Brighton Festival 2016 was officially launched today [17 February 2016] at one of the Festival’s key venues, Brighton Dome’s Studio Theatre. This year’s annual arts celebration on the South Coast will run from 7 – 29 May. 2016 marks the 50th Brighton Festival, England’s largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival. Niall Harman reports from the launch event.
Since 2009, the Festival has been curated by guest artistic directors. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Aung San Suu Kyi and Festival 2015 director Ali Smith, this year’s artistic director is American experimental artist and musician Laurie Anderson (pictured, above). Anderson plays a prominent role in the programme, which includes her Music for Dogs, a 20-minute outdoor concert for our canine companions, and Slideshow, a new performance monologue, as well as screenings of two of her films.
Festival 2016 launched with a trailer showing the first festival in 1967, highlighting it expansion in size and scope in the years since. Launching the 50th arts extravaganza, Brighton Festival chair Polly Toynbee noted that the short reflective film shows how the festival has gone “from strength to strength” in its five decadesand that this year’s diverse programme keeps to “the cutting edge intentions” of the first festival.
This year’s 150 events are nothing if not eclectic, taking in all aspects of the arts; theatre, music, dance, circus, books, comedy, visual art and film, as well as an outdoor programme that brings the festival to locations such as Portslade Beach and Roedale Allotments. Of the vast programme, 54 events are new commissions and 32 events are free. All events centre on the central theme of home and place.
As is tradition, the Festival will launch with the Children’s Parade through Brighton and Hove on 7 May, the beginning of three weeks of art, music and theatre across the city. Musical highlights include a concert from Laura Mvula at the Theatre Royal and the return of the London Symphony Orchestra to the festival for the first time in three decades. There will be talks from Booker Prize-winning authors Howard Jacobson and Marlon James (who won the award in 2015 for A Brief History of Seven Killings) and comedy from Bridget Simpson and Sara Pascoe.
The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare will be commemorated by Brighton-based Tim Crouch and theatre company Spymonkey, who in The Complete Deaths aim to perform all 75 deaths within the Shakespearean canon in two hours. Other theatre highlights include The Encounter from Simon McBurney and Complicite, in Brighton following acclaimed runs in Edinburgh and at the Barbican in London, and Shakespeare’s Globe bringing The Two Gentlemen of Verona to Brighton Open Air Theatre.
Brighton Festival this year, as every year, is truly a city-wide event. Venues include the three auditoria at Brighton Dome, the nearby Theatre Royal, as well as a library, a cinema and Brighton University’s Gallery and the newly refurbished Attenborough Centre at the University of Sussex. The programme is so extensive, that there is something to suit almost every taste and people of every age.
With such a diverse series of performances, events and the promise of Brighton Festival Chief Executive Andrew Comben that Festival 2016 has “Brighton at its core”. May looks set to be a fantastic time of year to be in Brighton.
For further information:brightonfestival.org