Monday, June 27, 2011

10 things...from Brighton in May

The following images or digital artefacts are ten things that I experienced or took part in in my home town last month.

May is the beginning of festival season in Brighton, a veritable events banquet that runs almost to the end of the year, but particularly throughout the summer. The big beast that kicks things off is the Brighton Festival and its little brother, the Brighton Festival Fringe. As previously mentioned, Aung San Suu Kyi was the (in absentia) guest director which meant that her image was plastered across the city throughout May. The picture above is from a mural on a wall in Vine Street - a really outstanding piece of work.

The Brighton Festival always kicks off with the Children's Parade, organised by local arts organisation Same Sky. I'd never managed to focus on it enough to get a decent photographic record in the past, but this year managed to plant myself on the seafront, DSLR in hand and got some pretty nice shots. The parade goes through the town and involves children (and their parents) from schools across the city and surrounding areas. A really fun way to kick things off.

I went to a talk organised by IDS (where I was once singer in the house band) on 'Can the Media Save the World?', held at the Friends Meeting House. The speakers were good and the audience were eager and attentive, almost disappointed that there wasn't more time to widen the debate. 

Some of the points raised included:
  • media is often a reflection of what's out there rather than an enabler of change
  • it can be very effective in bearing witness or for exposing wrongdoing
  • media has often played a vital role in creating public awareness of global poverty 
  • TV should try and engage audiences on important issues through other genres, rather than just news or documentaries
  • international or development-related content tends to be on niche channels - media providers therefore neglect the wider population
  • the blogosphere can magnify the impact of an issue
  • CSR (corporate social responsibility) exists and is widely practiced, why not MSR (media social responsibility)?


Probably the most impressive live event I've been to in at least ten years, DJ Shadow unveiled his 'Shadowsphere' show as part of The Great Escape, at Brighton Dome. Almost the entire show was performed from inside a giant sphere in the middle of the stage, onto which various films and images were projected that seemed to interact with the other projections behind it. One minute a basketball jumping through a hoop, the next the Death Star vanquishing all in its path, and all with a bass so deep that it felt like my internal organs were being regularly rearranged. If you ever get the chance to see this show, go, go go.

Although they are not officially part of the programme, there are often many other great things going on at the same time as the main festival that kind of piggyback onto the bigger one. The above mentioned Great Escape is one of them, and the more genteel St. Anne's Well Gardens festival is another. A real family day out, with lots of face painting, balloons and all that sort of thing, we picnicked in the park in the glorious weather and listened to a brass band as kids ran around us.

For the second year running, I went to see the Brighton Beach Boys. Last year was the show they've been playing for a long time - full live renditions of 'Pet Sounds 'and 'Sgt Pepper'. This year, the first half of the show was a bit tougher to sit through as it was all originals written by one of the core members of the band (and the audience had all come along for Beatles or Beach Boys songs), but the second half was fantastic - a note perfect and highly spirited performance of 'Abbey Road', in its entirety. Great stuff.

A little further out of town (Stanmer Park) and another one of those peripheral events was the Brighton Kite Festival. The weather wasn't so good and most of my pictures came out a little too dark, but there were some pretty cool kites on display, plus it was good to get out of the city for a few hours. I'm due to start studying at the neighbouring university from September, so it also presented a good excuse to have a sniff around the campus again too.

A clash with the Brighton Beach Boys show meant missing the remarkable looking spectacle that was 'Drôles d'Oiseaux', held at The Level. Still, we got off the bus on the way back from the kite festival and took a look at what remained the next day. Yes, they were real cars and no, I have no idea how they stayed up. Damned cool looking though.

I spent a meditative hour or two in the hulk of the Old Municipal Market, the place that was a main fruit and veg wholesaler when I was a student but now lies dormant and empty. Inside, was an installation by Turkish artist Kutluğ Ataman, called 'Mesopotamian Dramaturgies'. This consisted of a series of screens displayed at varying angles, showing close-ups of the flow from waterfalls (including Iguazu), signifying the revolutionary changes happening with the Arab spring and in the region. Although the installations themselves were pretty captivating, the space itself was also rather inspiring and I experimented a little with taking low lit black and white images in an abandoned building. Ended up pretty happy with some of the results too.

Prior to the two hours in an abandoned fruit warehouse, I dropped in to the Fabrica gallery for a sound installation by Janet Cardiff, titled 'Forty Part Motet'. There were forty speakers arranged in a circle, from which individual voices from a choir were played. The recording was on a permanent loop and the installation itself gave the effect of standing in the middle of a choir, hearing the voices as the choir hears them rather than from where the audience does. Click on the field recording below to hear a little of what it sounded like (but not get a feeling of what it was like to be surrounded - can only really do stereo here).
Of course, there was so much more to see and do. Some of it I've already mentioned here (such as the Heroes Run and Jardin Flambeau), some of it I had to miss out on for some reason or another. You can find more photos from these events and more at my Brighton Festival 2011 Flickr set.

These ten were some of my highlights. Brightonians and other visitors, what were yours?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post