The Pick - Brighton Festival 2011

May 5, 2011

Brighton Festival 2011

Brighton, 7-29 May

The Brighton Festival 2011 opens over the weekend with music, mime, a children's parade and a documentary about Aung San Suu Kyi - this year's guest director - and closes on 29 May with a Freedom Picnic in Queens Park, where the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be collectively recited. There will be raunchy cabarets, discussions of crime fiction and haunting installations such as Nic Sandiland's Everything Looks Beautiful in Slow Motion, which records short vignettes of street life and then plays them back in monochrome slow-mo to explore their emotional impact.

Suu Kyi cannot attend but hopes one day to be able to come to Brighton. Yet her concerns will be reflected in a concert by the London musical collective Asian Dub Foundation inspired by the resistance in Burma (7 May); a debate titled "What Next?: The Future of Burma", hosted by festival chair Polly Toynbee (17 May); and a conversation with Zoya Phan, the Burmese activist of Karen descent who is author of the acclaimed autobiography Little Daughter: A Memoir of Survival in Burma and the West (2009) and spokesperson for the Burma Campaign (20 May).

There will also be a broader stress on human rights. The theatre group Hydrocracker will offer promenade performances of five of Harold Pinter's most chillingly political short plays under the joint title The New World Order in the public and secret spaces of Brighton Town Hall.

Two major exhibitions, both supported by the University of Brighton, run throughout the festival and address related themes. Lynette Wallworth's Evolution of Fearlessness, in the university gallery, is a multimedia installation bringing together portraits of 11 refugee women who have lived through extreme adversity in countries ranging from Afghanistan to El Salvador.

Turkish film-maker and artist Kutlug Ataman has long been fascinated by "the concept of Mesopotamia - the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, an area now split between Turkey and Iraq - because it was one of the most important centres of civilization in the ancient world. Even today this zone is still of strategic and symbolic importance, because it lies on what we perceive as the borderline between East and West." His Mesopotamian Dramaturgies, which will be presented in the Old Municipal Market, consist of a number of stand-alone artworks and films looking at the impact of the relentless advance of modernity into the Middle East.

The University of Sussex is also an associate sponsor of the festival. The eminent historian Asa Briggs spent his early adult life as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park before becoming a founder member of staff at Sussex in 1961 and then vice-chancellor from 1967 to 1976. Just turned 90, he will be in conversation with the university's current vice-chancellor, Michael Farthing, on 23 May.

Sussex academics will also form part of a panel chaired by the festival's chief executive, Andrew Comben, debating the question "What does a festival add to a city?" (22 May).

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