Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts unveils Spring Season

A state-of-the-art cultural hub located at the University of Sussex campus in Brighton, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts has just announced an unparalleled programme of Spring events. It offers a carefully-curated selection of contemporary music, theatre, dance, collaborations with international artists and partnerships with national and local producers, bringing together the university, local residents and the wider artistic communities.

“Including an arts centre in the development of the university was a visionary move in the 1960s, which influenced other universities all over the UK,” says Creative Director Laura McDermott. “Finding imaginative ways to create links between researchers at University of Sussex, artists, and the wider public is one of the great pleasures of my job here as Creative Director. When it works well it is phenomenal, and something unique in the city. Curious minded audiences love the chance to gain deeper insight and new understanding.”

ACCA building image landscape ©Laura McDermott

The packed ACCA Spring Programme includes throwing open the doors to a strand of South East Dance’s undisciplined festival on Thurs 9 March. Showcasing dance which pushes the boundaries of the artform, Starving Dingoes is a piece for five dancers portraying the urgency to live, furiously and passionately. Created in a collaboration between choreographer Léa Tirabasso and cancer specialists Simone Niclou and Alex Gentry-Maharaj, the dance performance explores the phenomenon of apoptosis, in which individual human or animal cells are programmed to die off for the benefit of the whole organism.

In a city blessed with many cultural events, festivals and venues, ACCA succeeds in building bridges between academia and the whole of Sussex, and beyond. 

Named after Richard Attenborough (former Chancellor at University of Sussex), this Grade II* listed building was designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened in 1969. Its programmes are constantly guided by Lord Attenborough’s values: human rights, social justice, creative education and access to the arts for all.

While shows, exhibitions and events at ACCA are programmed to an increasingly higher standard, there is a genuine ambition to ensure as many people as possible get to experience inspirational art and culture. This includes offering a range of concessions and ‘pay what you decide’ tickets. “Access to art and cultural expression is a human right,” says McDermott. “At ACCA, we do as much as we can to keep ticket prices low, and provide pathways for people to attend events at low and no cost. At the same time, we pay artists properly and fairly, and truly honour the contribution they make to society.”

ACCA saw a significant refurbishment of its space eight years ago, which not only brought the whole venue into the 21st, but arguably gave its auditorium the best acoustics in the whole city. As such, it’s become a compelling and uncompromising space to hear work from renowned international touring artists.

Joanna MacGregor credit Pal Hansen

Classically-trained US-based experimental composer, sound sculptor and video artist William Basinski makes a rare appearance in Brighton on Fri 10 March, as part of his world tour. His haunting and melancholy soundscapes explore the temporal nature of life and resonate with the reverberations of memory and the mystery of time. His epic The Disintegration Loops received international critical acclaim, and his installations and films, made in collaboration with artist-filmmaker James Elaine, have been presented in festivals and museums worldwide. He is supported by Brighton-based Australian vocalist, musician and ethereal soundscaper, Penelope Trappes.

The show continues ACCA’s ambition to match fantastic Sussex talent with international names. “We are very keen to offer support slots for international artists in our music programme to musicians based locally, especially where there is a real resonance between their work. It feels like a virtuous circle – developing audiences and offering opportunities for artists in the area.”

On Tues 14 March, Action Hero and Deborah Pearson present The Talent, a new show about the legacy of the human voice in a non-human future. It was inspired by Pearson’s experiences of working as a voiceover artist during the pandemic. Performer Gemma Paintin packs 27 voices into this one-hour show that asks: where does the voice live, and can it take on a life of its own?

The building’s generous acoustics is certainly one of the factors McDermott and ACCA’s Contemporary Music Programmer Laura Ducceschi consider when curating the centre’s music offerings. “We know that certain voices, or virtuosic musicians, will sound transcendent in there. We have two of those must-see gigs this season, both dream bookings for us – William Basinski and Colin Stetson.”

Canadian-American saxophonist Colin Stetson brings his formidable solo performance to Brighton on Sat 29 April. Stetson has worked with artists Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV On The Radio, Feist, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, The Chemical Brothers, Animal Collective, LCD Soundsystem, The National, and David Gilmore. Stetson is also a regular contributor to TV and film, composing the score for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot released on Netflix in 2022 and the culinary comedy horror The Menu. He is supported by Brooklyn-based composer and musician Faten Kanaan whose live performances highlight her use of the piano keyboard as an extension of the self.

Music for Girls

ACCA also continues to host public programmes presented in collaboration with academic researchers at University of Sussex. As part of Climate Justice Week at University of Sussex (Mon 27 Feb – Fri 3 March), they host the annual Pitch for the Planet competition on Tues 28 Feb. This is a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style event where University of Sussex students have the opportunity to pitch for their sustainable innovation ideas for a share of £30,000 investment funding and a place on the Sussex Accelerator scheme. The panel includes Professor Sasha Roseneil, Vice Chancellor at University of Sussex along with Darren Tenkorang (founder of TRIM-IT and Entrepreneur in Residence at University of Sussex Business School) and Lucy Hughes (founder of Marinatex, winner of the international James Dyson Award 2019 and University of Sussex alumna). Also, during Climate Justice Week, ACCA will screen films related to environmental sustainability, with panel discussions involving artists and academics from the University of Sussex.

On Mon 19 – Tues 20 June, the Music for Girls Conference will be bringing together music researchers and fans to reconsider popular music knowledge and gender. Popular music experiences of women and girls reveal an ‘expertise’ that goes beyond stereotypes of male critics and collectors. Professor Angela McRobbie, whose late 1970’s work on music and girls continues to influence the field, will provide the keynote, and a special musical guest will perform. The conference is curated by Dr Mimi Haddon (University of Sussex) and Professor Bethany Klein (University of Leeds) as part of their ongoing work on the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) funded network ‘Music for Girls: Women’s Knowledge Cultures of Popular Music’.

For more information on ACCA’s 2023 spring season, along with details of their exciting programme of Brighton Festival events which will be released on Thurs 23 Feb, head to: www.attenboroughcentre.com

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