Brighton Festival 2017 Children's Parade credit Vic Frankowski

Free Events to see at The Brighton Festival 2024

Coming to venues across the city and wider Sussex, Brighton Festival returns on Sat 4–Sun 26 May. It features everything from astonishing dance performances and awe-inspiring music to thought-provoking art shows and intimate book readings – there should be something for everyone. 

With the intention of removing all barriers to participation IN the arts, Brighton Festival is also presenting a huge number of free events this year, often in parts of the city which rarely see cultural offerings.

As ever, the biggest and brightest free event is the annual Children’s Parade on Sat 4 May. Arts charity Same sky will be leading youngsters from across the region on a tour of Brighton’s city centre, starting off at Jubilee Street and ending on Madeira Drive. This fiesta of colour, moving sculptures, costume and live music will be under the theme of ‘Dream Again’ – providing the perfect backdrop to a month of activities.

Over in Royal Pavilion Gardens, an interactive artwork will be captivating visitors to the city on Sat 4 – Mon 27 May. Created by Leap Then Look, 100 Miles of String will see passers-by encouraged to contribute to temporary outdoor installation which will change and grow over the course of the Festival. 100 miles of string will be handed out, so you can weave, wind and criss-cross the installation, creating complex patterns and dense webs, transforming the space into an exciting, playful environment.

Inside Brighton Dome Concert Hall, An Elevated Platform will be providing ‘dysfunctional karaoke for the body’ on Sat 4 – Sun 26 May. You can enter to the sound of a cheering crowd. Take to the stage and elevate your status as you ‘perform’ to your adoring ‘fans’ who praise and celebrate your every movement – the more energetic, the wilder the approval. However, continued stardom is not as easy as it seems. You must keep moving to sustain interest, any slowing down will be met with discontent from your admiring crowd.

An Elevated Platform _ Flexer & Sandiland_BF24_Credit Nic Sandiland

Celebrating the wealth of brilliant children’s book illustrators in Brighton, Hove and close by, the Children’s Illustration Exhibition heads to Hove’s The Book Nook on Sat 4 – Sun 26 May. It’ll feature a superb selection of works by local talents.

To acknowledge the magic of early cinema and filmmaking and its spirit of creativity and innovation, videoclub & Corridor present Days Of Wonder at Hove Museum of Creativity on Sat 4 May – Sun 1 Sept. Sapphire Goss, Annis Joslin, Bella Okuya and Connor Turansky, some of the scene’s most vibrant artists, have been commissioned to respond to existing collections – resulting in new artworks, installed as interventions in the permanent galleries at Hove Museum of Creativity. 

The Phoenix Art Space welcomes visual artist and quantum physicist Libby Heaney’s Ooze Machines on Sat 4 May – Sun 30 June. This seductive and repulsive solo exhibition features immersive multi-channel video, new glass and watercolour works and playable experiences – providing a first glimpse into the non-binary, entangled futures that quantum technologies will bring.

A socially engaged sound art project and exhibition from local young people, artist Simon James and Class Divide comes to Lighthouse on Sat 4 – Sun 19 May. Neolithic Cannibals’ Deep Listening to the Unheard explores the deep time history of the Neolithic in East Brighton and the contemporary soundscape of Whitehawk. The show mixes archaeology, psycho-geography, sound art, and activism. The work will transport audiences to a place where imaginative and fantastical sounds invite deep listening to an area that is hidden and unheard.  

Through a series of workshops, young people in Whitehawk have listened to the contemporary environment of East Brighton using the Whitehawk Hill Neolithic Camp, discovered in 1929 via a geophysical listening technique known as Bosing, as a focal point and inspiration for their sonic explorations.

St Peter’s Church in Preston Park hosts Festival of Ideas’ Bird Bath Installation on Sun 5 – Sun 12 May. Created by meditator and broadcaster Alistair Appleton (Mindsprings) and musician and ecoacoustician Alice Eldridge (University of Sussex). It’ll transform beautiful buildings into restorative spaces by inviting you to pause, rest and ‘bathe’ in the sound of local birdsong. The church will be open to the public and filled with spring bird songs recorded in local nature reserves and recovery sites. For an extra special experience, you can join them for the Dawn Chorus Breakfast or Dusk Meditation, Performance and Improvisation.

