sun 23/02/2020

Brighton Festival 2020 launches with Guest Director Lemn Sissay | reviews, news & interviews

Brighton Festival 2020 launches with Guest Director Lemn Sissay

Brighton Festival 2020 launches with Guest Director Lemn Sissay

The Sussex extravaganza announces its 2020 theme and line-up of events

The skeleton of the West Pier watches over Brighton Festival action

This morning the largest annual, curated multi-arts festival in England launched and announced its programme of events. With Guest Director, British and Ethiopian poet-playwright-broadcaster Lemn Sissay, MBE, at the helm, Brighton Festival 2020 is themed as Imagine Nation and runs May 2-24. For the seventh year running, theartsdesk will be a major media partner, showcasing preview interviews and reviewing the best of the festival.

No longer restricted solely to the city of Brighton & Hove itself, the Festival now takes place across the region with over 120 events, including 17 premieres, at locations which run the gamut from the streets of Crawley and Shoreham Port’s industrial waterfront to the theatres and community centres of Worthing and Lewes.

Premieres include Leeds interactive artists Invisible Flock’s The Sleeping Tree, an immersive simulation of the Indonesian rain forest in a warehouse in Hove, and HALO, another giant installation that uses data collected by scientists at CERN to emulate the conditions shortly after the Big Bang. Such eye-boggling fare sits easily beside events ranging from the Kronos Quartet playing Terry Riley to Jacqueline Wilson reading from her new book; from comedian Josie Long to the Rhum & Clay Theatre Company’s exhilarating reimagining of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Of course, Lemn Sissay will be central to proceedings. He has been the Chancellor of Manchester University for the last five years and was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, but his profile rose even further last year with the publication of My Name is Why, an autobiography that covered his traumatic childhood in care which he’ll be talking about in conversation with fellow writer Hannah Azieb Pool. His Ethiopian heritage will also be explored with Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke, pianist-composer Samuel Yirga, and writers Maaza Mengiste and Aida Edemarian all included in the Festival line-up.

Sissay said of the Imagine Nation theme, “The most damaging mirror trick in society is to convince people they have no imagination and that they are not creative. It’s just not true. There’s going to be something for you in this Festival. Broaden your horizons, be open and maybe try something different. Welcome to the Imagine Nation, welcome to the whole world in one celebration here at Brighton Festival 2020.”

“We’re excited and proud to be bringing the Festival to so many areas of the city and the wider region,” added Festival Chief Executive Andrew Comben, “We hope that Lemn’s encouragement to be brave and try something new creates an Imagine Nation in which we can all take part.

From the famous Children’s Parade to an epic sci-fi symphony in Shoreham Harbour, the Brighton Festival is back, overflowing with possibility.

Below: Watch Brighton Festival's collation of various Lemn Sissay YouTube clips

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