Brighton Festival made a triumphant return in 2021 as the first multi-arts festival in the UK to open after the coronavirus pandemic caused cancellations throughout 2020. Over 100 events were delivered safely and successfully navigating two steps of the lockdown roadmap to the delight of both audiences and artists, including installations, performances at locations in Brighton & Hove, across Sussex and online.
Guest Director Lemn Sissay’s inspired and resonant theme of ‘care’ brought thousands of people back to live art and performance across May and into June.
With highly restricted in-person event capacity, artists adapted and invented new ways to share their stories, creating intimate and powerful experiences that spoke to the radical shifts in everyone’s lives. Overall audience attendance across free events (outdoor, indoor installations and online) reached 60,000, with ticketed attendance reaching 20,000. The festival employed over 300 freelance artists and creative workers and just over 100 people volunteered, marking the first steps in the recovery of Brighton & Hove’s vital cultural sector.
With renewed optimism and confidence, the festival now looks forward to 2022, appointing Guest Co-Directors for the first time to share the role next year. Syrian architect and author, Marwa al-Sabouni and Brighton-based theatre artist Tristan Sharps, both of whom have been looking forward to collaborating together since they first met in 2018. The two will look to the recent pandemic, the challenges it presented to us all, and how it has been met by flowerings of artistic creativity and invention. They hope next year’s festival will provide the opportunity to reflect, consider and reimagine.
“The need for building bridges and connections couldn’t be more urgent, especially in the wake of the suffering, loss and division which our world is currently going through.”
– Marwa al-Sabouni, Guest Co-Director, Brighton Festival
Marwa al-Sabouni is based in the Syrian city of Homs and was named in the BBC’s 100 Women list 2019. Her acclaimed book, The Battle for Home was chosen by The Guardian as one of the best architectural books of 2016. Her second book, Building for Hope, was published by Thames & Hudson in April 2021. She says of the festival:
“Brighton Festival is a vehicle to discuss innovative ideas and explore new means of expression and communication through various cross-art forms, which gives it a special voice and space. It is through this unique mix of beauty, imagination and ideas that we are going to find inspiration to move forward.”
“For me, the festival has always been about making connections – between people, places and art-forms”
– Tristan Sharps, Guest Co-Director, Brighton Festival
Tristan Sharps is Artistic Director of dreamthinkspeak, a multi-disciplinary company, renowned for their site-responsive performances. They create productions that interweave live performance with film and installations that are ambitious in scope and often take place in unusual architectural spaces including a former department store, disused factory, underground abattoir and abandoned office blocks. Previous acclaimed sold-out Brighton Festival performances include Before I Sleep (2010) and The Rest is Silence (2012). He adds:
“As a proud resident of Brighton, it’s a huge honour to be invited as Guest Co-Director… No other festival I know brings together such a wide-range of events, from theatre, dance, circus, installation, film, music, literature and visual arts to immersive technologies and more.”
Andrew Comben, Brighton Festival Chief Executive commented:
“Following on from the success of this year’s festival it is with huge pride and pleasure we announce our 2022 plans to work with Marwa and Tristan as the first Guest Co-Directors in the festival’s history. They both share a searching, questioning sensibility and have a fiercely intelligent and creative collaboration that is enormously exciting. Through their international yet deeply people-focused practices, their hope-filled vision will make for a unique festival experience as we emerge from the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. We are enormously grateful for all the support we had to make Brighton Festival happen this year and we can’t wait for 2022.”
Brighton Festival will take place from 7 to 29 May 2022.
About Brighton Festival
Established in 1967, Brighton Festival is the largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival in England. Taking place over three weeks in May, the Festival is a celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and community events in venues and locations across Brighton, Hove and East Sussex.
Since 2009, Brighton Festival has attracted inspiring and internationally significant Guest Directors who bring cohesion to the artistic programme. The inaugural Guest Director was Anish Kapoor (2009) and has subsequently included prominent cultural figures such as Brian Eno (2010), Laurie Anderson (2016), Kate Tempest (2017), David Shrigley (2018), Rokia Traoré (2019) and Lemn Sissay MBE (2020/21).
About Marwa al-Sabouni
Marwa al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect and author. A Prince Claus laureate 2018, and named in the BBC’s 100 Women, 2019.
Her acclaimed book The Battle for Home was chosen by the Guardian as one of best architectural books of 2016 and was named by UK Prospect Magazine as one of the Top 50 thinkers in the world. Her second book, Building for Hope, was published by Thames & Hudson in April 2021.
She is an international public speaker, taking part on different platforms around the world such as the Sydney Opera House and the World Economic Forum. Her TED Talk was among the best of TED talks 2016 and was viewed over 1 million times.
Co-founder of Arch-news, the world’s first and only website dedicated to architectural news in Arabic and the winner of Royal Kuwaiti award for best media project in the Arab World 2010.
The Architectural Digest listed her as one of the top contenders for the Pritzker Prize 2018 and her writings have been published in the RIBA Journal, Architectural Review, Financial Times, Wall Street International Magazine, Standpoint Magazine, ICRC Journal among others.
She runs a private studio with her partner in the Syrian city of Homs.
About Tristan Sharps
Tristan Sharps has been creating large-scale site-specific projects for the past 26 years. He trained at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris in 1988-1990 before performing and creating projects with a variety of companies in the UK and around the world. In 1995/6 he co-devised 2000 inspired by Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler, transforming the Union Chapel in Islington into the fictional world of the hotel Roulettenburg.
He formed dreamthinkspeak in Brighton in 1999 and the company is now internationally recognised as a key practitioner of site-specific performance. The work interweaves live performance with a wide range of media to create extraordinary journeys that are ambitious, visually layered and popular with audiences wherever they are performed. Productions have taken place in a variety of sites, from an underground abattoir in Clerkenwell, to a disused paper factory in Moscow to the vast Zuidas office complex in Amsterdam.
Previous Brighton Festival commissions have included Who Goes There? (2001), Don’t Look Back (2003), Underground (2005), Before I Sleep (2010) and The Rest is Silence (2012). The company’s work has also been commissioned and presented by the Barbican, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House, LIFT, Somerset House, Liverpool European City of Culture 2008, Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and a host of international festivals.
dreamthinkspeak is an associate company of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival.