Brighton Festival – Everything You Need To Know

24th April 2023

Brighton Festival – Everything You Need To Know
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

Brighton Festival

The Brighton Festival is an annual celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film, literature, debate, and outdoor and family events in Brighton & Hove, England. It is the largest arts festival in England and takes place during the month of May. 

In 1964 the first moves were made to hold a Festival in Brighton, and Ian Hunter, the eventual artistic director of the festival, submitted a program of ideas. This was followed by a weekend conference in 1965, and the Board of the Brighton Festival Society was born. 

The first festival was held in 1967 and included the first-ever exhibition of Concrete poetry in the UK, alongside performances by Laurence Olivier and Yehudi Menuhin.

The Brighton Festival Fringe Society, a registered charity, produces the festival.

It will be held from May 6 to 28 across the county and big names involved for 2023 include Nish Kumar, Munroe Bergdorf, Rory Kinnear, Russell Tovey, and Jacqueline Wilson. 

This year’s theme is Gather Round as the festival focuses on celebrating community, collaboration and shared experiences.

Brighton Dome’s historic Corn Exchange will include an immersive Van Gogh experience. 

Brighton Festival

Guest Artistic Director

Brighton Festival

Each year since 2009 the festival has appointed a guest artistic director. In 2022, both Marwa Al-Sabouni & theatre-maker Tristan Sharps took on the role and this year it is the responsibility of musician, producer, DJ, and broadcaster Nabihah Iqbal. She will be the festival’s 14th Guest Director. She will be following in the footsteps of Anish Kapoor, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Kae Tempest, Lemn Sissay OBE. 

Nabihah released her first album, Weighing of the Heart on the UK’s Ninja Tune label. 

She is currently a resident artist at London’s Somerset House Studios, where she is writing and recording her second album due for release this year.

“It is an absolute honour to take on the role of guest director for Brighton Festival 2023. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to bring together artists and thinkers whose work I truly admire, to culminate in a celebration of creativity, ideas and community. It’s so important to support each other, to nurture the spaces and scenes in which we operate and to work together and be open minded these are the things which have inspired my vision for the festival. I’m looking forward to putting together a festival that is beautiful, memorable and inspiring.”

Ian Hunter’s Intentions For The Brighton Festival

“The aim of the Brighton Festival is to stimulate townsfolk and visitors into taking a new look at the arts and to give them the opportunity to assess developments in the field of culture where the serious and the apparently flippant ride side by side.”

What You Can Expect

Brighton Festival

Children’s Parade will return on May 7 and will interpret the Gather Round theme with One World

Nabihah Iqbal will present her latest experimental musical project Suroor, with artists Raheel Khan, Paul Purgas, and Imran Peretta; and champions UK bass culture with DJs Aba Shanti – I and Dennis Bovell.

Nabihah will be in discussion with many inspiring artists and thinkers across the program, including, historian David Olusoga, and an evening of music and discussion with BBC broadcaster Anita Rani. 

Award-winning theatre maker Emma Frankland, in collaboration with Cornwall’s outdoor theatre specialists Wildworks and Brighton’s own Marlborough Productions, will stage the tale in spoken English and British Sign Language outdoors in Shoreham.

As part of the festival’s many commissions, it will include John Lyly’s Galatea, which was first performed over 400 years ago and inspiration for both Shakespeare’s As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

The Sleeping Tree is an award-winning arts collective created by Invisible Flock, a collective of digital and physical artists based in Brighton, UK. They will be performing in the Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall. 

Through its innovative and interactive installations, The Sleeping Tree explores the relationship between people and their environment. Their work has been showcased in festivals around the world, including Brighton Festival, where they create immersive experiences that bring together art, technology, and nature. Through their installations, The Sleeping Tree encourages people to engage with their surroundings and explore the beauty of the natural world. From interactive light installations to interactive soundscapes, The Sleeping Tree creates unique experiences that bring together art and nature.

Groundswell is an immersive large-scale installation created for the Brighton Festival. This interactive installation invites visitors to explore and interact with the environment through a series of interactive elements. Through sound, light, and movement, visitors are encouraged to explore the installation and create their own unique experience. The installation is composed of a series of interconnected structures, each with its own unique interactive elements. The installation is designed to be an ever-evolving experience, with elements that respond to the movements of the visitors and the environment. Visitors can explore the installation, discovering new sounds and visuals as they move through the space. This interactive experience is designed to encourage exploration and creativity and to create a unique and memorable experience.

Blue Now is a special mixed-media performance of Derek Jarman’s last film, Blue. This powerful and moving performance combines film, music, and spoken word to create a unique and immersive experience. Through a series of live performances, audiences will be taken on a journey through Jarman’s vision, exploring themes of love, loss, and mortality. 

Featuring a live score by composer Simon Fisher Turner and an ensemble of actors, dancers, and musicians, Blue Now is a powerful and emotional experience that will stay with you long after the performance has ended. As part of the Brighton Festival, this is a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and poignancy of Derek Jarman’s last work. Actor Russell Tovey, writer and performance artist Travis Alabanza and poet Joelle Taylor will appear in this performance. 

Sitar musician Anoushka Shankar, as well as Mercury-Prize-winning percussionist Talvin Singh will be performing at this year’s Brighton festival. Other artists who you can see are; Goldie, vocalist and composer Bishi, and the Trans Voices choir.

Theatre highlights include the National Theatre of Scotland’s swashbuckling rom-com Kidnapped, from Olivier award-winning Isobel McArthur and Michael John McCarthy, based on the Robert Louis-Stevenson classic.

The festival will also host the UK Premiere of French-Norwegian puppetry masters Plexus Polaire’s Moby Dick.

Dance and circus performances include the world premiere of Kizlar from Brighton-based Choreographer Ceyda Tanc.


You can book your tickets here!

Closing Thoughts

There is so much more to see, such as comedy, visual arts, books, and debates. With so much going on, you will be super busy trying to keep up with what the festival has to offer. So, what are you waiting for, get your ticket now!

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