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Brighton Festival 2019 launches with Guest Director Rokia Traoré | reviews, news & interviews

Brighton Festival 2019 launches with Guest Director Rokia Traoré

Brighton Festival 2019 launches with Guest Director Rokia Traoré

The south-coast's arts extravaganza reveals its 2019 line-up

Dance company Tribe// are at this year's Festival

The striking cover for the Brighton Festival 2019 programme shouts out loud who this year’s Guest Director is. Silhouetted in flowers, in stunning artwork by Simon Prades, is the unmistakeable profile of Malian musician Rokia Traoré.

Taking place between 4th and 26th May at a host of south coast venues, this year’s Festival, which launched its schedule of events this morning, looks to be a multi-faceted extravaganza with true international reach. Once again, theartsdesk is proud to be a media partner.

rokia“I set out to bring new voices to the city to tell their stories,” Traoré explained, “Understanding other cultures is so important to the world we live in and I hope that through the Festival visitors listen to stories from far away and from right next door. Stories with characters and ideas you never could have dreamed of, stories that touch you, thrill you, bring you happiness and perhaps move you to experience life in a different way.”

To fulfil this ambition the largest annual, curated multi-arts festival in England runs the gamut from the mind-boggling immersive performance art of Brit-Nigerian sensation Nwando Ebizie, to comedian Ruby Wax teaching us how to be human, to the famous annual Children’s Parade (this year themed around folk tales from around the world), to an evening with literary innovator Ben Okri, to award-winning pianist Sir András Schiff playing Bach’s notoriously tricky Partitas to artist Luke Jerram’s illuminated Moon glowing in the sky above Queen’s park. But at the heart of it, of course, is Traoré herself.

Globally renowned for her performances during a multi-award-winning two decade career, Traoré is giving three landmark shows; a performance with her blues-rock band of her acclaimed 2016 album Né So, the UK premiere of her theatrical Dream Mandé: Djata project, in the tradition of West African griot storytelling, and Dream Mandé: Bamanan Djourou, featuring an orchestra and choir, guest appearances, and covers of songs by artists such as Bob Marley and Fela Kuti.

With at least 130 events and a cast from more than 20 countries, Brighton Festival 2019 also has very much more going on: family shows on the beach; an art happening in a swimming pool; gatherings celebrating writer-activist Maya Angelou; circus, dance and theatre – often all mixed up together - from Australia, Taiwan, Poland, France, Belgium and more; the British Paraorchestra led by Charles Hazlewood; appearances by Jon Ronson, Neneh Cherry and Zawe Ashton… and much else.

In these uncertain times,” said Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of the Festival, “It’s important to appreciate the value of stories from near or far, and to come together as a community.”

He’s not wrong. In the coming months, theartsdesk will be looking at these stories, running interviews with festival artists and, in May, reviewing more of Brighton Festival 2019 than any other media outlet.

Below: Watch Rokia Traoré introduce Brighton Festival 2019

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