Robert Thody, Education Officer | November 30, 2015
With spring comes the shock of smiling faces, many being my neighbours who, like me, have been in bleary eyed hibernation since January 2nd.
I find spring life giving. It is the most exciting season when fresh buds crack the bland soil and vibrant shades of green feed the soul like a fresh salad.
It is also the season when I get homesick for England.
Spring is an eruption of sights, sounds and smells. My favourite sensation is the salty spray of the English Channel casting minerals into the wind, making each breath a gob full of salty seaweed. On visual inspection the seaweed littering Brighton beach morphs into strange nautical creatures who’s dried up carcasses become tales of life absorbed by time, the elements and a few nasty predators. Likewise, piercing bluebells cover medieval battle sites with the colourful hues of life, mourning the fodder of fallen warriors.
Having lived in Sussex for most of my childhood, there’s a wondrous familiarity with the coastline and I can easily picture myself on the Brighton pier, focussing on the shimmering water and imagining the murky secrets below the waterline. If I was to look inland, more murky secrets are afoot, including the exotic Brighton Pavilion. This architectural mishmash, built in the Indian style that was the fad at the time, is a far cry from the simple fishing village that Brighton once was.
The Prince Regent began work on this ‘seaside retreat’ after being prescribed sea waters by his doctor, as treatment for gout. In later years, the architect John Nash redesigned its grand hideousness and it became a landmark that speaks of the multicultural demographic that has shaped Brighton into one of England’s largest towns and a cultural destination for the lands largest annual festival.
Throughout May, the Brighton Festival harkens a multitude of recognized and upcoming young artists. Main auditoriums and lesser known spaces throughout the neighbourhoods enable internationally recognized artists and young wannabe’s to rub shoulders in blockbuster and fringe events, ranging from dance, art, music and theatre to film, literature, debates, comedy and crazy offshoots of the whole damn lot. Doors are flung wide open in unconventional locations for this cavalcade of artistic offerings. Nearby where my Mum lived an otherwise bland postage stamp sized church hall became the venue for a raunchy comedy ensemble and another church in nearby Hove became the stage for a musical theatre spectacle with over 20 young people shocking the sombre stone walls back to life.
Past festival guest directors have included Brian Eno, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Vanessa Redgrave. For 2015 the author Ali Smith will bring her own perspective to the proceedings.
For further details on the festival, visit brightonfestival.org. For a ‘seaside retreat’ visit http://brightonmuseums.org.uk/royalpavilion/ . For a splash in the big pond, exit the Royal Pavilion and walk south until your feet get wet or go jump off the pier, http://brightonpier.co.uk/