Laurie Anderson Appointed Guest Director Of 2016 Brighton Festival

The artist/musician Laurie Anderson has been announced as the guest director of the 2016 Brighton Festival. Best known for her inventive use of technology – from her 1981 hit O Superman to her appointment as NASA’s first artist-in-residence – Laurie Anderson is one of America’s most daring creative pioneers. 

Anderson, the widow of the cult singer Lou Reed, creates work that is eclectic. Her multidisciplinary career has spanned the worlds of art, theatre and experimental music and has seen her create works as a writer, director, visual artist and vocalist. Most recently Anderson has garnered acclaim for her first feature film in almost 30 years – Heart of a Dog – which reflects on the deaths of her husband, her mother, her beloved dog, and such diverse subjects as family memories, surveillance and Buddhist teachings. 

A long-time supporter of Brighton Festival, Anderson is well-known and well-loved by the city following successful appearances such as Delusion (BF2011) and All the Animals (BF2015). An inspiration to audiences and artists alike, she has been described by Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director Ali Smith as: “the performance artist, singer, musician, artist of our lifetime I think – a great, great figure of liberty and liberation of the arts”. 

Ms Anderson says: “I’m so happy to be serving as Guest Director of Brighton Festival in its historic 50th year. Our theme of home and place is especially relevant with so many people in the world on the move now looking, like all of us, for a place we can belong. I’ve been part of the Festival several times and it was exciting to watch the city become the heart of so much art. I’m looking forward to being part of it this year.”

The 50th Brighton Festival – which will take place from 7-29 May 2016 – will feature new works from Laurie Anderson alongside exclusives, world and UK premieres from a wide range of international, national and local artists and companies. Full programme details will be announced on Wednesday 17 February 2016 but key commissions that can be revealed now include The Complete Deaths, a partnership between two Brighton-based artistic powerhouses – Tim Crouch and Spymonkey – to re-enact every onstage death from the works of William Shakespeare in a sublimely funny tribute to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death; Memory is a Minefield, a new work from Argentinian artist Lola Arias developed with and performed by Argentinian and British veterans of the Falklands conflict; Stella, a theatrical love letter to one half of the infamous Victorian cross-dressing duo Fanny and Stella by Neil Bartlett; and Until The Lions, a brand new, full-length production from award-winning choreographer and dancer Akram Khan.

Alongside the pieces announced at this stage, Brighton Festival 2016 will feature a major new commission in partnership with 14-18 NOW – whose nationwide programme of arts experiences seeks to connect people with the First World War – as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations (full details of which will be announced on 20 January 2016). Brighton Festival 2016 will also see a Books and Debate programme delivered in a special partnership with Guardian Live, as well as the return of caravan (15-17 May 2016), a three-day biennial curated industry showcase of the best new theatre from across England, which this year features eight performances which will be open to the public. 

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival says: “We are thrilled and honoured to announce such a major international figure as Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2016. In our 50th year, it feels right to reflect on the original intentions of the Festival which from the start were about celebrating international culture, the new and the avant-garde. Laurie Anderson has been experimenting, creating and challenging audiences all over the world for almost as long as Brighton Festival has existed – indeed, she’s been a part of the Festival’s journey in past years with some very special commissions and appearances in the city. She continues to break new ground in her own work and through collaborations with some of the most promising artists of the future, and we are looking forward to celebrating all this in what we hope will be a very special 50th Brighton Festival in May.”

The eighth Guest Director of Brighton Festival, Laurie Anderson follows in the footsteps of visual artist Anish Kapoor (2009), musician Brian Eno (2010), Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (2011), actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave (2012), poet, author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (2013), choreographer, composer and performer Hofesh Shechter (2014) and award-winning author Ali Smith (2015) in shaping the three week programme of cultural events. 

Established in 1967, Brighton Festival has become one of the city’s most enduring symbols of inventiveness and celebration over the past half century. Renowned for its pioneering spirit and experimental reputation, Brighton Festival’s inaugural programme controversially included the first ever exhibition of Concrete Poetry in the UK, alongside performances by Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and Yehudi Menuhin. Now one of Europe’s leading arts festivals, Brighton Festival is known for its ambitious and daring programme that aims to make the most of the city’s distinctive cultural atmosphere, drawing some of the most innovative artists and companies and adventurous audiences from the UK and around the world. 

After appearing at the Brighton Festival in 2011 and 2015 she said she was “so happy” to be appointed as guest director for this year’s event. The festival takes place between 7 and 29 May will also feature her work.

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