Guest Director Rokia Traoré unveils 2019 Brighton Festival programme

Photo credit: Summer Dean

UK: The celebrated Malian musician Rokia Traoré has revealed the full programme for Brighton Festival 2019 – the largest annual, curated multi-arts festival in England. This year promises to be an especially wide-ranging and cosmopolitan edition, encouraging audiences to meet, listen and pass on their experiences.

Featuring over 130 events with artists and performers from more than 20 countries, Brighton Festival 2019 is a space for contemporary expression from around the world. The importance of respect for all cultures and for nurturing the next generation of artists is at the heart and soul of this year’s programme. The festival will present new and unexpected events across 25 venues and locations across Brighton, Hove and Sussex from May 4 – 26.

Guest Director Rokia Traoré will bring three exclusive performances to Brighton, opening with her blues rock band to perform the critically acclaimed album Né So, which translates as ‘home’ in the Bambara language. Dream Mandé: Djata is the UK premiere of her theatrical and musical project – a monologue structured around the West African griot tradition of oral history storytelling where Rokia is accompanied by two musicians on kora and n’goni instruments. Dream Mandé: Bamanan Djourou is a group performance with an orchestra and choir led by Rokia, with rearrangements of traditional Malian melodies and contemporary songs by the likes of Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. Rokia’s invited guests include artists, musicians and dancers visiting the UK for the first time from Foundation Passerelle, a cultural centre established by Rokia in Mali’s capital city Bamako. This collaboration will form a longterm partnership with Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival that is committed to international engagement at the heart of its artistic programme.

Rokia Traore, Guest Director of Brighton Festival 2019, commented: “As Guest Director, I set out to bring new voices to the city to tell their stories. Understanding other cultures is so important to the world that we live in and it brings me great joy to shed light on some unexpected voices through this opportunity. I hope that through the festival, visitors listen to stories from far away and from right next door. Stories with characters and ideas you never could have dreamed of, stories that touch you, thrill you, bring you happiness and perhaps move you to experience life in a different way.

“I am honoured to share my own stories and I’m filled with joyous anticipation to be Guest Director for this wonderful gathering of music, art, words, dance and performance. My hope is that the festival gives everyone a new story to hand down for generations to come.”

As always, the festival will include free and participatory activities for all ages. The annual Children’s Parade with Same Sky officially marks the start of the festival on May 4 and this year’s theme of ‘folk tales from around the world’ will bring a procession of colourful characters to the city centre. Without Walls will host a group of outdoor events – from Ghost Caribou’s magical illuminated animals to a day of family-friendly performances on the beach level at the British Airways i360. Marking 50 years since the first moon landings, Brighton will have its very own moon with artist Luke Jerram’s realistic illuminated lunar model lighting up the sky above Queens Park, commissioned by Brighton Festival with the Without Walls network.

Recognised cultural figures will bring new work to Brighton this May. Authors Ben Okri and Jon Ronson discuss their latest publications; Grammy award winner Neneh Cherry performs songs from her new release, Broken Politics; comedian Ruby Wax will ‘teach us how to be human’ and British actress and writer Zawe Ashton shares her memoirs. Brighton Festival will also welcome Superhoe, the highly acclaimed writing and performing debut from Nicôle Lecky, direct from its opening at the Royal Court Theatre in collaboration with Talawa Theatre Company.

Immersive installations will also pop-up in unusual locations across the city. Wet Sounds invites attendees to jump into the Prince Regent swimming pool for a unique audio-visual experience. Distorted Constellations, a performance art piece, in partnership with Lighthouse, will take viewers into the landscape of artist Nwando Ebizie’s brain; and Flight by Vox Motus is a spellbinding tale of the journey of two orphaned brothers, recreated through a captivating interactive diorama.

Five years after her death, Brighton Festival celebrates the life of seminal African American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou with three tributes: Caged Birds Do, Still I Rise, and New Daughters of Africa. Angelou appeared at Brighton Festival several times and these performances aim to honour her legacy.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival & Brighton Dome, said: “It has been such a privilege working with Rokia, her team and the artists she’s bringing from Mali. We look forward to learning from her unique perspective and hope visitors to Brighton and loyal festivalgoers will enjoy three weeks of engaging and inspiring cultural events. This year we’re pleased to extend our programme across Sussex in a new partnership with Worthing Theatres and continue to reach out further across Brighton & Hove. In these uncertain times it’s important to appreciate the value of stories from near or far, and to come together as a community.”

Brighton Festival