A world of wonder: the Brighton Festival 2024 programme is here

Guest Director, Literature, Classical, Dance, Film, Visual arts, Theatre, Outdoor, Music, Family, Circus, LGBTQIA+, Announcements, 2024

A magical celebration comes to Brighton and beyond this May, with over 120 events across music, literature, theatre, circus and more.

Photography: James Hole

We’re delighted to reveal the programme for Brighton Festival 2024, the largest annual curated multi-arts festival in England. Guest Director and award-winning children’s author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce invites everyone to imagine a better world in a three-week celebration of hope, wonder, magic and fun.

From 4-26 May, we’ll welcome more than 120 events to the city and beyond: awe-inspiring magic, circus and aerial performances; experimental visual art and interactive outdoor installations; innovative theatre, music and comedy from across the globe; books, debates and workshops for all ages; plus thought-provoking and exciting community projects and much more. It's a bright, hopeful and colourful celebration, and everyone is invited! Read on to discover some of the highlights.

A Wonder-ful Time

In The Wonder Panel! Frank joins a posse of the nation’s best storytellers including How to Train Your Dragon’s Cressida Cowell and Goth Girl’s Chris Riddell to share their adventures in gold hunting and dragon taming. 

Frank and the award-winning writer-illustrator Nadia Shireen have been shipwrecked on The Island of Brilliant for a year now: join them for a live recording of their podcast with the wonderful Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo.

Young readers can hear from Frank about his new book The Wonder Brothers, with live drawing from the book’s illustrator, Steven Lenton, and enjoy a screening of Kensuke’s Kingdom, an animated adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s beloved children’s novel written by Frank, followed by a Q&A with the authors.

Scott Silven

Exclusives and premieres

Discover exclusives, world premieres and new commissions at this year’s Festival.

Roll up for Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular! You’ll be holding your breath as a cast of 33 performers, including Netflix star Tallulah Haddon, hula hoop World Record artist Symoné and Bollywood dancer Kaajel undertake breath-taking, death-defying stunts in a feminist and queer outdoor circus spectacular.

World-renowned illusionist and performance artist Scott Silven explores the myth and mystery of the Scottish landscape in an English exclusive of Wonders, a dazzling magic show of breathtaking illusions.

We welcome back former Guest Director and award-winning poet and musician Kae Tempest for a night of mesmerising spoken word.

Our new commission, As We Really Are, screens vintage gems from the GPO Film Unit alongside new work from Brighton filmmakers celebrating the wonder of everyday life. And don’t miss Brighton Festival commission and world premiere Ground: an immersive, locally sourced and curated 3-course meal revealing the tangled history of plants at Brighton’s off-grid eco-building, Earthship.

Photography: Leap Then Look

Stepping outdoors

Our outdoor programme brings a riot of colour, music and circus to the streets, with many events completely free!

The Festival launches with the spectacular annual Children’s Parade. Inspired by the theme ‘Dream Again’, local arts charity Same Sky have worked with teachers, students and volunteers from schools across the city to create magnificent sculptures, dance routines and parade chants to debut on the day.

Help weave an ever-changing work of art in the Pavilion Gardens with our free installation 100 Miles of String. Don’t forget to catch our Without Walls programme in Brighton and Crawley, including ground-breaking new aerial theatre from disabled and non-disabled circus company Head Over Wheels, and join the jubilant, musical parade from award-winning experimental brass band Perhaps Contraption and Deaf & BSL poet Zoë McWhinney.

Photography: Matt Stronge

The power of community

Brighton Festival is all about people coming together and being together. Re-enactment is an exclusive one-day event for the residents of East Brighton including a 17th-century banquet, activism, mischief and music; and The Neolithic Cannibals: Deep Listening to the Unheard is a unique sound installation created by artists and campaigners Class Divide in collaboration with young people in Whitehawk and East Brighton. 

On 27 May, you can even take part in a mega table tennis tournament (including a Guinness World Record attempt) with Brighton Table Tennis Club at Brighton Dome’s newly refurbished Corn Exchange.

The Elevated Platform

Visual arts and installations

Want to get really involved in this year’s programme? You can take to the stage yourself for the UK premiere of An Elevated Platform, where an invisible audience will cheer and heckle you, or head to Phoenix Gallery to quantum physicist and award-winning visual artist Dr Libby Heaney’s exhibition Ooze Machines, exploring the seductiveness (and repulsiveness) of slime.

