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Photos: Brighton Festival 2015 Opening Weekend

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

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

Posted by Brighton Festival on Monday, 4 May 2015

Brighton Festival Live: Beyond

Circa (Brisbane)

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

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

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

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

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

Book now

Award glory for Brighton Festival 2015 author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noggin and Nooka meet!

Noggin and Nooka take a break

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

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

Nogbad the Bad spies! 

Snogging the Snog

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

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

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

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

Explore events relating to the theme of art and nature

Facts kindly supplied by the RSPB.

Read even more bird facts.

Video: Emily Gravett illustrates The Imaginary Girl from The Imaginary

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

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

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

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

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

Alfred Brendel

The first gig I went to was…

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist

The first album I ever bought was…

Mezzanine by Massive Attack

The proudest moment of my musical career was when…

We signed to Blue Note Records earlier this year

My favourite part of touring is…

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

The best show I ever performed was…

So far, Uber Jazz in Hamburg last year

My favourite song to perform live is…

One Percent

The last song I listened to was…

Cream Puff War by Grateful Dead

People would be surprised to learn that…

I like to draw and paint portraits in my free time

The making of... Brighton Festival 2015 trailer

By Leonora Lonsdale of Hoi Poilloi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore events relating to the theme of art and nature

Facts kindly supplied by the RSPB.

Exploring a Beautiful Cosmos - who was Ivor Cutler?

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

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

Ivor performing Beautiful Cosmos in 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full interview

Video: Squarepusher - Most Valid Reason

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

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

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

And we can't wait...

Photos: Brighton Festival Street Art by Sinna One

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

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

Share your West Pier memories for Brighton Festival 2015 finale event

Brighton Festival and acclaimed visual performance company And Now are looking for members of the public to share their memories and thoughts relating to Brighton & Hove’s West Pier and the evolving nature of the city’s population. The oral histories will be recorded and blended with composed music to create a soundscape to the large-scale performance of Fleeting, which takes place on the beachfront on Sunday 24 May and marks the finale to this year’s Brighton Festival.

Members of the public are invited to Brighton Dome’s Café-bar on Monday 30 (11am – 1pm) and Tuesday 31 (3pm – 5pm) March to share stories – as well as ideas about murmurations and migration – about the history of the city and the derelict pier.

Fleeting is a punctuated installation on the beach created by And Now: artists who specialise in creating unexpected visual experiences inspired by the natural world. Their recent works have taken place at Wakehurst Place, Wilderness Festival, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and also in two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Wye Valley River Festival and Inside Out, Dorset. The event will act as a tribute to the West Pier, the people of Brighton & Hove, and the transformative power of nature. 

Nuns on the run needed!

Award-winning theatre company seek volunteers for Brighton Festival performance

Theatre company Burn The Curtain are on the look-out for ‘nuns’ 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.

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!

‘Character Peter the Priest is seeking devoted sisters for light nunning duties,’ explains Joe Hancock, Artistic Director of Burn The Curtain. ‘One nun will run with runners, one nun will float between runners and walkers and one will walk with the walkers. Your role is simple - keep the Hunters and Gatherers in line, keep them from straying from the path. A sense of rhythm and great dance moves may be useful but not essential, and devotion to any deity optional. Look of grim determination or abject fear an asset’.

Those interested in getting involved are asked to email Joe on – deadline for applicants is Tuesday 31 March 2015.

Burn the Curtain are a group of performers, artists and educators based in the South West who create unique hands-on site specific events where audience and performers travel together, work together, and build the performance together. They won an Argus Angel at Brighton Festival 2013 for their promenade performance of The Adventures of Don Quixote by Bicycle which saw audiences ride across the South Downs alongside the titular hero and his reluctant squire Sancho Panza.

Get involved: Wonderful ways to be part of Brighton Festival

There are plenty of wonderful ways to get involved with Brighton Festival and we’d love you to be part of it. We’ve tonnes of volunteer and artist opportunities - we’ve got options for writers and readers, performers and greeters and treasure seekers and culture needers, not to mention, there’ll be heaps of competitions to enter over the coming weeks.

