Established in 1967, Brighton Festival was forced to take a year out in 2020. But now England’s largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival is back with a bang. Bringing together a schedule of online works, inspiring outdoor installations and carefully considered indoor performances, this celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor is centred around the theme of ‘care’.
Officially opened by its guest director, the British and Ethiopian poet, playwright and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay MBE, this month-long festival host around 100 world-class works. In case this is a little overwhelming, we’ve listed a few of our favourites to get you started.
Lemn Sissay: Tell Me Something About Family
Brighton Festival commission
Until Mon 31 May
Lemn Sissay’s exclusive Brighton Festival project, Tell Me Something About Family is an online conversation that will connect people through the complexity and variety of what family can mean. From his own personal experience of growing up without a family, Sissay is inviting the public, along with other artists, friends and peers, to share their personal memories and ‘light up the world with stories, phrases of sayings about family’ via a new website.
Ray Lee: Points of Departure
Until Sun 23 May (Wed-Sun)
Lee’s spectacular sculptures are brought together for the first time against a night-time backdrop of Shoreham Port. The large-scale structures sing a sci-fi symphony that points to a future departure to other worlds.
Tim Crouch: House Mother Normal
Until Mon 31 May
Brighton based theatre artist Tim Crouch digitally remasters BS Johnson’s celebrated novel House Mother Normal. Set within a care home, a group of elderly residents each recall their past and narrate their terrifying present, in a series of filmed monologues presented by Crouch as online performances and in a special physical installation in an empty shop.
Eliza Carthy: East
Brighton Festival Exclusive
Sat 29 May (3pm & 8pm)
An evening of musical and poetic works inspired by mesmerising myths, legends, poems and ballads from England’s Eastern seaboard. Compiled and curated by folk musician Eliza Carthy and her father Martin Carthy, with special guest appearances from actors Kenneth Cranham and Miranda Richardson and singer/guitarist Wilko Johnson.
Olafur Eliasson: The Forked Forest Path
In partnership with Towner Eastbourne
Tues 18 May – Sat 20 Jun
Explore the twisting pathways of a fairytale forest that sprang up in the imagination of the internationally renowned Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. This evocation of a forest is a fully immersive installation that enfolds viewers in the sights, scents and textures of a wood in winter. A trail entices visitors into a dense thicket of branches, boughs and saplings, locally and sustainably sourced from Stanmer Park and Foxwood Foresty near Lewes.
The Candle Project. A Communion
Mon 24 – Fri 28 May
The Candle Project installation with artist Abigail Conway, is created with the help of visitors to The Spire in Kemptown. Participants can write a personal message which will be encased inside a beeswax candle and placed amongst the growing collection inside the stunning church setting. A lighting ceremony will mark a significant moment as the project draws to a close and the candle smelt together.
Blast Theory: Rider Spoke
Brighton City Centre
Until Sun 23 May (closed Mon)
A bike ride around the city turns into a fun and interactive game with Brighton-based digital artists Blast Theory. Rider Spoke takes cyclists on a guided tour using a smartphone app, with narrators leading them to search for secret hiding places.
Various outdoor locations across Brighton
Until Mon 31 May
HERSTORY is a city-wide audio storytelling experience that uncovers the real stories of Brighton-based women as they live through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Insightful, inspiring, and revolutionary the stories will be told via hub locations around the city and a series of unique QR codes at listening posts in Hangleton, Moulsecoomb, Whitehawk and central Brighton.
Le Gateau Chocolat: LIMINAL
Sun 30 May
The opera-loving, lycra-wearing, black-bearded drag-diva, Le Gateau Chocolat makes a welcome return to Brighton with a truly unique collection of songs fusing a love of disco, opera, musicals and pop.
Live is Alive!
Fri 21 May
A live performance in support of Brighton’s grassroots music scene. Featuring hard reggae, ska, dub and punk rhythms from Dakka Skanks, melodic, hand clapping and foot stomping musical nuggets from Super Dupes and heart-breaking and empowering soul and spoken word from collective AFLO. and the Poets.
Brighton Festival runs in various venues across Brighton & Hove, and online, until Sun, 23 May 2021
Main image by Tom Thistlethwaite