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.
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
Peacock Poetry Prize: The Youthful Poet
Victoria York is administering the Peacock Poetry Prize for Brighton Festival 2014. The Prize is supported by Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College. In celebration of the number of high quality entries the Prize has received this year Victoria wrote this article in celebration of The Youthful Poet.
Wisdom is often said to be an ingredient of good writing, and one assumes that with wisdom comes the experience of having lived a long and fruitful life. Yet the proverb 'age and treachery will overcome youth and skill' sits uncomfortably with me. A simple look at some of our best loved poets and you see that it is youth and talent that often go hand in hand. A Google search quickly found me many literary greats whose work had the strength to survive beyond their short lives disputing Stanislaw Jaenzy Lec's idea that 'youth is a gift of nature but age is a work of art'. Their poetic accomplishments are celebrated long after they’ve deceased, opening up the question of poetry’s relationship with youth and proving that those on the other side of thirty are capable of achieving literature worth celebrating.
If I think about it, I would not consider John Keats to have been particularly young when reading his work. The way he describes the bright star’s eternal lids and the aches of love so evidently felt and read between the lines of his poems, evoke maturity and experience. Keats however, died at the age of 25. This was a man (not far off being a boy) that existed and still exists forever ageless within his poetry, opposing the fact that age is relevant at all. It proves that children, teenagers and young adults are exposed to the very same beats and rhythms of life and can offer a perspective beyond innocence and naivety that would be so quickly associated with youth. This is not a matter of offering 'a voice of a generation', any person, young or old, big or small, can resonate with a good poem, just as any person young or old, big or small, can write a good poem. AA Milne wrote my favourite poems from childhood despite the fact that he was an adult. And why shouldn't it work the other way?
Unfortunately young people aren’t always encouraged to celebrate their own talents, thinking that time and experience will give them artistic development and improvement. Emotions can often be dismissed with comments like 'oh darling you are too young to experience THAT' when from my first-hand experience it is during youth when things are the most intense and so much feels amplified. The list below should be enough to inspire those that do write, that they can write and sit among the greats. There are no boundaries and there should be no limits. Submit your words and your work could be applauded, long after the standing ovation sits back down.
See below for small extracts from some of the world’s best loved, young poets. Can you think of any youthful poets whose work you love?
John Keats (died aged 25)
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.
Fragment: Modern Love
And what is love? It is a doll dress'd up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, nad so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long
Wilfred Owen (Died aged 25)
The Anthem for Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
Sylvia Plath (Died aged 31)
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do
I Am Vertical
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.
Doom of Exiles
Backward we traveled to reclaim the day
Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
All we find are altars in decay
And profane words scrawled black across the sun.
Thomas Chatterton (Died age 17)
A New Song
A blame me not, Broderip, if mounted aloft,
I chatter and spoil the dull air;
How can I imagine thy foppery soft,
When discord's the voice of my fair?
Introduction to Young City Reads & The Sleeping Army at Brighton Festival
What is Young City Reads?
Imagine sharing a book with your best friend, your teacher, your family or your bus driver. Reading a book together is a fun experience. Everyone should try it!
Children's author Francesca Simon (creator of the fantastically fiendish Horrid Henry series) invites you to join us in a citywide read of her book The Sleeping Army from now until Thu 22 May 2014.
Young City Reads is for everyone: whether you're an avid adventurer, budding bookworm or a simply terrific teacher... even Mums and Dads can join in. It doesn't matter who you are, Young City Reads is about opening up the world of words and ideas to everyone.
Collected Works CIC is the award winning reader development organisation behind Young City Reads 2014 and will be delivering the project as part of Brighton Festival this year.
Here are the people behind the organization:
Sarah Hutchings - Artistic Director
Sarah studied Theatre and Drama at University, and always knew her job would have to involve books and writers in some way. She was taught to read at home by her mum (who was a teacher) and remembers what enormous pleasure learning to read gave her. What she loves most about working on Young City Reads is being able to share that joy of reading with others.
Favourite Children’s Book(s): It was a toss up between To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Both books were read at school and made a lasting impression.
Favourite Adult Books: The Bone People by Keri Hulme and Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban both life changing in their own way...
Vicky Tremain - Project Manager
Vicky has worked for Collected Works since Spring 2012 and runs a variety of arts projects across the city, many of them with children and young people. She also loves making music, eating peas and reading (of course!)
Favourite Children’s Author: Definitely Roald Dahl whose books taught her that she'd better be good.
Favourite Adult Authors: Too many to name them all, but favourites include: Russell Hoban, Flann O'Brien and Terry Pratchett.
When she was 16 Vicky read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and realised that sci-fi is most definitely not just for boys.
Clare Hankinson - Arts Admin Assistant
Clare lives in Brighton and works for various arts organisations. She is particularly interested in working on projects that aim to engage more people in culture and the arts.
Favourite Children’s Book: Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole - because it's really funny and she loves the illustrations.
Favourite Adult Book: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Clare likes it because although not that much happens it's all about family and the small things in life that mean so much to us.
Adam Stower - Illustrator (The Sleeping Army)
Adam Stower (pictured on top of the page), the exceptionally talented illustrator behind this year’s Young City Reads title (Francesca Simon’s The Sleeping Army) has been drawing ever since he was old enough to hold a crayon.
Adam grew up in Switzerland by Lake Zurich and went to a boarding school in Norfolk during term time. He studied illustration at Norwich Art School, gaining a first class degree and went on to complete a Masters in Narrative Illustration at University of Brighton, and has lived in Brighton ever since.
Four things every Young City Reader needs to know about Adam:
His favourite author is Roald Dahl.
He has worn a beard for so long he can’t remember what his face underneath looks like.
His favourite food is freshly baked bread. Oh….and biscuits, let’s not forget the biscuits.
He’s appearing with Francesca Simon at Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Thu 22 May at 1.30pm as part of Young City Reads at Brighton Festival. Find out more information here.
This year’s ‘big read’ revealed! Young City Reads returns to Brighton Festival 2014
Brighton Festival and Collected Works CIC (the organisation behind Brighton & Hove's City Reads) are delighted to reveal the title selected for this year's ‘big read’ for children is The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon.
Young City Reads launches on World Book Day (06 March) and will finish on 22 May with a very special Brighton Festival event for schools featuring the bestselling author whose book is this year’s focus. More news on that following the Brighton Festival launch on Feb 25.
The concept of Young City Reads is simple: one book by one author is selected for the whole community to read, discuss, debate and enjoy. Primary schools are being invited to register online to read the book together in class and to participate in a range of special activities.
Francesca Simon said: ‘What a thrill to have all of Brighton & Hove reading The Sleeping Army and then coming together at the end to discuss it – I can't wait to talk about the book and meet all my readers at the event in May. What a brilliant way to bring a city together and support reading’
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: “We are delighted that Young City Reads will return as part of Brighton Festival in 2014. Celebrating literature in this way provides a unique opportunity for children to creatively engage in the arts. I’m sure Francesca Simon’s inventive reworking of the Norse myths will fascinate and inspire young readers across the city”
Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, Collected Works CIC, added, “Young City Reads is all about reading for pleasure. It encourages children to learn through their enjoyment of literature. There is a power in sharing books and stories together, and the younger we start the more fulfilling our lives will be.”
Brighton Festival Live: The Cult of Water
The Cult of Water will be live streamed on Sun 27 May at 9pm.
Join ‘masterful storyteller’ (Radio Times) Dr. David Bramwell for a candle-lit journey in search of the supernatural secrets of our waterways.
Aided by a witch, Jarvis Cocker, and magician-author Alan Moore, David Bramwell battles his own thalassophobia (the fear of ‘what lurks beneath’) to unearth little-known stories and myths that surround our rivers.
The River Don is the focal point for this psycho-geographical journey that blends music, animation and film with captivating monologue. You’ll also learn about Brighton’s lost River Wellsbourne in a post-show Q&A.