The full programme for Brighton Festival 2018, the largest annual, curated multi-arts festival in England, was unveiled today with the Turner Prize-nominated visual artist and Brighton resident David Shrigley (b.1968) as Guest Director.
Best known for his darkly humorous works that comment on the inconsequential, bizarre, and disquieting elements of daily life, the artist’s offbeat take is reflected in an eclectic programme spanning music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate, from Brighton Festival commission Problem in Brighton, a brand new alt rock/pop pantomime, written and directed by David Shrigley himself to a live durational reading of Camus’ seminal The Myth of Sisyphus, and performances from genderqueer rock‘n’roll hero Ezra Furman and cult-favourite Amanda Palmer.
Alongside Life Model II, a follow-up to the artist’s Turner Prize-nominated installation of the same name which invites visitors to take part in a life drawing class with a sculpture of a nine-foot-tall woman as the ‘model’, an illustrated talk billed as ‘containing numerous rambling anecdotes… not in the slightest bit boring’, and a screening of a documentary about his work titled A Shit Odyssey, David Shrigley’s trademark wit is also evident in his brochure cover design, featuring a hammer and a bent nail and bearing the tagline ‘Strive for Excellence’. Other events close to the artist’s heart include an exclusive collaboration between orchestral collective Stargaze and one of his favourite bands, Deerhoof; an exhibition by San-Francisco-based artist and trucker Brett Goodroad; and a double bill from his friend Malcolm Middleton, one half of Arab Strap, and Scottish musician Iain Shaw, whose quirky folk song-smithery has turned Shrigley’s poems into incisive songs on albums like Awesome and Listening to Slayer.
As ever Brighton Festival 2018 features a host of commissions and co-commissions from a wide range of national and internal artists including: Calixto Bieito’s The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety, a remarkable new production from one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors; Grand Finale by Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival Associate Artist and Brighton Festival 2014 Guest Director Hofesh Shechter, a bold and powerful vision of a world in freefall; The Arms of Sleep, an overnight choral sleepover experience from The Voice Project in which audiences encounter a unique dream-like night of music stories, sound and images; Cuckmere: A Portrait, a filmic homage to the changing moods of the Cuckmere river accompanied by a live score; and Creation (Pictures for Dorian), a new piece inspired by Oscar Wilde’s iconic character Dorian Gray from acclaimed British/German arts collective Gob Squad.
Elsewhere, circus and dance make a significant appearance in the programme via an extended visit from internationally-renowned NoFit State circus who present their dazzling new production Lexicon; a collaboration from Australia’s dance luminaries Dancenorth, Lucy Guerin Inc and Gideon Obarzanek and Indonesian music duo Senyawa, Attractor; Brighton Festival commission KAYA from the Brighton-based choreographer Ceyda Tanc’s all-female company which fuses traditional Turkish folk dance with contemporary style; an award-winning debut by one of the most exciting new companies on the contemporary circus scene, Fauna; and a collaboration between Netherlands-based theatre-maker Boukje Schweigman, visual artist Cocky Eek and performer Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti in Blaas (Blow), a weird but wonderful ballet of abstract configurations.
From A Change is Gonna Come, a collaboration between three of the most gifted soul, jazz and rap artists, Carleen Anderson, Nikki Yeoh and Speech Debelle, exploring the power of the protest song to Les Amazones d'Afrique, West Africa’s first all-female super group, formed in the fight against violence towards women, and Brownton Abbey - a new Afrofuturist collective headlined by New Orleans ‘Queen of Bounce’ Big Freedia, best known for her appearance on Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ track and collaborations with Diplo and RuPaul. The contemporary music and spoken word programme is particularly wide-ranging, including a Brighton Festival Commission with Travis Alabanza: Before I Step Outside (You Love Me), an evening of Black trans poetics with one of the UK’s leading trans voices; and performances from This is the Kit and Jungle also feature.
Alongside the return of caravan, a three-day biennial curated industry showcase of the best new theatre from across England, which is open to the public for the first time this year, theatre highlights include National Theatre of Scotland’s Adam, the remarkable, true story of a young trans man and his journey to reconciliation, directed by award-winning theatre director Cora Bissett; and Kneehigh’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Emma Rice’s acclaimed ode to Marc and Bella Chagall.
Other highlights include appearances from Lemn Sissay, Michael Rosen, Rose Tremain, Iain Sinclair, Bridget Christie, Brett Anderson, Viv Albertine, Tim Key and Shami Chakrabarti; an exhibition from controversial artist duo Gilbert & George, and a touring mobile installation from multi-award winning contemporary designer Morag Myerscough; two special classical concerts to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brighton Festival Choir, Britten’s War Requiem and Belshazzar’s Feast, and performances from Vox Luminis and Cédric Tiberghien.
As ever Brighton Festival will kick off with the Children’s Parade - the largest event of its kind in Europe - produced by Same Sky. Other family events include Snigel and Friends from leading UK disabled dancer Caroline Bowditch’s company; the world premiere of I Wish I Was a Mountain, a re-imagined version of Herman Hesse’s classic fairytale - from writer, performer and former Glastonbury Poetry Slam Champion Toby Thompson; and the UK premiere of Apples, a wordless and charming feast for the senses.
Brighton Festival 2018 also continues its emphasis on programming work in the community with the return of Your Place - two weekends of free performances and arts activities in Hangleton and East Brighton. Delivered in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre and community steering groups, both weekends will present international and national artists alongside local artists and community groups. Your Place joins regular free, participatory events such as City Reads and Young City Reads; and Weekend Without Walls, two days of free arts in the parks.
David Shrigley says: “As a resident of Brighton and Hove the Festival is always a delight. Those who have visited the Festival before will know that having such an incredible array of events occur in our city every year is a great privilege. I’m very excited about this year’s lineup. Not only for the things that I have selected but also for the things I have only read about; one of the best things about the Festival for me is that it can be a voyage of discovery.”
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival says: “Like Brighton Festival, David Shrigley’s work is for everyone. Both powerful and funny, his work manages to speak to an incredibly wide audience. Alongside his own artwork, he is also a great advocate for the arts helping our health and wellbeing. We are thrilled that David is bringing his distinctive take to the Festival and the city he has now made his home.”
Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Brighton Festival is one of the year’s cultural highlights, not just in Brighton itself – but nationally. It presents a programme of work that is accessible, imaginative, exciting and inspiring, engaging audiences from across the city and beyond; a programme that we are pleased to support. David Shrigley has a wonderfully dark and offbeat take on life and I really look forward to seeing his influence on this year’s Festival. Art and culture make a huge contribution to Brighton’s success and its reputation for excellence. With its international reach and fantastic programme, which spans a wide range of art-forms, Brighton Festival is a significant part of what makes Brighton such a great place to live, work and visit.”