Brighton Festival Live: The World of Moominvalley
The World of Moominvalley will be live streamed from Sunday 20 May at 3:00 PM.
The World of Moominvalley with Philip Ardagh & Daniel Hahn
Join award-winning children's author, Philip Ardagh, and Daniel Hahn as they introduce The World of Moominvalley. This beautiful new book is filled with illustrated maps and family trees, facts about Moomin behaviour and habits, all you could wish to know about each beloved character, the world in which they live and their creator Tove Jansson. A family event for Moomins fans young and old.
Everyday Epic: Anthology of Short Stories Launched
After taking over the streets for Brighton Festival 2017, the Storytelling Army are back with their newly published anthology.
Everyday Epic is a collection of stories celebrating the Storytelling Army, a project that took place as part of Brighton Festival 2017. In a collaboration between theatre company Nabokov and 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest, the Storytelling Army was assembled: a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life and all corners of the city, including those homeless and vulnerably housed.
Each explored Brighton Festival Guest Director Kate Tempest's theme of Everyday Epic, hosting pop-up performances across Brighton, from the local supermarket, the pub or on the top deck of a bus. Nabokov believe that theatre should be in our communities, in spaces from car parks, on the streets, in rooms above pubs, on public transport, in nightclubs and festivals and not just restricted to the traditional theatre space.
Their mission is to ensure that the event of theatre is for all and reflects the current experiences and diverse voices of our generation. Many of the works published in this anthology were first shared via these pop-up performanes. Writers living in Sussex were asked to respond to the theme selected by Kate Tempest for Brighton Festival 2017, Everyday Epic, in no more than 4,000 words. The remaining four stories are from members of the Sussex-wide public who won the Everyday Epic story writing competition run by Lulu.com which was run in conjunction with Brighton Festival.
Everyday Epic Anthology of Short Stories Celebrating Storytelling Army now on Sale
After taking over the streets for Brighton Festival 2017, the Storytelling Army return with a newly published anthology of short stories.
Everyday Epic is a collection of stories celebrating the Storytelling Army, a project that took place as part of Brighton Festival 2017. The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life and all corners of the city, including those homeless and vulnerably housed, was formed in a collaboration between theatre company nabokov and 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest. Each storyteller explored Kate Tempest's theme of 'Everyday Epic', hosting pop-up performances across Brighton, from inside local supermarkets, on street corners and in pubs, to on the top deck of a bus.
Nabokov believe that theatre should be in our communities and not just restricted to the traditional theatre space. Their mission is to ensure that the event of theatre is for all and reflects the current experiences and diverse voices of our generation. Many of the works published in this anthology were first shared via these pop-up performances. The remaining four stories are from members of the Sussex-wide public who won the Everyday Epic story writing competition run by Lulu.com which was run in conjunction with Brighton Festival. This competition asked writers living in Sussex to respond to the theme selected by Kate Tempest for Brighton Festival 2017, Everyday Epic, in no more than 4,000 words.
To purchase the Everyday Epic Anthology, see Lulu.com for more information.
Adopt an Author: Benfield Primary get creative with Alex Milway and Harold and Pigsticks
Adopt an Author is an exciting schools initiative which links classes with children’s authors to promote literacy, encourage writing and develop creativity.
After 8 weeks of fun email discussions with their adopted author, classes attend a 'Meet your Author' party during the Festival. This year local primary schools Carden, Goldstone, Mile Oak and St Luke's are adopting Imogen White, Rob Lloyd Jones, Alex Milway and M G Leonard
Four participating classes from different local schools are paired up with an author and sent copies of one of their author’s books. In February they begin reading the book in class and emailing their author once a week for 8 weeks. During this time the author may set small related activities for the class and the class can ask questions of the author and share samples of their own work. The project culminates in May with a ‘Meet Your Author’ party where the author will plan a session full of fun activities for their adoptive class!
Today we're celebrating and sharing some of the wonderful work from Benfield Primary School in Portslade. The Gecko and Iguana class (Year 2) have adopted author Alex Milway. For the past two weeks, Alex has been teaching his class how to draw two characters from his latest book, Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey.
You can read more from Alex Milway and his class on the Adopt An Author blog.
Author Rob Lloyd-Jones kicked off the first week of his 'adoption' with a writing task. Rob has been adopted by Mile Oak School's year 6 class. He asked them to describe their favourite stories and why. Here's a look at what they came back with...
You can see more from Rob Lloyd-Jone's and his class on the Adopt An Author blog.
The Adopt an Author blog provides a space to display some of the wonderful correspondences from this year’s project. To read more about the initiative and see more from authors Imogen White and M G Leonard and their classes, visit the Adopt an Author blog.
Programmer Picks: Brighton Festival Books & Debates events
Alice O’Keefe, freelance journalist and Brighton Festival Books & Debate programmer, picks a few, of the many, literary events she’s most looking forward to.
Afua Hirsch and Colin Grant - Brit(ish)
In the wake of the Windrush scandal this event is incredibly timely. In Afua Hirsch's new book Brit(ish) she explores being black and British. She addresses the everyday racism that still plagues our society, and argues that we are a nation in denial about our past and our present:
"You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from?"
Afua talks to the writer Colin Grant about identity and belonging, and makes an urgent call for change.
Brett Anderson: Coal Black Mornings
Yes, this is Brett Anderson as in Suede, and it turns out that he is a proper writer: his autobiography, Coal Black Mornings, is so much more than a rock memoir. This is a genuine literary treat, a moving and evocative account of the childhood that shaped the music we know so well. Anderson grew up on a council estate in Haywards Heath, with an artistic mother and an eccentric father (a Liszt-obsessed taxi driver). Here's a review. He will be appearing at Brighton's Theatre Royal on 20th May, talking to the Guardian journalist Alexis Petridis.
