Brighton Festival set to return in May

The 54th Brighton Festival will return to the city with a celebration of art and culture from May 1 2021, extending across the whole month and possibly into June.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 4:21 pm
Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Festival
Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Festival

This year’s festival programme will be launched online on Tuesday, March 30 with returning guest director, the poet, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay.

2021 will continue to celebrate a wide range of artforms, from visual art and installation, classical to contemporary music, theatre and comedy, film and literature.

Following the latest government guidance on when lockdown restrictions can be eased, events will take place online, in unusual outdoor pop-up locations and from May 17, live performances will open for socially distanced audiences in venues across the city.

Brighton Dome will host events with Covid-secure public safety measures approved by the Good to Go industry mark.

The Children’s Parade, which traditionally marks the opening day of the festival, will be adapted to be an event without gathering, creating a visual spectacle on Brighton’s streets for visitors to enjoy throughout the month.

Community arts charity Same Sky has produced the event for over 30 years and will be offering schools and community groups alternative activities for children to make their own flags and artwork to honour the spirit of the event along the parade route in the city centre.

Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Festival, said: “Although the festival will feel different from previous years, without the large groups of people coming together that we’re used to, we have been planning for a festival full of beauty and fun that can still happen with social distancing in place. We believe we can deliver a carefully managed, safe and responsible events programme that will help build confidence with our audiences to bring them back to what they love. Lemn Sissay’s artistic vision and the way he speaks to the things that really matter, feels even more relevant today and I’m delighted he has brought fresh inspiration and direction to this year’s programme.

“Our thanks go to our principal funders, Arts Council England and Brighton & Hove City Council who we continue to work closely with on the latest guidance. We are grateful for their steadfast support and belief that the arts can play a vital role in the city’s economic recovery.

“Over the next few months, we’ll be flexible in our planning and remain optimistic that with the public’s help, the government’s roadmap will stay on track and that the city can look forward to an arts and culture-led recovery.”

Guest director Lemn Sissay added: “The last year has been incredibly challenging for so many people and in so many different ways. We say the arts bring people together but we also mean that through the wonder of the arts our minds and hearts can come together. We can use this exciting opportunity to shape Brighton Festival for audiences to enjoy however they choose, whether taking part at home on screen or at a socially distanced event. I’m honoured to see where it will take us and to be with you to experience it together.”

Established in 1967, Brighton Festival is the largest and most established annual multi-arts festival in England and contributes significantly to the event and tourism economy in Brighton & Hove, alongside events such as Brighton Fringe, The Great Escape, Charleston Festival and Artists Open Houses.

Brighton & Hove City Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty added: “While we cannot be complacent about the case rates in the city, it is welcome news that our city’s much-loved Brighton Festival will go ahead, albeit in a different way and adapted to ensure safe, online and socially distanced events. People’s magnificent efforts have already helped bring infections down in the city and it’s vital that we continue to adhere to Covid-19 guidance. Having some of the festival events online will help support efforts to sustain low infection rates but will also enable more people to access events, which is a real plus.

“So many of us have missed live music and culture during the pandemic and they are a key part of the city’s recovery so it’s important that everyone continues to play their part to bring back the dearly missed festival.”

Brighton Festival 2021 will launch on Tuesday, March 30 at brightonfestival.org.