton Festival on 13 May, there are a wide range of activities on offer as part of City Reads, aimed at encouraging residents across the City (and beyond) to get reading and start talking. Highlights include: the return of the Booky Photo Booth at Jubilee Library (23 April - 5 May), the ever popular City Reads Book Quiz on Weds 25 April in Lewes and Brighton on Weds 2 May, crime writer William Shaw’s Impromptu Book Group podcast on Thurs 26 April, themed film screenings at Jubilee Library and Depot (Lewes) and of course Rose Tremain, live at Brighton Festival for the City Reads finale on Sunday 13 May 2018.

For more information visit the City Reads website. To find out more about this year’s Young City Reads ‘big read’ (Greg James and Chris Smith's Kid Normal), visit our News page.