Brighton Festival 2015 - performances to look forward to

PUBLISHED: 15:36 25 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:53 25 March 2015


Brighton Festival returns for three weeks in May. To help you plan your diaries, we asked the people in charge of programming the international arts event to select their most hotly-anticipated tickets

Brighton Festival 2015 is ready and waiting in the wings to take centre stage across Brighton and Hove for three weeks in May. Award-winning Scottish author Ali Smith is at the helm as this year’s Guest Director; a role that sees the writer work closely with the various Brighton Festival producers to create a wide-ranging programme of events that respond to a selection of themes specifically chosen by her. This year these themes include art and nature, ‘taking liberty’ and – more than ever before – the exploration of the ‘crossing places’ between specific genres; the areas where poetry meets music, theatre meets dance, thought meets fiction. To reflect this cross-artform approach, we charged the artistic programming team behind the hundreds of events taking place to pick their highlights from their fellow producers’ programmes.

Pippa Smith, Family producer, on 26 Letters

“I’m terribly excited that James Dawson will be heading to Brighton Festival 2015 (9 May) as part of the 26 Letters programme. Fresh from being named the first male Queen of Teen – an award that recognises the very best in teen fiction voted by young readers themselves – he’s released a number of spooky but very funny horror stories. What excites me most is that this is an event for teenagers. I think, when it comes to the arts, teenagers can sometimes be forgotten. There are plenty of shows out there for younger audiences, older audiences and family audiences… but teenagers often think of themselves a little differently. Events with authors like James are very important to Brighton Festival, as we genuinely try to reach as wider audience as possible – from lovers of performance, art and debate to youngsters who like to get away from it all with a good book.”

Mathew Clayton, Books and debate producer, on contemporary music

“I’m really looking forward to the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha (10 May). They appeal to me because they are a quartet of contemporary artists who are committed to re-inventing the very specific folk music and folklore of their own country. They’ve done very little in the UK before and – if you look at it on paper – it shouldn’t really work! They fuse lots of sounds together to create something magnificent. It would be unfair to call them world music, even though you may see them on world music bills. One moment you could be listening to something very rajastheni, another minute it sounds like you’re listening to a hip-hop artist like Ice Cube, another moment it’s like Chicks on Speed, another moment it’s like Thom Yorke from Radiohead. That’s not to say the music just jumps around, but rather, they manage to bring all these sounds together… it is genius!”

Gill Kay, Classical music producer, on books and debate

“During May I’m involved in rehearsals or concerts almost every day, so it can be tricky seeing everything I want to see… however I’m really hoping to get to the On Liberty event (4 May) in the books and debate programme. I had been thinking a lot about Ali’s theme of freedom for one of my own classical music events; The Lads in their Hundreds (5 May), which reflects on how the French remember WW1 and WW11 compared with our memories in the UK. Being occupied had such a profound effect on those living through the war years, and speaking with the creative team in the Somme made me appreciate all the more how lucky we are to have Liberty – such a strong organisation in the UK – being constantly vigilant for us all. The On Liberty panel event features some really strong thinkers and speakers including the Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti and Ali Smith herself, and is bound to push our ideas, perceptions and views.”

Orla Flanagan, Theatre producer, on contemporary music

“I’m so excited to see Kate Tempest (14 May) back at Brighton Dome. A young, formidable wordsmith, she’s had an incredible 12 months; not least being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for her album Everybody Down. We’ve worked with her before from a theatre perspective when she brought her show Brand New Ancients to the city last year, but this special event is all about the poetry. The night coincides with the launch of her new book of verse Hold Your Own, so she’ll be reading from that before performing alongside a full band. Excitingly, the evening also features a set from George the Poet – a spoken word artist who was recently shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice category at the 2015 BRIT Awards. Poet Hollie McNish completes this amazing bill of acts – together, they’re a very special, poignant and political mix.”

Laura Ducceschi, Contemporary music producer, on classical music

“I’m really looking forward to a special programme of classical music we’re calling Animals (15 May), performed by the New London Chamber Choir. The choir itself – made up for 32 singers – has a brand new artistic director Matthew Hamilton and they’re considered one of the best professional chamber choirs in the country; particularly responding to contemporary music. This programme features a bit of everything – from early music to present day works– but I’m most intrigued by Clement Janequin’s Le chant des oyseaux (or the Song of the Birds); literally the singers have to sound like birds, so you get these little rounds where the entire choir are tweeting or cuckoo-ing. There’s a nice parallel here with my own programme. Nightingales arrive in Sussex from South Africa in late April, and there are various places on the Downs where they sing. We’re doing a night-time walk with folk singer Sam Lee (8 – 12 May). He has a beautiful voice, and the idea is that we wait for the nightingales to start singing and then Sam will duet with them and the dawn chorus. It’s going to be magical.”

Hilary Cooke, 26 Letters producer, on theatre

“I’m intrigued by a show called The Spalding Suite (5 and 6 May). It was conceived by Inua Ellams, a poet and compelling spoken word performer who I first saw at Brighton Dome with a show called Black T Shirt Collection. The Spalding Suite is a physical theatre show combining original poetry with contemporary movement that takes a look at the game of basketball from a British perspective; exploring not just the physicality of the game, but the camaraderie, the friendships and the players’ hopes and dreams. I’m drawn to this show because theatre – and especially physical theatre – is my first love and the performance includes poetry by Nii Parkes and Jacob Sam-La Rose. Both Nii and Jacob have been part of the 26 Letters programme in the past, running inspiring and dynamic poetry workshops for teenagers and children. They are both fantastic poets in their own right and I can’t wait to hear their poetry in this very different context; mixed with choreography, music and storytelling.



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