Peacock Poetry Prize

Put another feather in your cap and enter the Peacock Poetry Prize - a poetry competition for ages 7-18 and this year’s theme is Birds. Fly this way to see how you can enter. 

Volunteer with us

You could be meeting artists, helping with artistic planning, turning your hand to a spot of marketing or being right in the middle of the action as a front of house volunteer team member. Fill in our survey to get involved.

Young City Reads

There’s a city wide read going on and it’s rather exciting! This year young storylovers are invited to read and discuss the arnarchic Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom. Carnegie Medal shortlisted author William Sutcliffe and illustrator David Tazzyman take centre stage for a live, interactive schools event to talk about this thrilling book and tell us more about Shanks’ Impossible Circus. Find out more about this amazing project launched on world book day. See what happened on their launch day in the video below...


Collidescope offers artists an in-depth insight into Brighton Festival and is suitable for artists who have been making work for at least five years, this opportunity will provide an immersive experience through a packed show schedule across the 23 days of Brighton Festival, and the chance to meet Guest Director Ali Smith and Festival artists in up-close encounters. Artists and creators making work in all areas of the performing arts are welcome to apply - 6-8 participants will be selected.


We are looking for volunteer performers ideally with some dance, movement or performance experience for our closing show. Evoking a sense of awe, wonder and calm contemplation, Fleeting will be a tribute to the West Pier, the people of Brighton and Hove and the transforming power of nature – a fitting finale to Brighton Festival 2015

Join in the festivities

Explore our programme and come and see a show - there’s heaps on offer – join in our celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and family events. Immerse yourself fully and challenge yourself to see all our free events this May too!

Keep an eye open for competitions. Rapid review will return, with plenty of tickets as prizes and they’ll be plenty more competitive ways to get involved with Brighton Festival 2015 – just watch this space… 

An Introduction to Brighton Festival 2015

Learn more in our introduction to Brighton Festival from our Chief Executive Andrew Comben. 

This year's Brighton Festival Guest Director is award-winning Scottish author Ali Smith. Recently named winner of both the Costa Novel award and Goldsmiths Prize for boldly original fiction, Smith has established herself as a pioneer of form; fearlessly pushing the boundaries of the novel with a deftness and accessibility that has earned her a reputation for being both vitally inventive and scrupulously playful.

Over the three-week Festival - which runs from 2-24 May 2015 - many of Ali Smith’s ideas, interests and passions will be explored in a programme which spans music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate from a wide range of national and international companies and artists. With three central themes at its heart - Art and Nature, the Crossing Places between art forms, and Taking Liberty - this year’s Brighton Festival challenges visitors to look again, featuring an eye-opening array of artists and performers with the power to deliver the world we think we know to us re-seen, renewed, with a visionary twist in the tale.

Five of the best…Female Filmmakers at Brighton Festival

After picking up a lifetime achievement award at the European Film awards last year, the amazing and iconoclastic French filmmaker Agnes Varda commented by saying ‘What I have noticed is that it is very sweet to receive this award but when I see the nominees here, I feel there are not enough women...I think more women should be included. I know a lot of very good female directors and women editors and I would like them be more represented and helped by the European film academy.’

We agree – and to mark International Women’s Day this Sunday we thought we would shine a light on five of them – who all happen to feature in this year’s Brighton Festival programme...

Agnes Varda

Often dubbed the ‘Godmother of the French New Wave’ the varied and brilliant career of Agnes Varda has spanned six decades. Her films, photographs, and art installations focus on documentary realism, feminist issues, and social commentary - with a distinct experimental style. We are delighted that the 86-year-old filmmaker and artist will be curating an installation in the Brighton University Gallery which will be open throughout the Brighton Festival 2015. We’ll also being showing many of her ground-breaking films such as the 60th anniversary screening of La Pointe Courte (1955) on Sun 3 May at Dukes at Komedia at 1.30pm and a 30th anniversary screening of Varda’s Vagabond (1985) at The Duke of Yorks on Sun 10 May, 1.30pm.

