Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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Visual artist David Shrigley named as Brighton Festival 2018 Guest Director

We are delighted to announce that the 2018 Guest Director is the Brighton-based visual artist David Shrigley

Best known for his distinctive drawing style and works that make satirical comments on the absurdity of 21st-century society, Shrigley’s darkly humorous compositions reflect the inconsequential, the bizarre, and the disquieting elements of daily life. While drawing is at the centre of his practice, his work spans an extensive range of media including sculpture, large-scale installation, animation, painting, photography and music.

Widely admired by the art world and public alike, David Shrigley was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2013 for his solo show David Shrigley: Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery. In September 2016, Really Good, a 7 metre-high elongated bronze sculpture of a thumbs-up, was unveiled as the latest incumbent of Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth - described as the ‘tallest and most positive yet’. An active member of the Save the Arts campaign, Shrigley recently contributed a series of illustrations depicting the benefits of the arts to health and wellbeing to accompany a report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.

On his appointment as Brighton Festival Guest Director David Shrigley says:

“The great thing about Brighton Festival is that you see things that are really thrilling and wonderful that you’ve never heard of before. What I’m looking forward to about the role of Guest Director is having the opportunity to not only see a lot of stuff and programme stuff but also make some artwork myself and have it presented in the place where I live. I think it’s a really nice way to communicate with people, to meet people and to invite people to come to Brighton.”

David Shrigley is the first visual artist to take on the role of Guest Director since the inaugural Guest Director, Anish Kapoor in 2009. Other previous Guest Directors include the acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest (2017), pioneering artist and musician Laurie Anderson, who led the 50th Brighton Festival in 2016, award-winning author Ali Smith (2015) and musician Brian Eno (2010) who have all taken turns shaping the three-week programme of cultural events.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival says:

“Like Brighton Festival, David Shrigley’s work is for everyone. Both powerful and funny, his work manages to navigate ‘high’ and ‘low’ art and speak to an incredibly wide audience. Alongside his own artwork, he has also joined in championing the power of the arts to help health and wellbeing. We are thrilled that David is bringing his distinctive take to the Festival and the city he has now made his home. We look forward to a programme that we hope will entertain and inspire.” 

Brighton Festival 2018 (5-27 May 2018) will feature new work from David Shrigley alongside exclusives, world and UK premieres from a wide range of international, national and local artists and companies.

Full programme details will be announced in February but a handful of events that can be revealed now include the co-commission Grand Finale by Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival Associate Artist and Brighton Festival 2014 Guest Director Hofesh Shechter- a bold and powerful vision of a world in freefall, which has recently opened to glowing reviews at Sadler’s Wells; Calixto Bieito’s The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety, a remarkable new production from one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors; and The Voice Project’s The Arms of Sleep, an overnight choral sleepover experience in which audiences encounter a unique dream-like and immersive night of music and stories, sound and images.

Next year’s Festival will also continue its emphasis on programming work in the community with the return of Your Place - two weekends of free performances and arts activities in Hangleton and East Brighton. Delivered in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre and community steering groups, both weekends will present international and national artists alongside local artists and community groups. Artists, community groups and an artist-in-residence are currently being sought to take part in Your Place 2018.

Following its successful trial last year, the Pay-it-Forward scheme will also return for 2018. Audiences are encouraged to donate £5 (or an amount of their choosing) on top of ticket prices as they complete their purchase, which is then match-funded by Brighton Festival to give a special £10 Pay-It-Forward Festival Ticket Voucher (valid for all Festival events) to someone unable to afford the opportunity. The response last year was phenomenal with over 1000 people choosing to pay tickets forward in the lead up to the Festival.

Brighton Festival will run 5-27 May 2018. Full programme details will be announced on Thursday 15 February 2018. 

Read an interview with David Shrigley on his appointment as Guest Director

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.

Brighton Festival 2017 goes down a storm

The 51st Brighton Festival - with acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest as Guest Director - came to a storming conclusion last weekend. 

The three-week celebration of the arts saw events take place in more venues across the city than ever before - 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.

At a political and social moment that feels particularly precarious, the wide-ranging programme paid homage to what Tempest calls the ‘Everyday Epic’ - art that helps us connect to ourselves and others, explores our individual stories and differences, and encourages audiences to take a walk in someone else’s shoes.

None did this more successfully than the UK Premiere of The Gabriels, Tony-award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s extraordinarily, intimate depiction of one American family, written and set in real time during the turbulent US election year. The plays received a series of 5* reviews and were lauded by critics as ‘deeply moving portraits of the dissolving American dream’ (The Guardian), ‘a quietly stunning theatrical achievement’ (The Stage), and ‘miraculous, almost invisible craft’ (The Arts Desk).

Kate Tempest herself featured in a plethora of performances both large and small: including an exclusive opening gig of music and spoken word, her largest full band performance to date; and a live orchestration of her recent album Let Them Eat Chaos, produced in collaboration with Oscar-nominated artist Mica Levi. All were rapturously received by sell-out audiences – with fans taking to Twitter to proclaim the likes of: “Transcendent doesn't even cover it: Kate you blew my mind. Thank you”.

Reflecting on the experience Tempest says:

“It’s felt crazy - the things that I’ve been doing have been things that I never would have had the opportunity to try out, had it not been for this particular Festival, for example getting the opportunity to play with a string and woodwind ensemble. That was an experience that I’ve dreamed of, but was completely impossible. 

To get that many players of that calibre together, and to do it in a way that felt like it was providing something new for the work. It felt like a real moment of artistic endeavour and true collaboration." 

With an audience of 15,000 over 16 evenings, one of the Festival’s biggest talking-points was For the Birds, a spectacular night-time trail of sound and light installations at a secret woodland location. The largest ticketed event ever presented at Brighton Festival, this unique event set social media abuzz throughout the month, with audiences dubbing it ‘mesmerising’, ‘fascinating’ and ‘beautiful”.

Reflecting Tempest’s belief that: ‘The arts should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes’, two new ventures ensured Brighton Festival 2017 did just that: The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life popped up in unusual locations across the city to tell their ‘Everyday Epic’ stories - in turn humorous, inspiring, thought-provoking, emotional, and rousing; and new initiative Your Place, in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre, brought a diverse line-up of free performances, workshops and activities Festival artists and local residents to the Hangleton and East Brighton communities. A resounding success, 1500 people took part in Your Place across two weekends.

Brighton Festival audiences were also encouraged to join the Pay-It-Forward movement for the first time in another new initiative which offered the chance to donate £5 on top of ticket prices which was match-funded to create a £10 Festival ticket voucher for someone unable to afford the opportunity. The response was phenomenal with over a thousand people choosing to pay tickets forward in the lead up to the Festival.

As Tempest herself said:

"One of my big hopes was that we could do just what we have done, which is to bring the Festival out a little bit, open it up, and have some events going on in the communities, so people who can’t make it into town for whatever reason, still get to access some of the great programming and some of that feeling of this Festival.”

Other Brighton Festival 2017 highlights included an ethereal promenade performance through Woodvale Cemetery for Circa’s Depart; Kneehigh’s acclaimed production of Emma Rice’s staging of Tristan & Yseult; a special performance from legendary folk singer Shirley Collins; a major new co-commission from sculptor Cathie Pilkington; a virtual exploration of the Australian outback with Lynette Wallworth’s thought-provoking Virtual Reality film experience Collisions; two special events to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of Monteverdi: and an inspirational sold-out book tour event from US Senator Bernie Sanders.

As ever this year’s Festival has been a triumph of partnership working, made possible through collaborations with many major organisations across the city and beyond including Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, Lighthouse, Fabrica, University of Brighton, Onca Gallery, Theatre Royal Brighton and Without Walls amongst others.

2017 also saw the highest number of shows yet live-streamed to audiences around the world for free, thanks to the on-going partnership with Greater Brighton Metropolitan College with highlights including Kate Tempest’s collaboration with Mica Levi and Orchestrate, an extravaganza of music and performance by queer artists of colour headlined by Mykki Blanco, and playful dance theatre by Joan Clevillé Dance with Plan B for Utopia.

Sponsorship and corporate support has also been vital this year with generous contributions from new and returning sponsors and supporters including London Gatwick Airport, University of Sussex, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, GM Building, Griffith Smith Farringdon Webb, Lulu.com, Nutshell Construction, Yeomans Toyota Brighton, Selits, and ZSTa.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “Bringing Brighton Festival together is a great privilege and this year with Kate Tempest’s inspiration we’ve been thrilled to have reached new audiences and achieved some fantastic new records. But it is only possible because of the extraordinary support we have from funders, patrons, supporters, sponsors, members, partners and artists. We are also blessed with one of the most adventurous, curious and experimental audiences anywhere. I would like to thank everyone for their invaluable contributions, for making Brighton Festival what it is and for bringing this wonderful city and its wonderful festival to life.”

In photos: Week 3

Brighton Festival 2017 is over! We can't believe what a fantastic month it has been – here's a few photos from events in the last week

Photos by Vic Frankowski and Adam Weatherley

In photos: Week 2

Another amazing week of Brighton Festival 2017 has passed already! Check out these photos from some of the incredible events over the last week.

Photos by Vic Frankowski, Caitlin Mogridge and Lucy Brooks.

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.

Guest Director Kate Tempest's Picks

With this year’s celebration of the everyday epic fast approaching, we felt there was no one better to guide us through the month ahead than our pioneering Guest Director, Kate Tempest.

Below she lays down the events she is especially excited about in the hope you will see, hear and feel something new.

Five Short Blasts Shoreham

Five Short Blasts Brighton Festival

Who? Austalian artist duo Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey (the team behind Gauge, Brighton Festival 2015)

What? Cast off aboard a small boat into the River Adur and navigate the uncertainties of the changing tide whilst tuning in to the sounds of the people who live and work on the water.

They Say“Five Short Blasts Shoreham is a journey in a boat, where you listen to the sound of the place and the sound of the people in the place. You listen to where you are but also you listen to voices and sounds that we have orchestrated and created for you as we traverse a journey.”

Kate says“There’s a site-specific piece of theatre, kind of environmental music installation art, by this incredible duo from Australia. It’s called Five Short Blasts which is the signal that you give when you are in a sea-way, that means ‘I’m confused about your intention and I’m nervous that we are going to collide’. This is the premise of this sound art piece and I’m really excited about bringing that to Brighton.”

Where? Shoreham Harbour

When? Saturday 6 – Sunday 28 May, around high tide (every day except 8, 9, 15 – 17, 24 & 25 May)

Let Them Eat Chaos: Rearranged

Kate Tempest, photo credit Eddie Otchere

Who? Guest Director Kate Tempest with Mica Levi & Orchestrate

What? Hip-hop inspired storytelling meets cinematic orchestration as Kate Tempest teams up with musician and composer Mica Levi and ensemble Orchestrate, to perform Kate’s full album, Let Them Eat Chaos reworked for strings.

The critics say“Kate Tempest’s refusal to recognise genre boundaries – her material nimbly regenerates itself into performance poetry, rap-style narratives against a backdrop of electronic music, a novel – might appear at odds with the consistency of her concerns.” – Alex Clark, The Guardian

Kate says“It’s a kind of reinterpretation of Let Them Eat Chaos for strings, composed by Mica Levi who is an incredible artist and a friend which is really exciting! I can just feel the shape of the piece changing and what’s going to happen to my voice against the resonance of those strings is really exciting.

Where? Brighton Dome Concert Hall

When? Let Them Eat Chaos: Thursday 11 May, 7,30pm

If you like this, you will also like… A film screening of the critically acclaimed Under the Skin, accompanied by a live orchestral performance conducted by Mica Levi of her ethereal soundtrack, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Sunday 7 May, 8pm

The Odyssey

The Odyssey at Brighton Festival 2017

Who? Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton

What? Leading storytellers Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton tell the gripping story of the Odysseus’ ten-year journey from Troy, an epic adventure story punctuated with moments of insight, humour and horror.

The critics say'The nation's most celebrated storytelling duo in a performance that is serious, moving and vital' Times

Kate says… “There’s a guy called Daniel Morden, who’s from Wales and he’s a storyteller – he knows the whole Odyssey back to front in his head, and he can tell it to you while you’re sitting there, it will feel like a blockbuster movie. He’s incredible, I’m really excited about what he’s going to bring!”

Where? Sallis Benney Theatre

When? Saturday 13 May, 6pm

Your Place

your place

Who? Community steering groups from Whitehawk and Hangleton, with Kate Tempest

What? A diverse and exciting programme of music, dance, theatre and spoken word events in the Hangleton and Whitehawk communities, created with and for the community, this one is for everyone to enjoy.

They say… “The community has been really hands on engaged form start to finish in the overall planning and management of the project [...] I think the arts and creativity are important to everyone, I think everyone is creative but not everyone gets the opportunity to express that creativity. The arts help us figure out what it means to be human.” - Naomi Alexander, Artistic Director of the Brighton People’s Theatre

Kate says…We’ve got this really cool initiative called Your Place – which is probably the thing I’m most excited about. We have developed two community hubs, one in Whitehawk, one in Hangleton, in community centres there and we’ll be programming events going on for two weekends across the Festival. There will be performances from Brighton Festival artists, also participatory events and workshops. Everything is free - completely free - programmed in conjunction and consultation with people that run some of the community programmes out of those community centres.”

Where? Hangleton & Whitehawk

When? Hangleton: Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 May, Whitehawk: Saturday 20 & Sunday 21 May

Ocean Wisdom and High Focus Records

Ocean Wisdom, The Four Owls & Jam Baxter

Who? High Focus Records presents Ocean Wisdom, The Four Owls and Jam Baxter

What? Resurrecting the legacy of UK hip-hop, label High Focus Records offers up three acts from their impressive family of artists. Meteoric riser, Ocean Wisdom, Fliptrix led collective The Four Owls, and outlandish lyricist, Jam Baxter.

They critics say… “Ocean Wisdom’s Chaos 93 is vital work in a maturing genre by a young talent, which should be as gripping a listen for those who know they’ll love it, as it is necessary for those who think they won’t.” – Tariq Goddard, The Quietus

Kate says… “There’s a rapper called Ocean Wisdom, a rapper called Jam Baxter and a group called Four Owls who are going do an event as a part of a High Focus showcase. High Focus are a record label championing extremely delicate, powerful and playful lyricism in the UK.”

Where? Brighton Dome Concert Hall

When? Friday 21 May, 7.30pm

Lyrix Organix


Who? Poet, musician and visual artist Kojey Radical & UnFold platform featuring Toby Thompson, Solomon OB, Laurie Ogden & London String Collective

What? Exploring what it means ‘to be human’, acclaimed platform, Unfold, with the next young stars of spoken work meets the extraordinary lyricism of 24 year-old artist, Kojey Radical in this double headliner collection of live performances threaded together by London String Collective

The critics say… “One of the most innovative and exciting presentations of the spoken word I have experienced” - Dean Atta, poet and winner of the London Poetry Award

Kate says… “There’s a real emphasis on storytelling, on lyricism which is something that is really close to my heart. We’ve got a load of poets that we’ve programmed and storytellers and lyricists from across the board. When you immerse yourselves in narratives that are overtly narratives like storytelling, or cinema or theatre or dance, it can help you tune in to spotting the narratives that are more carefully hidden.”

Where? The Spire

When? Tuesday 23 May, 7.30pm

If you like this, you will also like… Voted the best poetry night in the UK by The Times, Bang Said the Gun’s unique brand of stand-up poetry is an energetic blend of the freshest talent, described by Kate as ‘mud wrestling with words’, The Spire, Saturday 20 May, 8pm

Guest Director Kate Tempest invites festival-goers to join the Pay-it-Forward movement

Brighton Festival 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest invites festival-goers to join the Pay-It-Forward movement and enable more people to enjoy ticketed events at Brighton Festival.

This is part of her vision of opening up the possibility of experiencing the arts to as many people in the city as possible. In her words: “Art is social. It should be a part of life. No big deal – just life itself.”

Those booking tickets for Brighton Festival events are given the option of paying an extra £5 (or an amount of their choosing) as they complete their purchase, which Brighton Festival will match in order to give a £10 Pay-It-Forward Festival Ticket Voucher to someone unable to afford the opportunity.

All Brighton Festival ticketed events have a special Pay-It-Forward Voucher £10 price available to book online or in person. Vouchers will be distributed at Your Place (our new community-led, free performance spaces in Hangleton and Whitehawk running over two Festival weekends), local schools and through our partner community organisations.

Kate Tempest says 'After something amazing like the opening Children’s Parade where all the school kids in Brighton parade through the streets - Pay-it-Forward feels like a useful way of activating some of the feelings that get brought up when you are watching a piece of work together – about community and feeling a part of something. It feels like an active way that people can help make the Festival a bit more open and create space for more people to come and check out some of these amazing artists.'

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome and Festival says 'From our regular free participatory events such as the annual Children’s Parade, City Reads and Young City Reads, and Weekend Without Walls - two days of free arts in the parks, to our partnership with Brighton City College to live-stream many of our shows to audiences around the world for free, Brighton Festival has always been dedicated to making the arts accessible for all. This year’s Guest Director Kate Tempest is passionate about the power of the arts to bring communities together. With new initiatives, such as Your Place and the Pay-it-Forward scheme, I hope that Brighton Festival 2017 will encourage the whole city to come together to celebrate the creativity in their communities and try something new.'

The inspiration for Pay-It-Forward comes from the global international Pay It Forward Day, which is now in its 10th year, and hopes to inspire millions to experience the power and positive energy of giving by buying something in advance for someone else. Pay It Forward is about all people, from all walks of life giving to someone else and making a positive difference. At last count, there were more than 5 million people in 80 countries around the world participating on the Pay It Forward Day. This year Pay It Forward Day is 28 April 2017.

More than half of the ticketed events in Brighton Festival 2017 have prices generally available for £10 or less. There are also 16 free events and workshops including Weekend Without Walls (Sat 13 May, Easthill Park, Portslade and Sun 14 May, East Brighton Park) and visual art installations at ONCA Gallery, Fabrica and University of Brighton running throughout the Festival.

Kate Tempest on Brighton Festival 2017 theme Everyday Epic

Guest Director Kate Tempest’s programme celebrates what she calls the ‘Everyday Epic’ - art that helps us connect to ourselves and others, explores our individual stories and differences, and encourages audiences to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. In her words: “Art is social. It should be a part of life. No big deal – just life itself.”

Many of Tempest’s interests, passions, and inspirations are explored in an eclectic line-up spanning theatre, dance, visual art, film, debate and spoken word.

Produced by echovideo.co.uk

In Pictures: Brighton Festival 2016

The 50th Brighton Festival is almost over, so we're taking a look back at the pictures from some of the shows and events we've loved the most. 

Picking out these images put a grin on our faces, and we hope it makes you smile too! 

Why not have a look through some more photos from this year's festival and re-live something special?

Photo credits: Victor Frankowski, Adam Weatherley, John Hunter