Living it up at the Brighton Festival

England’s so-called "longest, strongest, biggest and boldest" arts festival, the Brighton Festival will this year run from Saturday May 4 to Sunday May 26 – an annual celebration of creativity which started way back in 1967 and whose 2024 director is the screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce. He has helped to curate a fantastic range of events during the three weeks the festival takes place, including a mix of paid and free events that make the festival accessible to people on any budget. The festival also offers a budget-friendly scheme called "Festival Standby", where tickets are available for just £10 to under-26s, over-60s, and benefit claimants shortly before each show.

The festival showcases a variety of events which include book events, debates, events for children and families, classical music, dance and circus performances, music events, film screenings, magic shows and theatre shows, among others. The official Brighton Festival website offers a comprehensive What's On section, allowing you to explore the diverse fare on offer, or you can call the dedicated ticket line or visit the ticket office at the Brighton Dome. Or just browse our top picks from each category below...

Finally, it’s advised to book your accommodation in Brighton in advance, which you can do here or on Cool Places itself here. The Festival has also partnered with some eateries around the city to offer deals and discounts on food throughout the duration of the festival. You can find out more about that here.


Love & Brotherhood in Black Gay Britain A discussion led by Jason Okundaye, author of the acclaimed social history book "Revolutionary Acts". Okundaye explores themes of resilience, self-determination, and the love found within Black Gay communities in Britain. He will be joined by activist and LGBTQ+ cultural curator Marc Thompson for a conversation filled with humour, reflection, and powerful stories. This event takes place on May 10 at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at £10 – book here.


Caroline Lucas: Another England A discussion led by Brighton Green Party MP Caroline Lucas about reclaiming the narrative of England. With a divided UK, Lucas argues the right has hijacked the concept of Englishness. She delves into English history, highlighting themes of inclusivity, environmentalism, and the fight for rights. Lucas presents her new book, "Another England: A New Story of Who We Are and Who We Can Be" in conversation with Brighton Festival Guest Director Frank Cottrell-Boyce. This event will take place on May 5 at 2 pm. Tickets are £12 – book here.

Child & Family Friendly

A hallmark of the Brighton Festival is The Children's Parade, which showcases the artistic skills of the younger generation. It has grown to become the largest of its kind in Europe, a testament to the festival's commitment to fostering creativity from an early age. The event is filled with colour, music, and costumes and this year's theme, "Dream Again", encourages children to embrace all kinds of dreams – good, bad, daydreams, and aspirations. Schools across Brighton & Hove have collaborated with artists from Same Sky to create sculptures, dance routines, and chants for the parade. The event will take place on May 4 and is free to attend. Find out more here.

Classical music

Solomon's Knot presents a concert titled "Class of 1685", featuring music by three Baroque masters all born in the same year: Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Georg Friedrich Händel. This event will bring the music to life with a unique performance style, singing everything from memory and blending instrumental and vocal virtuosity for an intense and visceral experience. This celebration of Baroque music will take place on May 9 at 8 pm. Tickets start at £10 – book here.


Fault Lines by Lîla Dance explores the tension between humanity and nature. Set against a backdrop of striking digital illustrations and evocative music, dancers navigate a changing landscape, grappling with the environmental damage we've caused. But the performance also asks what happens next? Can we find hope and rebuild together? See Fault Lines on May 14 and 15 at 6pm. Tickets start at £10 – book here.


High Performance Packing Tape by Branch Nebula is a high-wire act of comedy and danger. This Australian troupe will use everyday office supplies like cling film and cardboard to create precarious situations for their performers. Imagine climbing towers destined to collapse, dangling from materials on the verge of snapping, or balancing precariously on party decorations! "High Performance Packing Tape" redefines risk management as hilarious, edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
You can see this even live at one of three showings between May 17 and 18. Tickets start at £12.50 – book here.


Roberto Fonseca's La Gran Diversión will bring a taste of 1930s Parisian nightlife to Brighton. Famed Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca returns, this time with an 8- piece band to explore the era when Cuban music first captivated audiences overseas. See them live on May 26 at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at £17.50 - book here.


32 Sounds by American filmmaker Sam Green is a 2024 Academy Award-nominated documentary exploring the power of sound. Green narrates the film live while audiences experience 32 unique sonic vignettes through binaural headphones. This immersive journey explores the ephemeral nature of sound and its profound impact on our perception of the world. Original music is composed by JD Samson of Le Tigre.
See this unique experience on one of the two showings on May 21 and 22 at 7:30pm. Tickets start at £15 – book here.


Scott Silven: Wonders is a theatrical spectacle by world-renowned illusionist Scott Silven. Direct from New York, Silven brings his unique blend of magic, mentalism, and performance art to Brighton Festival. Inspired by Hitchcock and the enigmatic, Silven invites you to embrace "Wonders", a journey through his Scottish childhood and the power of imagination. This interactive experience explores human connection and perception through illusions. See this six-show run between May 8 and 12. Tickets start at £15 – book here.


Perfect Show for Rachel is an innovative and critically acclaimed theatre production. The show follows Rachel, a theatre-loving woman with a learning disability, as she takes charge of the performance. From her custom tech desk, she triggers music, lighting, and choreography, directing the actors in real time. "Perfect Show for Rachel" celebrates accessibility and challenges the definition of artistic taste. The Zoo Co Improbable collaboration runs from May 4 to 7 with various showtimes. Tickets start at £15 – book here.

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