Sally Rooney and Fiona Mozley: The Journey to Publication
I've been recommending Sally Rooney's sparkling debut novel Conversations With Friends for a while now. Here is your chance to hear Sally talk about her work, in conversation with Fiona Mozley, another hugely talented young novelist whose dark and dazzling debut, Elmet, was shortlisted for the Booker. I'm chairing this event, and I'll be asking them both about their experiences of making the transition from aspiring author to published writer. This is an event for writers and readers alike. Here is more info.
Tom Hodgkinson: Business for Bohemians
Tom Hodgkinson's book, Business for Bohemians, is a witty and inspiring guide to making the most of your working life. Drawing on his experience as editor of The Idler, the book is full of practical advice about how to turn your creative ambitions into a successful and sustainable business. Hodgkinson helped to convince me that it might be possible to live a fulfilling and imaginative life, and also bring home the bacon. He even made me see the point of - no, actually enjoy - learning to use spreadsheets. So, if you've ever dreamed of getting out of the rat race and working for yourself (and frankly, who hasn't?), this is the event for you.
Nicola Barker and Nick Harkaway: Future Perfect
What will life in a total digital society look like? Novelists have often been the first to imagine the human consequences of technological progress (see: JG Ballard, Philip K Dick). Nicola Barker recently won the Goldsmiths Prize for her novel H(A)ppy, which imagines a society in which every innermost thought is subject to total surveillance. In his epic, multi-layered novel Gnomon, Nick Harkaway (son of John Le Carre) also explores the impact of big data and surveillance on human lives. There are some eery similarities between these two books. I'll be talking to the authors about how they imagine the future and asking them for a steer on my next lottery numbers.
Five of the Best…Feminist Festival events
To coincide with International Women’s Day - a global celebration of the economic, cultural, social and political achievements of women that takes place on 8 March each year - we shine a light on just a few of the many amazing female fronted events at this year’s Festival.
Les Amazones d’Afrique
Les Amazones d'Afrique is a supergroup of 10 incredible West African female performers, both international stars and local musicians. Members include Mariam Doumbia, part of Amadou & Mariam, Nneka, Mariam Koné, Mouneissa Tandina, Rokia Koné, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Massan Coulibaly, and Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo. Using music as a weapon, the group fight against gender inequality. For example, money earned from their single ‘I play the Kora’ provided extra funding for the Panzi Foundation, a service that supports and treats survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As sung in ‘I play the Kora’, Les Amazones d'Afrique encourage their listeners to "rise up and fight injustice because we're all equal”.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Thu 24 May, 7.30pm. Book now on the event page.
Bridget Christie is an English stand-up, actor and writer, often acclaimed for her feminist material. This May she is here with her latest show What Now?. Christie burst onto the Comedy scene with A Bic for her (named after the pen manufacturer who released a biro with a “slimmer barrel designed to fit more comfortably in women’s hands” and available in a range of “pretty pastel colours”) in 2013. Not only is Christie a proud human rights campaigner, but she also worked closely with Leyla Hussein - a psychotherapist and female genital mutilation survivor and campaigner. The pair made a short film for the 2017 Stand Up for FGM benefit in London. Since its production the film has been used to educate police officers, GPs and children.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Fri 18 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.
Viv Albertine is not only former lead guitarist of iconic riot grrrl female trio The Slits, but she’s also a celebrated writer. The Slits defied expectation, becoming a strong figurehead for young and empowered women at the time. Albertine's memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a brutally honest portrayal of growing up in the Thatcher years. It was a Sunday Times, Mojo, Rough Trade, and NME Book of the Year in 2014, as well as being shortlisted for the National Book Awards.
Brighton and Hove High School, Tue 22 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.
Shami Chakrabarti is a British Labour Party politician and member of the House of Lords. She is a barrister, and was the director of Liberty, an advocacy group which promotes civil liberties and human rights. Chakrabarti describes inequality as ‘the greatest human rights abuse on the planet’, and in her new book, On Women, she lays out the huge challenges women still face with honesty and clarity. Gender injustice, Shami Chakrabarti shows, is an ancient and continuing wrong that is millennial in duration and global in reach.
Brighton and Hove High School, Sat 26 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.
Ursula Martinez: Free Admission
Ursula Martinez is a London-based Anglo-Spanish British writer, performer, and cult cabaret diva noted for her use of nudity and non-actors. Martinez fuses theatrical concepts, personal experience and popular forms to create innovative, challenging, experimental theatre that is highly entertaining and reflective of our contemporary, post-modern world. She will be bringing Free Admission to Brighton Festival, a one-women play about absurdity of modern living.
The Old Market, Mon 14 May, 8pm. Book now on the event page.
Title revealed for City Reads 2018
Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country chosen for city-wide 'big read' as part of Brighton Festival
Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival are delighted to reveal that Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country has been chosen as this year’s City Read across Brighton & Hove and beyond. The concept is simple: one book, by one author, is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.
Sacred Country tells the story of Mary Ward who one day stands shivering in an England field in February 1952 and realises she is meant to be a boy. She is six years old. From its opening pages Sacred Country vows to take the reader on a compelling literary journey through Mary's fight to become Martin. Spanning three decades, from the oppressive English countryside of the 1950s, to London in the Swinging Sixties, to 1970’s America, Sacred Country follows Mary in her plight to find a place of safety and fulfilment in a savage and confusing world.
Fox Fisher, trans artist and activist said: ‘As a trans person myself, I never saw trans characters in books (or in ‘real life’, for that matter) growing up. Although Sacred Country is written by an author that isn’t trans, I was utterly gripped with the storyline and characters. The audiobook is read by a trans man which adds to the authenticity and is an example of the level of care and consideration when creating this book. As a film-maker, I could really visualise how well this would translate to a feature length fiction. And when the time comes, I hope the person to make the film is me!’
Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, City Reads commented: 'Sacred Country tells the compelling story of Mary, born in the wrong body and their arduous journey to become Martin. Despite being written in 1992, Sacred Country is a novel that deserves to be re-discovered as it is still a hugely relevant work. Mary’s story is told with skill, compassion and empathy. Rose Tremain is one of the UK’s most respected writers and we are delighted to be welcoming her to Brighton & Hove in May to discuss this groundbreaking novel with readers across the City.’
Rose Tremain was one of only five women writers to be included in Granta’s original list of 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 1983, and was made a CBE in 2007. Her award-winning novels and short stories have been published worldwide in 27 countries. Sacred Country won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and Prix Femina Etranger. It has oft been compared to Virginia Woolf's iconic novel Orlando through its reconsideration of the essence of gender.
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: ‘We are delighted that City Reads is part of Brighton Festival again this year - building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. To have a writer of the calibre of Rose Tremain as our selected author is particularly exciting and we look forward to people reading and enjoying the book together over the coming months.’
Victoria Murray-Browne, Senior Editor, Vintage said: ‘We’re thrilled that Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country has been picked for this year’s City Reads. Set in rural Suffolk in the 1950s, it tells the story of Mary who, aged six, has a sudden revelation: I am not Mary. That is a mistake. I am not a girl. I'm a boy. It’s a story about the search for identity and finding fulfilment in an unforgiving world that resonates as strongly today as when it was first published 25 years ago’
From its launch on World Book Night (23 April) to the final event at Brighton Festival on 13 May, there are a wide range of activities on offer as part of City Reads, aimed at encouraging residents across the City (and beyond) to get reading and start talking. Highlights include: the return of the Booky Photo Booth at Jubilee Library (23 April - 5 May), the ever popular City Reads Book Quiz on Weds 25 April in Lewes and Brighton on Weds 2 May, crime writer William Shaw’s Impromptu Book Group podcast on Thurs 26 April, themed film screenings at Jubilee Library and Depot (Lewes) and of course Rose Tremain, live at Brighton Festival for the City Reads finale on Sunday 13 May 2018.
Title revealed for Young City Reads 2018
Greg James and Chris Smith's Kid Normal chosen for city-wide 'big read' as part of Brighton Festival
Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival are delighted to reveal that Greg James and Chris Smith's Kid Normal has been chosen as the 2018 'big read' for children across Brighton & Hove and beyond. The concept is simple: one book, by one author, is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.
Familiar to radio audiences as the hosts of Radio 1’s Greg James Show and its accompanying podcast That’s What He Said, Greg James and Chris Smith’s Kid Normal tells the story of a boy who accidentally enrols in a school for children with superpowers. Chris Smith’s literary career so far includes winning the H E Bates Short Story Competition 1981 (under 10s section) with his tale Where Are the Brandy Snaps?
The idea for writing their first children’s book arose from the pair enjoying creating characters together on their podcast, such as the Brandy Butter Monster or the receptionists at CERN. The plot concerns Murph Cooper, who feels out of depth in his new school after his mum has enrolled him at a school for superheroes by mistake. Unlike his fellow students, who can all control the weather or fly or conjure tiny horses from thin air, Murph has no special abilities whatsoever. And not far away is a great big bad guy who is half man and half wasp, and his mind is abuzz with evil plans...
Greg James and Chris Smith said: ‘We know that Brighton is full of superpowers: seagull evasion, shingle navigation and dolphin racing, to name but three. And now we're looking forward to adding a few new ones with the help of your awesome powers of creativity. We hope you enjoy meeting Murph and his friends in Kid Normal, and we can't wait to meet you all to make up some new stories!’
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: ‘Young City Reads is always a highlight of Brighton Festival and a testament to our strong partnership with Collected Works. By providing an opportunity to encourage young booklovers to come together to discuss and share their love of reading – we are hopefully nurturing a new generation of artists and art lovers for the future.’
Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, Collected Works CIC, commented: ‘Young City Reads is all about sharing our love of stories. It inspires children to take time over the reading of a book and then encourages them to discuss it with friends, teachers, carers or parents. We are delighted to be welcoming Radio 1 personalities Chris Smith and Greg James to Brighton in May to celebrate their funny and warm hearted book with schools across the city and beyond. Our young readers are in for a treat!’
Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for free) and agree to read Kid Normal together in class between (1 March – 18 May 2018). The Class Teacher or Head Teacher can complete a sign-up form on the City Reads website.
Throughout the project, participating classes will receive free weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size Kid Normal literacy resources and fun activities to complete. This is a great way for classes to get excited about a book and to experience the benefits of shared reading and the fun it brings.
Sharon Duggal’s The Handsworth Times was chosen for City Reads 2017 and A.F. Harrold’s Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) was the title for Young City Reads 2017.
Winners announced of Lulu.com Short Story Competition
Four winners of the short story writing competition run by Lulu.com, sponsor of Brighton Festival commission the Storytelling Army, have been announced.
The lucky winners will have their stories combined with stories from the Storytelling Army into the Everyday Epic anthology, which is to be published by Lulu.com.
Writers living in Sussex were asked to respond to the theme selected by Kate Tempest for Brighton Festival 2017, Everyday Epic, in no more than 4,000 words. The winning entries are:
Protected Housing by David Benedictus, Hove
On the threshold by Jenny Gaitskell, Lewes
Nice Light by Saba Sams, Brighton
Together we can by Beki Turner, Brighton
Jean Roberts, Business Development Director UK at Lulu.com says “The standard of the entries were all very high and it was certainly a difficult choice to come down to the final four writers. The judges all felt that these stories captured the spirit of the ‘Everyday Epic’ and really make the reader stop and think about how even the smallest event can be epic and life affirming or changing. Well done to all four winners and we hope that they continue to write stories to share.”
Brighton Festival worked with nabokov theatre company and Guest Director Kate Tempest to assemble and mobilise the Storytelling Army: a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life - including those who are homeless and vulnerably housed – who performed in unexpected locations throughout Brighton over the last weekend of this year’s Festival.
Alice O'Keefe's most anticipated Books and Debate events
Alice O’Keefe, our Books and Debate Programmer, shares her most anticipated events from three of the most exciting writers of this year's Brighton Festival.
For reader’s out there who haven’t discovered Petina Gappah yet, you are in for a treat – her event is going to be one of my highlights of this year’s festival. The short stories in her latest collection, Rotten Row, bring alive the experience of living in Zimbabwe under Mugabe – the craziness, the poverty, the lack of justice or redress, but most of all, the inventiveness and humanity of ordinary people. She is as funny and scathing about the ageing dictator as she is about the folly of the Western aid agencies – get a ticket and catch this very special writer while you can.
Another highlight is sure to be Hanif Kureishi, who will be looking back over his whole taboo-busting and boundary-breaking career in conversation with the broadcaster Mark Lawson. From his portrayal of a cross-cultural gay relationship in the film My Beautiful Laundrette, to his very early look at Islamic fundamentalism in his novel The Black Album, Kureishi has consistently proved himself to be one of Britain’s most provocative and insightful writers. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about these and his latest novel, The Nothing.
Finally, I’m looking forward to seeing Gary Younge, who is one of my very favourite writers on politics both in Britain and America. He will be talking about his shocking and brilliant book One More Day in the Death of America, and also more generally about race, guns and Trump. He is in Brighton on the special invitation of Kate Tempest, who is a big fan - and his event is essential for anyone who wants to understand the current state of the USA.
Brighton Festival welcomes Bernie Sanders for special Festival Extra event
Former Democratic candidate for President of the United States Bernie Sanders will speak about his new book Our Revolution at a special Brighton Festival Extra event on Thursday 1 June, with tickets on sale from Wednesday 3 May at 10am (members pre-sale Tuesday 2 May at 10am).
Bernie Sanders will join Brighton Festival’s diverse Books and Debate programme, which includes Gary Younge discussing the role of guns in Trump’s America; Tariq Ali on his portrait of Lenin, and how we might challenge capitalism today; Palestine’s leading writer Raja Shehadeh on the Israeli occupation of Palestine; celebrated novelist Hanif Kureishi looking back on a career in which he has explored identity, cultural difference, and religious fundamentalism; and Democracy Debate: What Comes Next? in which Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee chairs a panel of top thinkers and politicians to debate the future of our political system.
Bernie Sanders stormed to international headlines after running an extraordinary campaign for the Democratic primaries that saw over 13 million people turn out to vote for him, and changing the global discussion surrounding US politics. But how did a complete unknown and an avowed socialist make such waves?
In Our Revolution, Sanders provides a unique insight into the campaign that galvanized a movement, sharing experiences from the campaign trail and the techniques that shaped it. And it wasn't just his use of new media; Sanders' message resonated with millions. His supporters are young and old, dissatisfied with expanding social inequality, struggling with economic instability and who rebelled against a political elite who has long ignored them. This is a global phenomenon, driving movements from Syriza in Greece to Podemos in Spain and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.
Drawing on decades of experience as activist and politician, Sanders outlines his ideas for continuing this political revolution. He shows how we can fight for a progressive economic, environmental, racial and social justice agenda that creates jobs, raises wages and protects the environment. Searing in its assessment of the current political and economic situation, but hopeful and inspiring in its vision of the future, this book contains an important message for anyone tired of 'same as usual' politics and looking for a way to change the game.
Bernie Sanders ran to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. He is currently serving his second term in the U.S. Senate after winning re-election in 2012 with 71 percent of the vote. Sanders previously served as mayor of Vermont's largest city for eight years.
Bernie Sanders Our Revolution: A Future to Believe in is coming to Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Thursday 1 June.
Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival Members pre-sale: Tuesday 2 May at 10am. Tickets go on general sale: Wednesday 3 May at 10am
5 minutes with... Hollie McNish
Internationally acclaimed poet and spoken word artist Hollie Poetry joins us for this year’s Brighton Festival as part of An Evening with Picador Poetry. You may know her from her Brighton Festival 2015 performance with Kate Tempest and George the Poet, or from one of her viral YouTube videos (now totaling almost 4.1 million views). Take 5 minutes to learn what makes Hollie McNish tick, ahead of her next fantastic show at the Brighton Festival in May.
I knew I wanted to be a performer when…
Honestly, I wanted to be a sports coach, then an economist, then a writer. But I love this job now! I knew I wanted to carry on doing this when I met the other poets I’d be working with.
My first public performance took place at…
Poetry Unplugged, Poetry Café, Covent Garden after a good pint of cider.
The first gig I went to was…
The Hollies with my dad. I’m named after them and he was determined I’d love them. The first one of my own choice was to see MN8.
The first album I ever bought was…
Errr, Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers. I was a little obsessed with the non-radio edit version! Other than that I’d record my own on tape from the radio. You know when you used to listen so carefully to click stop before the radio presenter spoke again.
The proudest moment of my career to date was when…
My daughter did my sound check at Abbey Road.
My favourite part of touring is…
Meeting other poets and people from the audience after the shows.
The best show I ever performed was…
Oooh, maybe The Moon Club, Cardiff. Lots of mums heckling and a burger place round the corner that served battered gherkins. Or Oran Mor on tour last year, cos it was in Glasgow and loads of my family were there.
If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…
Doing something admin-related with spreadsheets! Or writing other things. I’d still be writing poems, just keeping them under the bed instead.
People would be surprised to learn that...
I don’t like poetry.
Really, I do love it.
5 minutes with... Luke Wright
Poet, performer and broadcaster Luke Wright returns to Brighton Festival this May with a stunning new spoken word show, Luke Wright: The Toll. We took 5 minutes with Luke Wright to discover more about his passion for spoken word.