Photography: Zoe Manders

For families

Celebrate the wonder of the world around us with the playful and charming Grand Soft Day; explore, stick things down and groove through a colourful world of tape at The Sticky Dance; and make sure you catch You’ll See..., an inventive adaptation of James Joyce’s legendary novel Ulysses, featuring a storyteller and pop-up book that both adults and children will love.

Photography: Dean Chalkley

Feel the music

Get lost in the magic of music from far and wide with...

Norman Jay MBE’s Norman Soul, West African collective Orchestra Baobab’s celebration of Afro-Cuban beats, and local Carnival Collectives 30th anniversary celebration featuring an irresistible wave of Latin, drum ’n’ bass, hip-hop, swing and funk.

For the groovers and movers, dance music pioneer UNKLE presents his immersive, multimedia show Ronin:Live, and we welcome back Brighton’s legendary club nights Gal Pals and Polyglamorous for Our Roots: Dreamland, a joyful celebration of queer culture.

Not forgetting indie veterans Sea Power, who are performing a one-off homecoming show, and celebrated US filmmaker, Sam Green, who invites us to don headphones and immerse ourselves in a moving, sensory documentary that explores the power of sound.

Photography: Chris Dunlop

Striking a chord with Classical

Launching the classical programme is none other than The London Symphony Orchestra featuring its new Chief Conductor Sir Antonio Pappano with a thrilling programme of Barber, Ravel and Rachmaninov. Metamorphosis, brought to you by the strings collective 12 Ensemble, combines transformative live music with an immersive, AI-generated holographic world.

Other highlights include Glyndebourne’s leading lady Danielle de Niese and a performance by the Gramophone Award-winning Heath Quartet in the spectacular Royal Pavilion Music Room.

Photography: Danny Khan

Pioneering theatre and dance

Experience Zoo Co Theatre’s joyful Perfect Show For Rachel, where learning disabled Kylie-fan Rachel directs the action on stage in real-time, and the UK premiere of Cliff Cardinal’s daring retelling of a Shakespearean classic in The Land Acknowledgement or As You Like It.

This year we welcome theatre from all over the world with an expanded international programme. Don’t miss the UK premiere of The Making of Berlin, an innovative production which combines film, theatre and live music to tell a unique story about the city during WWII; and The Melancholy of a Tourist is a miniature theatre of charming contraptions which asks us to reevaluate our relationship to holiday destinations. 

In High Performance Packing Tape, see one man perform a series of jaw-dropping stunts that push packing materials (including cling film and tape) to breaking point; and in Materia performer Andrea Salustri uses (recycled) polystyrene to create a visually striking performance.

Photography: Rosie Powell

Project Female push the boundaries of dance in their show Triptych, where hip-hop, multimedia, spoken word and technology amplify youth voices. And Fault Lines follows survivors moving across the changing landscapes of a scorched earth, questioning our relationship with nature. 

Alexandra Sheppard

For the bookworms

Bestselling author Sarah Perry (The Essex Serpent) presents her latest book Enlightenment; comedian Sara Pascoe discusses her new novel Weirdo; Caroline Lucas shares her new book, Another England; and new talent Jason Okundaye presents his astonishing new work of social history Revolutionary Acts: Love & Brotherhood in Black Gay Britain.

Brian Bilston and Henry Normal perform a hilarious evening of poetry, plus award-winning Joelle Taylor brings a staged reading of her debut novel The Night Alphabet to the Studio Theatre, directed by acclaimed theatre-maker Neil Bartlett.

Young readers can take part in workshops with children’s and young adult authors and illustrators including Alexandra Sheppard, Laura Ellen Anderson and Sophy Henn.

Teenage Men

Laugh out loud

For comedy lovers, Brighton’s biggest comedy night, Live at Brighton Dome, returns to Brighton Festival for the second year running with a stellar lineup of comedic talent, including some big names.

Fishbowl is a laugh-out-loud silent comedy from France following the hilarious misadventures of three eccentric and lovable misfits in an apartment block in Paris. 

And Shelf bring sketches, songs, pranks and silliness to kids in The Kids Show and anecdotes, songs and jokes to adults with Teenage Men.

We can’t wait to see you in May!

Discover the full programme

Brighton Festival 2024