Brighton Festival 2020Public booking opens: Wed 19 Feb, 9am

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Five Minutes with: Soumik Datta - King of Ghosts

King of Ghosts is an atmospheric soundscape for two films from early India by sarod star Soumik Datta and City of London Sinfonia.

In the first half of this double bill, Around India with a Movie Camera presents some of the earliest surviving footage from India, then Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray’s cult and off-beat film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne will be projected on a large screen. A reimagined live cinematic score (King of Ghosts) accompanies the screening, featuring the haunting sounds of Soumik's sarod, Cormac Byrne’s Irish folk rhythms and City of London Sinfonia.

We spoke to virtuoso sarod player Soumik Datta ahead of the show.

Firstly, can you introduce us to your show and tell us what it is about?

Vintage Indian cinema, a world class orchestra and a Sarod player to link them all: King of Ghosts is a powerhouse cine-concert bridging the worlds of film and music, India and Britain, past and present. Where else will you find such elements uniting to uplift, challenge and entertain?

In an unprecedented collaboration, Shakespeare’s Globe, BFI, City of London Sinfonia and Soumik Datta Arts unite to showcase an extraordinary multi-arts presentation in two halves. In the first half, Soumik Datta performs his specially commissioned score for sarod, piano and bodhran to the BFI film Around India with a Movie Camera, showcasing some of India’s earliest footage. In the second half, he is joined on stage by City of London Sinfonia to play his reimagined score for Satyajit Ray’s cult classic Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (which marks its 50th year in 2019).

Why should someone come and see your show?

Our cine-concert show immerses the viewer in visuals and sounds from rural and ancient India, factual and fictional characters that will fascinate children and adults alike. Connecting film and music in the most special way, this is a real treat for all music and film lovers.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

My mum is a film maker and singer and in many ways, my first inspiration. She opened my eyes to the links between sound and visuals and the powerful human emotions that lie between. I wanted to pay tribute to that and bring audiences a new kind of show, bridging India and Britain, cinema and live music and instruments from across the world. The elements of this show may seem farfetched, but they are the very ingredients of my identity as a Londoner, a desi boy and as an artist.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

If you like music and cinema, you’re going to love this show! It will transport you through rural India, introduce you to kings and queens, Gandhi, wizards, soldiers and two village heroes bringing you face to face with a mighty, strapping band that will break your perception of what is Western and Indian music.

What will surprise people about this show?

Showcasing some of the earliest ever footage of colonial India accompanied live by energetic live music, this double bill show will move you, make you laugh and question your understanding of what it means to be British today.

King of Ghosts takes place at Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Wed 8 May, 7.30pm.

Brighton Festival film screening celebrates learning disabled workers

Brighton Festival & Carousel’s Oska Bright Film Festival are presenting a special film screening event entitled Lose Your Head at Duke’s At Komedia on Wed 23 May, celebrating learning disabled workers in a selection of short films from around the globe.

Carousel’s Oska Bright Film Festival is the leading international festival of films made by, or featuring, people with learning disabilities. It is produced, managed and presented by a learning disabled team. The biennial Oska Bright runs over three days, shows 100+ films from around the world and welcomes 3,000 people. The next Festival is in 2019.

In non-festival years Oska Bright screens its award-winning films at cinemas and film festivals around the world, showcasing the talent of learning disabled creatives.

On Wed 23 May, as part of Brighton Festival, Oska Bright’s lead programmer Matthew Hellett will introduce his selection of films from past Festivals, responding to the theme of ‘Hard Work’, inspired by Guest Director David Shrigley’s book of the same title.

Matthew Hellett says: “There is a lot of effort and consideration that goes in to making films. Filmmaking is hard work in general, but being a learning disabled filmmaker is even more difficult. We’re marginalised in society and we have to carve out spaces for ourselves to show our work.”

The screening will include short film The Mask by Sharif Persaud, a unique look at autism, identity and Al Murray which picked up the award for ‘Best Story’ at an earlier Oska Bright Film Festival. Meanwhile, in the slice of life drama Checkout (USA), Kelly is a supermarket packer who knows she deserves promotion whereas Man Without Direction (Sweden) sees businessman Dante lost in a Lynchian nightmare.

