Brighton Festival guest director promises festival of hope

Frank Cottrell-Boyce, guest director of this year’s Brighton Festival, admits he didn't know Brighton particularly well before taking up the post. But he quickly found a genuine affinity for the place.
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Frank is from Liverpool and sensed the similarities “with this place diagonally across the country: “You feel that both Brighton and Liverpool are places that turn their backs to the rest of the country either in hope or in despair! Liverpool is somewhere that just feels very different, and so does Brighton. There is a big banner on the kop at Liverpool which says ‘Scouse not English’ which is there every week but I think the real point is that they're both cities that are full of hope.” And it is that that Frank draws on as he offers this year’s Brighton Festival as a festival, drawing on Brighton’s optimistic spirit, to “invite everyone to imagine a better world through a vibrant and colourful celebration of hope, magic and wonder.”

“I do think cities are our hope. The world is full of nationalist movements but cities by their very nature tend to be diverse and different and connected in all sorts of different ways. For me cities really are places of hope and you can control the green agenda so much better in a city. And I honestly think that people take pride in a city in a way that they don't in their country. I think very often we talk about what is wrong and we don't often talk about what is good and what looks right. But I think you can make a city into a thought experiment and I think you do feel that with Brighton, that Brighton is a hopeful place. Brighton is also a fun place which is especially important in a country that is seething with anger and cynicism. Also Brighton is an incredibly tolerant place at a time when intolerance has become a political tool. Brighton has incredible tolerance.”

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All reasons why Frank can’t remember even thinking about it when he was asked to become guest director for this year’s festival: “It just seemed such an exciting thing to do. Brighton is such a great place. I felt very flattered to be asked and I must have been in one of those moods where I just say yes to things – and that doesn't happen very often! If you're a writer, it’s because you like to say no and you want to stay indoors!”

Frank Cottrell-Boyce (contributed pic)Frank Cottrell-Boyce (contributed pic)
Frank Cottrell-Boyce (contributed pic)

Another great discovery for Frank has been the sheer number of children's writers in Brighton: “I think I must be the only children's writer that doesn't live there!”

Frank has enjoyed shaping the festival accordingly: “I think there's a bigger emphasis than usual on children's things but what I want to shine through is the theme of hope I was talking about – but properly engaged hope not just optimistic ‘It would be nice if it happened’ type hope. It is about people who are making things happen. I want the hope to feel really urgent. Despair and pessimism are luxuries that you can only afford in good times but we're not in good times. Hope is an essential commodity right now. It’s about trying to locate it and you have to make it grow.”

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