Brighton Festival announces guest directors for 2022

Marwa Al-Sabouni - Credit Ghassan JansizMarwa Al-Sabouni - Credit Ghassan Jansiz
Marwa Al-Sabouni - Credit Ghassan Jansiz
After its successful 2021 return, Brighton Festival has announced its guest directors for 2022 will be Syrian architect and author Marwa al-Sabouni and Brighton-based theatre artist Tristan Sharps.

Andrew Comben, Brighton Festival chief executive, said: “Following on from the success of this year’s festival it is with huge pride and pleasure we announce our 2022 plans to work with Marwa and Tristan as the first guest co-directors in the festival’s history.

“They both share a searching, questioning sensibility and have a fiercely intelligent and creative collaboration that is enormously exciting. Through their international yet deeply people-focused practices, their hope-filled vision will make for a unique festival experience as we emerge from the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. We are enormously grateful for all the support we had to make Brighton Festival happen this year and we can’t wait for 2022.”

It comes after the success of 2021.

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Brighton Festival was the first multi-arts festival in the UK to open after the coronavirus pandemic caused cancellations throughout 2020.

“Guest director Lemn Sissay’s inspired and resonant theme of care brought thousands of people back to live art and performance across May and into June.

“Over 100 events were delivered safely and successfully navigating two steps of the lockdown roadmap to the delight of both audiences and artists, including installations, performances at locations in Brighton & Hove, across Sussex and online. With renewed optimism and confidence, the festival now looks forward to 2022, appointing guest co-directors for the first time to share the role next year.

“With highly restricted in-person event capacity, artists adapted and invented new ways to share their stories, creating intimate and powerful experiences that spoke to the radical shifts in everyone’s lives. Overall audience attendance across free events (outdoor, indoor installations and online) reached 60,000, with ticketed attendance reaching 20,000. The festival employed over 300 freelance artists and creative workers and just over 100 people volunteered, marking the first steps in the recovery of Brighton & Hove’s vital cultural sector.

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“Historically, periods of great disruption and change have been met by flowerings of artistic creativity and invention and festivals provide the opportunity to reflect, consider and reimagine.

“To address this powerfully changed moment in time, next year’s festival will be led jointly by Syrian architect and author, Marwa al-Sabouni and Brighton-based theatre artist Tristan Sharps, as the first guest co-directors to be invited to collaborate together on the programme.”

Marwa al-Sabouni is based in the Syrian city of Homs and was named in the BBC’s 100 Women list 2019. Her acclaimed book, The Battle for Home was chosen by The Guardian as one of the best architectural books of 2016. Her second book, Building for Hope, was published by Thames & Hudson in April 2021.

Marwa said: “I’m extremely honoured to be named as guest co-director for next year’s festival alongside Tristan. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be engaged in the process of creating such a rich and colourful programme as Brighton Festival. The need for building bridges and connections couldn’t be more urgent, especially in the wake of the suffering, loss and division which our world is currently going through. Hence the importance of what each of us can bring to the table of this perfect platform of enjoyment and reflection.

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“Brighton Festival is a vehicle to discuss innovative ideas and explore new means of expression and communication through various cross-art forms, which gives it a special voice and space. It is through this unique mix of beauty, imagination and ideas that we are going to find inspiration to move forward.”

Tristan Sharps is artistic director of dreamthinkspeak, a multi-disciplinary company, renowned for their site-responsive performances. They create productions that interweave live performance with film and installations that are ambitious in scope and often take place in unusual architectural spaces including a former department store, disused factory, underground abattoir and abandoned office blocks. Previous acclaimed sold-out Brighton Festival performances include Before I Sleep (2010) and The Rest is Silence (2012).

Tristan added: “As a proud resident of Brighton, it’s a huge honour to be invited as guest co-director. For me, the festival has always been about making connections – between people, places and art-forms. No other festival I know brings together such a wide-range of events, from theatre, dance, circus, installation, film, music, literature and visual arts to immersive technologies and more. My own work mixes many of these art-forms and my favourite collaborations have always been with artists from different disciplines, which is why I’m particularly thrilled to be working alongside visionary architect Marwa al-Sabouni. We’ve been planning to collaborate since we first met in 2018, so I’m excited to embark on this new journey with her and the festival team, to reconnect with ourselves and the challenging world we are all currently living in.”

Brighton Festival will take place from May 7 to 29 2022.