WATCH: Ground-breaking immersive Van Gogh Alive experience set to open in Brighton

The ground-breaking immersive Van Gogh Alive experience (May 12-August 6), one of the hottest anticipated south-coast events this spring, is set to open.
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After wowing thousands of visitors in Birmingham, London, Salford, Edinburgh and then Bradford, the exhibition now comes to Brighton for its sixth UK venue – the latest in a list of nearly 90 cities around the world for an exhibition which has attracted 9 million visitors. In Brighton, it will be the opening event at Brighton Dome’s refurbished Grade I and II listed Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre – a unique multi-sensory experience exploring the life and work of the seminal Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. More than 3,000 images will be spectacularly presented in detail, including iconic works such as Sunflowers and lesser-known paintings in an event combining the highest tech and the greatest art.

For Greg Talbot, head of events for Active Sport and Entertainment Ltd, it’s an event which has completely transformed his company: “We were traditionally an agency that delivered closed road running and cycling events and we went through a management buy-out in 2019 six months pre-Covid. Then the industry came to a complete standstill. Our business model was ripped away from us in March 2020. We had just announced that we were the delivery partner for British Cycling. It was a big win for us and then suddenly we were facing real difficulties and just not knowing whether we would stay alive in the post-pandemic world.

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"But one of our senior people reignited an old conversation we had had maybe 12 or 13 years ago when the idea was to bring the world premiere of Van Gogh Alive to Edinburgh but for one reason or another that didn't happen.

Launch of  Van Gogh Alive, Regency Hall, Bradford last year. Pic by Roger MoodyLaunch of  Van Gogh Alive, Regency Hall, Bradford last year. Pic by Roger Moody
Launch of Van Gogh Alive, Regency Hall, Bradford last year. Pic by Roger Moody

"Van Gogh Alive then became this incredible global phenomenon attracting all these millions of people, but for some reason Grande Experiences, the company behind it, had never cracked the UK market. I don't know how hard they had tried but for one reason or another it had never happened until we reignited that ten-year-old conversation. We said maybe it's a funny time to think about it but let's think about it.”

And so it happened. Inevitably the biggest challenge was finding venues big enough to take the exhibition (a six-metre high ceiling is required) but also places that would be economically viable: “But actually Covid created a bit of an opportunity because a lot of venues were empty.”

Greg and the team brought Van Gogh Alive to Birmingham for its UK premiere in August 2020. In the first month it attracted 30,000 visitors but then had to close when Birmingham moved into a higher tier: “We were closed for six months and then we were able to open again. We got another 30,000 visitors in in a month. It was a bit disjointed but what it did do for us was to prove that the concept really worked over here.” And so the other venues in the UK followed, with now Brighton the latest: “We have been talking with the guys at Brighton Dome since November 2020. We were very, very keen to come to Brighton.”

As for the company, it is no longer doing either running or cycling: “We have absolutely doubled down on digital art.”