The Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe have kicked off. Every year Brighton, the UK’s most liberal city, comes alive with a programme of eclectic cultural events that includes dance, circus, music, theatre, art, film and oodles of lively street performance.
Part of the fun of Brighton Festival and the Brighton Fringe Festival is checking out some random, un-planned events. Get a programme then hit up anything you like the sound of. Lots is free and many artists open their houses to the public for a view of their work.
And here are out don’t-miss highlights from the festival.
The Great Wall Of Vagina
Gawp at a sculpture of 400 women’s genitalia by checking out Jamie McCartney’s fascinating The Great Wall Of Vagina. More than five years in the making (sculpting vaginas takes time, you know), this nine-metre-long artwork can be seen for the first time in the artist’s Body Casting Studios. Says the artist: “Vulvas and labia are as different as faces and many people, particularly women, don’t seem to know that … showing the variety of shapes is endlessly fascinating, empowering and comforting.”
The exhibition is open every day throughout May from 11am to 6pm.
The Great Wall of Vagina at the Brighton Festival.
Carnival of the Bizarre
Deemed unsuitable for “children, sissies or chavs” the Carnival of the Bizarre (circusofhorrors.co.uk) presents a mishmash of pickled and bendy people, knife throwers, sword swallowers and a woman suspended by her hair – with a few gory bits thrown in to get the bile rising.
May 10-13, 15, 17-20 and 22 from 9.15pm
Carnival of the Bizarre at the Brighton Festival.
Hit the Streets in New Road from 1-4pm on Saturday, May 21 and 28 for eye-popping dance displays and world music. Expect acrobatics and surreal encounters on May 21. If you fancy throwing some shapes, join revellers on May 28 to have a go at capoeira, jive, belly dancing, samba and flamenco.
As You Like It
A troupe of travelling players from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will perform As You Like It on an open-air Elizabethan-style stage, in St Nicholas Rest Garden. Bring a picnic and pray for sunshine.
May 26, 27, 28 and 29
The Lady Of Burma
Richard Shannon’s celebrated play The Lady Of Burma – based on the true story of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi (the festival’s guest director) – is being exclusively revived with an updated script for the Brighton festival. The play, which sold out when it was performed at London’s Old Vic and the Edinburgh Festival, captures the personal struggle of Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader through 15 years of house arrest.
May 19 and 20. If you attend the performance on May 20, you can have your ticket signed by Aung San Suu Kyi herself.
Hendrick’s Horseless Carriage Of Curiosities
Festival-goers with a penchant for bizarre bookish shenanigans should head to Hendrick’s Horseless Carriage Of Curiosities. Held in a converted 19th century rail carriage, in Jubilee Square from May 20-30, it will feature a programme of events and workshops with authors including Polly Samson and Stella Duffy, plus gin tastings. If you’re stuck in a rut with your reading, enjoy a free 15-minute session with bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud who can provide literary inspiration.
The drop- in event takes place on May 20, 21, 22, 28, 29 and 30 at 12pm.
Hendrick’s Horseless Carriage Of Curiosities at the Brighton Festival.
Everything Looks Beautiful In Slow Motion
Watch yourself being instantly turned into a movie in Everything Looks Beautiful In Slow Motion, an interactive installation which records a snapshot of street life as pedestrians walk past a shop window. The scene is then played back in slow-mo to an accompanying soundtrack. Venue TBC. May 7-14.
And The Birds Fell From The Sky
Don video goggles, put in headphone and prepare to be swept away in an immersive performance combining cinema and instruction based theatre. Be prepared to find yourself in a car with a bizarre group of clown-faced characters and an envelope you must keep safe…
Performances take place throughout the day, every weekend in May.
The Forty Part Motet
Listen to an audio installation in which epic choral masterpiece Spem in Alium is played through forty speakers set in a circle. As you walk around you can hear the individually-recorded voices or stand in the middle and be overwhelmed by sound. Incredible.
07 May 2011 to 29 May 2011 at 12noon -7pm Late nights: Sat 7 & Sat 28 May, till 11pm
Where to eat
Munch on 70s-style dishes at the Fringe Festival’s pop-up eatery Residence (residencepop-up.co.uk) where classic dishes will be given a makeover from May 7-30. Feast on Japanese cuisine at Oki-nami (okinami.com), co-owned by FatBoy Slim. For a tasty lunch, Scoop & Crumb (scoopandcrumb.com) serves open sandwiches and delicious home-made ice cream.
Where to drink
Enjoy high tea with finger sandwiches and scones at eccentric tearoom The Tea Cosy (theteacosy.co.uk), known for its royal family memorabilia. Brighton boasts a stellar nightlife with an abundance of brilliant clubs, most of which can be found along the seafront. Big name DJs often play at Digital Brighton (yourfutureisdigital.com), while the recently re-vamped Honeyclub (thehoneyclub.co.uk) offers beachfront terraces and bags
Where to sleep
Snooze (snoozebrighton.com), which offers seven uniquely styled rooms with circular beds and leopard print throws, and Hotel Pelirocco (hotelpelirocco.co.uk) which offers funky themed rooms inspired by pop culture. Budget stays include Kipps Hostel Brighton (kipps-brighton.com), centrally located opposite the Royal Pavilion.
To treat yourself, check out the beautiful Twenty Seven (brighton-bed-and-breakfast.co.uk). Set in Brighton’s buzzing Kemp Town, this new B&B is a chic, elegant haven. Owners Alan and Ollie are super-friendly and you won’t want to leave after you’ve had a full breakfast delivered to your room and eaten it overlooking the ocean.
When to go: The Brighton Festival runs from May 7-29, while the Brighton Fringe Festival takes place from May 7-30.
Getting there: Trains run from London Victoria to Brighton three times an hour.
Get more info: brightonfestival.org; brightonfestivalfringe.org.uk; visitbrighton.com