Carol Morley

British film director Carol Morley first came to prominence with her documentary The Alcohol Years, a BAFTA nominated film that was later released on DVD to critical acclaim. The film was nominally an autobiography but became as much about the people in it as Morley herself - and was seen to define the era and place in which it was set (Manchester in the 1980s). We will be bringing a screening of her acclaimed 2011 film Dreams of a Lifewhich explores mysterious the life and death of Joyce Vincent. Morley will also take part in a Q&A session after the screening on Mon 11 May at Dukes at Komedia.

Clio Barnard

Winner of various awards, British filmmaker Clio Barnard’s most recent film The Selfish Giant, about two boys who scavenge to survive on a Bradford estate, has been called 'a Kes for the 21st century'. For Brighton Festival 2015 we revisit her acclaimed debut feature The Arbor (2010) to Dukes at Komedia on Mon 18 May, 6.30pm. The film focuses around the life of the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. Barnard will also part in a post screening discussion.

Joanna Hogg

Joanna Hogg is an utterly distinctive figure in contemporary British cinema, making thoughtful, provocative arthouse movies about the lives of bourgeois characters. Her films are intimate, closely focused character studies that probe away at the behaviour and discontents of her protagonists in a forensic but quietly comical fashion. We are delighted that Joanna Hogg, will be taking part in a Q&A discussion at the Dukes at Komedia on Sun 17 May following a screening of her film Archipelago (2010) at 1.15pm. The film surrounds Edward (Tom Hiddleston) and his family as they have a get-together before he departs for a volunteering trip to Africa.

Sarah Wood

Sarah Wood has been working in the British film industry for over 10 years and has won several awards for her work. Her latest film projects have all been an exploration into ideas of the archive using found footage. Wood will be joined by film-maker Lucy Harris in this year’s visual art event at the Onca Gallery. Commissioned by Brighton Festival and a Brighton Festival Exclusive A Murmuration explores the natural world especially the relationship between art and nature in collaboration with writers Helen MacDonald and Olivia Laing.

By Charlotte Newell

Be part of the action and volunteer with Brighton Festival 2015

Volunteer with England's biggest mixed arts Festival and be at the heart of the action. Find out more at our volunteer drop-in session on Tue 10 Mar. 

Pop in and see us on Wed 10 Mar, 6-8pm at the Brighton Dome Café-bar and learn all about volunteering at Brighton Festival 2015. 

You could be writing engaging #BF2015 tweets, meeting and greeting the public or even liaising with the performers and artists themselves. What better way to spend a sunny May than being at the centre of Brighton’s cultural map whilst gaining work experience?

Find out more about volunteering here or join our Facebook event for more details.

The lovely Alice from’s has written about her experience of volunteering at Brighton Festival 2013 check it out here.

The drop in session will take place at Brighton Dome, Church Street, Brighton, BN1 1UE..Click here for more venue information.

Brighton Festival 2015 Teaser Film

'Imagine the world seen from the eye of a bird. Imagine the borders between the artforms'. Our amazing Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2015 Ali Smith shares with us her thoughts and excitement for this year's festival.

Welcome to Brighton Festival

'Imagine the world seen from the eye of a bird'. 'Imagine the borders between the artforms'. 

Our amazing Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2015 Ali Smith shares with us her thoughts and excitement for this year's festival

Brighton Festival 2015 highlights

Re-live some of the highlights of Brighton Festival 2015 - with award-winning author Ali Smith as Guest Director - ahead of next year’s 50th celebrations. The milestone year is a major landmark in the Festival’s history and promises to be its most ambitious yet.

Brighton Festival 2015 Trailer

This Brighton Festival 2015 we continue our tradition of celebrating and showcasing incredible art with three weeks of spectacular exclusives, premieres, commissions and groundbreaking performances from across the globe. In this trailer our Guest Director Ali Smith introduces Brighton Festival 2015 and invites you to “Imagine the borders between the artforms… so that poetry meets music meets theatre meets dance meets thought meets sculptural meets rhythm meets fiction meets the natural world.”

Film by Hoi Poilloi

Read more about the making of this trailer.