Brighton Festival - alongside commissioning partners 14-18 NOW and Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove - has today announced a major new commission inspired by the untold story of the hundreds of thousands of men who travelled from India to fight for the Allies in the First World War.
Created by performance company Nutkhut and brought together by a creative team that includes designer Tom Piper (Tower of London poppies), the ambitious, large-scale, immersive outdoor experience Dr Blighty is the latest event revealed for the 50th edition of Brighton Festival in May 2016.
More than a million men travelled from India to fight for the Allies during the First World War, their collective experiences constituting one of military history’s great untold stories. Between 1914 and 1916, over 2000 Indian soldiers wounded on the Western Front would be brought to a temporary hospital housed in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate.
This major new collaboration, Dr Blighty, recalls this episode in Brighton’s wartime history, bringing the experiences of the soldiers - and the locals who came to care for them - movingly back to life via an immersive walk-through installation across the Royal Pavilion Estate. Animated by actors and enhanced by immersive installations, enthralling video projections, ambient soundscapes and theatrical interludes, inspired by letters the soldiers sent back home, the event will seek to capture the essence of the hospital and those who recuperated here.
The hospital installation will be complemented by a series of related performances and participatory outreach activities, drawing parallels with contemporary events while bringing this moving episode in Brighton’s history back to life. For four nights, a spectacular after-dark production will incorporate video projections on the Royal Pavilion, evoking memories of a very distant home for the soldier convalescents. In addition, the Philharmonia Orchestra will perform in a special ticketed concert at Brighton Dome with some of India’s leading contemporary musicians, marrying Western and Eastern classical music traditions.
Ajay Chhabra, Artistic Director of Nutkhut says: 'Thousands of letters were written from the Western Front back home to wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, and it’s the emotion within these letters that Dr Blighty is trying to bring into the public domain. They, alongside the propaganda and the censorship, give us an insight into the lives of these young men, and give these many anonymous soldiers a voice. The project will essentially tell a 100-year-old story, and make it a contemporary one for new audiences.’
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: 'This is an important story, both in the history of Brighton & Hove and in the wider context of the First World War - one which we think deserves to be better known. In Brighton Festival’s 50th year, it’s even more appropriate that we present this piece now and I am delighted to be working with our partners to bring it to fruition.'
Jenny Waldman, Director, 14-18 NOW, said: 'We are thrilled to be working with Brighton Festival to present this ambitious project with an amazing group of artists brought together by Nutkhut, which will offer audiences an insight into the little-known and remarkable story underpinning the city’s involvement with the First World War.'
Brighton Festival marks its milestone 50th year in 2016 with the pioneering artist and musician Laurie Anderson as its Guest Director. Established in 1967, Brighton Festival has become one of the city's most enduring symbols of inventiveness and celebration over the past half century. Renowned for its pioneering spirit and experimental reputation, Brighton Festival’s inaugural programme controversially included the first ever exhibition of Concrete Poetry in the UK, alongside performances by Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and Yehudi Menuhin. Now one of Europe’s leading arts festivals, Brighton Festival is known for its ambitious and daring programme that aims to make the most of the city’s distinctive cultural atmosphere, drawing some of the most innovative artists and companies and adventurous audiences from the UK and around the world.
Full programme details of Brighton Festival 2016 will be announced on 17 February 2016.