We are thrilled to reveal the full programme for Brighton Festival 2023, the largest annual curated multi-arts festival in England. With critically acclaimed musician, producer, DJ and broadcaster Nabihah Iqbal as our Guest Director, we’re inviting everyone to Gather ‘Round in an ambitious celebration of community and collaboration.
From world premieres in outdoor theatre and free, large-scale immersive installations to exclusive community commissions and an eclectic range of live music, dance, comedy and everything in between. Read on to explore highlights from the programme...
Nabihah says ‘It has been an honour to curate this year’s Brighton Festival and I’m looking forward to seeing it add another layer of vibrancy to Brighton, a city so full of energy already. It’s a cliché to say that the Festival offers 'something for everyone' – but maybe to get the most out of it, the key is to try going to the things that you think aren’t for you…and hopefully you’ll come away pleasantly surprised.’
A Cultural Melting Pot
Renowned for her collaborations and curiosity, Nabihah brings her genre-defying musical influences to the Festival this year, including her latest experimental musical project, SUROOR is a shapeshifting collaboration with multi-disciplinary artists Raheel Khan, Paul Purgas and Imran Peretta; and a celebration of UK bass culture with reggae legends DJs Aba Shanti-I and Dennis Bovell.
Premieres and Highlights
Each year we commission exclusive performances and host world and UK premieres of the most exciting new productions, and this year is no exception.
Our commissions this year include the world premiere of Galatea, a pioneering production of John Lyly’s 400-year-old play. The inspiration behind some of Shakespeare’s most iconic works, Galatea has been radically reinterpreted by award-winning theatre maker Emma Frankland in an outdoor production in Shoreham by Sea.
Meanwhile, our iconic Concert Hall will transport audiences to the Sumatran rainforest in a world premiere of the immersive soundscape, The Sleeping Tree, from award-winning interactive arts collective Invisible Flock. An ever-changing installation running almost all day and all night, lose yourself in one of our planet’s most important, and increasingly fragile, landscapes.
Watch actor Russell Tovey, poet Joelle Taylor and performer Travis Alabanza in Blue Now, a special mixed-media performance of legendary filmmaker Derek Jarman’s final film, Blue, thirty years since its release. Based on moving diary extracts, this new live rendition of the film will be a chance to witness this cinematic masterpiece afresh.
Brighton Festival also plays host to the UK debut of French-Norwegian puppetry masters Plexus Polaire’s visually stunning adaptations of Moby Dick and Conor Mitchell and the Belfast Ensemble’s critically acclaimed form-bending production of Abomination: A DUP Opera.
Music without Boundaries
From exciting newcomers to established artists, this year’s music programme traverses experimental line-ups and classical ensembles!
The Festival welcomes sitar legend Anoushka Shankar; Mercury-Prize winning percussionist Talvin Singh; hosts a celebration of timeless breakbeat with Goldie; and stages a Brighton Festival Exclusive performance from vocalist/composer BISHI and the Trans Voices choir.
We’ll be welcoming the legendary Shirley Collins and Martin and Eliza Carthy in a weekend-long celebration of folk music, alongside contemporary psych-folk duo Stick in the Wheel and multi-instrumentalists Laura Groves and Angeline Morrison. And if post-punk and dub sounds are your bag, Manchester’s A Certain Ration and Public Image Ltd's Jah Wobble join the line-up.
Elsewhere, UK jazz auteur and Mercury Prize-nominee Shabaka Hutchings swaps his saxophone for a Japanese shakuhachi flute and musician and actor Nadine Shah collaborates with writer Jackie Thompson on a theatrical story of chaos and recovery, To Be A Young Man, including a rare stripped-back set.
For classical buffs, this year’s line-up boasts François-Xavier Roth conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Lindberg and Beethoven, with the ‘dazzling virtuoso’ Yuja Wang at the piano. Actors Rory Kinnear and Pandora Colin join singers Mark Padmore and Roderick Williams and pianist Julius Drake for a programme of words and music inspired by Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man; and the Takács Quartet make a welcome return to the Festival, performing Arvo Pärt and Schubert at Glyndebourne.
All the way from Melbourne, Groundswell, a free, large-scale installation for all ages will be making its first UK appearance here in Brighton. The brainchild of award-winning Australian artist Matthias Schack-Arnott, Groundswell literally moves the ground beneath your feet!
In a Brighton Festival exclusive, Parachute, the first solo exhibition from London-based photographer Reuben Bastienne-Lewis documents the intimate journey from adolescence to adulthood. Whilst painter Mohammed Adel examines his British-Bengali identity in another world premiere exhibition.
From contemporary artists to one of the most influential painters of all time; Van Gogh Alive, an innovative experience exploring the life and works of the seminal Dutch artist will be reopening Brighton Dome’s historic Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre. Immerse yourself in a brand-new Starry Night installation in one of Brighton’s most iconic spaces.
Dance & Circus
From contemporary dance to awe-inspiring acrobatics, discover the best in dynamic physical performances.
The world premiere of KIZLAR, a new dance work from Brighton-based Ceyda Tanc’s all-female company, explores femininity and masculinity inspired by Turkish heritage.
Australian contemporary circus troupe Gravity & Other Myths bringing Out of Chaos, an explosive acrobatic performance referencing birth, death, and primordial physics, alongside a free night-time outdoor performance Playbook; plus, there’s Aakash Odedra’s moving and humorous dance portrait of dyslexia, Little Murmur.
Words and Ideas
Across debate, in-depth literature conversations, stand-up sets and our Festival of Ideas series, this year’s programme investigates the power of communication.
For those who’s preferred language is punchlines, comedian Nish Kumar will lead the all-star line-up in Live at Brighton Festival, alongside award-winner Thanyia Moore and Chloe Petts; and triple Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Josie Long presents a brand-new show, Re-Enchantment, musing on how to love the world under ‘difficult circumstances’.
Over the three weeks, our Books & Debates series includes internationally renowned model and activist Munroe Bergdorf on her life-affirming and heart-felt new book, Transitional. Join one of the most respected and razor-sharp voices in social commentary, Polly Toynbee as she examines class in modern Britain.
And there’s a line-up of literary events for the smallest of bookworms too...
Delve into the wonderful world of children’s books. Hear an irresistible new story from beloved author Jacqueline Wilson; join illustrator Martin Brown to celebrate 30 years of Horrible Histories; and celebrate ‘hair-as-superpower’ with author Tolá Okogwu and her epic adventure Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun.
Get crafty with Club Origami, an interactive dance show inviting families to rip, fold and imagine in a land made purely of paper and play.
Of course, no Brighton Festival is complete without the annual Children’s Parade! Taking place on Sunday 7 May, this year’s procession interprets the Gather ‘Round theme with One World, growing and learning from each other. With 5000 children travelling through the streets of Brighton with show-stopping sculptures and imaginative costumes, this colourful collaboration isn’t one to miss.
As always, Brighton Festival celebrates strong connections with communities across East Sussex. Once more, A Weekend Without Walls continues to push the boundaries of thought-provoking work in public spaces with a free programme of outdoor performances in Brighton, Hove and Crawley. Spanning West African folklore, classical Indian dance, Persian miniature painting and even a cup of tea from a tuk tuk, stumble across something thrilling on the 27 and 28 May.
In a Brighton Festival Commission, ThirdSpace theatre company are back with a bold reimagining of the ancient Greek tragedy, Bakkhai. Performed against the dramatic backdrop of the South Downs, this collaboration with dancer Ceyda Tanc features a cast of over 50 people aged 8-60.
Meanwhile, Brighton & East Sussex Youth Orchestra take to the Brighton Dome Concert Hall stage, performing pieces with a distinctly folk feel.
We look forward to seeing you at the Festival in May!