Brighton Festival - Collisions Production

Brighton Festival: The Powers of the Arts to Create Empathy

Kate Tempest has often spoken very passionately about incorporating the arts into daily life and using them to bring people together and to generate empathy. This year’s Brighton Festival theme ‘Everyday Epic’ is about celebrating the things that are often overlooked. “It is extremely important to become aware of the narratives that we are a part of, the narratives that we subscribe to and the narratives that we want to change.” The creative arts are often seen as a way of escaping the everyday, but Tempest sees the beauty and the excitement of them. She believes everyone has a story to tell and that it’s important to embrace differences and reflect on others’ experiences. “The routine of survival is epic but it is this very routine that numbs us.” As the festivals’ guest director this year, Tempest hopes the shows and performances will encapsulate this theme.

THEY/ONLAR is a multi-screen video installation by Ipek Duben. Making its UK debut, it runs on Sat 8 April – Mon 29 May at Fabrica. The film explores themes of otherness within Turkish society, centring on ethnicity, gender, religion and sexuality. Told through the stories of several individuals it is an honest, behind the scenes portrayal of the misconceptions and discrimination faced by many. Duben has worked with similar themes before, and in exploring Turkish society. Liz Whitehead director at Fabrica believes the film is very relevant “given the current political wave.” She hopes people will find their own individual responses to the film and that it will allow viewers to see similarities in the stories so they can better understand Turkish and Islamic society. “Maybe the labels and the levels of discrimination are different, but the experiences of exclusion and powerlessness are easily understood.”

Brighton Festival - Ipek Duben THEYProduced by Peter Hunter, In Their Shoes is a spoken word project and ‘poem trail’. Running from Mon 7 – Sun 14 May at various specially crafted listening spots around the city. The commissioned poets are Issa Loyaan Farrah, Hong Dam, Sea Sharp, Connor Byrne and Helen Seymour. All with vastly different backgrounds and experiences, they all explore otherness and emotion across mental and physical health, sexuality, transgender experience and the refugee experience. In addition to the trail there will be a night at All Saints Church on Sun 7 May, featuring live performances from the five poets, plus local poet Tommy Sissons, who writes from his perspective growing up as a young man in modern Britain. Hunter believes, “It is important for people to hear about these experiences directly from those who have first-hand knowledge, poetry has the ability to creatively communicate more about the emotional impact of these experiences than simply describing them.” He hopes the project will give people a greater understanding of what it is like to be considered an outsider by the mainstream, and the daily struggles quietly faced by many.

The internationally acclaimed Vélo Théatre returns to Brighton to debut their unique new piece of object theatre, A Handful of People. Taking place at The Brighthelm Centre from Fri 26 – Sun 28 May, the show explores “the importance of the little things.” Director Charlot Lemoine says audience members will be encouraged to separate from whom they arrive with in order “to make a new community in a sense”. He hopes to bring people together by placing the audience in a central role. Pre-recorded videos and audio will also be played featuring a range of people talking about what they believe happiness is. Lemoine hopes the show will get people to unite and look around them, empathising with those in less comfortable situations and realising that happiness can be simply achieved.

Tempest believes it is important to see “somebody else’s story” in order to alter our own perspectives and to take a moment to look at our lives from the outside. It is all too easy to become trapped by the news, politics and beliefs we are constantly immersed in. Given the current political climate and the nature of the digital world, her message is a powerful one. These shows and projects along with the vast array of others will be sure to insight debates, alter perspectives and celebrate diversity.

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