Skip to main content Skip to site map (in footer)

Festival season: Theatre, dance, music, literature and so much more this summer!

  • Date: 25 April 2014
  • Area: South East
Dmitry Krymov's visually majestic Opus 7

Dmitry Krymov's visually majestic Opus 7, which will be at both Brighton Festival and Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Credit: Natalie Cheban

The East of England and South East boast a wide variety of festivals, including Norfolk and Norwich Festival and Brighton Festival. Each of them brings together a wonderful mix of artists, artforms and audiences to celebrate and enjoy a wealth of Great art and culture.

Festivals provide an important platform for emerging and established local and regional talent to showcase their work alongside some of the best known artists, nationally and internationally. These events also mean that audiences can engage with new talent and enjoy work that they may not typically go to see - such as a poetry slam or a dance performance.

Great art and culture sit at the centre of these festivals - giving everyone the chance to find something new and inspiring - but the positive impact that they create goes far beyond, cementing their intrinsic value to the region, and the country as a whole.

In 2013, Norfolk and Norwich Festival generated £2.3 million for the local economy and also created 20 full-time and 85 part time jobs. In 2012 IF:MK (2012) attracted an audience of 92,000, with 98% saying that it positively impacted on their perception of Milton Keynes and 80% saying it added to their sense of pride in Milton Keynes. The festival also generates £2.6 million net benefit for Milton Keynes each year.

These figures highlight just some of the compelling reasons why festivals are such an important part of England's arts and cultural provision - bringing artists and audiences together in a celebration of artistic excellence.

Here is a brief look ahead at some of the highlights of what is happening in the coming months in the East of England / South East.

Brighton Festival, 3-25 May

This annual mixed arts Festival takes place in Brighton over three bustling weeks in the city; creating a huge buzz around the city and producing a significant economic benefit for the local economy and businesses.

Boasting a mix of visual arts, theatre, music, dance, literature and debates, it is one of the UK's best established Festivals - this year's event continues the long tradition of delivering an ambitious programme that makes the most of Brighton's distinctive atmosphere and exciting cultural diversity.  It includes a range of family friendly event and offers outdoor performances throughout the city, including site-specific and some rather unusual and unexpected locations.

This year's guest director, Hofesh Shechter, will set the tone and feel of the Festival - programming pieces that inspire, delight, entertain and provoke thought.

Norfolk and Norwich Festival, 9-25 May

Norfolk and Norwich Festival is an exciting event that brings together a diverse mix of local, regional, national and international work - much of which is either new, or previously unseen in the UK.

The Festival connects the outstanding cultural ecology of the city with the wider county and beyond - drawing in audiences and artists from the local community through to those who travel the length and breadth of the country and overseas. The Festival, which has strong roots in Norwich, is also continuing to expand its footprint across the region, with Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth becoming increasingly important destinations during the festival period.

A new partnership this year with South Norfolk District Council will also see the Festival explore how it can increase opportunities to engage with new audiences in the region through an enhanced programme of work in Diss, Loddon and Wymondham.

Luton International Carnival, 25 May

Luton International Carnival is an annual spectacle which regularly attracts audiences of over 30,000 to the town. Taking place on 25th May, Luton will come alive with music from across the world, international cuisine and live street, dance and masquerade performances.

The highlight of the day though is the spectacular parade which makes its way around the town centre from 1.30pm. Nearly a thousand people will make up the procession, including artists, street performers, musicians - all showing off spectacularly intricate costumes and floats.

PULSE, 29 May - 7 June

Pulse Festival Ipswich is a part curated part open application 10 day festival focusing on new and innovative ideas, offering audiences a bright and inspiring snapshot of contemporary theatre and performance.

The 2014 programme presents a diverse range of work by regional, British and international artists across a variety of genres, with highlights including Bryony Kimmings' award-winning Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, the second Suitcase Prize Day, a fun-filled Family Day, and free music every night. Based at the New Wolsey Theatre, and programmed in collaboration with festival directors China Plate, there is something in this festival to suit every taste

The festival provides a platform for the development and presentation of new work, and aims to nurture artistic ambition and excellence across a range of art forms. The 2014 Pulse Festival Ipswich will present work across a variety of genres, from comedy to dance and everything in between, in various forms from tour-ready work to rehearsed readings, and works at an advanced stage of development.

67th Aldeburgh Festival, 13-29 June 2014

With worldwide interest in Benjamin Britten's work higher than ever, the centrepiece of the 2014 Aldeburgh Festival is a major focus on Britten's pacifist opera Owen Wingrave written during the Vietnam War. The Festival presents a new production by Neil Bartlett and featuring a cast mixing leading international stars including Susan Bullock with young emerging soloists, a Study Day and a screening of the original 1971 BBC TV production.

In Pierre-Laurent Aimard's sixth year as Artistic Director, he continues to extend the Festival's reach with the best international and UK-based artists, including featured composer Tristan Murail, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Arcanto Quartet, BBC Symphony Orchestra and many more.

Audiences will also be able to enjoy SNAP, Aldeburgh Festival's annual contemporary art show; an alternative festival at The Pumphouse packed with all kinds of music, comedy and cabaret; and An Aldeburgh Musicircus - a free event that will see a huge gathering of musicians in the town, from international performers through to schoolchildren.

Village Green, 12 July

Metal's Village Green returns to Chalkwell Park on Saturday 12 July, from 11am through to 10pm. Alongside a wealth of musical talent, including Scroobius Pip and Beth Orton, the festival will feature a guest appearance from the world-renowned Philadelphia Boys Choir; an exciting exchange with four visual artists from Shanghai; a wide range of comedy, cabaret, live art, literature, film and a host of extraordinary outdoor arts, installations, workshops and performances.

IF:MK, 18-27 July

Produced by The Stables, IF: Milton Keynes International Festival is underpinned by an ongoing theme of sound and music. Over 10 days the programme features artists and companies from across the world and consists of large-scale outdoor events, international productions, a highly decorated 'Spiegeltent' hosting comedy, cabaret and live music, and events designed to pop-up and transform specific buildings or spaces.

The 2014 Festival will feature Ilotopie's Fous de Bassin (Water Fools) a surreal night-time spectacle bought from France played out the surface of Willen Lake; Australian contemporary circus company Casus with Knee Deep, plus music, comedy and cabaret in the exotically decorated Belgian Spiegeltent; Architects of Air's Pentalum - a monumental walk-in sculpture in the main shopping centre; specially commissioned site responsive installations from sonic artist Kaffe Matthews and choreographer Rosemary Lee, as well as extraordinary pop-up events and interventions that will move across the cityscape.

Milton Keynes Festival Fringe, 17 - 24 July

Complementing IF:MK 2014 - the Fringe Festival will offer a vibrant, engaging, high quality, fringe art festival programme. Delivered in partnership with organisations across Milton Keynes, the Fringe will include a mix of invited and open call commissions with participatory activity and opportunities for local, regional and national artists to showcase their work; from outdoor arts and immersive theatre through to arts, music and dance projects - the festival offers something for everyone. It will be staged in unusual spaces not always associated with the arts, offering something for the dedicated fringe following, as well as, new 'non art going' audiences alike.