“I made a commitment to Brighton,” announces David Shrigley in his gentle yet resolute voice from the stage of the Dome. “I’m keen to make a connection, and build a creative life here.” We’re here for the official announcement of the 2018 Festival Programme, of which Shrigley is this year’s guest director. His unique visual style is all over the promotional material. The back cover of the official guide, for example, lists the traditional categories of ‘Art’, ‘Classical’ and ‘Dance’, alongside the more Shrigley-ish categories of ‘Good’, ‘Weird’ and ‘Challenging’. It’s clear he’s been heavily involved.
Turner prize nominee Shrigley moved to Brighton from Glasgow in 2015. His sister lived down here in the 90s, and he’s long nurtured a very evident fondness for the place. “It’s my kind of town creatively and politically,” he says. “It punches above its weight culturally.” A Kemptown resident, he smiles as he adds that he has already become a loyal supporter of Whitehawk FC.
The invitation to become guest director was made by festival chief executive Andrew Comben, via a mutual friend. “I’m incredibly flattered to have been asked,” he says, before pointing out that, as a punter himself, much of the thrill lies in knowing he’ll actually get to be in the audience for all of these shows.
Shrigley himself is directly involved in several events. The centrepiece of his artistic contribution to the festival is Life Model II, which will show at Fabrica between April 14th and May 27th. Entry is free, and visitors are invited to interact with a caricatured sculpture of a nine foot woman by sitting at easels and drawing her. It’s motivated, at least in part, by Shrigley’s desire to share the joy of drawing. “Making art is for everybody,” he explains. “It’s a therapeutic thing that can make you happy.”
Meanwhile, at The Old Market between the 10th and 12th of May he presents an ‘alt-rock/pop pantomime’ called Problem In Brighton, in which a band will play bizarre instruments of his own making. The wonky one-stringed bass guitar pictured in the festival guide hints at the anarchic noise which may result – although Shrigley teases us by saying the piece isn’t actually finished yet.
Our guest director is particularly keen to enthuse about the musical bookings for this year’s festival, and it’s clear why. Deerhoof are coming over on the 9th from San Francisco to the Dome to play an exclusive collaboration with orchestral collective Stargaze. Folk group This Is The Kit also collaborate with Stargaze at The Dome on May 10th. Ezra Furman and Amanda Palmer play the Dome on May 26th and 13th respectively, while former Arab Strap singer Malcolm Middleton plays an exclusive show with Iain Shaw at St George’s Church in Kemptown on May 24th.
Lovers of soul and jazz are in for a treat on May 22nd, when Carleen Anderson and Nikki Yeoh collaborate with Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle at the Dome on A Change Is Gonna Come, a one-off show exploring the power of the protest song. And on May 24th, it’s the turn of Les Amazons Afrique, ‘West Africa’s first all-female supergroup’ to take to the Dome stage. If all that wasn’t enough, you can also enjoy intimate ‘in conversation’ events with musical icons Viv Albertine (May 22nd, Brighton and Hove High School) and Brett Anderson (May 20th, Theatre Royal).
In addition to the music, the festival offers a dizzying array of theatre, dance, spoken word and classical music performances. In what promises to be a standout highlight of the programme, Adam, a play by Frances Poet, comes to the Theatre Royal between May 9th and 12th. It tells the true story of a young trans man’s flight from Egypt to Scotland, and premiered last year at the Edinburgh Fringe to rapturous applause and tears aplenty.
Rear View, which runs between May 5th and 8th, is a piece of open air theatre which is, in a far more literal sense, moving. Viewers sit on the back of a specially constructed cutaway bus, which functions as a theatre auditorium, and drives the audience around the city to watch scenes play out in front of them, on the street.
The Arms Of Sleep is another immersive performance – in this case a choral piece with a difference. It lasts the entire night. Visitors to the venue at Firle Place (May 11th-13th) will each be given a bed for the eleven hour performance. One previous visitor described it as “the best worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had.”
There are also a handful comedy performers on this year’s bill, and all are worth seeing. John Finnemore brings his new show to the Dome on the 17th, while the following day Bridget Christie performs her show What Now. The following week, on May 25th, Tim Key brings his Megadate to the Theatre Royal.
Photos: Victor Frankowski (Shrigley) / Shervin Lainez (Deerhoof) / Hassan Hajjaj (Carleen Anderson) / Andy Bell (Adam) / Rich Hardcastle (Bridget Christie)
Originally published on Brighton Source