Oska Bright Film Festival puts people learning disabled people where they should be, behind the camera and on the screen. By doing this, it hopes that people’s perceptions of who learning disabled people are and what they’re capable of will be challenged. It is part of arts organisation Carousel, championing learning disabled creative people in the City for over thirty years.

Discover more about Oska Bright Film Festival and ticket availability.

Programmer Picks: Brighton Festival Film events to enjoy this May

Film programmer and co-director of CineCity film festival, Tim Brown, picks his favourite film screenings this May. 

As the double bill was once a staple of cinema-going, it felt appropriate for our season of British cinema classics from the turbulent year of 1968, for these titles to be paired with another film. By screening them alongside a film from another era, we could also scratch the surface of how films influence or inspire and are in turn influenced by other titles.

I’m really looking forward to this double bill; they might have played together somewhere many moons ago but I’ve never seen them back to back like this. Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet was a big influence on Donald Cammell who co-directed Performance with Nic Roeg. Shot in 1968 just as the decade of peace and love was turning into something far darker, it was shelved and then re-edited before it was eventually released in 1970. So it really does mark the end of that particular era. With the theme of identity to the fore, it’s also a radical one-off, simultaneously of its time and yet completely out of step with the rest of British Cinema. It’s also so rare to get the opportunity to see either film on the big screen - and at my favourite cinema, the Duke of York’s – and both on 35mm too!
Duke of York’s Sun 6 May 1pm

Probably the best known British film from ‘68, Lindsay Anderson’s If …. is another Sunday afternoon big screen treat. It was Malcolm McDowell’s first major role and he is quite brilliant as the schoolboy getting his revenge on the British establishment. I also really like the film’s switching between colour and black and white which apparently was more a budgetary necessity than anything else. It’s an anarchist double bill as its paired with Jean Vigo’s poetic Zero de Conduite which heavily influenced Anderson’s film. Vigo is best known for L’Atalante, the only feature length work he completed before he died in 1934 aged just 29.
Duke of York’s Sun 13 May 1pm

An English Civil War double bill, Brighton’s own Ben Wheatley’s eerily beautiful A Field in England paired with Michael Reeves’ disturbing Witchfinder General. Like Jean Vigo, director Michael Reeves died tragically young, aged 24, just a few months after this film was released. He would undoubtedly have gone on to be one of the key directors in British Cinema.
Sun 20 May 1pm Duke’s at Komedia

For more information on the many other amazing performances including Lose your Head, A Shit Odyssey and Cuckmere: A Portrait, see our full Visual Arts and Film programme.

VIDEO: 'The arts should be in our communities’

Brighton Festival 2017 reached more new audiences and more parts of the city than ever before. We shone a light on some of this year’s flagship community events and projects 

Reflecting Guest Director Kate Tempest's belief that: ‘The arts should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes’, events took place across the city - from the South Downs to Brighton Marina to Woodvale cemetery - drawing a ticketed audience of over 81,000, the largest ever in the Festival’s 51-year-history.

In this film we shine a light on some of this year’s flagship events and projects including new ventures The Storytelling Army, which saw a dynamic collective of storytellers from all walks of life pop up in locations from bus stops to Brighton pier; and Your Place, delivered in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre, which brought a diverse line-up of free performances, workshops and activities Festival artists and local residents to the Hangleton and East Brighton communities.

In photos: Week 1

The first week of Brighton Festival 2017 has come and gone! We've been really enjoying all the shows, events and happenings – here's a few pictures of what's been going on

Photos by Victor Frankowski and Adam Weatherley.

Festival Hot Seat ... Zvizdal

We catch up with Yves Degryse, Artistic Director of Berlin, who are bringing their ‘filmic portrait’ Zvizdal (Chernobyl – so far so close) to Brighton Festival

Can you tell us what your show is about?

Over four years we have been filming near Chernobyl in the forbidden zone. Each time we went it was to meet two people, Petro and Nadia, a couple in their 80s, living in Zvizdal and who refused to be evacuated following the nuclear disaster. They have been living with no water or electricity and no means of communication with the outside world. Every time we went we took a plane and hoped they were still there. We spent time filming them in their everyday lives.

How and where will it be staged?

The audience will be seated in two tiers in front of a big screen, and underneath the screen will be three scale models of the couple’s house and grounds, depicting three seasons. There will be two cameras filming the models and these images will be interspersed in the film.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The French journalist Cathy Blisson, formerly a critic, but who moved into reportage, came into contact with Petro and Nadia and asked if we would be interested to collaborate with her, and we quickly decided to start the project.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?

The moment you enter the forbidden zone, you are entering a microcosm of human experience. It is a very extreme situation, but there are layers that you recognise, and as you spend time there the layers become more visible.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Our work can be complex but at the same time it appeals to a very broad audience.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

There will be surprises, relating to the concept of the piece, but the surprises you should not know beforehand.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?

We have brought work to Brighton Festival before including Perhaps All The Dragons in 2014, and Lands End in 2012. What I really like about Brighton Festival is that I have the impression that the audiences are very eager to discover things. I think it’s connected with the way the Festival approaches the audience, not underestimating the audience.

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

I’m very happy that we will be part of that moment.

Book now for Zvizdal.

Be part of Gillian Wearing’s A Room With Your Views

Turner-Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing is seeking participants to be part of a unique, global, collective filmmaking project - one of the largest of its kind ever to be produced - for a new commission, A Room With Your Views, as part of this year’s Brighton Festival and HOUSE festival.

The project aims to capture a snapshot of views from people’s homes all over the world - from urban spaces to remote countryside - and invites the public to film a short clip of either their curtains or blinds opening to reveal a view from their window. Like the curtains going up at the beginning of a stage play, each view will be a pictorial unveiling of a landscape, cityscape or even a brick wall.

The results will feature in a new exhibition as part of the 50th edition of Brighton Festival and HOUSE festival called A Room with Your Views – Wearing’s first solo exhibition on the South Coast of England – which will take place at the Brighton University Galleries from 7-29 May 2016.

Participants are not required have experience as a filmmaker - raw footage filmed on phones, video cameras or in more professional formats will all be accepted. The only stipulation is that the shot is static and is shot on a horizontal and participants follow some simple instructions so all the clips are similar in specification. Creative ideas of revealing the view are welcomed for windows without curtains or blinds.

The project asks for contributions to be uploaded to It is hoped that Brighton & Hove residents will send their own films to the project as well as participants from far further afield. 

Gillian Wearing, OBE, commented, “It feels personal in the way that each person has approached the instructions to the film and universal as it unites the world in the harmonious gesture of opening the curtains, blinds or shutters to give us a glimpse of their views. I am delighted by this opportunity to present ‘A Room With Your Views’ to the HOUSE and Brighton Festival audience and hopefully the work will include some local participant’s films too.”

Andrew Comben, CEO, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, said, “We are delighted to have co-commissioned Gillian Wearing for Brighton Festival 2016. In this – our 50th year – we particularly wanted to reflect on the nature of ‘home’ and ‘place’ and this project does just that, providing an insight into people’s views from their windows throughout the world. I can’t wait to see the project develop and hope that the whole community will get involved by sending in their own films”

Please upload your contributions to

Astounding film footage of first Brighton Festival discovered

See extracts in our 50th Brighton Festival film

Film footage of the very first Brighton Festival in 1967 has been discovered in an attic. The long lost material, shot by former Brighton College of Art students Ian Beck and Tim Grimes, captures the inaugural festival’s many different events alongside behind the scenes footage. 

You can enjoy extracts of this historic and unique footage in our latest Brighton Festival video (watch above). Made by Echo Video, with Ian Beck and Tim Grimes’ original footage and featuring footage from Screen archive South East. With voiceover from Spymonkey's Toby Park.

Ian Beck says ‘In 1967 we were encouraged by Tom Buckeridge, head of photography at Brighton College of Art, to make a record of the first Brighton Festival. We were handed two Bolex 16 mm cameras and some film stock and we were more or less left to run wild to film what we were interested in… so we did!’

Historical gems uncovered in the 100 minutes of silent film include footage of a young Eric Clapton playing with Cream in Brighton Dome, early robotic works from acclaimed artist and eccentric Bruce Lacey, and an International baseball game held between England and the United States of America.

Ian Beck explains ‘We all thought the film was lost. Tim Grimes, my fellow worker on the film, was cleaning out an attic and found several rusty tins in which was the original untouched negatives. It was quite the find. We then had them digitised, although it’s mute because the sound recordings are still lost!’

Also captured is the frantic moment Keith Moon destroys his drum kit following a concert by The Who and the intriguingly titled Destruction of Hideous Objects; a large bonfire on the beach comprised of discarded furniture and art pieces.

Ian Beck continues ‘We were allowed to film anywhere. We shot both John Dankworth and Georgie Fame rehearsing at Brighton Dome. We seemed to have access to all sorts of things and we filmed everything and everyone without anyone turning their head and asked ‘what are you doing? We don’t want you filming this!’ These were relaxed times I suppose you say!’

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.

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. 

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. 

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.”

The Measure Of All Things' Sam Green On...

The Measure of All Things is a new live cinema performance by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green (The Weather Underground) with acclaimed chamber group yMusic. Here he discusses the film and his love of world records (book here for The Measure of All Things)

Sam Green on...

… describing The Measure Of All Things as a ‘pretty weird’ movie:

It’s a meditation on the Guinness Book of World Records. To me the book is very striking because in it are many records that say so much about Fate and how we live in a world we don’t understand. The basic building blocks of our lives are dealt with and evoked in the book, so my show is a meditation on that; a series of portraits of people, places and things, from the oldest person to the tallest person to the oldest living thing. In that sense, it evokes a kind of poem about fate, time and mystery of being alive.

… loving the Guinness Book of World Records:

Yeah – when I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with it and spent a lot of time just looking at the pictures. About 5 years ago I came across an old paperback copy of it and I was struck by two things; one – I remembered all the photos… looking at them I was automatically transported back in time to being a kid, but two – I was struck by the serious side of it, that it was, in some ways, a tragic, odd self portrait of humanity and the outer contours of the human experience. It really moved me. That’s where this came from.

… on the motivation to find record-breakers:

It was about putting together a poem that evoked the themes that I felt from the book. It’s an empathic impulse – a sense that we are all living with the mysteries of being alive. Take the guy who was struck by lightening seven times, he - in a way - is the quintessential person dealing with Fate in all its inexplicableness. He has no idea why he was struck seven times, and we all have that, to some extent; wonderful things happen to us and terrible things happen to us, and we never quite understand why. It’s all a mystery to some extent. The piece came out of trying to evoke that feeling.

… on choosing the subjects of the films:

That’s the fun part – I basically went through the book and pursued the things that resonated with me emotionally. Y’know, like the tallest man and the dolphin [Bao Xishan used his long arms to dislodge fatal plastic accidentally ingested by a dolphin at an aquarium] – I love that one. I had someone shoot him in Mongolia and got the footage of him with the dolphin, so it’s just a great story that hits all the right notes. It’s odd, tragic, and beautiful in a way. It was very fun to look into these.

… on the appeal of live cinema:

A lot of different things! I got started in it when making the film about utopia. I was a little grumpy about the fact that as a filmmaker now, you have to accept that people will be watching your work on their laptops whilst their checking Facebook. I do it – it’s how we do things now! We pay attention in fleeting ways on our computers – everything is a little more throwaway – and I didn’t want my work to be in that context. So there’s a lot of reasons why live cinema appeals to me; from aesthetic, to political to economic. I feel we’re being pushed by technology and the market all the time to be more alone with our devices, watching things in very fleeting ways. I feel, especially with cinema, that people coming together and having a collective experience is powerful – that’s the magic of cinema. I love that feeling when the lights go down and the movie starts, and I want my work to be in that world. I think there’s something much more meaningful about it. People often say ‘well so many less people will see your work if you do it this way’… y’know, you have to travel all the way, they have to travel to see it; that’s true, the audience is radically smaller, but I’d much rather have far fewer people have a meaningful experience – something that will linger with them for a while after – than for millions of people to have a throwaway experience when we watch a video online. Also, it is fun, I get nervous, it’s a challenge, and it’s great to work with musicians and travel around with bands. I just keep trying to see what the form can do. Each time I’ve done it, I’ve said ‘well I’m going to try and do it like this’. I’m still curious and inspired about it.

… on the fleeting nature of world records:

I’ve always liked that connection between the form and the content. In this case, the piece is about the fleeting nature of life, the provisional nature of all our efforts. In that sense, the form fits that. For example, the current oldest person in the world just died, so the piece is an organic, ephemeral work that changes and is never quite the same… which is how life is.

… on band yMusic:

yMusic is fantastic. They are a new music chamber group. I went to see the band The Dirty Projectors in New York and yMusic was playing with the band, sort of as their backing band. They played a few songs themselves to start the show and I was mesmerised. Their sound was huge. They had this epic, huge quality to their sound which I really wanted for this piece. One of the great things about the live form is that you can do so much more than you can with a regular movie. The music they play in a regular movie would probably be too much, but in a live context somehow it works and you give yourself over to it more. They’re at the nexus of classical and rock – it’s a really interesting new music world. They’re also very cool.

…on the most interesting person he spoke to in the making of The Measure of All Things:

I think the woman with the longest name. She has this enormous name which just goes on and on. Her mother gave her that name, so it’s not as if she created it herself. At first I thought it was just gibberish… like someone fell asleep on the keyboard… but if you look closely at it you start to see words. Her mother made this crazy long name, but within it there’s city names like ‘Paris’, qualities like ‘love’, there’s other peoples name’s from her family; it’s an odd and wonderful quilt of all these different pieces of ideas and aspirations… and it works! She likes it and gets attention from it. She was on Jay Leno and he gave her a driver’s license as a gag! It’s really interesting to me because there’s the idea that a name makes a person – you name a person and they grow into that name.

… on breaking a record himself:

The great irony of all this is that I did end up in the Guinness Book of World Records this year… and I didn’t even have to hula-hoop for 78 hours! They got in touch with me because they found a photo online of me at the quietest place on earth – an anechoic chamber – and it’s a photo of me holding a microphone. They asked me if they could use it to illustrate the quietest place on earth. I said of course – I always wanted to be in the book, but could never figure out how. I’m on page 74, right next to the ‘Most Valuable Tongue’.

The Tallest Tortillas, to the World’s Largest Timewarp - we investigate Brighton's world record attempts

The Measure of All Things, coming to Brighton Festival on Sat 23 and Sun 24 May, is an innovative ‘live documentary’, created by Academy Award-nominated film-maker Sam Green. The multi-disciplinary performance incorporates film, a live soundtrack from yMusic, and live narration from Green. This format allows him freedom from the restrictions of film, combined with the energy of a live audience, in an unparalleled production which promises to push the boundaries of the documentary genre. 

The Measure of All Things by Sam Green from The Kitchen on Vimeo.

Loosely inspired by the Guinness Book of World Records, the film weaves together portraits of record-breaking people, places and things: from the tallest man on earth, to the oldest living thing. Green tells Extended Play “in my mind, it’s a piece about time and fate and weird things we’re compelled to do — things we don’t even understand why we’re compelled to do them”. World Record Breakers form the basis for a poignant exploration of what Green calls the oddness and ‘inexplicable nature of being alive’.

In the spirit of The Measure of All Things, we decided to delve into Brighton’s very own collection of World Records (and attempts), from the wonderful to the wacky. Here are some of our favourites:

  • The Official UK Rocky Horror Fan Club danced their way to victory as the most people dancing the Time Warp in costume on Brighton Beach in 2009. 1635 people took part, but were outdone in 2010 by 8239 time warp-ers at the Annual Halloween Carnival in Hollywood. Watch the Brighton Time Warpers...

  • Heroic Brighton resident Dan Lawson holds the World Record for treadmill running, managing 226 kilometers in 7 days – the equivalent of 20 marathons! Keeping occupied by watching films, and fuelling himself on rice, veggie burgers and poppadums with mango chutney, he ran across the finish line in 2009 and remains unbeaten.
  • The Wold Record for the most people crammed in a Mini is 27, and was achieved by Dani and the mini-skirts at the London to Brighton Mini Run in 2014. See how it's done...

  • Brighton’s beloved Volks Railway holds the record for the First Public Electric Railway Still in Operation - it set off on its maiden voyage in 1883.
  • The tallest stack of tortillas was created in Jubilee Square in 2010 – standing at an impressive 58 cm (1 ft 10 in)
  • Karl-Heinz Hille from Germany is the holder of the World Record for most wins at the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Helping him make history was his title of Best Imperial Partial Beard at the 2007 Championships in Brighton.
  • In 2012 over 300 people gathered in an unofficial record attempt to bring together as many people dressed as Kate Bush re-enacting the dance to the iconic Wuthering Heights music video. Here is the final result...

Book now for The Measure of All Things


More on Sam Green Extended Play 
Timewarp record 
Treadmill record - The Argus 
Mini record Guinness World Records 
Volks Railway Guinness Book of Records
Tallest stack of Tortillas Guinness World Records
Beard Championship Record Guinness World Records
Spooning Record Virtual Festivals 

Agnès Varda is first woman to receive honorary Palme D’Or at Cannes

Agnès Varda – who made a very special personal appearance at Brighton Festival 2015 – is to receive an honorary Palme D’Or at Cannes this year in recognition of her career.

The legendary French filmmaker and artist, whose incredible body of work is celebrated at Brighton Festival this year with a new art installation called Beaches, Beaches at University of Brighton Gallery, a series of screenings of a selection of her films, and a special lecture at Duke of York’s, will be the first woman ever selected for the distinction.

Varda joins the ranks of only three other directors — Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci —in being recognised in this way for the global impact of their body of work.

Already the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award by the European Film Academy for her outstanding body of work, Varda - now 86 - has created some of the most interesting female protagonists in 20th-century cinema.

Audiences can visit her Brighton Festival gallery installation ‘Beaches, Beaches’ at University of Brighton Gallery until 24 May 2015. Comprised of images and videos related to French beaches, the installation references, in Varda’s words:

 “memories of an old photograph, a puzzled image of a young man on the beach, colourful plastic objects such as flip flops and rubber rings and all through the lovely sound of the sea border.”

The free installation runs from Saturday 2 May to Sunday 24 May, open daily from 10am – 5pm (and 10am – 8pm on Thursdays) at University of Brighton Gallery. Click here for more information.

Varda’s work is often connected to the French New Wave, and her early films were clear precedents for the stylistic tendencies which the New Wave directors delineated. However, her work remains particular to her own unique perspective on the world, resisting the paradigms of movements in art and film.

The themes and issues in her films focus on time and people, the collective unconscious, and social taboos. Her work is also distinct from the French New Wave for its crossing of genres, as she is known as much for her documentaries and short films as for her feature-length dramas. Not limiting herself to France, her films have been shot in a variety of locations, including the USA, Cuba and Iran.

Marcus Coates talks birds, shamanism, intoxicated animals and Brighton Festival with the Artsdesk

Marcus Coates brings his work Dawn Chorus to Fabrica this year. This immersive piece uses unique digital methods to explore the relationship between birdsong and the human voice, drawing out similarities between the behaviour of birds and humans. Recently, he spoke with Thomas H Green for The Arts Desk about his influences and works, past and present.

‘Coates tendency towards the bizarre and comic mask a deeply held desire to explore humankind’s understanding of nature and the world around.’

Find out more about the artist himself and his work in an enlightening interview with The Arts Desk.

‘Birds are particularly interesting because their lives mirror our own. They build homes, they have very complex ways of communicating vocally, a lot of their culture is similar to ours. Birdsong is a very interesting parallel because even the form of their song - repetition, endurance, musicality - is reflected in how we use music and language in song. We can see so much of ourselves in what birds are doing.'

Read the full interview

Five of the best…Female Filmmakers at Brighton Festival

After picking up a lifetime achievement award at the European Film awards last year, the amazing and iconoclastic French filmmaker Agnes Varda commented by saying ‘What I have noticed is that it is very sweet to receive this award but when I see the nominees here, I feel there are not enough women...I think more women should be included. I know a lot of very good female directors and women editors and I would like them be more represented and helped by the European film academy.’

We agree – and to mark International Women’s Day this Sunday we thought we would shine a light on five of them – who all happen to feature in this year’s Brighton Festival programme...

Agnes Varda

Often dubbed the ‘Godmother of the French New Wave’ the varied and brilliant career of Agnes Varda has spanned six decades. Her films, photographs, and art installations focus on documentary realism, feminist issues, and social commentary - with a distinct experimental style. We are delighted that the 86-year-old filmmaker and artist will be curating an installation in the Brighton University Gallery which will be open throughout the Brighton Festival 2015. We’ll also being showing many of her ground-breaking films such as the 60th anniversary screening of La Pointe Courte (1955) on Sun 3 May at Dukes at Komedia at 1.30pm and a 30th anniversary screening of Varda’s Vagabond (1985) at The Duke of Yorks on Sun 10 May, 1.30pm.

Carol Morley

British film director Carol Morley first came to prominence with her documentary The Alcohol Years, a BAFTA nominated film that was later released on DVD to critical acclaim. The film was nominally an autobiography but became as much about the people in it as Morley herself - and was seen to define the era and place in which it was set (Manchester in the 1980s). We will be bringing a screening of her acclaimed 2011 film Dreams of a Lifewhich explores mysterious the life and death of Joyce Vincent. Morley will also take part in a Q&A session after the screening on Mon 11 May at Dukes at Komedia.

Clio Barnard

Winner of various awards, British filmmaker Clio Barnard’s most recent film The Selfish Giant, about two boys who scavenge to survive on a Bradford estate, has been called 'a Kes for the 21st century'. For Brighton Festival 2015 we revisit her acclaimed debut feature The Arbor (2010) to Dukes at Komedia on Mon 18 May, 6.30pm. The film focuses around the life of the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. Barnard will also part in a post screening discussion.

Joanna Hogg

Joanna Hogg is an utterly distinctive figure in contemporary British cinema, making thoughtful, provocative arthouse movies about the lives of bourgeois characters. Her films are intimate, closely focused character studies that probe away at the behaviour and discontents of her protagonists in a forensic but quietly comical fashion. We are delighted that Joanna Hogg, will be taking part in a Q&A discussion at the Dukes at Komedia on Sun 17 May following a screening of her film Archipelago (2010) at 1.15pm. The film surrounds Edward (Tom Hiddleston) and his family as they have a get-together before he departs for a volunteering trip to Africa.

Sarah Wood

Sarah Wood has been working in the British film industry for over 10 years and has won several awards for her work. Her latest film projects have all been an exploration into ideas of the archive using found footage. Wood will be joined by film-maker Lucy Harris in this year’s visual art event at the Onca Gallery. Commissioned by Brighton Festival and a Brighton Festival Exclusive A Murmuration explores the natural world especially the relationship between art and nature in collaboration with writers Helen MacDonald and Olivia Laing.

By Charlotte Newell

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.

Video Playlist: Film at Brighton Festival 2014

Discover Film at Brighton Festival 2014

During this year’s Brighton Festival films from different countries across the world look at the depiction of children in the cinema. Little Fugitive from America, Hugo and Josephine from Sweden, Children in the Wind from Japan and Mark Cousin’s A Story of Children and Film are just some of the highlights. We also get into the mood of all things Dark & Stormy with the original Brighton RockDown TerraceLayer Cake Tea Party and more. Here’s a little taster: