Brighton Festival Live: PSK Trio
Africa Railway Project is the new live concept from Portuguese master bassist Theo Pascal, vocalist Carmen Souza and Mozambican percussionist and drummer Elias Kacomanolis. For the last few years, they have been conquering stages around the world with the Carmen Souza Project. Now PSK Trio sets out to explore other African roots and rhythms - especially those from Lusophone countries - in a more intimate set. You’re invited to join them on the Africa Railwayand embark on a new journey to an unknown destination.
Peacock Poetry Prize winners announced
The winners of the Peacock Poetry Prize 2015 - an annual creative writing competition produced by Brighton Festival and Brighton, Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC) - have been announced.
The annual creative writing competition, produced by Brighton Festival and Brighton, Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), asks local poets aged between 7 - 18 years to explore and respond to a specific subject in an imaginative and inventive way. 2015 saw the writers respond to the theme of ‘birds’; a subject chosen by Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director and award-winning author Ali Smith – which reflected one of the central themes of the Festival itself.
As Ali Smith writes -
Who were the first singers?
What direct link back to the days of the dinosaurs can we see all round us in the air, in the trees, on the ground, every day?
What has bones that are hollow to make themselves even lighter?
Birds. They're waiting in the wings.
What kind of creature – apart from people in an aeroplane, I mean – can fly for miles but be completely asleep all the way?
Which ones can fly backwards, and which can beat its wings 50 times a second?
Which can fly underwater?
Which can fly nearly a thousand miles a day?
Which helped with the war effort in both the first and the second world wars, and were even given medals for their service?
And here's a question as old as the birds : why did that chicken cross the road?
A charm of chaffinches, a chime of wrens, a colony of gulls, a congregation of eagles, an exaltation of larks, a flamboyance of flamingos, a gaggle of geese, a glittering of hummingbirds, a gulp of swallows, a huddle of penguins, a kettle of hawks, a murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings, a paddling of ducks, a quarrel of sparrows, a wisdom of owls.
Spread your wings.
Submissions were divided into three age groups - those writers aged between 7-10 years, 11-14 years and 15-18 years old.
If Birds Could Talk by 10-year old Laura Boyd won the 8-10 years category, The Boy and the Bird by Sarah Adegbite aged 13 won the 11-14 category, and 16-year old Olivia Sutherland won the 14-18 age range with Pigeonholed – A Sonnet for the Birds.
Winners were presented with their prizes by Ali Smith.
Pippa Smith, Head of Creative Learning at Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said,
‘the quality of work submitted is always astounding and we hope the poets pursue their dreams of making careers from their writing.’
Chris Thomson, Principal at BHASVIC said
‘I’m delighted that the BHASVIC-inspired Peacock Poetry Prize goes from strength to strength. It is a wonderful way of bringing the writing talents of young people from all across Sussex to a focus. Thanks to the brilliant work of Brighton Festival staff, the Prize opens a door not only into the world of poetry but also into our marvellous Brighton Festival for all our entrants.’
In Photos: Brighton Festival Week Three
Wow - what a month we have had! We've enjoyed every second of Brighton Festival 2015 and we hope you had a blast too. This past week, we've had outdoor spectaculars, dreamlike circus, ventriloquism, incredible music and much more. Explore the happenings of week three by clicking the photos below...
Brighton Festival and Sussex Uni Film Project
In the last few months it has been a pleasure to work with Sussex University students, as they've worked to create a short promotional clip for Brighton Festival 2015. In the run up to the Festival, we were delighted to showcase this fantastic, animated, promotional clip for our 26 Letters programme of children's literature events across Brighton Festival channels.
Here's a selection of our favourite projects submitted...
Have you spotted our birds flying across windows?
They get around, our yellow birds. You may have seen them swooping and diving across some of the windows of local businesses. Some of these shops/bars/cafes/restaurants have been taking part in our Big Bird Trail and some are just getting into the Festival spirit. We'd like to say thank you to the following local businesses for getting involved in Brighton Festival this year:
RSPB Shop for Nature
Pussy Home Boutique
Whirligig Toy Shop
Terre a Terre
Sally Salon Services
The Dorset Street Bar
Sam Lee celebrates unsung Brighton folk legend in special Nightingale walk
Mercury Prize nominated folk singer and song collector Sam Lee is paying homage to the late Mary Ann Haynes – a legendary Brighton-based Romany gypsy singer – as part of his award-winning Nightingale Walks (Tuesday 19, Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 May from 9pm) at Brighton Festival 2015.
Born in 1905 in a Faversham wagon parked behind The Coach and Horses in Portsmouth, Mary Ann Haynes settled in Brighton where she worked as a flower-seller on the waterfront, earning enough to support her family but never achieving success as a singer in her lifetime. After her death in 1977 she was discovered by renowned folk recordist Mike Yates and her legacy of many hundreds of songs have now entered into the folk revival repertoire and adopted by self –confessed song collector Sam Lee.
‘I first discovered Mary Ann Haynes while I was indexing the Sound Archives at The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library about 10 years ago. I was set to work on the Mike Yates archive - he was the one who discovered her and recorded her singing, so I got the privilege of listening to all the songs he recorded beyond the ones that were publicly released on Topic Records in the 70s,’ explains Lee.
