Brighton Festival Brochure Covers: 2007 - 2016
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Browse through the fifth decade of Brighton Festival Programme Covers. Here's to another five decades!
Festival Fifty: Five Biggest Hits
From pyrotechnics to pendulums, some events at Brighton Festivals past have attracted audiences tens of thousands strong. Here are a few of the biggest hits from recent times – how many of them did you see?
Joueurs de Lumnieres, Groupe F, 2006
Some 70,000 people descended on Preston Park for the ultimate pyrotechnic show as the French company pushed the boundaries of your typical firework display to create an event that told a theatrical story. Led by flame master Christophe Berthonneau – the man behind the Millennium fireworks in Paris and both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Olympics in Greece – it set the Sussex sky on fire. Zap Art’s Dave Reeves, who programmed the piece as part of 2006’s Streets of Brighton, explained ‘one minute you are watching something lyrical and delicate; the next you're shell-shocked by the sound of eight tons of explosives being detonated. It feels as if the sky is caving in on you.’
41 Places, William Shaw, 2007
Writer Shaw’s bold vision was to take true life onto the streets – literally – as the stories of the people who live, work and play in Brighton were printed on everything from paving stones to brick walls to create a giant work of art across the city. Each story was installed in the place where they happened – with audiences free to stumble across this treasure hunt of stories or navigate their way around the city via a specially produced map. Designed by Richard Wolfstrome – a Sussex-based graphic designer who went on to win an award from the International Society of Typographic Designers for piece - the site-specific publishing project was explored and interacted with by a huge 190,000 people during May.
41 Places. Photo credit: Matthew Andrews
Before I Sleep, dreamthinkspeak, 2010
Inspired by Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival associate company dreamthinkspeak led by Artistic Director Tristan Sharps took over the former Co-operative department store on London Road for this special site-specific promenade experience. Blending performance, film and installation, audiences were led through numerous spaces inhabited by the key characters in Chekhov’s classic. It broke ticket office records at the time as 21,000 people visited – leading the run to be extended by 9 weeks – and was universally praised by both the local and national press, with The Argus writing ‘it is an unforgettable, amazing experience’. The company’s Brighton Festival follow-up The Rest Is Silence - which took place in an old warehouse in Shoreham in 2012 - was equally well received, leading to weeks of extra performances.
Before I Sleep
Time Passing By, Kaarina Kaikkonen, 2013
The Finnish artist was the talk of the city as her special commission between Brighton Festival and Fabrica saw the city’s Clock Tower bedecked in thousands of colourful shirts for the month. Donated by local residents and then given to Oxfam following the exhibition, the piece – presented in tandem with The Blue Route inside Fabrica – was seen by hundreds of thousands given the installation’s prominent position in town. As Kaikkonen said to The Argus, ‘I wanted to give my art for everybody in a way. I wanted to face those people who never go to art galleries. I wanted to go to the street. It is quite a challenge to meet all these people who sometimes hate art.’
Time Passing By
Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No.2, William Forsyth, 2014
This large-scale choreographic installation featured 400 swinging pendulums hanging from an automated rig on the ceiling of Circus Street Market. Visitors were encouraged to dodge between them to create their own unique and often intricate dances and moves. Some 12,500 people took part across three weeks; the acclaimed choreographer himself was even spotted taking part ahead of an intimate Q&A event with that year’s Guest Director Hofesh Shechter. It’s success stretched to the virtual world too; a video documenting the installation of the piece shot by Brighton-based company Shy Camera had over 90,000 views whilst Instagram tweeted shots of the piece to over 1m followers.
Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No.2. Photo credit: Heidi Kuisma
Festival Fifty: Experimental poetry, fire and baseball... Five events from 1967
Brighton Festival kicked off in 1967 with an incredible variety of shows, concerts and exhibitions. Here are five of the biggest events from the first Festival half a century ago, from world-class rock bands to an iconoclastic beachside bonfire
Concrete Poetry, around Brighton, daily
Curated by artist Stephen Bann, this city-wide project saw verse, rhythm and rhyme take physical form via a series of large outdoor typographical structures. In the Laines, visitors experienced a communal project on the ‘five vowels’ produced by the students of Bath Academy and a set of ‘typographical columns’ designed by German Hansjorg Mayer, whilst on a board outside the Royal Pavilion the word ‘seas’ appeared repeated with the word ‘ease’ in the middle. The project also saw two early poems erected by Ian Hamilton Finlay who would later become critically acclaimed for his poetry, art and writing. These particular structures became feted in the press who praised this new poetic form, hailing that it could compare with the ‘direct method of Concrete Art’.
Kinetic Audio Visual Environments, West Pier, daily
Created and arranged by The Advanced Studies Group at Hornsey College of Art under the collective titled K4, this immersive audio visual arts installation incorporated three different experiences at the end of the West Pier. The Kinetic Labyrinth was a succession of small spaces which exhibited international art work involving pulsating lights and strong colours whilst the Video Drum was a device for singular use which played material concerned with dream fantasies. The largest space was the Kinetic Area; a nightly discotheque which, on Saturdays, featured live performances from the likes of as-yet-un-famous prog-rock legends The Pink Floyd and British artist, performer and eccentric Bruce Lacey (with his Humanoid Robots) alongside endlessly changing patterns of light and colour projected onto screens. The installation also featured a soundscape designed by pioneer of electronic music Delia Derbyshire titled LIGHT/SOUND WORKSHOP.
One of Bruce Lacey's Humanoid Robots
International Baseball, Preston Park Cricket Ground, Sunday, April 16
This unique baseball match played between England and USA attracted a bumper crowd of over 5,000 people to Preston Park Cricket Ground, many of whom were intrigued with the exciting prospect of witnessing a sport not native to British shores. Possibly unsurprisingly, England lost 12-1. The programme to the event contained a message from the then Mayor of Brighton, Kathleen Watson-Miller, wishing the visitors from the States “a very warm welcome” and hoping that they “thoroughly enjoy their brief visit to Brighton and that they may be able to come again some day” alongside a useful two pages explaining the rules of the game.
The Destruction of Hideous Objects, Brighton beach, Saturday, April 29
In a wholly unique event, this huge public bonfire saw hundreds of items deemed ‘hideous’ by 1967 standards – from furniture to art – torched in an aesthetic culling. Allegedly, the bonfire was topped by a wooden cut-out effigy of the then Principal of Brighton College of Art. The fire itself was lit by Brighton Festival chair Ronald Bates, artistic director Ian Hunter and world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin; who burst into an impromptu solo whilst the flames took hold.
Cleo Laine, John Dankworth and his orchestra, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Wednesday, April 26
Famed for her scat singing style and for her vocal range of four octaves, Jazz singer Cleo Laine joined her husband – jazz composer, saxophonist and clarinettist John Dankworth – on stage for the first of many Brighton Festival concerts over the years. Married in 1958, the couple were feted as helping to bring the marginalised world of jazz into the mainstream over their careers. Dankworth’s jazz scores sound-tracked some of the most memorable films of the 1960’s including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Darling, whilst Laine’s career became truly international from the early 1970s – to date, she is the only female singer to have received Grammy nods in the jazz, pop and classical categories.
Watch a trailer with rediscovered footage from the 1967 Brighton Festival:
Festival Fifty: Producers' Standout Moments
In our 50th year, five producers look back and share their personal highlights of past festivals, from hunting around the globe to find and reconstruct the score to Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, to wiping sheep sneezes off Anish Kapoor’s C-Curve.
Philip Morgan, producer (1991 – present day)
One of my most memorable Brighton Festival moments was Gaudeamus by the Maly Theatre in 1996. This devised show was directed by Lev Dodin - considered to be one of the best theatre directors in the world. It’s based on a Russian short story about life in the army in 1980. It was a steeply raked stage covered in artificial snow and honeycombed with traps which the cast of twenty literally dived in and out of. We flew a grand piano across stage with a couple making love on top of it. It was an incredibly exciting show demonstrating ensemble work that no longer exists in the UK and we built a temporary theatre in Brighton Dome Corn Exchange to show it.
Pippa Smith, producer (1990 – present day)
In 1990 I was working at Same Sky when Brighton Festival director Gavin Henderson asked us to take over the organisation of the annual Children’s Parade. In my previous job I had been involved with Notting Hill Carnival so I was able to bring many of their ideas to Brighton; it was a really exciting to see them work with children and train teachers to make the parade the amazing spectacle it is today! In the early years the entire event would end up on the Café lawn of Pavilion Gardens; all the children, their parents and teachers could gather on the one lawn and there was still room for the Millstones – the Blatchington Mill Big Band! The parade now features dozens of bands, every single school from Brighton and Hove and many from outside the city.
Beth Burgess, producer (2015 – present day)
A producer’s first festival is always memorable, but in 2015 there was a great moment when I was sitting in my office which overlooks Castle Square. I had run up to do some quick e-mails and the Children’s Parade was still going past… I had been on the ground, so to speak, as it began and that made me smile from ear to ear, but seeing it from above, it was amazing. As I leaned out my window to watch all these amazing costumes, sculptures and children marching past, I could not believe that I was part of something so huge, so joyous and this was just the beginning! There were all sorts of wonders but, later that week, sitting with Agnes Varda - my all-time heroine of cinema - was my dream come true. She was such a lovely human being and delightful to work with. I learned so much from her and her work. What could be better?!
Gill Kay, producer (1985 – present day)
One of my most memorable festival moments was the 2007 performance of Laurence Olivier’s film Henry V with Carl Davis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing the famous Walton score live. That year was Olivier’s centenary and Granada Film/TV were issuing a new celebratory HD print of this iconic 1944 film. The original score had been lost, and so began a hunt which took us, literally, around the world to the US, via Italy and back to Christie’s in London. Finally, along with a brilliant composer/transcriber Dominic Sewell we managed to reconstruct the score… only to find that all the sound on the film had been put onto one track so extracting the music to enable ‘live’ performance became a mammoth task. Dominic, myself and some dedicated Granada technicians spent hours going through the film frame by frame to produce this new version of the score and film. It can now be performed by any orchestra anywhere in the world so definitely worth all that effort!
Tanya Peters, producer (2007 – present)
In 2009 bringing Guest Director Anish Kapoor’s C-Curve to Brighton was definitely one of my most memorable Festival experiences. The location was up on a South Downs hill that overlooked the Chattri and down across the city to the sea. For such a stunningly simple-looking piece it was deceptively complex to do in terms of agreeing the site, transporting the valuable sculpture across farmland, the meticulous installation and maintenance. One unanticipated issue was the local lambs sharing the field would cuddle behind it as a windbreak overnight – they’d keep sneezing on it and I’d have to go back up there at 6am to remove the evidence and buff it up! One day I remember looking down toward Brighton and seeing all these dots on the hill. After a while it dawned on me that they were people; it was the first day of the Festival and lots of people were walking up to see the sculpture! This continued throughout May – people arriving throughout the night and at dawn, from campers to cyclists and poi jugglers. You’ve got to love Brighton people haven’t you – we are going to put an amazing sculpture in the middle of absolutely nowhere and everyone comes along - I love that! What amazed me, and this is really what Brighton Festival is all about, is how the piece inspired so many people, with many then creating their own works of art. Beautiful photography and portraits created in response to it were being shared online and across social media. It was amazing and Anish loved seeing that too. I miss my days starting with a walk in the Downs and sheep sneezes.
Anish Kapoor's C-Curve
Photo by Matthew Andrews