Tuesday February 18th saw the launching of the 49th run of Brighton’s eponymous Festival. This year sees the collaboration with guest director Ali Smith, an established Scottish novelist in this year’s festival which has themes of freedom, flight and liberty.
The festival will take place from May 2-24 featuring an array of forms of art such as dance, theatre, comedy and film. Well established names that jump out from the programme are Anna Calvi, Kate Tempest and the Globe Theatre’s touring production of Romeo and Juliet.
Smith talked of the honour of being asked to guest direct, calling the festival a ‘magic organism’. She hastened to add the great thanks she had for such a fantastic support network, as she dubbed the Brighton Festival team of support ‘a dream’.
The logo of the festival came into discussion, which is a silhouette of a bird in flight with a street map of the city running through it as if it were veins. It is a beautiful analogy for how cultural products are the lifeblood of Brighton’s community. It is also echoing one of the festivals themes of the notion of flight, and alongside this the natural world and the idea of migration. Smith herself talked of how the arts migrate towards each other and this is evident with an amalgamation of artists coming together from all over the world for this festival.
This ‘crossing place’ of the arts is evident in how a great contrast of work is being exhibited alongside each other. Take for instance Rachel Kneebone, a surrealist ceramics artist whose work is being shown in the same gallery as a film installation by legendary French filmmaker Agnes Varda, who echoes renaissance styles and French new wave, as well as modern themes.
When asked of her particular favourites, Smith openly struggled to choose, but wanted to highlight the highly original act of ventriloquist Nina Conti, the New York theatre company The Apple Family Plays and the Children’s Parade opener, Smith admitting she thought every festival should open like this.
Smith is also very much involved in the festival throughout by taking part and hosting many of her own events. She will be involved in many of the literary events, such as a conversation with poet Jackie Kay, talks with Margaret Attwood and husband Graeme Gibson and the highly exciting talk On Liberty, which will be a discussion on the human rights organisation Liberty, featuring Smith alongside Billy Bragg and Alison MacLeod to name but a few.
This then highlights the festivals third and final theme of liberty, which Smith thought was captured perfectly in the image of the bird. Expression and freedom that you find in the arts is what is liberating.
Smith was an absolute delight during the entire press talk, she was joking, honest and totally enthusiastic throughout. Her genuine love of the arts really shone through and how she was so knowledgeable of all the artists she spoke of is a testament to her dedication to the festival.
The full festival programme is available online at brightonfestival.org
Tickets for events can be bought online as well as at the venues.
By Olivia Weatherill