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Brighton’s festival season launches with Brighton Festival and Fringe, Great Escape, and Artist Open Houses

  • Date: 13 May 2011
  • Area: South East
projected ocean on screen

SU, Kutlug Ataman, 2011. Credit: Photo courtesy of Kutlug Ataman

This May Brighton has become a cultural hot spot of festivals and events, all supported by Arts Council England regular funding programme or Grants for the arts, our open application scheme.

Attractions across the city include Brighton Festival, England's largest annual mixed arts festival; Brighton Festival Fringe, the world's third largest fringe festival; Dada-South's Up-Stream, a showcase of the best contemporary art from Deaf and disabled artists; book festival Charleston Festival; music industry conference and festival The Great Escape; and Artists Open Houses.

Brighton Festival

The three-week Brighton Festival, running from 7 to 29 May, presents music, dance, circus, theatre, art, film, talks and free outdoor events. The festival attracts over 300,000 people every year and creates an extra £20 million annually to the local economy. Brighton Dome and Festival, who run the festival, is an Arts Council England regularly funded organisation.

This year's Festival Artistic Director is Burmese leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. She delivers a timely message about creativity, peace, democracy and freedom of expression - poignant in a time in history when revolutions, protests and civil unrest abound in the world - and the programme echoes these ideas.

Brighton Festival Fringe

Now in their fifth year, Brighton Festival Fringe presents hundreds of art events in over 200 venues across the city, from 7 to 30 May.

The festival aims to support diverse arts, with an ethos of not putting any criteria or constraints on applicants. They also put on a free outdoor festival on New Road, every Saturday during the month, called Fringe City.

Last year's Fringe saw audiences totalling 180,000, 40,000 visitors at Fringe City, 675 events, over 3,000 performances in a total of 180 venues. 

The Fringe has recently been supported with a £65,971 Grants for the arts award.


Arts Council England regularly funded organisation Dada-South will showcase the best contemporary art from 11 Deaf and disabled artists and companies in the south east at Brighton Festival in Up-Stream.

Up-Stream will present work, 'providing a tasty menu of delectable delights ready to inspire, challenge and surprise,' at a variety of venues including Pavilion Theatre, Sallis Benney Theatre, Garage Studios, The Thistle Hotel, My Hotel, The Friends Meeting House and The Old Market Theatre.

Up-Stream will feature Gary Thomas, Noemi Lakmaier, Juan DelGado, Freewheelers Theatre Company, Project Artworks, Oska Bright Film Festival, Sally Booth, Charlie Swinbourne, Jon Adams, Deaf Men Dancing and Colin Hambrook.

The showcase is part of Accentuate, a transformational programme of 15 projects that seeks to change perceptions and offer a wide range of opportunities across the south east to showcase the talents of disabled people. The programme celebrates the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London 2012 and is funded by Legacy Trust UK, SEEDA and regional cultural agencies, including Arts Council England. 

Charleston Festival

For those with a literary bent, the Charleston Festival presents a 10-day festival celebrating literature, book and writing, from 20 to 29 May, 15 miles outside of Brighton on the South Downs.

The festival presents over 20 events and writing workshops, all set on the grounds of the home of the former Bloomsbury painter, Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf's sister, and Duncan Grant. The Charleston Trust has been supported with several Grants for the arts awards in recent years.

The Great Escape

The Great Escape is Europe's leading showcase event for new music. This year's festival takes place 12 to 14 May. By day, delegates attend industry talks, debates, and networking; by night, over 300 acts play in over 30 clubs and venues. The yearly event attracts over 15,000 music fans and 3,000 industry delegates.

This year's Great Escape is supported with a £57,270 Grants for the arts award, which allowed them to programme urban, British Asian and Indian artists. Artists include Katy B, DELS, Devlin, ghostpoet, Example, SBTRKT, Mz Bratt, Murkage, Sali, Renu, Flux, Suhk knight (true tiger), Dualist Enquiry, Sridhar + Thayil, and Hari And Sukhmani. It also allowed them to run educational masterclasses and networking events for delegates.

Our award supported Brighton Festival and Great Escape co-promotion of San Francisco hiphop legend DJ Shadow, American songwriter Sufjan Stevens, and BAFTA-nominated composer Max Richter.

Artists Open Houses

Artists Open Houses is the annual festival where people across the city open their homes, studios and workspaces to show art. This year the Artists Open Houses takes place over the four weekends in May in over 250 venues.

Included in the programme is a curated visual arts festival called HOUSE 2011, which brings together a group of adventurous artists and curators at 13 venues around the city. House 2011 is supported with a £10,000 Grants for the arts award.