I knew I wanted to be a performer when... When I watched Ross Sutherland support Johnny Clarke at Colchester Arts Centre. He started doing a mic check (one ... Two ... One ... Two ...) which sped up and became a poem. It was brilliant. So fucking cool. I thought, "I want to do that."
My first public performance took place at… My sixth form college. I know, right, rock n roll. The audience were a bunch of sporty lads trying to eat their lunch. Not big poetry fans.
The first gig I went to was… As mentioned, Johnny Clarke, Martin Newell and Ross Sutherland. It changed my life.
The first album/book I ever bought was… Probably Martin Newell's The Illegible Bachelor. I love pun book/album titles. Half Man Half Biscuit are the masters of this.
My favourite poet / spoken word performer is… I'm a big, big fan of Catherine Smith. I could listen to her for days.
The proudest moment of my career to date was when… I'm just pleased to be here!
My favourite part of touring is… Eating. It's all about the food.
The best show I ever performed was… It's going to be this one in Brighton. Just you wait and see.
If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be… Richer.
People would be surprised to learn that… It's taken me seventeen minutes to come up with this final answer. And I'm not exactly thrilled with the results.
Luke Wright: The Toll is at The Spire on Fri 19 May.
Five minutes with... Alexei Sayle
Alexei Sayle joins us this Brighton Festival to discuss his new memoir, Thatcher Stole My Trousers. We pinned him down for a quick, but seriously funny five minutes of questions...
I knew I wanted to be a comedian when…
I never wanted to be a comedian that’s why I seem so angry all the time.
My first public performance took place at…
My mother used to make the neighbours come around and watch me do little shows from about the age of six.
The first comedy gig I went to was…
There was a guy called John Dowie who came along just too early for the alternative comedy boom who I saw at the Bush Theatre in 1976.
The first album I ever bought was…
The Four Tops. On Top.
My favourite part of touring is…
My favourite comedian is…
I’ll say Louie C K because he is no threat to me.
My favourite place to perform live is…
The Soho Theatre in London. I can get the 19 bus there using my old person’s bus pass and be home again by 10.00. All for free.
The last song I listened to was…
“Circles” by Kate Tempest.
The proudest moment of my career to date was when…
I MC’d Glastonbury in 1985 a famously muddy year and I said from the stage “a woman’s lost a contact lens, if you could all just have a look for it...”
The best show I ever performed was…
If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…
Eating a sugary cake such as a Lemon Yum Yum from the patisserie counter at Waitrose.
People would be surprised to learn that…
I don’t have diabetes.
City Reads 2016 novel announced
Paul McVeigh’s novel The Good Son becomes Brighton’s ‘Big Read’ as part of the 50th Brighton Festival
Brighton-based author Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son – shortlisted in The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker Prize’ annual list – has been chosen for City Reads 2016. Delivered by award winning literary organisation Collected Works CIC, City Reads is the longest running ‘big read’ in the UK conceived to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience throughout the region. The annual event will return to its cultural home in 2016 as it becomes part of Brighton Festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Paul McVeigh says ‘when I moved to Brighton a few years ago, one of the first things I did was volunteer for City Reads to celebrate books and get to know my new city. Who could believe that just a few years later my book would be chosen and my adopted city would adopt me right back. That it will be part of the 50th anniversary of the Brighton Festival is such an honour. I can’t wait to get started.’
The Good Son – chosen to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 – is a bitter sweet tale, set in 1980s Belfast. Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him ‘gay’. He has to protect his Ma and his sister Wee Maggie from the Troubles and from Da. And sometimes... you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.
Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director of City Reads says ‘This outstanding debut from Brighton based Irish writer Paul McVeigh was the perfect choice, particularly as it’s the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising this year. I defy anyone not to fall in love with its protagonist Mickey Donnelly. He’s clever, naive and hilariously funny. I hope you love it as much as we do at City Reads.’
From its launch on World Book Day (3 March) to the final event at Brighton Festival on 29 May, City Reads will encompass a wide range of events and discussions themed around the novel that encourages residents across Brighton & Hove to get reading and start talking. Highlights include an Irish Whiskey Tasting on St Patrick’s Day (17 March) - from top taster Dave Broom - with readings from The Good Son and live music, a special screening on the official centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising (24 April) of Pat ‘O Connor’s 1984 film Cal (starring Helen Mirren) and of course the perennial favourite: The City Reads Book Quiz returns on 27 April.
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: ‘We are delighted that City Reads is part of Brighton Festival this year - building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. It’s especially exciting for us to champion the work of a local writer as part of 50th edition of the Festival – in which we explore the concept of home and the various writers, artists and performers that live in this city on the edge.’
Danny Wallace’s Hamish and the Worldstoppers chosen for Young City Reads
Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival - which celebrates its 50th edition in 2016 - are delighted to reveal that Danny Wallace's Hamish and the Worldstoppers has been chosen as the 2016 'Big Read' for children across Brighton & Hove. The concept is simple: one book, by one author is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.
‘Everyone knows that Brighton has the funniest, coolest, stinkiest children in Britain - and when I heard that they’d all be reading my book, my feet fell off in delight. Brighton Young City Reads is a brilliant thing, and for Hamish to be at the centre of it this year is a real honour. Jamie and I can’t wait to see what the kids think. Now excuse me while I put my feet back on.’ Danny Wallace, Young City Reads author, Jan 2016
About the book
What would YOU do... if the whole world just stopped? Yes the WHOLE WORLD. Birds in the air. Planes in the sky. And every single person on the planet - except you. Because that's what keeps happening to ten-year-old Hamish Ellerby. And it's being caused by The WorldStoppers and their terrifying friends The Terribles! They have a PLAN. They want to take our world for their own . . . Oh, and they hate children. Especially if you're a child who knows about them. Hang on - You know now, don't you? Oh dear. Can Hamish save us from the WorldStoppers? Only time will tell…..
Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, Collected Works CIC, commented, ‘Young City Reads is all about the pure pleasure of reading. It inspires children to take time over the reading a book and then encourages them to discuss it with friends, teachers, parents or grandparents. It’s a celebration of words and pictures. And did I mention it’s also great fun!’
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: ‘Young City Reads is always a highlight of Brighton Festival; young booklovers, en masse, discussing and sharing one story before meeting the author themselves… it’s a unique event and something we’re very proud of. One theme we’ll be exploring at our 50th Brighton Festival is the future of art - who are the new voices, what will the next generation make and what role might they play? That Danny Wallace’s adventurous tale sees the fate of the world in the hands of one plucky youngster is, to me, a very fitting and apt choice for the whole city to enjoy.’
How can local primary schools get involved?
• Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for FREE) and agree to read Hamish and the Worldstoppers together in class between (3 March – 19 May 2016). The Class Teacher or Head Teacher can complete a sign-up form on the City Reads website at: cityreads.co.uk
• Throughout the project, participating classes will receive FREE weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size Hamish quizzes, puzzles and fun activities to complete.
• This is a great way for classes to get excited about a book and to experience the benefits of shared reading and the fun it brings.
• 3rd March 2016 (World Book Day) Young City Reads launches at Jubilee Library
• 19th May 2016 (Brighton Festival Event) Special Young City Reads event at Brighton Festival featuring the author and illustrator LIVE.
Brighton Festival 2015 soars to a close
Brighton Festival 2015 - with award-wining author Ali Smith at the helm as Guest Director - came to a soaring conclusion this weekend.
Over the three-week Festival - the biggest and most established in England - many of Ali Smith’s ideas, interests and passions were explored in a thrilling selection of events which spanned music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate featuring artists and performers the world over from Ukrainian ‘ethnic chaos’ band DakhaBrakha to the newly Palme d’Or honoured filmmaker Agnès Varda.
Three central themes - Art and Nature, the Crossing Places between art forms, and Taking Liberty - provided a fascinating jumping off point to explore some of the key ideas and issues of the moment as well as a memorable visual image of a swift in flight which proved a fitting and popular emblem for the 2015 Festival.
The opening weekend asked audiences to ‘take flight’ for the annual children’s parade, the largest of its kind in Europe. Supported by regional businesses Class of their Own, Gatwick Airport and Riverford, the annual parade traditionally marks the start of Brighton Festival and was attended by almost 5,000 children from 83 schools and community groups from across the region; each dressed in costumes they had specifically designed and made for the event. Taking inspiration from Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director Ali Smith’s deep fascination with birds and other migratory patterns, costumes included bird life in all its forms as well as flying machines, creatures from fantasy and fable, bugs, bees and butterflies.
The Children's Parade. Photo by Jordan Hughes
During the ensuing 23 days it wasn’t just the kids who took flight – with more reviews praising the artistic excellence of this year’s programme than ever. One of the Festival’s biggest hits was the European premiere of Tony award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s highly acclaimed four play cycle The Apple Family Plays from The Public Theater, New York which was lavished with 5 stars across the board. Glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Stage and the artsdesk amongst others described them as “exemplary”, “extraordinary”, “profound” and “faultlessly directed”. This was swiftly followed by the top accolade going to violinist Isabelle Faust’s amazing feat of solo virtuosity, Paine’s Plough’s poignant exploration of love and relationships in Lungs and Nina Conti’s extraordinary tour de force of improvised comedy amongst others.
Fleeting on Brighton Beach. Photo by Chris Bethall
At just under 400 performances across 150 events, including 34 that were entirely free to the public, Brighton Festival 2015 featured the highest number of exclusives, premieres and commissions to date including a sizeable proportion of events that cannot - and could not - be experienced anywhere else outside of Brighton Festival, from Sam Lee’s intimate Nightingale Walks on the Downs to Laurie Anderson’s one-off concert All the Animals and Festival finale Fleeting, the spectacular installation over the West Pier by And Now in which hundreds of individual points of fire created shapes and swathes of glowing light and shade.
In a continuation of the Festival’s dedication to making the arts accessible for all, 2015 saw a plethora of shows - including high profile events such as physical theatre show The Spalding Suite which takes as its subject the UK's basketball sub-culture and Jess Thom’s inspiring and uplifting exploration of her experience of living with Tourette’s, Backstage in Biscuit Land - live-streamed to audiences around the world, for free. Brighton Festival also reached out beyond the centre more than ever before, working with Without Walls to present a number of family-friendly performances in Saltdean and Woodingdean for the first time as well as the enthralling 451 at Preston Barracks and playful Ear Trumpet in Queen’s Park. This was complemented by a fantastic response to community driven events such as a new children’s birdwatching trail which was generously embraced by the business community, and the return of the Guest Director’s Guests, the Peacock Poetry Prize and the Young City Reads schemes.
Backstage in Biscuit Land. Photo by Victor Frankowski
Other Festival highlights included a one off live screening of Peter Strickland’s daring masterpiece The Duke of Burgundy; the English premiere of Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland’s The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, a homage to one of Scotland's most likeable, most individual and most unexpected 20th century figures; a new lecture specially commissioned for Brighton Festival by acclaimed author Jeanette Winterson OBE on the practices and craft of writing; and the UK premiere of The Forgotten / L’Oublié(e), the directorial debut of Raphaëlle Boitel, one of the most remarkable performers on the European visual and physical theatre scene.
Brighton Festival 2015 featured 396 performances across 150 events including 45 exclusives, premieres and commissions and 34 free events.
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “From the 5 stars across-the-board success of Richard Nelson’s extraordinary Apple Family Plays to the headline-grabbing performance of Kate Tempest and a very special personal appearance by newly Palme D’Or honoured Agnes Varda - this year really has been a Festival to remember. Ali Smith, as Guest Director, has been an absolute pleasure to work with and a wonderful inspiration to us all. Her remarkable sense of possibility, wonder, imagination and excitement at anything that she encounters has been evident every step of the way, from her invaluable input during the programming process to her lively and engaging presence throughout the month. The Festival’s continued ability to not only bring such an eclectic range of artists onto one bill but to make it a resounding success, is testament to the extraordinary support we have from funders, sponsors and from audiences themselves. It’s an exciting time for Brighton Festival as we look towards our 50th birthday next year. I cannot wait to lift the lid on what surprises we have in store for the city and beyond.”
In Photos: Brighton Festival Week One
Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm has been a joy so far. We've had heaps of fun and with a plethora of great theatre, circus, dance, music, classical, outdoor, family, books and debates and visual art and film events still to come the fun is nowhere near over yet!
Take a look back over our first week of Brighton Festival 2015 right here...
Award glory for Brighton Festival 2015 author
Fresh from winning the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 last night for her moving non-fiction work The Iceberg, author Marion Coutts will appear at the annual Brighton and Sussex Medical School debate as part of this year’s Brighton Festival.
Coutts’ book The Iceberg is not a novel, but a memoir of sorts on art, work, death and language in response to the diagnosis, illness and death of her husband, the art critic Tom Lubbock, who died of a brain tumour in January 2011. It is an exploration of the impact of death in real time, a sustained act of looking that only ends when life does and gives an account of a small family unit under assault and the inventiveness by which they tried to stay together. It charts the deterioration of Tom's speech even as it records the developing language of his child, and navigates with great power the journey from home to hospital to hospice.
The Wellcome Book Prize is an annual award, open to new works of fiction or nonfiction that have a central theme which engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness with an aim to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.
Announcing the winner, Chair of Judges, Bill Bryson, said:
'Highlighting the importance of literature in exploring the human experience within medicine, the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 has spotlighted a pleasingly diverse array of subjects and genres. From an extremely strong shortlist of books that blend exquisite writing with scientific rigour and personal experience, The Iceberg stood out.
'Marion Coutts’ account of living with her husband’s illness and death is wise, moving and beautifully constructed. Reading it, you have the sense of something truly unique being brought into the world -- it stays with you for a long time after.'
As well as winning the 2015 prize, The Iceberg was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014, the Costa Biography Award 2014, the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Award 2014 and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014.
The Brighton and Sussex Medical School debate, titled Facing Cancer, will examine the challenging subject from multiple perspectives.The author is set to appear on the panel of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School’s annual debate Facing Cancer on Sunday 24 May 2014. Given the very word ‘cancer’ elicits a strong emotional response and the fact that rates are increasing with half of us expected to develop some form of the disease during our lifetime, the engaging debate will examine the difficult topic from multiple perspectives including the medical, the ethical, the research and, most importantly, the personal.
Fellow panelist, academic surgical oncologist and Dean of Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) Professor Malcolm Reed said,
‘With cancer affecting most of us, either directly or through a close family member, we wanted to take our debate wider than the purely medical. By tackling this emotive subject through a more holistic approach, and with an engaging and diverse panel, we believe Facing cancer will really hit home with our audience, many of whom will know the illness only too well.’
For more information, on the Brighton and Sussex Medical School debate Facing Cancer, click here.
Vikings, snogging & spies… Behind-the-scenes with Noggin the Nog (Photo story)
You’ll never believe what happened when one man and his camera went behind-the-scenes at the rehearsals of The Sagas of Noggin the Nog!
The legendary adventurer Noggin the Nog joins us this May at Brighton Festival. Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s iconic stories have been theatrically reimagined by Third Party Productions. 1970s classic The Sagas of Noggin the Nog will be playfully and affectionately brought to life and imaginatively retold using puppetry, original music, film and a cast of silly Vikings.
Third Party Productions and Mischievous Theatre have been busy rehearsing. Take a look at the photos below and see what fun to expect this May.
Groliffe the Ice Dragon is put through his paces
Noggin and Nooka meet!
Noggin and Nooka take a break
Nooka ... will she be the new queen of the Nogs?
A mock up of the new Ronf, the little man from the Hot Water Valley, in rehearsal
Nogbad the Bad spies!
Snogging the Snog
Whether you are familiar with the tales or this is your first time, the performance is perfect for adventurous children and adults alike - book now
Video: Emily Gravett illustrates The Imaginary Girl from The Imaginary
Take a moment and watch the award-winning Emily Gravett illustrate The Imaginary Girl from A.F. Harrold's The Imaginary in this beautiful time lapse video.
You can meet the creators of this frightening, captivating and funny tale at Brighton Festival on Sat 9 May. Find out more about this event 26 Letters event.
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.
Honours and awards for Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director
Brighton Festival 2015’s Guest Director receives New Years Honour and is named winner of the novel category in the 2014 Costa Book Awards.
We’re only six days into the New Year, but Brighton Festival 2015’s Guest Director Ali Smith is already making headlines.
On Wednesday 30 December 2014 it was announced that the Scottish writer was to be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire – or CBE – in the New Years Honours list for her distinguished and innovative contribution to literature.
As if to underline this contribution, last night Ali Smith was announced as the winner of the Costa Novel award for How to be both.
“I’m completely amazed to have won the category – and really delighted. The category shortlist was such a very good one, I felt lucky enough just to be on that. I can’t quite believe it.” – Ali Smith
The novel will now join the winners of the other four categories – the Costa First Novel award (won by Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing), the Costa Poetry award (won by Jonathan Edwards’s My Family and Other Superheroes), the Costa Biography award (won by Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk and the Children’s Book award (won by Kate Saunders’ Five Children on the Western Front) – in competing for the Costa Book of the Year award.
The overall winner will be decided by a panel of judges chaired by the author Robert Harris and announced on Tuesday 27 January 2015.
Brighton Festival announces award-winning author Ali Smith as Guest Director for 2015
Brighton Festival - the largest and most established annual multi-arts festival in England - is delighted to announce that the 2015 Guest Director is award-winning Scottish author Ali Smith.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of Smith’s winning of the Goldsmiths Prize 2014 - a new literary award for boldly original fiction that sets out to recognise work that opens up new possibilities for the novel form - and her nomination for the Costa Book Award for her latest novel How to be Both which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014.
Recently described as an ‘heir to Virginia Woolf’, Smith has established herself as a pioneer of form – fearlessly pushing the boundaries of the novel with a deftness and accessibility that has earned her a reputation for being both vitally inventive and scrupulously playful. Her latest novel is her most experimental and idiosyncratic yet; borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it is a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions.
Smith’s numerous other acclaimed novels, short story and essay collections include The Accidental (shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Orange Prize), Hotel World (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize) and There but for the.
On her role and her thinking behind Brighton Festival 2015, Ali Smith says:
'I'm a fan of the unexpected connection, the crossing places between the art forms, the place where they meet, open to each other and fuse into something more. The word festival comes from the place where the word for feast crosses into the word for joyful, happy, honouring, celebratory. The word Brighton, in the month of May: that means festival.'
Established in 1967, Brighton Festival has a rich history of pushing boundaries. In its inaugural year the programme controversially included the first ever exhibition of Concrete Poetry in the UK, alongside performances by Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and Yehudi Menuhin. Now one of Europe’s leading arts festivals for artists and audiences, Brighton Festival is known for commissioning and producing an ambitious programme that aims to make the most of the city’s distinctive cultural atmosphere. It has been widely recognised for presenting exciting site specific work, thought provoking debate and newly commissioned works.
The seventh Guest Director of Brighton Festival, Ali Smith takes on the mantle from visual artist Anish Kapoor (2009), musician Brian Eno (2010), Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (2011), actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave (2012), poet, author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (2013) and choreographer, composer and performer Hofesh Shechter (2014) in shaping the three-week programme of cultural events.
Ali Smith continues: “Imagine the world seen from the eye of a bird. Migrating birds are born naturally equipped with maps that even new-born birds know how to follow, maps of landscapes with no borders. Birds with nothing but the urge to flock together, get there, be here now. Imagine the borders between the artforms. Imagine them opened, crossed, melted, made invisible, so that poetry meets music meets theatre meets dance meets thought meets sculptural meets rhythm meets fiction meets the natural world.
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: 'We are delighted to have welcomed Ali Smith on board as Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2015. Her contribution brings a new focus for us, at the same time as continuing the tradition of prominent artistic figures who have brought their particular knowledge and experience of the arts to the programme. At once deeply playful and deeply serious, Ali Smith brings a sensibility which perfectly mirrors the ambition of Brighton Festival – a willingness to take imaginative risks, defy genres, push boundaries and celebrate a love of art in all its infinite forms and varieties. I am certain that Ali Smith will bring a very special element to next year’s Festival and I look forward to welcoming audiences to experience it 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. Full programme details including events in which she will be participating will be available online on Wed 18 Feb 2015.
Brighton Festival Picks: Alex Leith, Viva Brighton Magazine
We asked a selection of Brighton dwellers, Brighton lovers and Brighton businesses to give us their Brighton Festival picks. Here Alex Leith of Viva Brighton Magazine shares his highlights...
When I heard the name of this year’s Guest Director of Brighton Festival, I guess I wasn’t the only person to think ‘Hofesh who?’ But, having since interviewed Mr Shechter, I think he constituted a bold choice by the organisers, a real outsider who has made ‘outsiders’ the theme of the Festival. I must admit that apart from a few visits to Sadlers Wells over the years, I haven’t really directed much of my attention towards the contemporary dance scene, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the Hofesh Shechter Company perform Sun on Saturday 3rd. Hofesh promises it to be a dark, hard-hitting piece about alienation. You can read the interview in the May issue of Viva Brighton Magazine.
Another interviewee in the same edition is Yinka Shonibare, of Fourth-plinth-fame, who has turned the old reference library in Brighton Museum – which I used to frequent to research historical pieces for Viva – into a colourful installation piece on colonialism, called The British Library. He’s covered thousands of books with his trademark ‘African’ fabrics, which are actually designed in Indonesia and made in Holland, and demonstrate how globalisation means that nobody is truly from one just place any more. On the spines of the books are written the names of various immigrants and descendants of immigrants some of which – Mick Jagger and Helen Mirren for example – are quite surprising. We’ve dedicated the centre spread of the mag to a close up of this work and it looks like it’s going to be stunning.
I was watching Later... with Jools Holland the other day, and was delighted to see that Zara McFarlane was among the guests. She’s a soul-fuelled jazz singer who brings to mind Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holliday, and she performed a nuanced and powerful rendition of Junior Murvin’s Police and Thieves, then did some improvisation with the compere playing the piano. Wow. She’s performing at The Old Market on the 11th.
There are some interesting people being live-interviewed, including musician/author Ben Watts (we got there first, as you’ll see in the May mag), Slit guitarist Viv Albertine (ditto) and (filth-y) novelist Irvine Welsh. And talking one-to-ones, one event I’ll certainly clear the diary for is the New Writing South annual lecture from Lynn Barber, Britain’s most well-respected newspaper interviewer. We were chuffed when she agreed to let the tables be turned on her, in our Festival special edition… and our writer Steve Ramsey certainly gave as good as he got.
So those are the main set pieces that I’m looking forward to come May. But the real beauty of Brighton Festival (and all the other offshoot events) isn’t about what you’re expecting to enjoy, but what takes you by surprise. Which is one reason I’ve made a pledge to do at least one Festivals-related thing every day, throughout the three weeks of the year that Brighton gets turned into the cultural capital of the country*. I’m hoping that most of those surprises will be positive ones…
*minor exaggeration alert