‘I think her songs have been a go--to repertoire as she had wonderful full and melodically interesting versions of some classic songs, and had that unique gypsy modal style that gave her tunes this wonderfully exotic twist to them.. I think it was some years before the taste for these versions came more popular, hence her possible lack of featuring in the revival festivals and folk clubs.’
In a recent concert at Brighton Dome Corn Exchange Lee met Betty Date, Mary Ann Haynes’ only surviving child who had seen him talk about his love of Hayne’s music at the launch of Brighton Festival 2013.
Sam Lee will perform Haynes’ Trees they Do grow High, Colour of Amber, Lovely Johnny and The Tanyard Side during his Brighton Festival event; a one-of-a-kind promenade performance taking place in ‘a melodius plot of beechen green’ out on the South Downs. In the dead silence of the night, accompanied by musicians, Sam will sing traditional songs to the nightingales as they sing back to him from the thickets in what promises to be a spellbinding and unforgettable call-and-response collaboration between man and bird.
In Photos: Brighton Festival Week Two
With Moomins and wolves, spectacular visuals and super sounds, this past week at Brighton Festival has been pretty incredible! Peruse our pics by clicking below and see all the fun that was had...
Too see what other Brighton Festival fun awaits head to our What's On page.All photos by Victor Frankowski
Brighton Festival Live: Masha Gessen
The Harriet Martineau Lecture
Introduced by Ali Smith
Presented with New Writing South
Celebrated Russian-American journalist, author and activist Masha Gessen is world-renowned for her outspoken opposition to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and as Russia’s leading LGBT rights activist. At one stage she was, in her own words, ‘probably the only publicly out gay person in the whole of Russia’. Her latest book, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, is an investigation into the origins and motivations of the dissident art-punk group that made headlines around the world.
An exploration of freedom of speech and investigative journalism.
Masha Gessen delivers the annual Harriet Martineau Lecture commissioned by Writers’ Centre Norwich and first performed in Norwich on Saturday 16 May as part of the City of Literature programme. Norwich is England’s only UNESCO City of Literature. www.writerscentrenorwich.org.uk
Commissioned by Writers’ Centre Norwich to celebrate the life and legacy of Harriet Martineau, a 19th century radical thinker, writer and the world’s first female journalist.
Guest Blog: Montefiore Meets Biscuitland
What to make of a show that asks you to view a neurological disorder/disability, as a 'superpower'? Well Jess Thom wants you to know that Tourette's is what makes her special and she's changing the world 'one tic at a time' and has turned her tics into some riotous entertainment.
The show, Backstage in Biscuit Land, is a mini-guide into the life of Jess who lives with the tics and outbursts caused by the syndrome. The lazy language of writing about disease wanted me to instantly nominate Jess as a Tourette's 'sufferer' but there was not much suffering on display during an anarchic show in which Jess and her co-performer Jess Mabel-Jones (known throughout as 'Chopin') told us about Jess's life.
Her Tourette's required no description. Her vocal tic of 'biscuit' and repetitive chest beating were on clear display throughout and cleverly incorporated into the show. At times it was difficult to tell whether what we were hearing was an inventive script or a new tic. As a show it more resembled Vic Reeves at his most absurd than a medical documentary.Tourette's is a neurological disorder that has become a lazy comic shorthand for scatological and offensive behaviour. Backstage in Biscuit Land trod a fine line in both debunking and reinforcing that view. Whilst we laughed at Jess's disinhibited and furiously inventive swearing, we were also educated as she explained that only 10% of those with the syndrome will swear in this way. We also sympathised as she explained that the same behaviour which had brought her to the theatre as performer had also seen her turned away from theatres as an audience member.
The context was important but dislocating. Her behaviours were exhibited prominently and for comic effect; seeing Jess massacre a plate of strawberries on a stage in a show was hilarious but seeing the same thing unprepared in a communal dining experience might be terrifying. The medic in me wanted to know what short circuit in neurological wiring led to this, whether she hurt her chest and why she was getting worse (a fact that was signified by a comedic love letter to her wheelchair).
In the middle of all the hilarious insanity of free biscuits, songs about bestiality and hedgehog finger puppets, we were pulled up short when an audience member was asked to read Jess's care plan in the event of her tics culminating in a full-blown seizure (a common event). As the seizure was superbly enacted by Chopin's puppetry the volunteer struggled to read the banal medical algorithm (with its' litany of safety and diazepam) without shedding a tear. The theatre was silent but for Jess's own unavoidable interruptions. In that moment we saw that in sharing her superpower with us Jess was also allowing us the privilege of seeing her vulnerability.
As 'Touretteshero” Jess has positively incorporated her disease into her reality in a way that many of us could never do. Her resilience and humour in the face of being different is a lesson for us all.
By Richard Simcock, Consultant Oncologist, Montefiore Hospital.
The Montefiore Hospital working in partnership with Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, supporting community wellbeing via the arts.
In pictures: Week 2
With Shakespeare and sunshine, spectacular visuals and super sounds, this second week of Brighton Festival was pretty incredible!
Photos by Vic Frankowski, Chis Bethall and Jordan Hughes
The Measure Of All Things' Sam Green On...
The Measure of All Things is a new live cinema performance by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green (The Weather Underground) with acclaimed chamber group yMusic. Here he discusses the film and his love of world records (book here for The Measure of All Things)
Sam Green on...
… describing The Measure Of All Things as a ‘pretty weird’ movie:
It’s a meditation on the Guinness Book of World Records. To me the book is very striking because in it are many records that say so much about Fate and how we live in a world we don’t understand. The basic building blocks of our lives are dealt with and evoked in the book, so my show is a meditation on that; a series of portraits of people, places and things, from the oldest person to the tallest person to the oldest living thing. In that sense, it evokes a kind of poem about fate, time and mystery of being alive.
… loving the Guinness Book of World Records:
Yeah – when I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with it and spent a lot of time just looking at the pictures. About 5 years ago I came across an old paperback copy of it and I was struck by two things; one – I remembered all the photos… looking at them I was automatically transported back in time to being a kid, but two – I was struck by the serious side of it, that it was, in some ways, a tragic, odd self portrait of humanity and the outer contours of the human experience. It really moved me. That’s where this came from.
… on the motivation to find record-breakers:
It was about putting together a poem that evoked the themes that I felt from the book. It’s an empathic impulse – a sense that we are all living with the mysteries of being alive. Take the guy who was struck by lightening seven times, he - in a way - is the quintessential person dealing with Fate in all its inexplicableness. He has no idea why he was struck seven times, and we all have that, to some extent; wonderful things happen to us and terrible things happen to us, and we never quite understand why. It’s all a mystery to some extent. The piece came out of trying to evoke that feeling.
… on choosing the subjects of the films:
That’s the fun part – I basically went through the book and pursued the things that resonated with me emotionally. Y’know, like the tallest man and the dolphin [Bao Xishan used his long arms to dislodge fatal plastic accidentally ingested by a dolphin at an aquarium] – I love that one. I had someone shoot him in Mongolia and got the footage of him with the dolphin, so it’s just a great story that hits all the right notes. It’s odd, tragic, and beautiful in a way. It was very fun to look into these.
… on the appeal of live cinema:
A lot of different things! I got started in it when making the film about utopia. I was a little grumpy about the fact that as a filmmaker now, you have to accept that people will be watching your work on their laptops whilst their checking Facebook. I do it – it’s how we do things now! We pay attention in fleeting ways on our computers – everything is a little more throwaway – and I didn’t want my work to be in that context. So there’s a lot of reasons why live cinema appeals to me; from aesthetic, to political to economic. I feel we’re being pushed by technology and the market all the time to be more alone with our devices, watching things in very fleeting ways. I feel, especially with cinema, that people coming together and having a collective experience is powerful – that’s the magic of cinema. I love that feeling when the lights go down and the movie starts, and I want my work to be in that world. I think there’s something much more meaningful about it. People often say ‘well so many less people will see your work if you do it this way’… y’know, you have to travel all the way, they have to travel to see it; that’s true, the audience is radically smaller, but I’d much rather have far fewer people have a meaningful experience – something that will linger with them for a while after – than for millions of people to have a throwaway experience when we watch a video online. Also, it is fun, I get nervous, it’s a challenge, and it’s great to work with musicians and travel around with bands. I just keep trying to see what the form can do. Each time I’ve done it, I’ve said ‘well I’m going to try and do it like this’. I’m still curious and inspired about it.
… on the fleeting nature of world records:
I’ve always liked that connection between the form and the content. In this case, the piece is about the fleeting nature of life, the provisional nature of all our efforts. In that sense, the form fits that. For example, the current oldest person in the world just died, so the piece is an organic, ephemeral work that changes and is never quite the same… which is how life is.
… on band yMusic:
yMusic is fantastic. They are a new music chamber group. I went to see the band The Dirty Projectors in New York and yMusic was playing with the band, sort of as their backing band. They played a few songs themselves to start the show and I was mesmerised. Their sound was huge. They had this epic, huge quality to their sound which I really wanted for this piece. One of the great things about the live form is that you can do so much more than you can with a regular movie. The music they play in a regular movie would probably be too much, but in a live context somehow it works and you give yourself over to it more. They’re at the nexus of classical and rock – it’s a really interesting new music world. They’re also very cool.
…on the most interesting person he spoke to in the making of The Measure of All Things:
I think the woman with the longest name. She has this enormous name which just goes on and on. Her mother gave her that name, so it’s not as if she created it herself. At first I thought it was just gibberish… like someone fell asleep on the keyboard… but if you look closely at it you start to see words. Her mother made this crazy long name, but within it there’s city names like ‘Paris’, qualities like ‘love’, there’s other peoples name’s from her family; it’s an odd and wonderful quilt of all these different pieces of ideas and aspirations… and it works! She likes it and gets attention from it. She was on Jay Leno and he gave her a driver’s license as a gag! It’s really interesting to me because there’s the idea that a name makes a person – you name a person and they grow into that name.
… on breaking a record himself:
The great irony of all this is that I did end up in the Guinness Book of World Records this year… and I didn’t even have to hula-hoop for 78 hours! They got in touch with me because they found a photo online of me at the quietest place on earth – an anechoic chamber – and it’s a photo of me holding a microphone. They asked me if they could use it to illustrate the quietest place on earth. I said of course – I always wanted to be in the book, but could never figure out how. I’m on page 74, right next to the ‘Most Valuable Tongue’.
Director Susannah Waters on Being Both...
Being Both is an original production commissioned by Brighton Festival, directed by Susannah Waters and starring renowned mezzo-soprano Alice Coote. Inspired by Handel’s ‘bravura, amazing, profound’ arias and his ‘incredible compassion for human foibles’, Being Both curates the richest moments from Handel’s repertoire, in order to explore the complexities of gender in a modern context.
The production brings together vocals from Alice Coote, the world-class English Concert Orchestra led by Harry Bicket, and visual references from Ali Smith’s book How to be Both in a beautiful and thought-provoking meditation on what it is to be male, female and everything in-between.
We chatted to Susannah about the complexities of gender, her love affair with Handel, and how the orchestra in Being Both will be part of the action.
Susannah Waters on…
…The role of gender in Being Both
“Really, what we’re doing is trying to explore the whole hugely complex subject of gender and the world as it is today and how we’re affected by our own sense of gender: how masculine or feminine we feel we are and if that is a bit of a mismatch with how we’re meant to be, or how our job asks us to be. Also, very much thinking about how an audience sitting in a theatre is affected by gender: by someone’s costume, or the way they look and if someone costumed like a man is singing those words. If someone who has the appearance of a woman is singing those exact same words, they’re very different and they have very different connotations, even if it’s the exact same text.”
“All the music is by Handel which is, of course, the best starting point in the world. I keep saying to Alice that there are some arias that are almost unbreakable in terms of the director screwing them up, or anyone screwing them up. They’re like Shakespeare: there are some pieces in the world that you can do almost nothing bad to, because they are infinitely playable and so full of richness. So we’ve got quite a lot of those really bravura, amazing, profound arias in the piece. Harry Bicket was saying yesterday, it’s kind of the greatest hits of Handel that we’ve collected. It’s really, actually, the pieces that Alice and I really wanted to explore and she wanted to sing.
He’s much above in terms of humanity, and understands everyone’s weaknesses and strengths and courage. For me, that fluidity is in his music; that compassion. He was very much a theatre maker. Like Shakespeare, he would nab a bit of music from that thing he’d written twenty years ago, and put it in this bit. A lot of the pieces were very piecemeal: recycling bits of music, recycling bits of ballet and sticking it here, and turning that into an aria. You never feel that it’s just kind of, lazy un-thought through music. He was very much a man of the theatre. He felt happiest in that theatrical milieu, in the middle of all those people that create an opera.”
…On working with Harry Bicket and the English Concert Orchestra
“I’m such a fan of this orchestra. I’ve gone to see them in concert, doing concert performances of operas. The last time I saw them, doing Alcina at the Barbican, it was an amazing line-up of singers, but I spent a lot of my time watching the orchestra, because they are so engaged when they play. Sometimes you go and see orchestra concerts and the orchestra look a bit jaded, they look a bit kind of ‘another show’. The English Concert Orchestra are just in their bodies, they’re so with the music, so in our show they’re very much onstage. I’m bringing forward some of the soloists to the forestage to be part of the action with Alice. I really wanted them to be an equal part of the visual show, so they are very much there on stage. They’re just fantastic, for me they’re my favourite Baroque orchestra around – just amazing players.”
The Tallest Tortillas, to the World’s Largest Timewarp - we investigate Brighton's world record attempts
The Measure of All Things, coming to Brighton Festival on Sat 23 and Sun 24 May, is an innovative ‘live documentary’, created by Academy Award-nominated film-maker Sam Green. The multi-disciplinary performance incorporates film, a live soundtrack from yMusic, and live narration from Green. This format allows him freedom from the restrictions of film, combined with the energy of a live audience, in an unparalleled production which promises to push the boundaries of the documentary genre.
Loosely inspired by the Guinness Book of World Records, the film weaves together portraits of record-breaking people, places and things: from the tallest man on earth, to the oldest living thing. Green tells Extended Play “in my mind, it’s a piece about time and fate and weird things we’re compelled to do — things we don’t even understand why we’re compelled to do them”. World Record Breakers form the basis for a poignant exploration of what Green calls the oddness and ‘inexplicable nature of being alive’.
In the spirit of The Measure of All Things, we decided to delve into Brighton’s very own collection of World Records (and attempts), from the wonderful to the wacky. Here are some of our favourites:
- The Official UK Rocky Horror Fan Club danced their way to victory as the most people dancing the Time Warp in costume on Brighton Beach in 2009. 1635 people took part, but were outdone in 2010 by 8239 time warp-ers at the Annual Halloween Carnival in Hollywood. Watch the Brighton Time Warpers...
- Heroic Brighton resident Dan Lawson holds the World Record for treadmill running, managing 226 kilometers in 7 days – the equivalent of 20 marathons! Keeping occupied by watching films, and fuelling himself on rice, veggie burgers and poppadums with mango chutney, he ran across the finish line in 2009 and remains unbeaten.
- The Wold Record for the most people crammed in a Mini is 27, and was achieved by Dani and the mini-skirts at the London to Brighton Mini Run in 2014. See how it's done...
- Brighton’s beloved Volks Railway holds the record for the First Public Electric Railway Still in Operation - it set off on its maiden voyage in 1883.
- The tallest stack of tortillas was created in Jubilee Square in 2010 – standing at an impressive 58 cm (1 ft 10 in)
- Karl-Heinz Hille from Germany is the holder of the World Record for most wins at the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Helping him make history was his title of Best Imperial Partial Beard at the 2007 Championships in Brighton.
- In 2012 over 300 people gathered in an unofficial record attempt to bring together as many people dressed as Kate Bush re-enacting the dance to the iconic Wuthering Heights music video. Here is the final result...
More on Sam Green Extended Play
Timewarp record Timewarp.org
Treadmill record - The Argus
Mini record Guinness World Records
Volks Railway Guinness Book of Records
Tallest stack of Tortillas Guinness World Records
Beard Championship Record Guinness World Records
Spooning Record Virtual Festivals
Agnès Varda is first woman to receive honorary Palme D’Or at Cannes
Agnès Varda – who made a very special personal appearance at Brighton Festival 2015 – is to receive an honorary Palme D’Or at Cannes this year in recognition of her career.
The legendary French filmmaker and artist, whose incredible body of work is celebrated at Brighton Festival this year with a new art installation called Beaches, Beaches at University of Brighton Gallery, a series of screenings of a selection of her films, and a special lecture at Duke of York’s, will be the first woman ever selected for the distinction.
Varda joins the ranks of only three other directors — Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci —in being recognised in this way for the global impact of their body of work.
Already the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award by the European Film Academy for her outstanding body of work, Varda - now 86 - has created some of the most interesting female protagonists in 20th-century cinema.
Audiences can visit her Brighton Festival gallery installation ‘Beaches, Beaches’ at University of Brighton Gallery until 24 May 2015. Comprised of images and videos related to French beaches, the installation references, in Varda’s words:
“memories of an old photograph, a puzzled image of a young man on the beach, colourful plastic objects such as flip flops and rubber rings and all through the lovely sound of the sea border.”
The free installation runs from Saturday 2 May to Sunday 24 May, open daily from 10am – 5pm (and 10am – 8pm on Thursdays) at University of Brighton Gallery. Click here for more information.
Varda’s work is often connected to the French New Wave, and her early films were clear precedents for the stylistic tendencies which the New Wave directors delineated. However, her work remains particular to her own unique perspective on the world, resisting the paradigms of movements in art and film.
The themes and issues in her films focus on time and people, the collective unconscious, and social taboos. Her work is also distinct from the French New Wave for its crossing of genres, as she is known as much for her documentaries and short films as for her feature-length dramas. Not limiting herself to France, her films have been shot in a variety of locations, including the USA, Cuba and Iran.
Brighton Festival Live: Stephen Upshaw & Veronika Trisko
Exoticism and Folk Music
viola & piano
Bloch Suite for Viola and Piano
Raymond Yiu Elegaic Fragments
Bartók Romanian Folk Dances
Travel to far-off lands with the American violist Stephen Upshaw and his regular collaborator Veronika Trisko. Stephen’s quest for new musical horizons has taken him to the furthest reaches of the repertoire, including pieces written specially for him, such as Raymond Yiu’s Elegiac Fragments, inspired by Middle Eastern music. Also rooted in the East is Bloch’s Suite for Viola and Piano and closer to home, Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances are irresistibly rhythmic.
Charlotte Vincent on...
Vincent Dance Theatre – the Brighton-based dance company and associate company of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival founded by choreographer and director Charlotte Vincent – is celebrating its 21st birthday this year in style as they head to Brighton Festival 2015 with two very special works; Underworld and Look At Me Now, Mummy, as part of their 21 Works / 21 Years tour.
Both shows will be performed as normal on Tuesday 12 May, before a wholly unique live event on Wednesday 13 May which sees Underworld and Look At Me Now, Mummy performed concurrently, and back to back, in an epic four hour and 45 minute durational and immersive experience… one in which audiences are invited and encouraged to walk between each show, coming and going as they please.
We spoke to Charlotte who shared her thoughts on the two shows and the durational performance.
CHARLOTTE VINCENT ON…
...Look At Me Now, Mummy:
“You can read Look At Me Now, Mummy in several ways; as a new mother, someone who’d like to be a mother, someone who has lost children or babies… it’s not as literal as it sounds; the context is a slight domestic madness, really. It’s a beautiful solo performance – very few words and not a lot dance, but it’s all movement based – with a soundtrack of white noise and some beautiful bits of BBC Radio 3-type music. The rest is silence… we almost made it a bit like a silent movie; it’s a woman lost in her own imagination, going through a series of rituals to keep herself sane… but actually in doing those rituals, she’s going a bit madder by the minute! Motherhood is a kind of repetitious madness, which I don’t think is talked about much.
“It’s completely choreographed down to the last gesture, look and breath… but obviously in the durational version, those very finely tuned deliveries start to break down a little bit just through tiredness and exhausted… by the sixth version of her forty minute show, dancer Aurora Lubos is actually going a bit mad with the delivery of it as a performer, never mind as the persona on stage”
“Underworld is a vastly different piece of work to Look At Me Now, Mummy. It’s a huge ensemble piece for eight performers. It has a haunting score of children’s voices, church bells and the river that runs under the railway arches where we originally did a site specific version of the show. It’s really strong, powerful and moving. It’s very loosely based on the Orpheus myth - the dancers are trapped in an underworld. You can sit in it for thirty minutes and be quite transfixed, but most come in and end up staying for two-and-a-quarter hours and watch it as a show. It wasn’t made like that, but people get drawn into the world and stay, because they want to see what happens next. We’re finding most people sit it out and come away quite transformed.”
...The five hour durational performance of Underworld and Look At Me Now, Mummy:
“All the performers are at the top of their game… they’ve got incredible stamina. For them, it’s a real challenge to do what is the equivalent of two two-and-a-half shows in one night. As it’s a very physical work, fatigue starts to play a part… but fatigue is part of this world, which is why we’ve done it like this. In Hades, there is no respite or rest, so Underworld is a restless churning that they’re caught up in and they cant really leave… and that’s the parallel of Look At Me Now, Mummy… she can’t get out of her – albeit very different – world either.”
...Encouraging audiences to move between the two shows:
“It’s more of a visual, physical installation than a performance. It’s a very un-British way of watching dance theatre, and I’d invite people not to be worried about disturbing others by coming in and out. You don’t worry so much about that in a gallery situation – you look at a painting for as long as you like and then move on – so we’re trying to encourage people to view the work in a slightly different way.”
...Audience reaction to the shows:
“People don’t quite know what to make of it… but they get drawn in. The word I keep coming back to is ‘transfixed’. Some of the sections are slow, some are energetic, so the energy and pace keeps changing as well as the visual images. I think it’s quite an unusual piece because of that. It’s not your usual ‘beginning, middle and end’ dance piece - it will appeal to people who are interested in all forms of art. It’s an unusual event, it is in celebration of our 21 years of making work and it’s great to be in our home town doing it!”
...Vincent Dance Theatre turning 21:
“I set out 21 years ago to be heard, to express myself through movement and to move people and make them think. With 21 Years / 21 Works I want to draw new audiences in through creative, nostalgic, socio-political, visual, aural, feminist and participatory strands of activity – no longer just aiming for the established ‘dance and theatre’ audiences we have targeted until now.”
To book tickets for the shows, click here.
In pictures: Week 1
Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm opened with the incredible Children's Parade. We had heaps of fun and with a plethora of great theatre, circus, dance, music, classical, outdoor, family, books and debates and visual art and film events.
In Photos: Brighton Festival Week One
Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm has been a joy so far. We've had heaps of fun and with a plethora of great theatre, circus, dance, music, classical, outdoor, family, books and debates and visual art and film events still to come the fun is nowhere near over yet!
Take a look back over our first week of Brighton Festival 2015 right here...
Brighton Festival performance takes visitors into maze of tunnels under Old Ship Hotel
Ticket holders for Brighton Festival event Vast White Stillness will get a sneak peak into a unique Brighton space as the performance takes them deep underground into the maze of tunnels beneath the Old Ship Hotel.
Reality, imagination and memory blur in the intriguing new work which has been created by Brighton composer Claudia Molitor and director Dan Ayling. Part installation, part performance, Vast White Stillness combines music, image and theatre to create an immersive journey through the nuances of memory - the fleeting glance, the not-quite-heard, the half-remembered - that colour a lifetime.
The piece has its roots in Claudia’s personal experience of a trans-national upbringing - she grew up in the Bavarian Alps and now lives in the South of England – and how that has affected her experience of identity and memory: ”The idea of being from one place only, having only one nation that you would call home, seems quite an odd idea to me. There is always this sense of longing for the other, no matter where you are - a sense of home sickness - that you will always have because you are multiple. I don’t mean this in a negative way; it is, in fact, a sense of freedom from being bound to a particular national identity.”
One of the intentions of Vast White Stillness is for audiences to have as unmediated an experience as possible and relate what they hear and see to their own experiences and memories. On using the space Claudia said: “I had no idea the spaces under the hotel existed until Laura Ducceschi, from Brighton Festival, suggested them and took us there. We fell in love with their potential straight away. You never quite know how a space is going to inflect your work and how in turn your work might colour the space. So a sound that appears lovely in one situation - say some trickling water in a forest brook - could sound quite ominous and frightening in a dark cellar. And, as with all live work, each performance depends very much on the audience attending”
Vast White Stillness is at The Old Ship Cellars from 8-10 May 2015. Returns only
Exploring a Beautiful Cosmos - who was Ivor Cutler?
The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, coming to Brighton Festival this May, tells Cutler’s fascinating life story, interwoven with his songs, stories and poetry, but you’re out of luck if you are looking for a traditional tribute musical. Director Matthew Lenton tells The Observer it is, “an anti-Mamma Mia”, and it is only fitting that a play based on the life of a maverick defies convention. Mark Fisher from the Guardian calls it “a big grin of a show, as funny and idiosyncratic as Cutler and every bit as embraceable.” while The Telegraph describes it as “Funny, evocative and celebratory”.
Ivor Cutler was a poet, performer and certified eccentric. Born in Glasgow in the 1920s, he began writing songs and poems in the 1950s while teaching by day (a profession he took up after being dismissed from the RAF for ‘dreaminess’). Cutler began appearing on BBC Radio and after an appearance on Late Night Line-up in the 1960s, he was noticed by Paul McCartney. Cutler was subsequently championed by John Peel and released numerous albums to critical acclaim, but he remained ambivalent about his popularity and famous following, and was renowned for telling fans attempting to take his picture, “don’t you ever do that again”. He continued to ride his bike, hand out sticky labels covered with cryptic messages, and tell stories through song accompanied by his harmonium, such as I believe in bugs, Egg Meat and Mary is a cow, until his death in 2006. Cutler lived life by his own rules, his whimsical outlook and refusal to conform continues to capture the imagination and is set to enchant audiences of The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler. Read on to discover more about this wonderful man.
