Brighton Festival 2019 full line-up announced

Celebrated Malian musician Rokia Traoré has revealed the full programme for Brighton Festival 2019, the largest annual, curated multi-arts festival in England.

Rokia Danny Willems
Rokia Danny Willems

She promises storytelling at the heart of a wide-ranging, diverse and international festival, encouraging audiences to meet, listen and pass on their experiences.

Running from May 4-26, it will feature more than 130 events with artists and performers from more than 20 countries – a space for contemporary expression from around the world. The importance of respect for all cultures and for nurturing the next generation of artists will be the heart and soul of this year’s programme, offering new and unexpected events across 25 venues and locations across Brighton, Hove and Sussex from.

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Rokia said: “As guest director, I set out to bring new voices to the city to tell their stories. Understanding other cultures is so important to the world that we live in and it brings me great joy to shed light on some unexpected voices through this opportunity. I hope that through the Festival, visitors listen to stories from far away and from right next door. Stories with characters and ideas you never could have dreamed of, stories that touch you, thrill you, bring you happiness and perhaps move you to experience life in a different way.

“I am honoured to share my own stories and I’m filled with joyous anticipation to be guest director for this wonderful gathering of music, art, words, dance and performance. My hope is that the Festival gives everyone a new story to hand down for generations to come.’

Brighton Festival 2019 tickets go on sale to Members at 7.30am, Thursday 14 February and on general sale at 9am, Friday 22 February from or call 01273 709709.Many events are free and over 100 performances cost £10 or less.

With storytelling at the heart of her programme, Brighton Festival 2019 guest director Rokia Traoré will bring three exclusive performances to Brighton, opening with her blues rock band to perform the critically-acclaimed album Né So, which translates as ‘home’ in the Bambara language.

Dream Mandé: Djata is the UK premiere of her theatrical and musical project - a monologue structured around the West African griot tradition of oral history storytelling where Rokia is accompanied by two musicians on kora and n’goni instruments.

And Dream Mandé: Bamanan Djourou will be a group performance with an orchestra and choir led by Rokia, with re-arrangements of traditional Malian melodies and contemporary songs by the likes of Bob Marley and Fela Kuti.

Rokia’s invited guests include artists, musicians and dancers visiting the UK for the first time from Foundation Passerelle, a cultural centre established by Rokia in Mali’s capital city Bamako. This collaboration will form a long-term partnership with Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival that is committed to “international engagement at the heart of our artistic programme.” Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Festival & Brighton Dome, said: “It has been such a privilege working with Rokia, her team and the artists she’s bringing from Mali. We look forward to learning from her unique perspective and hope visitors to Brighton and loyal Festival-goers will enjoy three weeks of engaging and inspiring cultural events. This year we’re pleased to extend our programme across Sussex with a new partnership with Worthing Theatres and continue to reach out further across Brighton & Hove. In these uncertain times it’s important to appreciate the value of stories from near or far, and to come together as a community.

“As always, the Festival will include free and participatory activities for all ages. The annual Children’s Parade with Same Sky officially marks the start of the Festival on Saturday, May 4 and this year’s theme of folk tales from around the world will bring a riot of colour, music and joy to the city centre. Without Walls bring a visually-spectacular group of outdoor events - from Ghost Caribou, a procession of magical illuminated animals to a day of family friendly inventive performances on the beach level at the British Airways i360

“Marking 50 years since the first moon landings, Brighton will have its very own moon with artist Luke Jerram’s realistic illuminated lunar model lighting up the sky above Queens Park - commissioned by Brighton Festival with the Without Walls network.

“Your Place, initiated in 2017 by Guest Director Kate Tempest, will return to Hangleton and East Brighton but will change its name to Our Place, acknowledging the communities’ commitment to bringing creativity, culture and free events to local residents as part of our growing partnership. Look out for circus theatre, workshops, outdoor art and live music from guest performers!