Outside the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts is the location for Closer to my Dreams on Fri 10 – Sat 11 May. This is a playful, heartfelt take on family and friendship, exploring how we respond to the trials and tribulations life throws at us, and knowing when it’s best to hustle or just let go. Two young, black brothers from inner-city Manchester dream of becoming professional dancers. Weaving together poetry, rap and hip-hop choreography, we follow the pair as they build friendships and relationships and try to succeed in the face of adversity.

On Thurs 16 – Sun 19 May, World Kiosk brings Variable Matter to Moulsecoomb Place, encouraging you to find out about your global neighbours in a whole new light. A simple street kiosk disrupts the fabric of everyday life, offering an intimate and enchanting digital sound and light installation where communities collide. Sip tea amidst a calming atmosphere, engaging in thought-provoking conversation, encouraging new connections. Enjoy their special edition newspaper and be transported to a place where stories come alive. Connect with the life journeys of what makes people all over the world who they are.

In the centre of town, Perhaps Contraption’s The Journey runs in Regency Square on Sat 18 – Sun 19 May. An award-winning experimental brass band, along with Deaf & BSL poet Zoë McWhinney, will be leading the way – asking you to embark on a journey where each movement tells a story. The performance combines an original progressive pop score with Visual Vernacular; a unique blend of physical theatre, signed poetry and mime. Expect a curious, jubilant parade, replete with intricate rhythms, expressive motions, and a healthy dose of hope.

As always, Brighton Festival isn’t just confined to Brighton, taking some of the spectacle to Crawley this month, in association with Without Walls – a network of organisations bringing innovative outdoor arts to towns and cities across England. Inspirate’s Ancient Giants comes to the town’s Memorial Gardens on Sat 25 – Sun 26 May 2024. Gods and demons from ancient stories come to life in this family friendly street theatre show that is an exciting fusion of puppetry, martial arts, dance and storytelling. Shanti, a young girl who is fascinated with stories told by her parents and grandparents, imagines a battle between Hanuman and Ravana; a complex struggle between good and evil. The encounter is brought to life by two 12ft puppets as they interact with audiences and make their way to a dramatic final confrontation.

On Sat 25 – Sun 26 May, Mind the Gap’s Birdie is taking over Crawley’s Queens Square. This beautiful show features three professional actors with learning disabilities, blending intricate choreography, original music, and captivating object manipulation to tell a powerful story about climate change. Homie travels in a mesmerising upcycled mobile home, determined to make a difference in the face of the daunting climate crisis. They then meet Birdie, a new friend struggling to navigate a world filled with plastics and pollution. Together the pair embark on a journey towards freedom and hope, inspiring positive action and encouraging people to stand up for what’s right.

Bureau of Silly Ideas bring their Island Storm to Crawley’s Queensway on Sat 25 – Sun 26 May, creating a fun and action-packed seaside arcade, live on your doorstep. Coastal erosion caused the catastrophic loss of a family-run business. The survivors are now touring and scratching out a living with what they managed to salvage. You will be moved by more than emotions as you help this surviving family rebuild their watery empire. Expect circus, wet fun, hilarity and stunts as you enter this magical arcade action world.

Back in Brighton, Head Over Wheels, a disabled & non-disabled aerial company pushing the boundaries of circus, present Anchored In Air at The Level on Sat 18 – Sun 19 May. This groundbreaking and exhilarating aerial theatre show is a mesmerising fusion of movement, dance, spoken text and music, taking audiences on a thrilling journey into the world of flying wheelchairs, integrated audio description, gravity-defying acrobatics, and the captivating challenge of navigating a colossal tower.

Jeanefer Jean-Charles MBE presents Patois on Brighton Beach, near the i360, on Sat 18 – Sun 19 May. It asks what happens when two unwritten languages meet? This British-Caribbean choreographer tells a story of lost languages, longing and belonging through traditional Caribbean choreography, contemporary dance and an original music score. It’s a journey to rediscover hidden voices and identities that are rooted in dialects that are buried within us as we reawaken stories and generations of the past.

For details on all these free shows, and the scores of other events taking place at Brighton Festival, head to: 

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