Lemn Sissay will return as Brighton Festival 2021 guest director

Brighton Festival has confirmed that Lemn Sissay will return as its 2021 guest director.

Lemn Sissay c. Jamie MacMillian
Lemn Sissay c. Jamie MacMillian

Poet and author Lemn had been announced as the guest director for this year’s 2020 Brighton Festival which was then forced off the calendar by the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead it went ahead as Brighton Festival at Home, a virtual programme featuring a selection of artists and events that were due to take place across the city in May.

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The alternative version attracted online audiences from across the world – from local school children and families taking part in their own mini children’s parade to Lemn Sissay’s live reading with viewers joining from Africa to America.

Lemn has now confirmed he will be guest director for next year’s return to live action.

Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Festival, said: “We are delighted that Lemn has agreed to stay on as guest director and we are determined to plan ahead for next year with live events, as well as using the lessons learned from this digital experience.

“The public’s support, through donating back ticket purchases, making a voluntary donation or accepting a credit voucher, shows the level of affection for Brighton Festival.

“There has been a huge gap in the city’s cultural life this year and we want to deliver a Festival that is stronger than ever but is also responsive to how arts events will need to adapt to make audiences feel safe.

“Lemn’s artistic vision and the way he can speak to all of us about the things that really matter feel vitality important now. We can all look forward to Brighton Festival 2021 infused with his creative input and imagination.”

Due to the coronavirus crisis, Brighton Festival 2020 was cancelled for the first time in its 53-year history and as a registered charity, lost almost 65 per cent of the income which would have come in from ticket sales.

Lemn said: “This year has taught us that everything cannot be mended but the act of trying is everything.

“The arts bring people together, whether they are in a physical space or on a digital platform. Artists are resilient, creative and forward-thinking in making sense of the world and we can take this exciting opportunity to shape Brighton Festival for a brave new world. I’m honoured to see where it will take us and to be with you to experience it together.”

Lemn Sissay is a BAFTA nominated award winning writer, best-selling author, prolific speaker and performer who has inspired audiences across the world. He was the official poet of the London 2012 Olympics and his Landmark Poems can be found on the walls of hospitals, libraries, pubs, universities and train stations, bringing his writing to communities in public spaces every day.

Each year, Brighton Festival attracts over 150,000 visitors to its events across three weeks in May. It 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.

Established in 1967, it is the largest and most established annual multi-arts festival in England, a celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and community events in venues and locations across Brighton, Hove and East Sussex. The Festival attracts performers from across the globe, as well as promoting local artists and bringing fresh, challenging new work to the region.

Brighton Festival 2021 is due to take place from 1-23 May 2021, to help secure its future, donations can be made by Text BTNFEST to 70970 for £5 or 70191 for £10 or http://visitbrightonfestival.org/donate

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