Brighton Festival 2022 unveils ‘Rebuilding’ theme

Brighton Festival is returning for 2022 with an extensive international programme of more than 150 events, running between Sat 7 – Sun 29 May. Today’s Festival launch revealed 10 new commissions, 2 world premieres, 3 UK premieres, and confirmed events will once again run at full audience capacity, both indoors and outdoors, and in unique locations around the city and across Sussex.

Since 2009, Brighton Festival’s Guest Directors have reflected the city’s spirit of openness and enquiry, helping cement the Festival’s reputation as a crucible of ideas, illuminating and commenting on the world’s complexities. For the first time this year, Brighton Festival welcomes two Guest Co-Directors, Syrian architect and author Marwa Al-Sabouni and Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of Brighton-based theatre makers dreamthinkspeak. Marwa and Tristan have chosen the theme of ‘Rebuilding’ as the inspiration for this year’s programme, exploring it from two different yet complementary perspectives.

Major projects for 2022 include the world premiere of Unchain Me, a unique new site-specific Brighton Festival commission from dreamthinkspeak, directed by Tristan Sharps. This exciting multi-media performance taking place at venues across the city is inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed, and is made possible by principal supporter, the Pebble Trust. The Trust’s new annual support of Brighton Festival’s major productions and installations will offer audiences innovative and unique ways of seeing and experiencing the city.

“The theme of Rebuilding is our response to the many forms of erosion that took place all over the world in the past few years,” said Marwa Al-Sabouni. “Not only the physical destruction of homes and communities, but also the loss of what brings us together and what makes us hope. Brighton Festival is offering us all a wonderful chance to look at Rebuilding across the wide spectrum of creativity it’s hosting – we will be honoured to see you all there!”

Marwa Al-Sabouni has collaborated with Syrian architect Ghassan Jansiz to design an entirely new space for social and artistic exchange on Hove seafront, The Riwaq, inspired by her own Syrian architectural heritage. The Riwaq will play host to programming partners Carousel, Little Green Pig, Best Foot Music and In-house Records, highlighting the creativity in our communities across the region all year round.

“My hope is that the Festival can play a part in challenging and transforming how we see our surroundings and ourselves,” added Tristan Sharps.The collaboration with Marwa has already changed how I view the city and world I live in. I can’t wait to share this experience with Marwa and with Brighton in May.”

Image by Zoe Manders

This year’s original Brighton Festival Commissions include internationally celebrated choreographer, and former Brighton Festival Guest Director, Hofesh Shechter, presenting Double Murder, performed by his inimitable dance company to Schechter’s original score; plus choreographer and performer Charlotte Spencer’s new dance piece, Written in the Body, explores how physical contact holds communities together and what happens when it disappears.

UK premieres include Witness, a new installation from award-winning artist Emma Critchley, using underwater dance, spoken word and science to link the human body to disappearing glaciers; and acrobats from Australia’s exhilarating Circa ensemble will bring Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring to the circus stage in Sacre. Emma Rice’s Wise Children will also return to Brighton Festival with their critically acclaimed musical version of Wuthering Heights, as part of a UK tour.

The Festival continues its innovative site-specific events with the UK premiere of Witness Stand. Australian artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey have commissioned a community of writers and sound artists with a connection to Brighton to create emotive sound installations at outdoor sites across the region. On a smaller, but no less dramatic scale architect and artist Mohamad Hafez will bring Journeys from an Absent Present to a Lost Past – his extraordinary miniature streetscapes evoking the ongoing Syrian conflict – in a co-production with Brighton’s Fabrica gallery.

Image by Mark Allan

Musical highlights include Brighton Festival exclusive performances from The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, who many will know from their work with Damon Albarn and Gorillaz; and Californian Grammy-nominated trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, whose work combines funk, hip-hop and classical influences. In a trio of orchestral highlights, Marta Gardolinska conducts the London Symphony Orchestra; Ilan Volkov conducts The Philharmonia Orchestra and Brighton Festival Chorus; and the Gilles Peterson-endorsed New Regency Orchestra offer an incendiary big-band take on Afro-Cuban classics.

“It is a joy to launch this year’s Festival with a return to the scale and ambition for which Brighton Festival is known,” said Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival. “Marwa and Tristan have inspired a community of artists and partners to contribute to a programme of extraordinary richness and we really look forward to sharing these experiences with everyone in May. Thanks to the steadfast support from funders Brighton & Hove City Council, Arts Council England and DCMS’s Cultural Recovery Fund along with major sponsors, supporters and our audiences we can emerge from the pandemic to play our full role in Rebuilding the confidence and cohesion of our communities through arts and culture.”

Brighton Festival partnerships go from strength to strength, bringing communities together to enjoy the best arts and culture across the region. The Without Walls outdoor programme will extend beyond Brighton & Hove to partner on events with Creative Crawley in Crawley itself. A special performance from Brighton & East Sussex Youth Orchestra will feature pianist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason and involve young people from across East Sussex; and a contemporary music partnership with De La Warr Pavilion will welcome Corinne Bailey Rae, Warpaint and The Unthanks to Bexhill in May, helping to make this year’s Festival reach greater than ever.

Residents of Hangleton and Knoll, East Brighton, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will welcome back Our Place in 2022. This free and inclusive celebration of community creativity sees the Festival work in partnership with community steering groups to select, programme and produce art projects, performances and events for these communities and their neighbourhoods.

Brighton Festival continues its reputation as an enviable platform for engaging discussion and lively debate with 35 events for all ages. Festival Co-Director Marwa Al-Sabouni will examine the role architecture can play in generating community through her most recent book, Building for Hope; a joint event with Charleston Festival invites 2021’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah to discuss his work and childhood in Zanzibar; and former Brighton Festival Director Michael Rosen, Cressida Cowell and A.M. Dassu will be among the authors exploring their latest books and sharing inspiration via our Young Readers Programme.

Image by Tom Arran

The Global Conversations and COP Conversations series offer new perspectives on nature, identity and new realities; and The Festival of Ideas returns in partnership with the University of Sussex and the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA), via a series of thought-provoking screenings and discussions which explore new ways of thinking about the past, present and future.

 “In our 60th year, the University of Sussex is proud to be supporting the Brighton Festival,” said Professor David Maguire, interim Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex. “Through a programme that encapsulates kindness, inclusion and collaboration, the Festival not only echoes our values as a university but is also a celebration of what makes Brighton and Hove such a special place. We are delighted to be contributing to the Festival programme with installations and performances taking place at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, and through a series of events curated by the University of Sussex, Festival of Ideas.”

Image by Alex Lake

In a welcome return to the streets of Brighton, the Festival begins with the much-loved Children’s Parade on Saturday 7 May, following an enforced two-year hiatus. Jointly produced with award-winning community arts charity Same Sky, this riot of colour and creativity pivots around the themes of Rebuilding and Hope, celebrating the strength and resilience of local communities and what can be achieved when we listen and work together.

Closing the Festival with a bang will be Charles Hazlewood’s inimitable Paraorchestra presenting SMOOSH! This celebratory musical parade through the streets of Brighton invites young and older audiences alike to join in on pop-karaoke classics from the likes of Fatboy Slim, Kate Bush and Basement Jaxx.


Brighton Festival comes to venues across Sussex on Sat 7 – Sun 29 May 2022. For full details of the Brighton Festival 2022 programme, visit:

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