“Supporting the next generation of art-goers is integral to the Festival spirit and Young Brighton Festival (YBF) is for children and young people - from infants to Instagrammers - to discover, create and participate in the arts, giving them unexpected and enriching experiences that can be shared with their friends or family. The YBF programme covers everything from poetry, theatre, dance and music.

“Internationally acclaimed companies travel across the globe to present their new productions to Festival audiences. From Australia, Backbone by circus collective Gravity & Other Myths, is a showcase of raw physical agility. Acclaimed Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez recreate their epic multi-artform TrapTown for its UK premiere. From France, Ensemble Correspondances make their Festival debut with music recreated from the court of Louis XIII. BERLIN (from Belgium) expose the hypocrisy of the art world with True Copy, the incredible real-life story of one of the world’s most prolific forgers. Poland’s Teatr Biuro Podrozy stage Silence, a large-scale open-air spectacle based on a tale of survival and from Taiwan, Tjimur Dance Theatre’s Varhung: Heart to Heart, blends ancient cultural traditions with contemporary dance-theatre.”

Festival favourites bringing back their own unique blend of creative energy include: Kneehigh’s Dead Dog in a Suitcase, a hilarious take on the Beggar’s Opera; Brighton’s very own Spymonkey celebrate their 20th anniversary with Cooped, in partnership with Worthing Theatres; British Paraorchestra, led by conductor Charles Hazlewood stage The Nature of Why, merging dance and live music into an epic performance commissioned by Unlimited and Chineke! return to celebrate BME talent with music from the 1920s era of Gershwin, Copland and Weill.

Recognised cultural figures will bring new work to Brighton this May. Authors Ben Okri and Jon Ronson discuss their latest publications; Grammy award winner Neneh Cherry performs songs from her new release, Broken Politics; comedian Ruby Wax will teach us how to be human and British actress and writer Zawe Ashton shares her memoirs. Brighton Festival is also excited to welcome Superhoe, the highly acclaimed writing and performing debut from Nicôle Lecky, direct from its opening at the Royal Court in collaboration with Talawa Theatre Company.

Immersive installations will pop-up in unusual locations across the city and beyond. Wet Sounds invites you to jump into the Prince Regent swimming pool for a unique audio-visual experience. Distorted Constellations, a performance art piece, in partnership with Lighthouse, will take viewers into the landscape of artist Nwando Ebizie’s brain; Flight by Vox Motus is a spellbinding tale of the journey of two orphaned brothers recreated through a captivating interactive diorama.

Five years after her death, Brighton Festival celebrates the life of seminal African American poet and civil right activist Maya Angelou with three powerful tributes: Caged Birds Do, Still I Rise, and New Daughters of Africa. Angelou appeared at Brighton Festival several times and these moving and uplifting performances will honour her legacy.

Elsewhere, artists explore emotional issues connected to masculinity and femininity. From The Pappy Show’s energetic dance piece BOYS, dealing with young male vulnerability, to Eye to Eye, a Brighton Festival Commission and world premiere by theatre-maker Sheila Hill, inspired by motherhood and featuring a chorus of 100 women and children in collaboration with Glyndebourne Youth Opera and guest musicians.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Brighton Festival is one of England’s cultural highlights, with a programme full of globally renowned artists and an international reputation for excellence. Through our funding, we’re delighted to be a part of making that happen. It gives so many people from all backgrounds the opportunity to experience and enjoy an amazing variety of great art – that opportunity is very important to the Arts Council. Recent Guest Directors have brought so much to Brighton Festival and I know that Rokia Traoré will continue this wonderful tradition, bringing her own distinct voice for audiences to enjoy.”

Andrew added: “Our thanks to sponsors for supporting Brighton Festival 2019: University of Sussex, University of Brighton, GM Building, Southern Water, Yeoman’s Brighton, Selits, Griffith Smith, BIMM, Best of Brighton Holiday Lettings and Hove College. We’re proud to announce our media partners are BBC Sussex, The Voice, Radio Reverb, and Brighton & Hove Independent.”