Brighton Festival launches 2017 programme

Kate Tempest (Photograph: Ben Quinton)
Kate Tempest (Photograph: Ben Quinton)

The full programme for this year’s Brighton Festival was unveiled today (February 15), with its youngest ever guest director Kate Tempest.

The 31-year-old recording artist, poet, playwright, and novelist is set to celebrate what she calls the ‘Everyday Epic’ - art that helps us connect to ourselves and others, explores our individual stories and differences, and encourages audiences to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. In her words: “Art is social. It should be a part of life. No big deal – just life itself.”

The Children's Parade opens Brighton Festival each year (Photograph: Victor Frankowski)

The Children's Parade opens Brighton Festival each year (Photograph: Victor Frankowski)

She said: “I feel very humbled to have been given the opportunity to guest direct Brighton Festival. This year’s theme, Everyday Epic, seems to encapsulate some of my feelings about how music, literature and poetry can give us back our lives. Singing, playing, dancing, moving, painting life and communicating about that in public spaces - it requires no qualifications, no training to enjoy it. It’s truthful communication between humans about humanity and in these times, it feels more important than ever to try and understand what that humanity is and what it could be. So please go and see as much as you can. Approach it like an epic. Like you are a pilgrim on a quest and something may well happen in the theatre, the pub, the community centre, the concert hall that will smash you back to feeling and land you in your skin again.”

The festival first began in 1967, and the annual event is produced by Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, which also managed three city centre venues.

Since 2009 Brighton Festival has worked with guest directors to tailor the year’s programme. Previous guest directors include was visual artist Anish Kapoor (2009), musician Brian Eno (2010), Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi (2011), actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave (2012), poet, author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (2013), choreographer, composer and performer Hofesh Shechter (2014), award-winning author Ali Smith (2015) and pioneering artist and musician Laurie Anderson (2016).

This year’s Brighton Festival will run from May 6 to May 28, and will open - as always - with the Children’s Parade.

Ocean Wisdom

Ocean Wisdom

This will be followed by an eclectic festival line-up spanning theatre, dance, visual art, film, music, debate, comedy and spoken word - featuring the likes of Brighton-based rapper Ocean Wisdom, who appears on a bill hosted by influential UK hip hop label High Focus Records, and poetry slam champion Tommy Sissons who performs alongside fellow spoken word stars Patience Agbabi and Dizraeli.

Guest director Kate Tempest will perform in a host of special Brighton Festival events including: an exclusive opening gig of music and spoken word; a poetry evening in which she appears alongside the likes of fellow Picador poets Hollie McNish and Glyn Maxwell; and a live orchestration of her recent album Let Them Eat Chaos, produced in collaboration with Oscar-nominated artist Mica Levi, who also brings her acclaimed live score of Under the Skin to the Festival.

A series of outdoor sight-specific works will encourage audiences to see the ‘Everyday Epic’ in the landscape of the city and engage with their environment anew. These include For the Birds, an intricate light, sound and kinetic sculpture trail experienced as an immersive night-time adventure through a woodland location; the UK premiere of Five Short Blasts: Shoreham, a maritime journey on the River Adur created by Australian artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey in collaboration with Shoreham’s water communities; Depart, an ethereal promenade performance through a cemetery from Yaron Lifschitz and his internationally acclaimed circus company, Circa; and SPECTRA:CAST, an interactive installation from artist duo Walter & Zoniel that will transform Brighton beach into a giant canvas as audiences register their views on a variety of subjects by casting multi-coloured stones onto it.

Story-telling in all its forms is set to be celebrated in a number of events such as The Gabriels, Tony-award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s extraordinary depiction of one American family, written and set in real time during the turbulent US election year - the follow-up to his 2015 smash-hit The Apple Plays ; Anna and Elizabeth’s revival of the ancient tradition of ‘crankies’, cloth and cut-paper scrolls depicting stories and scenes from the great ballads unfurled to musical accompaniment; spoken word nights from cult collectives Apples and Snakes and Bang Said the Gun; a new co-commission by Andy Smith & Fuel, Summit, performed in British Sign Language and English by a cast of three; and No Dogs no Indians, the world premiere of three intertwining stories exploring the effects and legacy of the British in India by poet and playwright Siddhartha Bose to mark the 70th anniversary of Indian independence.

5 Short Blasts Shoreham

5 Short Blasts Shoreham

The power of the arts to ‘activate our empathy’ and pose questions about how we view the ‘other’ is examined through works such as They/Onlar, ipek Duben’s multi-screen installation which explores the division lines of gender, ethnicity and sexuality in Turkish society; the world premiere of Brighton-based choreographer and designer, Theo Clinkard’s This Bright Field, a major new commission which sees audiences share the stage with thirteen exceptional performers for a captivating and intimate event examining perspective and attention; Collisions, Lynette Wallworth’s thought-provoking Virtual Reality film experience which puts audiences directly into the life-changing moment when indigenous Martu Elder Nyarri Nyarri Morgan a witnessed an atomic test – his first encounter with Western culture; and Breaking the Spell of Loneliness, George Monbiot and Ewan McLennan’s musical exploration of loneliness and social isolation.

Reflecting Tempest’s belief that: ‘The arts should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes’, Brighton Festival 2017 sees two new ventures: The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life who will be performing in unexpected locations around the city from bus stops to supermarkets, and Your Place, a diverse line-up of mixed arts programmed in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre, Festival artists and local residents in the Hangleton and Whitehawk communities. These join regular free, participatory events such as the annual Children’s Parade, City Reads and Young City Reads; and Weekend Without Walls, two days of free arts in the parks; and a new initiative which encourages audiences to Pay-It-Forward by donating £5 on top of their ticket price which will be match-funded by Brighton Festival to create a £10 Festival ticket voucher for someone unable to afford the opportunity.

Other Brighton Festival 2017 highlights include a special performance from legendary folk singer Shirley Collins with guests handpicked for the occasion; a new adaptation of Swan Lake from one of Ireland’s foremost dance and theatre-makers, Michael Keegan-Dolan; genre-defying actress, singer, dancer, and cabaret diva Meow Meow who joins forces with Orchester der Kleinen Regiment for an exclusive Brighton Festival performance; a major new co-commission from sculptor Cathie Pilkington; US performance artist turned rapper Mykki Blanco’s punk and riot grrrl influenced hip hop; Kneehigh’s acclaimed production of Emma Rice’s staging of Tristan & Yseult; BBC Young Musician 2016 Sheku Kanneh-Mason performing with the Chineke! Orchestra; and two special events to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of Monteverdi - II Combattimento from Christophe Rousset and his ensemble Les Talens Lyrique, and a selection of the composer’s sacred music from vocal ensemble I Fagiolini.

Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: “Kate Tempest has brought a formidable passion and energy to the role of guest director this year. She is an extraordinary artist across many forms - writer, musician, performer and poet – with a unique ability to connect with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Kate is passionate about the power of the arts to bring communities together – vital now more than ever. We are thrilled to be presenting more work across the city than ever before - much of it outdoors in a celebration of everything this city has to offer – the everyday and the epic. And with new initiatives such as Your Place and the Pay-it-Forward scheme, I hope that Brighton Festival 2017 will encourage the whole city to come together to celebrate the creativity in their communities and try something new.”

Hedley Swain, area director south east for Arts Council England, said: “Brighton Festival has established itself as one of the premier showcases for the very best international arts. Once again this year with guest director Kate Tempest it offers an incredible range of work. We are lucky to have it and Arts Council is very pleased to be contributing to its continuing success.”

For more information, visit: www.brightonfestival.org