Brighton Festival 2016

Brighton rail station


Top: Brighton railway station, built in 1840; Bottom: Brighton from the train


It has been a while since I have visited Brighton, and the annual Brighton Festival (6th – 28th May) gave me a perfect excuse to revisit this popular coastal city.

The trick to train travel in the UK is to book as early as you can – which was what I did – and I got a bargain for my day return ticket from London. I also managed to book ‘The Encounter’, a play by Simon McBurney/ Complicite which was sold out for weeks at the Barbican in London.

These days, it is almost impossible to book tickets for popular performances and activities in London; it is a sign that the city is getting over-populated. Thus, if you really want to see a sold-out performance/ concert, check to see if they are performing in other cities, chances are you are more like to find tickets (and cheaper) outside of London.


brighton   brighton


brighton   brighton

brighton   brighton

brighton shop  bookshop

brighton signage

brighton signage  brighton signage

The city of Brighton


Arriving in the morning gave me some time to wander around the city centre, and the famous seafront. The weather forecast predicted an overcast day, which turned out to be wrong (again); and although I was pleased to see the sun, I felt as if I was taking a sauna underneath my several layers of clothing!


brighton seafront

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

Brighton seafront



brighton dome

brighton dome

brighton dome  brighton dome

Top: The Royal Pavilion; the rest: the exterior and interior of Brighton Dome


At the 50th Brighton Festival this year, American avant-garde artist, musician, film director and wife of the legendary Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson was invited to be the guest director. And one of the highlights of this year’s festival is ‘Lou Reed Drones’ at the The Spire in St Mark’s Chapel.


the spire brighton

lou reed drones

Lou Reed Drones at The Spire, St Mark’s Chapel


Visitors are provided with earplugs before entering the chapel, and they are warned about the loud noise level of the installation. Inside the chapel, the religious space is transformed into a place of worship for rock music and Lou Reed fans!

The installation comprises guitars and amplifiers owned by Lou Reed, and a feedback loop is created with each guitar and its respective amplifier. The loud guitar drone sound aims to give visitors a visceral, emotional and spiritual experience in a setting that is not usually associated with rock music.


the lighthouse brighton  brighton festival

the lighthouse brighton

Top left & bottom: The Sprawl (Propaganda about propaganda) at Lighthouse


At the Lighthouse, award-winning Dutch artists and filmmakers Metahaven presents an immersive video installation The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda). Working with cinematographer Remko Schnorr and electronic musician Kuedo, they take ‘a deeper, stranger look’ at how the internet has opened the floodgates for multiple interpretations of truth, as influenced by aesthetics, convention, and agenda.


attenborough centre for the creative arts

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts


After an alfresco lunch in the city, I headed to the campus of University of Sussex by train to see matinee performance of ‘The Encounter’. Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the newly renovated and Grade II listed Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, designed by Sir Basil Spence. The building was closed in 2007 for refurbishment, and only reopened last year. The public performance programme was launched this spring, and so I was lucky to enjoy the state-of-the-art auditorium for an immersive sound-focused show.

Despite the hype, I was slightly disappointed with Simon McBurney’s solo show, and I overheard similar complaints while queuing inside the washroom after the show. Technically speaking, it is almost faultless; and it is accompanied by a thought-provoking narrative and accomplished acting. However, the show is more than 2 hours long (with no interval), and the last 30 minutes just dragged on… this is a real shame because the show would have been perfect if it is not as long!


The Grand Hotel Brighton


Top row: The Victorian Grand Hotel, Bottom row: Hilton Metropole Hotel


After the show, I headed back to Brighton and walked along the seafront towards Hove to see the next performance that I had booked earlier. As I was walking along, I couldn’t help but admire the stunning architecture en route. Aside from the magnificent Grand Hotel, designed by architect John Whichcord Jr. in 1864; there are also many intriguing modernist architecture nearby.


bedford hotel

odeon kingwest brighton

Embassy Court Brighton

Van Alen Building brighton

brighton seafront art deco

Top row: Bedford Hotel (Holiday Inn); 2nd row: Odeon Kingswest; 3th row: Embassy Court; 5th row: Van Alen Building – a neo art deco style flats completed in 2001; Bottom row: the art deco style Alfresco restaurant


One of them is the 17-storey Bedford Hotel (Holiday Inn) designed by Swiss-British architect, R. Seifert and Partners (who also designed the Centrepoint in London) in 1967. The brutalist style building is probably enjoying a revival now as brutalism is back in the spotlight in recent years. And not far from it is another brutalist structure – Odeon Kingswest, designed by architects Russell Diplock & Associates in 1973, as part of a larger redevelopment plan. Many locals think this building is hideous, but I find it quite enthralling, especially the pointy pyramidal/ geometrical castellations on the roof edge. It looks so out of place and intrusive, but it carries a notion with cultural significance in the city’s history.

Further down the seafront is the Grade II listed Embassy Court designed by Wells Coates in 1935. The 11-storey Modernist apartment block has features associated with the movement including curved corner, recessed upper storeys and concrete framing. Originally designed as a luxury flats, the building’s high-class status declined from the 1970s, and it was close to being demolished until Sir Terence Conran‘s architectural practice was hired in 2004-5 to restore it back to its former glory.


P1160864-compressed  P1160877-compressed

hove seafront

P1160873-compressed  P1160867-compressed

hove seafront

Brighton and Hove seafront


Walking towards Hove, the landscape becomes dominated by Regency architecture. It is hard to miss the conspicuous Grade II listed Adelaide Crescent. Building work of the 250-acre estate started in 1830, but construction work was stopped and the original design was modified, and it was eventually completed in the mid-1860s.


hove regency architecture


Adelaide Mansions



Top row: Adelaide Crescent; 3rd row: Adelaide Mansions is a Grade II listed residential building designed by Thomas Lainson and built in 1873; 4th & 5th rows: The Grade II listed Kings House was built in 1871-1874 by James Knowles.


I knew very little about the show that I was going to see – except that it is an outdoor performance about belonging, migration and the fleeting nature of what surrounds us.

Belonging(s) is a creation by artistic director and choreographer, Maresa von Stockert from Tilted Productions. The performance combines contemporary dance, physical theatre and a lot of props like vinyls and cardboard boxes. The show features 9 main performers, and incorporates more than twenty local participants who duck in and out of the action.

The show is ambitious, playful, spontaneous and experimental. However, it is also over-long (theme of the day), confusing, and a bit amateurish. At times, the audience was unsure of where to go or who to follow after each act, and there were many awkward transitional moments.

There is no narrative to the performance, so it is not a piece that requires the intellect. Yet the piece fails to deliver all the complex messages that the director wishes to convey, despite the imaginative use of props and some interesting dance choreography.


Belonging(s) by Tilted productions  Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions  IMG_4776-compressed

Top four rows: Belonging(s) – an outdoor dance and theatre performance by Tilted productions


I particularly liked the last seafront location of the performance, but it was getting windy and cold (finally, I was glad to have brought a coat), and I had lost my interest by then. As the group moved further down the seafront, I decided to quietly move towards the opposite direction and head back to the centre.


hove seafront

hove seafront


On the train back home, I felt completely exhausted. In some ways, I wish I had stayed overnight because I felt like there was much more to do and see. But I thoroughly enjoyed my fun and slightly jam-packed day out in Brighton, and I would most certainly return again in the future.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *