Culture ConneX Festival comes to Brighton Fringe

Written by Aisha Kabir

Culture ConneX is a unique multi-disciplinary arts programme supported by Pride Community Foundation and Ironworks Studios and produced by Urbanflo Creative. For the 2023 Culture ConneX Festival Season they’ve partnered with Brighton Fringe and University of Sussex’s ‘Black@Sussex’ initiative to present a very special UK edition of the Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE). Their mission is to develop opportunities for different communities to access the arts and connect with each other, with over 30 events to engage with. 

Ironworks Studios provides the main central hub for the performances, masterclasses, talks, screening and marketplace activities, while the artist residency, photography, visual arts and scratch events will be hosted at different sites across Brighton, including the Project Space at Phoenix Art Space, Plus X Innovation Hub, Brighton Film Studios, Jubilee Library and the brand new Caravanserai venue for Brighton Fringe.

We spoke to international creative producer and founding director of Urbanflo Creative, Jenni Lewin-Turner, about Culture ConneX partnering with Brighton Fringe…

What is the purpose of this programme and what can people expect to see in these events?

There’s a whole season of events with the purpose to provide an international platform for artists from the African diaspora to showcase their artwork and the programme reflects the willingness to engage with lots of different communities within the city. Although the programme has been produced by members of the African and Caribbean diaspora it’s open for everybody, in fact we encourage that.

What is the main aim of this scheme?

To enable different audiences to engage with the mainstream festivals in the city because there’s a real absence of audiences from diverse communities and different cultural and economic backgrounds at some of the shows. So I felt that it was important to try and do something to reflect the diversity of the city by having some locally produced content mixed with an international programme, to invite as main people as possible to not only come and see the content but to also have important discussions surrounding how we can mainstream diversity in this city of diverseness. 

What kind of events will be going on?

You can expect to come across exhibitions, artist talks, masterclasses, networking events, film screenings, tours, performances, and more. The two core themes consist of the showcase of performances and visual art and also the career development for people who want to take part in future events.

Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to bringing? What would you say is a “must see” event?

We have an international artist residency programme this month which is in partnership with blast theory. Odirile Khune Motsiri is a south African artist who will have some of his existing body of work exhibited for two weeks at Jubilee Library.

What are the themes and ambitions running through the events?

I would say it’s really about engagement and critical debate. The programme is intentionally diverse in terms of content – for example we’ve got cabaret, different artists talks, film screenings etc. The multifaceted events in a way represent the multifaceted nature of the different communities. One of the things we talk about is acknowledging and recognising difference but also the commonalities such as shared heritage and history.

How can people attend and engage in these events?

Tickets are available for purchase on our website to attend our events but there are also opportunities to contribute to the critical debate. A few networking events, like the long table, are place where people can come together and engage in discussions in an open space to share their views on what could potentially happen and be done regarding absent audiences and underserved communities, in particular related to the arts. We are going to collate the information shared in these discussions and put it forward to be shared with the powers that be such as cultural and funding agencies.

Along with the tickets for the general public we are also offering free tickets for low-income and deprived communities so that they can actually engage with the programme as well. We want to make sure that they feel very welcome, reducing as many barriers as possible to help them attend. 

What do you hope these events provide? 

Our intention is to instil confidence and inspire people to consider taking part in Brighton Fringe, who might have an idea for something they’d like to present in our open discussions.

Where is this all taking place?

All the performance activity is taking place at ironworks studio and the rest of the visual arts is happening at Phoenix art space, Jubilee Library and PlusX on Lewes Road. The only activity happening off-site is the tour of Brighton film studios, which is happening one the first of June.

How long is this going on for?

There are a variety of events happening throughout the month of May and June and you can find out more information about the exact dates on our website however the career development workshops will be taking place in the last week of May.

Can you give some information on the artists?

We have artists who are professionals and have many years of experience in performing but we also offer support and guidance to those who have little to no experience, are trying out new material or need some advice. Some of the sessions we have include 1-1 with industry professionals like speed dating so they can get a chance to talk to producers and people who are developing work or people who can give them advice on work.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the work you do?

I am an international creative producer with over 30 years-experience working in the Brighton arts scene and also the founding director of Urbanflo Creative. This is a socially engaged collective of arts professionals who share a vision of equity and excellence. I create innovative creative platforms to connect communities across traditional, geographical, cultural, generational, social and economic divides. I put forth a lot of effort to bring creative initiatives to life that highlight overlooked talent and include and unite a variety of audiences.

For further information on ConneX events and tickets, be sure to visit:www.urbanflo.com/culture-connex-festival-season-23

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