Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Saturday 01 May 2021

Guest Director Lemn Sissay Declares Brighton Festival Officially Open

Brighton Festival was officially opened today (Sat 1 May) by its guest director, the British and Ethiopian poet, playwright and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay MBE.  
Credit Jamie MacMillan

The month-long celebration of art and culture signals a welcome return, as Brighton becomes the first UK city to open a multi-arts festival since lockdown began.

In line with government guidance, the opening bank holiday weekend (1-3 May) will feature socially distanced, outdoor events including a mesmerising sound and light installation at Shoreham Port, interactive art in Royal Pavilion Gardens, mobile poetry and self-guided performance tours around the city.

The world premiere of sound artist Ray Lee's Points of Departure opens on Saturday evening, a spectacular series of mechanical sculptures that will light up the night-time backdrop of Shoreham Port. 

Family and friends are celebrated in Arrivals & Departures, an interactive artwork by Yara & Davina located in the peaceful setting of Royal Pavilion Gardens. 

Two digital screens, reminiscent of airport billboards will commemorate births and deaths, with the public able to nominate the name of a loved one.

A bike ride around the city turns into a fun and interactive game with Brighton-based digital artists Blast Theory. 

Rider Spoke takes cyclists on a guided tour using a smartphone app, with narrators leading them to search for secret hiding places. 

Up My Street is an augmented reality street art and performance trail for small, socially distanced groups, featuring digital performers climbing and dancing around the real streets and buildings of Brighton.

Music-lovers with an iPhone can explore and discover exclusively composed songs hidden across the Brighton landscape with Lemonade, a new location-based music platform working with local, emerging and international artists.

HERstory, a free, city-wide audio tour, uncovers the real stories of Brighton-based women and their experiences of living through the coronavirus pandemic. 

The stories can be accessed via QR codes on a smartphone, located at different points around Brighton city centre and suburbs. 

Recovery Poems, a mobile installation of neon poems will travel around various public spaces across the city to offer words of hope and reflection to passers-by.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival said:

"After such a difficult year, it's really hard to believe this moment has arrived. 

"The logistics of bringing these events together has taken an enormous amount of planning but it will all be worth it when we welcome audiences back, both outdoors and online for the opening weekend. 

"We are enormously proud to be the first UK city to offer a multi-artform festival since lockdown began and our thanks go to Brighton & Hove City Council for their continued support and advice throughout this process. 

"We hope visitors will enjoy the festival experience and we encourage them to continue to follow safety guidance so art and culture can continue to thrive in our city across the summer."  

Brighton Festival 2021 features 94 events, performances and installations, both as specially commissioned online projects, as livestreams and across multiple outdoor and indoor locations extending from Brighton to Worthing from 1-31 May. 

The festival's guest director is British and Ethiopian poet, playwright and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay MBE.

In line with regulations, all ticketed events are required to be booked in advance by visitors, with some free outdoor installations viewed as timed entry or accessible for 24 hours to ensure the public"s safety.  

Full event details and ticket information available from

by: Mike Cobley

Related links

Brighton Festival 2021


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Credit Steph Wilson

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