Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Brighton Festival Guide

Hurrah! the Brighton Festival and Fringe are only days away. This is definitely the best month of the year in Brighton and has provided me with some of the funniest, weirdest and most spectacular nights out.  And that's only a few reasons why the Festivals in May are so great.

Some of the quirkiest highlights for me have included watching a kooky woman on stage, dressed and singing like a soprano while baking a cake interspersed with funny anecdotes (she was such an amazing singer she made the man in front of us cry).

Then there was a play written and performed by sixth formers on the edge of an enormous fish tank with live sharks swimming about in the waters below.

Attending a talk and evening walk through woodland to hear nightingale birdsong.

Following a group of performers crouching, hanging and holding on to buildings in urban spaces around Brighton.......seriously the list goes on.

But what I don't like is missing out and with the amount of different Festivals all taking place in the month of May the options become a bit bewildering.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Brighton Festival
So, to help you navigate your way through, please have a look at my guide of what's on offer.

The Brighton Festival 2011

Dates  7 – 29 May

What’s that about?
A cultural festival, this year guest directed by Aung San Suu Kyi the Burmese Human Rights campaigner and Nobel Prize winner, covering visual & physical art, film, books, theatre, music and debate. The programmed events are carefully chosen, including many one-off events and worth booking in advance.

What’s the deal?
Billed as Three weeks of unrivalled arts celebration, the themes for this year are freedom and exile, explored in various ways.  Most poignantly expressed by Aung San Suu Kyi, 'we all think of the Brighton Festival as an occasion, a time for festivity, for diversity, for creativity, for expression, for freedom of expression. This is especially important to us in Burma who have been deprived of this right of freedom for very many years'.

Thanks to a number of street performances, art exhibitions, live music and a children’s parade there are opportunities throughout the three weeks to join in the jollity, challenge your perception or be stimulated and inspired without paying a penny. In addition to that, there are also over 100 performances for £10 or less, standby tickets and other deals to look out for.

What’s not to miss?
Last year the outdoor performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Globe on Tour was the best Shakespearean production I’d ever seen, which means this year we’re back for more of the bard, hoping As You Like It will be just as impressive.  Due to many others having the same idea the performance we are attending is already sold out but get in there if you can.

Brighton Festival Fringe
Brighton Fringe Festival 2011

Dates  7 – 30 May

What’s that about?
Whereas you could say the Brighton Festival came up with a good idea, you could add the Fringe has well and truly run with it. And if festivals were members of a family, then the Brighton Festival would be the older brother, doing everything right, sensible, successful, ordered. By contrast the Fringe would be the youngest, sometimes funny, sometimes annoying, a bit of an upstart but refreshingly new. Enough of the analogies, I’m not even going there with the middle child, can of worms, can of worms.

What’s the deal?
There are three dates 7, 21 and 28 where New Road in the centre of Brighton will be buzzing with performances between 1 – 4 pm including an acrobat suspended from a helium balloon, comedians, musicians and dance demonstrations all for free.

What’s not to miss?
So many options, it's difficult to choose.  The local newspaper the Argus awards Argus Angels for the best shows, which is a good way of jumping on a bandwaggon.  Or just go for a category you know you like, for instance comedy or cabaret and head for the one that appeals the most.  If you end up going to a real dud, don't be put off as there will be so many others that will leave you buzzing.
My first foray will be to head to the pop-up restaurant, a 70's themed restaurant with artists at work on the premises, open from 7th -28th.

Artists Open Houses (AOH) May Festival
Artists Open House, Brighton 2011

Dates  Weekends 7- 8, 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29 May

What’s that about?
With over 250 venues taking part, the best way to experience the Open Houses is to pick up a brochure and choose an area, then follow the trail of exhibitions within that area. The trails in the past have led me into mews I didn’t know existed, converted buildings and private homes which have benefited from having an artist’s eye creating stunning hidden gardens and interiors that are as unique as the art exhibited.

What’s the deal?
The brochures are free and can be picked up from various locations listed on their website including The Dome box office, Brighton and Hove libraries and stations, and at all Artists Open Houses.  There are no entry fees and you can often buy tea and cake and sit for a while to enjoy your surroundings.

What’s not to miss?
The Bungeroosh Gallery at 25 Marine Square is always full of a mixture of jewellery, art and crafts as well as a very warm welcome.  In Hove there is a hidden mews called Lansdowne Mews where many artists have studios, viewing art within the space where it is created somehow has the effect of making it feel more raw, adding an extra dimension, which is a delight in itself.

The Great Escape
The Great Escape, Brighton 2011

Dates  12 – 14 May

What’s that about?
Billed as Europe’s leading festival for new music, this is an amazing platform for all the talent that is out there, a fair amount nourished locally and a great chance to see bands on their way up.

What’s the deal?
You can buy a three day ticket for £49.50.  The trick is to be massively organised, with 30 venues and over 300 artists if you don't already know where the venues are then look them up in advance and plan to stay in a couple rather spend your whole night in queues or right at the back.

What’s not to miss?
Honestly, I couldn't tell you.  Never heard of any of them.  I'll have to ask my many knowledgable musos to give me a heads up on this one.

Charleston Festival

Charleston Festival, 2011
Dates  20 – 29 May

What’s that about?
Billed as Where books, ideas and creativity bloom, Charleston covers the most talked about books to emerge in the last year from celebrated writers and personalities.

What’s the deal?
This year two events I would love to be going to are already sold out, Mark Logue, Lionel’s grandson and custodian of the family archive, discusses how true the film is to reality with Peter Conradi, co-author of the book, The King’s Speech.  While the youngest of the Mitford siblings, Deborah Devonshire gives her take on her family's aristocratic life, sisterly gossip, elopements, affairs, extreme politics, a cast of writers, artists and politicians.  That said, I am going to hear Amanda Vickery talk about Behind Closed Doors, At Home in Georgian England, revelling in the details of domestic life and offering a new way of seeing objects and characters.  As I'm pretty fascinated by the 1790s and Vickery is a very intelligent and eloquent speaker, then it's Happy days.
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