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Wednesday 07 June 2017

Brighton Festival 2017 - Kate Tempest We Salute You

The 51st Brighton Festival - with recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest as Guest Director - came to a storming conclusion. 

The three-week celebration of the arts saw events take place in more venues across the city than ever before - from the South Downs to Brighton Marina to Woodvale cemetery - drawing a ticketed audience of over 81,000, the largest ever in the Festival's history.
 
At a political and social moment that feels particularly precarious, the wide-ranging programme paid homage to what Tempest 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. 

None did this more successfully than the UK Premiere of The Gabriels, Tony-award-winning playwright Richard Nelson's extraordinarily, intimate depiction of one American family, written and set in real time during the turbulent US election year. 
 
Kate Tempest herself featured in a plethora of performances both large and small: including an exclusive opening gig of music and spoken word, her largest full band performance to date; and a live orchestration of her recent album Let Them Eat Chaos,produced in collaboration with Oscar-nominated artist Mica Levi. 
 
With an audience of 15,000 over 16 evenings, one of the Festival's biggest talking-points was For the Birds, a spectacular night-time trail of sound and light installations at a secret woodland location. 

 
Reflecting Tempest's belief that: "The arts should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes", two new ventures ensured Brighton Festival 2017 did just that. 

The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life popped up in unusual locations across the city to tell their "Everyday Epic" stories - in turn humorous, inspiring, thought-provoking, emotional, and rousing; and new initiative Your Place, in partnership with Brighton People's Theatre, brought a diverse line-up of free performances, workshops and activities Festival artists and local residents to the Hangleton and East Brighton communities. 

Other Brighton Festival 2017 highlights included an ethereal promenade performance through Woodvale Cemetery for Circa's Depart; Kneehigh"s acclaimed production of Emma Rice"s staging of Tristan & Yseult; a special performance from legendary folk singer Shirley Collins; a major new co-commission from sculptor Cathie Pilkington; a virtual exploration of the Australian outback with Lynette Wallworth's thought-provoking Virtual Reality film experience Collisions; two special events to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of Monteverdi: and an inspirational sold-out book tour event from Senator Bernie Sanders.
 
Kate Tempest says: "It's felt crazy - the things that I"ve been doing have been things that I never would have had the opportunity to try out, had it not been for this particular Festival, for example getting the opportunity to play with a string and woodwind ensemble. 

"That was an experience that I've dreamed of, but was completely impossible. To get that many players of that calibre together, and to do it in a way that felt like it was providing something new for the work. 

"It felt like a real moment of artistic endeavour and true collaboration… One of my big hopes was that we could do just what we have done, which is to bring the Festival out a little bit, open it up, and have some events going on in the communities, so people who can"t make it into town for whatever reason, still get to access some of the great programming and some of that feeling of this Festival."


by: Mike Cobley



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