Ivor performing Beautiful Cosmos in 2004
As a young man, Cutler joined the RAF as a trainee navigator, but was promptly dismissed for being 'too dreamy and absent-minded' after being caught sketching clouds in mid-air.
He had an unorthodox approach to teaching and rebelled against the use of corporal punishment in his school. He cut the leather belt he had been given to discipline children with into 50 pieces, and handed them out to his students when he quit. He subsequently joined a progressive independent school ‘with no rules’ where he would challenge his pupils to improvise songs.
Cutler appeared in the Beatles psychedelic 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour as Buster Bloodvessel - the conductor of their multicoloured bus, accompanying them on their magical adventure. He was subsequently invited to teach the Beatles children but declined on socialist principles, saying, "What made their kids more special than other kids?"
He often communicated by handing out stickers with cryptic messages on them, both to people he knew and people he didn't: he would randomly distribute stickers bearing messages like, Funny smell, Let me out and To remove this label take it off.
Enjoy this short video of Ivor Cutler performing I’m Happy in 1986
His famous fans include: The Beatles, John Peel, Billy Connolly, philosopher Bertrand Russell and Johnny Rotten
He was in a relationship with English poet Phyllis King for over 40 years and the pair often collaborated. Despite their close relationship, they lived in separate houses to maintain their independence and Cutler lived in the same small second-floor flat surrounded by his collection of masks, paintings and sculptures until his death.
From the 1990s he was largely retired, but continued to ride around Central London on his bicycle, wearing pink flamingo shorts and a selection of curious hats and loud ties, accosting complete strangers in the street and asking them if they wrote poetry.
Book your spot now to see The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler.
Behind the scenes... on GLOW
With the highly anticipated children’s show GLOW opening today, Professor Anna Franklin from the Sussex Baby Lab discusses how their studies on infant vision, colour perception and what babies find most stimulating helped theatre company Flying Eye create the show
What have you found out so far in the Baby Lab?
The Rainbow Project, which is investigating how babies see colours, is still ongoing but we’ve just analysed the data from the first phase.
So far, we’ve found that babies can categorise colours and our analysis of recent data shows that they use the basic channels of colour vision to divide up the colour spectrum. So it suggests that when we group colours into categories such as green and blue that there is some kind of biological underpinning for how we do that; it’s not just random. And that’s been debated for a long time. People have argued that colour categories are random because there are different terms in different languages but it turns out that babies actually use the biology of their colour vision to do it, which provides some constraint on how languages can then divide up colours into different terms.
Babies have got some colour vision when they are born but it’s limited. It develops quite rapidly over the first couple of months of life and they’re trichromatic by the time they’re three months old, so three types of photo receptors are functioning. We work with babies at four months old upwards, once we are sure that they have got colour vision.
Colour perception gets a lot better as the baby develops. It actually gets better up until adolescence and then it actually starts to get worse. In toddlers we are looking at how they learn the words for colour but also how they keep colours constant in their mind when the lighting changes – something called colour constancy, which means that if you look at a banana under any colour light, you still see it and think of it as yellow. It’s basically because our brain factors out the illuminant so it can keep the surfaces constant so we’ve got a more constant world. We’re looking at that in toddlers and seeing how it develops.
Why is it important to understand these things?
It’s important for several reasons. First of all, from a scientific viewpoint, it’s important to know how the brain develops and how the brain learns to process the information in the world around it. And colour is a good way of testing questions around that - it’s a good testing ground for looking at the effect of environment on brain development and processing of stimuli. So, basic, fundamental questions about our cognition can be addressed using colour.
And there are practical implications. For example, we’ve done consultancies with toy companies on products related to infants, talking about what infants can see and what they prefer to look at and what will grab their attention.
Also, potentially there are implications down the line for how you educate children and what kinds of educational materials they respond well to. For example, if you’ve got colour vision deficiency, how would that impact on your learning in the classroom and your use of coloured education materials?
As a group, we’re most interested in the scientific questions - the goal of understanding the human brain and how we learn. But there is also practical, commercial application as well.
A huge guiding principle is that to understand how adults do something, or how the adult brain works, you need to understand how that process develops. So, for example, if you want to understand memory, then, by researching how memory develops, you can understand a lot about it in its adult form. And so the same goes with vision and with colour. Seeing things develop and seeing that development in action, you can actually understand the mechanisms much more.
How do you find your baby subjects?
We have a research assistant in the lab, Gemma, who advertises the Baby Lab studies on Facebook, and Alice keeps Baby Lab followers updated about our latest studies on Twitter. And then basically anywhere where there’s a baby in Brighton or Lewes or Eastbourne we try to get our postcards, which advertise what we’re about. A lot of people we get coming in have been told about the Baby Lab by friends who have also bought their babies in. It’s something fun that parents can do, something interesting, and they learn something about their baby in doing it.
Has anything you’ve found particularly surprised you (eg. gender differences)?
We’ve not found any gender differences before. There’s some evidence in the literature that male babies might be less good at one of the subsystems of colour vision; the red/green one. But we’ve not found any evidence of that ourselves.
The most surprising thing to me has been that infants tend to look longer at the colours that adults like. You tend to think of colour preference as being something fairly idiosyncratic – it’s just a personal choice – but actually the fact that adults’ colour preferences map on to infants looking suggests that there’s some kind of early origins of something about those colours that make us like them but also make infants look longer.
Colour is an interesting stimulus because it’s always there in everything that we look at and it can have quite subtle effects on us and our behaviour, how we process things and our emotional response. But we’re rarely really aware of that happening – it’s almost like an invisible vapour or something that you don’t really know is there but it does affect you. So it’s quite interesting from that viewpoint.
How did the Brighton Festival show come about?
Sachi and Kristina, who are the directors, just contacted me; they found the Baby Lab on the web. They wanted a play that was going to resonate with babies and that would fit with babies’ abilities in understanding and seeing. They came to the lab and we showed them some babies taking part in our research. We talked about infant vision and cognition, gave them some things to read and we just had ongoing discussion really about that so they could feed it into their play.
It was really interesting to see how science could be drawn upon in art. They’re such creative women and it was really interesting to see how they took the scientific findings and used them. I went to a couple of the shows where they were developing the different components of the play - to see how you get from the scientific work to putting it in action was really interesting for me.
Was the process quite different to how you approach things as a researcher?
Absolutely, yes. There is definitely creativity in research but their creativity has got a different goal.
I was surprised when I watched the test show how engaged babies were and how much enjoyment they got from it and also how it led to this bond between the baby and the parent. It seemed quite a rich experience for the parent to have their baby engage with something so much. When we were having conversations talking about the science and talking about their ideas, I didn’t realise that it was all going to knit together so effectively.
There’s certainly a need for more things that are directed towards infants. The GLOW show sold out on the first day that it was released and that really shows that we should be producing more things for babies. Especially because early experience is really important for shaping visual development and cognitive development, so we want to give young minds a rich experience.
Glow plays on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 May. For tickets, click here.
To find out more about the Sussex Baby Lab and how babies can take part in Baby Lab research, click here.
Nun on the run needed!
Award-winning theatre company seek volunteers for Brighton Festival performance
Theatre company Burn The Curtain are URGENTLY NEEDING an additional volunteer ‘nun’ to take part in stewarding their Brighton Festival 2015 performance The Company of Wolves (7 – 9 May). The company are seeking volunteers to don a habit and take part in the promenade theatre adventure created for runners and walkers across Stanmer Park. We need a Nun steward who can lead running audience members through the show. MUST be an experienced/regular runner.
The volunteer would need to be available:
Wed 6th – Sat 9th 18.30 to 11pm at Stamner Park
The performance turns Angela Carter’s macabre imagination into a spine-tingling outdoor experience; the tale unfolds as you progress along a pre-determined route which will be between two and five miles long, depending on which path you take. Those taking part can choose to either run or walk the course… with a warning that should you stray from the path for one instant, the wolves will eat you!
Those interested in getting involved are asked call Joe on 07941 471 917
Fancy A Spot Of Bird Watching? Do The Brighton Festival Big Bird Trail
We are twitching with excitement about our Big Bird Trail! Take your bird-watching on the move – gather stickers from local businesses and venues, for a chance to win some amazing prizes.
Enjoy a luxurious Lunch for 2 at local bistro, The Manor. Grab some sweet treats from Cybercandy for the sugar enthusiasts. Appendage and Pussy Home Boutique are offering a selection of quirky goodies. Pamper yourself with a range of hair-care prizes from the North Laine Hair Co. Get your hands on a £50 Brighton Dome voucher to spend on the upcoming shows of your choice. Plus, no respectable bird-watcher’s life would be complete without a Bird Feeder from the RSPB! See the full list of prizes.
The shops participating are:
• Oxfam Books
• Fidra Jewellers
• North Laine Hair Company
• Pussy Home Boutique
• Whirligig Toy
• The Manor
• RSPB Shop for Nature
• Ticket Office- Brighton Dome
For more info and the shops addresses head this way.
Grab a copy of the trail in our Family Festival Guide, available at the Brighton Dome Ticket Office to get started.
Brighton Festival Live: The Spalding Suite
Inua Ellams, Benji Reid & Fuel
A new physical theatre show inspired by the UK's basketball sub-culture.
‘When we were young, we worshipped stars.
Gleaming long-limbed gods
framed in the act of impossible flight,
For a time we tried to follow,
to carve out our own piece of sky
with a butter-smooth arc of an arm
and a Spalding ball glued to the fingertips’
Fresh poetry combined with contemporary movement celebrates the elegance and beauty of basketball. Seen from a British perspective, The Spalding Suite gets to the heart and soul of the gravity-defying game and delves into the hopes and dreams of those who play it. Six dynamic performers mix live beat-boxing, hip-hop, music, moves and poetry, taking us from the fleeting high of the score and the robust camaraderie of the team, to the poignant lows of a body too worn to play the game.
Conceived and written by Inua Ellams
Directed by Benji Reid
Inspired by the poetry of Nick Makoha, Bohdan Piasecki and Roger Robinson, with poems from Jacob Sam-La Rose and Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Sound by Eric Lau/MC Zani
Design by Ti Green
Lighting by Benji Reid & Lee Grey
Produced by Fuel
Commissioned by Southbank Centre and Contact
Funded by Arts Council England and a Wellcome Trust Arts Award