Photography: Curtis James

Behind The Scenes: Neolithic Cannibals

Interviews, Outdoor

Meet Simon James, the self-trained sound artist from Whitehawk, Brighton, who’s using sound art to give a voice to young people in his local community as part of his Brighton Festival 2024 exclusive, Neolithic Cannibals: Deep Listening to the Unheard.

Simon James is a local sound artist and designer working with his brother Curtis, co-founder of Class Divide, a grassroots campaign drawing attention to the educational attainment gap in Whitehawk, Manor Farm and Bristol Estate.

Having grown up in Whitehawk, Simon's new project for Brighton Festival, Neolithic Cannibals: Deep Listening to the Unheard, has given young people from his local area an opportunity to learn new skills and have a voice in the Festival.

Photography: Curtis James

We wanted to find out more...

Where did you get the inspiration for the project?

The documentary podcast series and campaign Class Divide has been sharing stories of education inequality in Brighton and Hove and inviting the city to listen. Neolithic Cannibals extends this listening and welcomes and nurtures the creative talent of young artists from Whitehawk who are often excluded from the art world.

Photography: Curtis James

Apart from the sound art, what else can audiences expect at the exhibition?

The main exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks, walks and workshops around the themes explored in the exhibition. Full listings can be found on the website 

Tell us more about the significance of bringing Neolithic Cannibals to Brighton Festival 2024.

Young people from Whitehawk rarely get to be artists, and if they do it is even rarer that art from working-class communities is exhibited in a city centre gallery as part of an international festival. This ambitious sound art exhibition is a vibrational force from over the hill, in that space hidden from the rest of the city, and we are resonating with excitement at the opportunity to share this vital work.

Photography: Curtis James

What impact do you want the project to have?

The show aims to reshape perspectives, particularly regarding East Brighton and other communities like it, fostering a more positive perception of a community that has long been unjustly stigmatised. This represents a significant cultural and societal shift, potentially leading to a heightened sense of belonging for children across various schools, irrespective of their backgrounds.

We hope this project also enables more advantaged and privileged people to look inwards, to consider how their own actions and beliefs shape the way systems and services are designed and accessed, and consider the negative impact that preconceptions can have on people that are less privileged and advantaged.

The project also carries an educational impact, broadening horizons for all involved. It offers young participants a unique platform to explore sound art, potentially serving as a launchpad into various other creative endeavours.

Describe Neolithic Cannibals in three words.

Unheard resonating wildly.

You can see the free exhibition, hosted at Lighthouse, Elder Place, Sat 4 - Sun 19 May.

In partnership with Lighthouse

Neolithic Cannibals: Deep Listening to the Unheard

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