Brighton Festival 2019Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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Festival Hot Seat... Clairière Urbaine

We caught up with Retouramont to find out more about their UK premiere Clairière Urbaine

Why should someone come and see your show?

The show - and more broadly the artistic work of the company Retouramont - offers new perspectives on the city. It doesn’t consider walls as limits but rather as openings and opportunities - and a means to invent new choreography. In our shows we aim to shift perspectives and invite the audience to discover their neighbourhood in a very new way.

How and where will it be staged?

It will be staged in Lavender Street. Some anchoring will be made on two buildings so the dance can evolve on the wall of one of them and in-between, in the air and over the audience.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

It came from the desire to go beyond, but not in the usual sense. As a climber, cliffs or boulders are limits you want to go over. I like when this movement can also be inventive and aesthetic. In the city, I find this desire for crossing and going over particularly joyful and creative.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Everyone can enjoy this aerial and acrobatic dance show that grabs the city in all its dimensions. We do not try to impose any story on the audience - each person can create their own story. This is our way of inviting the audience to feel and accept a shift of perceptions and take a new look at their surroundings.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

We propose a different and new use of the city that no one has seen before, not even the architects or inhabitants of the neighbourhood. They may look up for the first time and see buildings differently from now on.

Have you visited Brighton before? What were/are your impressions of the city?

This is my first time in Brighton - I'm curious to discover it.

This year marks 50 years of Brighton Festival. What does it mean for you to be part of the festival in this milestone year?

It’s great to see such longevity in a festival of art, vertical dance is about 25 years old. In this sense, I find it very interesting to question and analyse our practices in the long-term: how did street arts emerge? What is their social role? etc.

Head this way for more info on free event Clairière Urbaine.

The Brighton Commissions

For our milestone 50th Festival, we have commissioned more new works than ever before, including many by Brighton artists or about Brighton itself. Wildly different and each fascinating, the 'Brighton Commissions' below are presented as a tribute to our home and the talent within it.

Brighton: Symphony of a City
One of the Brighton Festival events people still talk about is the screening of Battleship Potemkin (2005) with Ed Hughes’s new score in the Hove Engineerium. When Ed and Brighton based filmmaker Lizzie Thynne proposed a Brighton homage to Walther Ruttmann’s 1927 silent classic Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, we grabbed the opportunity to celebrate Brighton in all its festive, bohemian, campaigning, fun-filled glory.

Charles Linehan Company
Loved by dancers and dance audiences, Brighton-based choreographer Charles Linehan (The Fault Index/ The Clearing, 2011), brings us a contrasting double bill of new works including one with William Trevitt and Michael Nunn (BalletBoyz). Described by The Guardian as ’one of our classiest choreographers’ Charles’s return to Brighton Festival in our 50th year feels especially appropriate. 

The Complete Deaths
Another match made in Brighton. Leading physical comedy company Spymonkey (Oedipussy, 2012 and Cooped, 2006) and award winning playwright and performer Tim Crouch (I, Caliban, 2003, I, Peaseblossom, 2004, I, Banquo, 2005, An Oak Tree 2006, I, Malvolio, 2010 and what happens to the hope at the end of the evening, 2014) come together to re-enact every onstage death from the works of William Shakespeare in a sublimely funny tribute to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. We’re holding onto our hats. 

Digging for Shakespeare
Marc Rees studied in Brighton with Liz Aggiss and has gone on to make wonderful work with communities and for specific sites, most notably with National Theatre Wales. He brought us the captivating story of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps who was a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar in the 19th Century and an eccentric recluse. When Marc suggested making this piece on the Roedale allotments where Halliwell-Phillipps lived it was too beguiling an idea to pass up. 

Dr Blighty
One of the most affecting and complex stories of the Royal Pavilion Estate is its use as a military hospital for wounded Indian soldiers in World War I. As we work towards reunifying the Royal Pavilion Estate to bring collections, heritage and the arts together to create compelling new work for the Estate, the opportunity was ripe for Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and ourselves to work with British Asian performance company Nutkhut and with 14-18 NOW to commemorate this special chapter in Brighton’s history.

The Last Resort
Using binaural technology to create a shifting world of sound, Brighton-based artists Rachel Champion and Tristan Shorr (who worked with Charlotte Spencer on Walking Stories, 2013), working as Art Of Disappearing, have created an immersive work set on Portslade beach that takes a wry look at science fiction traditions and dystopian societies. 

Operation Black Antler
Two Brighton Festival Associate Companies come together in an exciting new collaboration. Blast Theory (Rider Spoke, 2008; Fixing Point 2013) are celebrated for their inventive use of technology and their thought-provoking subject matter. Hydrocracker have delighted and terrified audiences with Shakespeare á la Carte (2008), the uproarious The Erpingham Camp (2009), and the chilling production of Pinter plays The New World Order (2007 & 2011). Having these two companies working together has been on all our wish lists for a number of years. 

Stella
Veteran Brighton artist Neil Bartlett (Oliver Twist, 2004, The Maids, 2007; For Alfonso, 2011; What Can You Do?, 2012; Britten: The Canticles, 2013) is one of Britain’s most individual theatre makers and a generous friend of Brighton Festival. We’re honoured that Neil’s wonderful, intense and distilled new play, inspired by the life and death of Ernest Boulton, can open in Theatre Royal Brighton before going on to performances at London International Festival of Theatre and Holland Festival. 

Dance Film Festival UK to screen Brighton Festival films

Two films shot during Brighton Festival 2014 by Hove-based Supernova Learning have been selected from a high number of applicants for screening at this year's Dance Film Festival UK. Three Score at the Station documents the journey of Three Score Dance Company (TSDC) – a dance company for the over 60s – from early rehearsals to their world premiere performance of choreographer James Finnemore's Plans at Brighton Station. A second film – Plans at Brighton Station – features the entire performance in full.


'It’s exciting for Three Score, and the individuals and organisations supporting us, to have this wider interest in our wonderful performance experience at Brighton Station. It’s deserved recognition for our choreographer James Finnemore. It’s rewarding for me as a filmmaker to have the prestigious acceptance of the dance film community.’

Vincent Thompson, Supernova Learning

Plans was commissioned by Brighton Festival in association with South East Dance as part of Brighton Festival 2014’s programme of events. Crowds, commuters and tourists came to a standstill as TSDC’s eighteen dancers performed throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday in a flash-mob.

Choreographer James Finnemore – a former dancer with the critically-acclaimed Hofesh Shechter Company – said of the performance:

‘I came with pretty much a blank slate. I had the title and quite a strong structure in terms of floor plans… but with a bit of organised chaos in the middle! I prefer simplicity in general. If people don’t want to do a dance phrase, then I don’t want to make them. I find that sometimes less interesting. I prefer it to be more human, more simple.’


TSDC is the vision of two local women, Saskia Heriz and Christina Thompson, both of whom have been inspired by the work of The Company of Elders; a dance company for the over 60’s resident at the internationally renowned Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. Although many members of Three Score have had no prior dance training, their wealth of life experience brings a unique quality to their work. The company is led by Rehearsal Director, Jason Keenan-Smith, with professional choreographers commissioned to create bespoke pieces for performance.

The company is currently housed at Brighton Dome. Three Score Dance Company is supported by South East Dance in association with Brighton Dome. Funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Dance Film Festival UK is part of The Fi.ELD Festival 2014 and takes place on the 9th & 10th August 2015 at Stratford Circus. 

Brighton Festival 2015 soars to a close

Brighton Festival 2015 - with award-wining author Ali Smith at the helm as Guest Director - came to a soaring conclusion this weekend.

Over the three-week Festival - the biggest and most established in England - many of Ali Smith’s ideas, interests and passions were explored in a thrilling selection of events which spanned music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate featuring artists and performers the world over from Ukrainian ‘ethnic chaos’ band DakhaBrakha to the newly Palme d’Or honoured filmmaker Agnès Varda.

Three central themes - Art and Nature, the Crossing Places between art forms, and Taking Liberty - provided a fascinating jumping off point to explore some of the key ideas and issues of the moment as well as a memorable visual image of a swift in flight which proved a fitting and popular emblem for the 2015 Festival.

The opening weekend asked audiences to ‘take flight’ for the annual children’s parade, the largest of its kind in Europe. Supported by regional businesses Class of their Own, Gatwick Airport and Riverford, the annual parade traditionally marks the start of Brighton Festival and was attended by almost 5,000 children from 83 schools and community groups from across the region; each dressed in costumes they had specifically designed and made for the event. Taking inspiration from Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director Ali Smith’s deep fascination with birds and other migratory patterns, costumes included bird life in all its forms as well as flying machines, creatures from fantasy and fable, bugs, bees and butterflies.


The Children's Parade. Photo by Jordan Hughes

During the ensuing 23 days it wasn’t just the kids who took flight – with more reviews praising the artistic excellence of this year’s programme than ever. One of the Festival’s biggest hits was the European premiere of Tony award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s highly acclaimed four play cycle The Apple Family Plays from The Public Theater, New York which was lavished with 5 stars across the board. Glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Stage and the artsdesk amongst others described them as “exemplary”, “extraordinary”, “profound” and “faultlessly directed”. This was swiftly followed by the top accolade going to violinist Isabelle Faust’s amazing feat of solo virtuosity, Paine’s Plough’s poignant exploration of love and relationships in Lungs and Nina Conti’s extraordinary tour de force of improvised comedy amongst others.


Fleeting on Brighton Beach. Photo by Chris Bethall

At just under 400 performances across 150 events, including 34 that were entirely free to the public, Brighton Festival 2015 featured the highest number of exclusives, premieres and commissions to date including a sizeable proportion of events that cannot - and could not - be experienced anywhere else outside of Brighton Festival, from Sam Lee’s intimate Nightingale Walks on the Downs to Laurie Anderson’s one-off concert All the Animals and Festival finale Fleeting, the spectacular installation over the West Pier by And Now in which hundreds of individual points of fire created shapes and swathes of glowing light and shade.

In a continuation of the Festival’s dedication to making the arts accessible for all, 2015 saw a plethora of shows - including high profile events such as physical theatre show The Spalding Suite which takes as its subject the UK's basketball sub-culture and Jess Thom’s inspiring and uplifting exploration of her experience of living with Tourette’s, Backstage in Biscuit Land - live-streamed to audiences around the world, for free. Brighton Festival also reached out beyond the centre more than ever before, working with Without Walls to present a number of family-friendly performances in Saltdean and Woodingdean for the first time as well as the enthralling 451 at Preston Barracks and playful Ear Trumpet in Queen’s Park. This was complemented by a fantastic response to community driven events such as a new children’s birdwatching trail which was generously embraced by the business community, and the return of the Guest Director’s Guests, the Peacock Poetry Prize and the Young City Reads schemes.


Backstage in Biscuit Land. Photo by Victor Frankowski

Other Festival highlights included a one off live screening of Peter Strickland’s daring masterpiece The Duke of Burgundy; the English premiere of Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland’s The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, a homage to one of Scotland's most likeable, most individual and most unexpected 20th century figures; a new lecture specially commissioned for Brighton Festival by acclaimed author Jeanette Winterson OBE on the practices and craft of writing; and the UK premiere of The Forgotten / L’Oublié(e), the directorial debut of Raphaëlle Boitel, one of the most remarkable performers on the European visual and physical theatre scene.

Brighton Festival 2015 featured 396 performances across 150 events including 45 exclusives, premieres and commissions and 34 free events.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “From the 5 stars across-the-board success of Richard Nelson’s extraordinary Apple Family Plays to the headline-grabbing performance of Kate Tempest and a very special personal appearance by newly Palme D’Or honoured Agnes Varda - this year really has been a Festival to remember. Ali Smith, as Guest Director, has been an absolute pleasure to work with and a wonderful inspiration to us all. Her remarkable sense of possibility, wonder, imagination and excitement at anything that she encounters has been evident every step of the way, from her invaluable input during the programming process to her lively and engaging presence throughout the month. The Festival’s continued ability to not only bring such an eclectic range of artists onto one bill but to make it a resounding success, is testament to the extraordinary support we have from funders, sponsors and from audiences themselves. It’s an exciting time for Brighton Festival as we look towards our 50th birthday next year. I cannot wait to lift the lid on what surprises we have in store for the city and beyond.”

In Photos: Brighton Festival Week One

Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm has been a joy so far. We've had heaps of fun and with a plethora of great theatre, circus, dance, music, classical, outdoor, family, books and debates and visual art and film events still  to come the fun is nowhere near over yet!

Take a look back over our first week of Brighton Festival 2015 right here...

The past week has flown by and lots of exciting events have happened so far at Brighton Festival 2015 and there's still so much more to come! Check out what’s up next at: https://brightonfestival.org/whats_on/

Posted by Brighton Festival on Friday, 8 May 2015

Brighton Festival 2015 announces full programme of events

Clear your diaries in May as England’s largest mixed arts festival returns with award-winning author Ali Smith as its Guest Director

Brighton Festival – under the watchful eye of award-winning author Ali Smith as this year’s Guest Director – has announced its full programme of events.

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; from a rare UK visit by 86-year-old legendary film maker and artist Agnès Varda to rising stars Kate Tempest, George the Poet and Hollie McNish.

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.

Ali Smith says: “It's tremendously exciting to have been asked to help programme the 2015 Brighton Festival. I'm delighted and honoured – what a gift, to be asked to do this, imagine – the biggest international multi-arts spectacular in England. I've always loved Brighton's sense of fun and friendliness, its vibrant open-mindedness, the way it opens to sky, the way the rest of Europe is so close it's almost visible. It's a city that's always known how to live on the edge, a place full of endless energy, argument, possibilities, light. No matter the wildness or mildness of the weather, no matter the zigzag of zeitgeist elsewhere north or south of it, Brighton is always itself, and always uniquely welcoming.”

Posing questions about whether life imitates art or art imitates life, Art and Nature is explored in a host of events including an exclusive nightingale walk, with Mercury-nominated folk singer Sam Lee; an immersive multi-screen film installation of Marcus Coates’ entitled Dawn Chorus, featuring singers who uncannily recreate birdsong and bird movement; a discussion of the urgent conservation issues that face us today with celebrated author and bird enthusiast Margaret Atwood and her partner and fellow writer Graeme Gibson; and Fleeting, an outdoor spectacular over the West Pier by And Now, in which hundreds of individual points of fire create shapes and swathes of glowing light and shade.

Central to the programme is the notion of Crossing Places - where poetry meets music meets theatre meets dance – from works that defy categorisation such as The Measure of All Things, a new live cinema performance by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green to Claudia Molitor’s part installation part performance Vast White Stillness in the maze of tunnels beneath the Old Ship Hotel. In Being Both, acclaimed mezzo soprano Alice Coote, English Concert’s Harry Bicket and Susannah Waters stage a theatrical journey into the heart of Handel’s sublime vocal music, which, in a nod to Smith’s own prize-winning work How to Be Both, explores and challenges the experience and perception of gender.

Set against the backdrop of the General Election, Liberty, equality and freedom is celebrated in all its shapes in an astonishing cutting-edge line-up of artists, performers, thinkers and commentators - all contemporary game changers in their chosen forms. These include Liberty Director and author Shami Chakrabati who hosts an evening in celebration of the Human Rights Act featuring a dazzling collection of writers and performers such as Billy Bragg, Neil Bartlett, Rachel Holmes and Jackie Kay; Tony award-winning playwright Richard Nelson who brings the European premiere of his highly acclaimed four play cycle The Apple Family Plays from The Public Theater, New York; award-winning Pakistani/British author Kamila Shamsie; celebrated Russian-American journalist, author and activist Masha Gessen, Turkish writer Elif Shafak and Turner Prize nominated artist Nathan Coley, whose new commission Portraits of Dissension explore ideas of unrest, edge and shift, space and occupation.

Other highlights include Peter Strickland’s daring masterpiece The Duke of Burgundy accompanied by a one-off live performance of its seductive score by Cat’s Eyes - the collaborative project of The Horrors’ frontman Faris Badwan and Italian-Canadian singer and composer Rachel Zeffira; a series of screenings and accompanying talks by prominent female directors including Joanna Hogg, Carol Morley and the legendary Agnès Varda who will also create a special installation at Brighton University Gallery for the duration of the Festival; the English premiere of Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland’s The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, a homage to one of Scotland's most likeable, most individual and most unexpected 20th century figures; a new lecture specially commissioned for Brighton Festival by acclaimed author Jeanette Winterson OBE on the practices and craft of writing; the UK premiere of Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, a theatrical ode to the life - and afterlife – of Lucia Joyce, the adored daughter of James Joyce created by legendary New York theatre ensemble Mabou Mines; the UK premiere of The Forgotten / L’Oublié(e), the directorial debut of Raphaëlle Boitel, one of the most remarkable performers on the European visual and physical theatre scene; and Laurie Anderson: All the Animals, a specially curated performance by one of America’s most daring creative pioneers.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “Ali Smith, as Guest Director this year, has been a wonderful inspiration to us all in programming the festival. In her writing, Ali is renowned for pushing form and working with her has taught us to think differently about how we programme and the work that we bring. She has also brought an incredible range of artists to the festival who are responding to the world in a particular way, both people she knows well, and also people she has loved for many years and perhaps longed for an opportunity to work with - from Agnès Varda to Elif Shafak, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood and Mabou Mines - the list is long and extensive and I think thrilling. I look forward to welcoming audiences to experience another exciting and innovative month of events in May.”

The annual celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and family events will take place in venues across the city and beyond from 2 to 24 May 2015. Brighton Festival 2015 features 396 performances taking place across 150 events including 42 exclusives, premieres and commissions.

Brighton Festival Picks: Alex Leith, Viva Brighton Magazine

We asked a selection of Brighton dwellers, Brighton lovers and Brighton businesses to give us their Brighton Festival picks. Here Alex Leith of Viva Brighton Magazine shares his highlights...

When I heard the name of this year’s Guest Director of Brighton Festival, I guess I wasn’t the only person to think ‘Hofesh who?’ But, having since interviewed Mr Shechter, I think he constituted a bold choice by the organisers, a real outsider who has made ‘outsiders’ the theme of the Festival. I must admit that apart from a few visits to Sadlers Wells over the years, I haven’t really directed much of my attention towards the contemporary dance scene, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the Hofesh Shechter Company perform Sun on Saturday 3rd. Hofesh promises it to be a dark, hard-hitting piece about alienation. You can read the interview in the May issue of Viva Brighton Magazine.

Hofesh Shechter Brighton Festival Sun

Another interviewee in the same edition is Yinka Shonibare, of Fourth-plinth-fame, who has turned the old reference library in Brighton Museum – which I used to frequent to research historical pieces for Viva – into a colourful installation piece on colonialism, called The British Library. He’s covered thousands of books with his trademark ‘African’ fabrics, which are actually designed in Indonesia and made in Holland, and demonstrate how globalisation means that nobody is truly from one just place any more. On the spines of the books are written the names of various immigrants and descendants of immigrants some of which – Mick Jagger and Helen Mirren for example – are quite surprising. We’ve dedicated the centre spread of the mag to a close up of this work and it looks like it’s going to be stunning.

I was watching Later... with Jools Holland the other day, and was delighted to see that Zara McFarlane was among the guests. She’s a soul-fuelled jazz singer who brings to mind Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holliday, and she performed a nuanced and powerful rendition of Junior Murvin’s Police and Thieves, then did some improvisation with the compere playing the piano. Wow. She’s performing at The Old Market on the 11th.

Zara McFarlane at Brighton Festival 2014

There are some interesting people being live-interviewed, including musician/author Ben Watts (we got there first, as you’ll see in the May mag), Slit guitarist Viv Albertine (ditto) and (filth-y) novelist Irvine Welsh. And talking one-to-ones, one event I’ll certainly clear the diary for is the New Writing South annual lecture from Lynn Barber, Britain’s most well-respected newspaper interviewer. We were chuffed when she agreed to let the tables be turned on her, in our Festival special edition… and our writer Steve Ramsey certainly gave as good as he got.

So those are the main set pieces that I’m looking forward to come May. But the real beauty of Brighton Festival (and all the other offshoot events) isn’t about what you’re expecting to enjoy, but what takes you by surprise. Which is one reason I’ve made a pledge to do at least one Festivals-related thing every day, throughout the three weeks of the year that Brighton gets turned into the cultural capital of the country*. I’m hoping that most of those surprises will be positive ones…

*minor exaggeration alert

Video Playlist: Dance at Brighton Festival 2014

Discover Dance at Brighton Festival 2014


A plethora of Dance shows from internationally celebrated names to emerging artists are all part of Brighton Festival 2014. You can expect shows from William ForsytheWim Vandekeybus, Les Slovaks, and this year’s Guest Director, Hofesh Shechter amongst plenty of others. Why not take a moment and enjoy a taster of some of the incredible and awe inspiring shows we have in store for you: