WikiLeaks controversy inspires new musical work

Security alert

Security alert

Whistleblowers and angelic upstarts are among the highlights of an upcoming music festival.

Details have been unveiled of of the 2014 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from September  9 to December  20.

Indie classical composers Ted Hearne and Mark Doten have collaborated on ‘The Source’,  a work for four singers and ensemble. The piece, we are told, explores questions of privacy versus national security raised in the WikiLeaks case.

Among the American premieres is ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnets,’ set to music by Rufus Wainwright, directed by Robert Wilson and performed by the Berliner Ensemble, and the Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s minimalistic  adaptation of Tony Kushner’s ‘Angels in America’, directed by Ivo von Hove.

There are world premieres of new works by the jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, and the choreographers Jessica Lang and Jodi Melnick as well as the 50th anniversary celebration of Nonesuch Records.


Welcome to the Circus – new art show launches in Brighton

You can spray that again

You can spray that again

Two leading art galleries have teamed up to launch a  live street art festival.

Brighton-based artrepublic and ink_d will present the artrepublic Urban ArtFest, a gala of live street art and performances, at Circus Street on Saturday from 1pm to 5pm.

Featured artists include RYCA, Pure Evil, Zeus, David Walker, Copyright, Carne Griffiths, Hutch, Cassette Lord, Jimi Crayon, Gemma Compton and Dylan Floyd.

The event comprises live painting and stencilling, urban music, dance performances, and food.

The two galleries have worked with the  neighboring Tarner Community Project to give young people o the estate the chance to work with top artists through a series of workshops.

Lawrence Alkin, owner of artrepublic in Bond Street, Brighton , said: ‘Street art has become highly collectable in recent years with artists making headline news for their wonderful creations. Urban ArtFest represents a fantastic and rare opportunity to meet these highly skilled artists and see their work created up close. I am delighted that artrepublic & ink_d, as leading galleries representing this art form, are working with Brighton Fringe to create a fun packed day for everyone’.



Question mark over future of prince’s former funhouse

Back to the drawing board

Back to the drawing board

A world-famous venue has failed to secure vital funding for its future

The Heritage Lottery Fund has turned down a bid from the Royal Pavilion Estate in Brighton for around £14 million.

The Arts Council has ring-fenced £5.8 million towards a planned £35 million revamp of the gardens and buildings at the former palace of George IV.

The Royal Pavilion lost out to schemes from Canterbury Cathedral, Nottingham Castle, the Beamish Museum in County Durham, Blackpool Museum and the Plymouth History Centre.

But a spokeswoman for the estate said the feedback from HLF was  encouraging.

She said:” Their Trustees specifically noted the high heritage importance of the Estate and they believe the need for the project was clearly demonstrated. They added that they clearly understand and support our Master Plan vision and especially welcome the prospect of an integrated offer for visitors within a more unified Royal Pavilion Estate.

“This project is vital to the heart of the city and we will continue to work with all our partners and key stakeholders to develop our approach for future funding applications to HLF in the coming months in order to progress the plan to connect, preserve and celebrate the Royal Pavilion Estate.”

Andrew Comben, CEO, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, said: “Our ambition is to transform and revitalize the Royal Pavilion Estate into a world class heritage site at the heart of Brighton and Hove. I am of course disappointed that we have not been successful this time round in bidding for Heritage Lottery funding but we are very encouraged by the feedback given to us by HLF Trustees and delighted they are so supportive of our vision. We will continue to work with HLF and all our partners on developing plans for a sustainable future for the Royal Pavilion Estate.”

Janita Bagshawe, director, Royal Pavilion and Museums said. “We need to not lose sight of our ambition to transform and revitalize a world class heritage site at the heart of Brighton and Hove. We will continue to work with HLF and our partners to develop the long term plan for the Royal Pavilion estate and to secure the funding to do so. It is the symbol of the city and deserves to be a place that everyone can experience and enjoy.”

Success stinks: why Brighton needs help to clean up its act


Don't leave it to the seagulls

Don’t leave it to the seagulls

Summer is coming, the nights are getting warmer, and the streets are thronged with festival-goers.

What’s not to like? Easy –  the steaming pile of half-eaten fish and chips, empty bottles, and used condoms that tourists leave behind.

Recently we learned that Brighton is the most popular seaside destination in the UK. The city-by-the-sea attracted 409,000 visitors in 2013 –  an increase of more than than 50,000 on the year before. According to the survey from the Office for National Statistics Brighton and Hove is the eighth most popular town or city for tourists in the UK. No other seaside resort made the top 20. The nearest rival was Bournemouth in 36th place, while Hastings, just along the coast, came in at 65th.

It is wonderful to be popular, of course, but the joy is always diminished when your guests throw their rubbish on your front step.

While other destinations may envy the visitors figures, they will be happy avoid the inevitable impact. On the first weekend of July 2013 , seafront refuse collectors picked up more than 90 tonnes worth of litter which, according to the council, weighs the same as 20,000 deck chairs. It also smells a whole lot worse. Among the detritus abandoned by funseekers are nappies, beer cans, plastic bags, a portable barbecue or two and the odd item of furniture.

It doesn’t compare to the godawful stink created by fans of Fatboy Slim in 2002 when around 250,000 people turned up to his open-air party, but it’s pretty unpleasant all the same.

During last year’s strike by Cityclean workers, the problem on the seafront grew so acute that some business owners and residents took matters into their own hands and organised a voluntary clean up. There was some accusations of strike breaking from some quarters and a vigorous debate ensued. In the end, the strike was called off and a new pay deal was agreed.

Thankfully there is little chance of a repeat of such scenes this year.

But as the mercury rises, does the stench.

Early on May 27, following the bank holiday weekend, I will be down on the seafront alongside, I hope, hundreds of others, with a plastic bag in one hand and a litter pick in the other.

The city council and local businesses and residents will do their bit in what has been dubbed the “Big Beach Clean-Up”. But you don’t have to be local to take part – just get yourself to Palace Pier by 8.30am. Hopefully, we won’t have too much work to do – but that is down to the visitors.

So if you are planning to top up your tan or take in the sea air in Brighton this bank holiday, have a great time – but along with you cherished memories, please take your rubbish home with you.


This article was first published in The Argus on May 24, 2014.

Never mind the sightseers, bring on the suits

Good fun - but good for the economy?

Good fun – but good for the economy?

The seafront is in urgent need of repair, parking fees are eye-watering and street drinking is an intractable problem but the visitors keep flocking to Brighton and Hove.

As The Argus reported last week, the city by the sea is the most popular coastal destination in the country. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics had 409,000 visits in 2013, an increase of more than 50,000 on the previous year.

Near-neighbour Bournemouth attracted 171,000 visitors in the same period, while Eastbourne attracted 94,000 people and Hastings 85,000.

Soozie Campbell, chairwoman of the Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance, took the opportunity to claim that tourism is the city’s most important asset.

She said: “It is tourism that puts us on the map not new media or ecology.”

But if it is kiss-me-quick hats and bracing air that people are seeking, why is the city so far ahead of its seaside rivals?

The truth is more complicated than Ms Campbell would have us believe. The success of the city’s digital sector and the growth of green industries play a strong role in attracting  visitors as does its two universities and the many language schools.

The ONS recorded the different reasons people have for making a visit, grouped into four main categories:

• Holiday

• Business,

• Visiting friends or relatives,

• Miscellaneous.

Many of the overnights stays will be business folks working hard while  thousands of tourists come for the day and won’t be reflected in the ONS survey.

The tendency of the Tourism Alliance to see everything as a zero-sum game where  some businesses must lose out so that  their members can win is unhelpful.

Business, tourism, education, housing – it is all inextricably linked.

It  good news for all, for example, that The Brighton Digital Festival will receive £173,000 of funding over the next two years.The money, in addition to sponsorship from Brighton digital businesses including Brandwatch and Pure360, will help deliver more digital art events and stronger content this year. Last year’s festival featured over 170 events, an increase of 67 percent on  2012, and was attended by more than 40,000 people.

The Digital Festival, along with The Great Escape, the Eco Tech Show and a myriad wedding and jobs fairs and other trade shows, blur the boundaries between business and pleasure.

While other resorts remain rooted in the past, reliant on short term low-paid seasonal employment, Brighton and Hove has diversified to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Not least among these is the need to find suitable jobs for the city’s under-employed highly qualified young people.

Relying on tourism alone is not the answer.


This article was first published in The Argus on May 15, 2014

How Motown superstar Diana Ross helped Nick Lowe clean up

Nick Lowe: tapping into a rich musical heritage

Nick Lowe: tapping into a rich musical heritage

In 2011, singer-songwriter-hitmaker Nick Lowe told the New Yorker’s Nick Paumgarten that waking up in a bad way in a bathroom caused him to clean up his act.

He said: “When I woke up in this bath, I had a terrible hangover. It was lunchtime, and I’d been up all night, carousing and talking bullocks(sic), and I looked at this bathroom covered in limescale, this rock star’s stupid bathroom, and I thought, This is a real metaphor for what has happened. I got out of the bath and caught sight of myself in the full-length mirror, and it was such a miserable sight, this unhappy cornered creature—it was like a thunderbolt: Right, today is the day everything changes. And it did.”

At the Komedia in Brighton on May Day, he regaled the audience with a anecdote about how a cover version of one of his songs by Diana Ross helped pay for a new bathroom. The same one in which he had his road-to-Damascus moment? Who knows?

Here is the review of the gig I wrote for The Argus newspaper (published May 6).


No waves rose in the 1970s that didn’t have Nick Lowe cheerfully surfing their crest. The veteran of pub, punk and power pop turned 65 in March, but when he sailed into the Komedia this bank holiday he politely declined the audience’s invitation to take a genteel cruise around familiar ground.

“This is a quality set, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “Four hits and more glorious misses.”

Among the hits were “I Knew The Bride (When She Used to Rock n Roll)”, “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding” (which he wrote for Elvis Costello) and “Alison” (which Elvis Costello wrote and Lowe produced).

The highlights on the night included a mordant performance of “I Trained Her To Love Me”,  a powerful rendition of “Ragin’ Eyes” and “I Live on a Battlefield”.

This last song, Lowe told the crowd, was covered by Diana Ross whose lacklustre performance nevertheless shifted enough units to buy him a new bathroom.

The tale sums up Lowe’s down-to-earth attitude to the surreal side of his career. His knack for sweet melodies and bitter lyrics has stood him in good stead and proved a crowd  pleaser on this occasion, with the full house hollering for more.



And here he is in full-on rock star mode from 1978

Death, drugs and dance – Brighton Festival is back

Brighton Festival

A world-famous festival kicks off this weekend.

Punks, playwrights, politics and pyrotechnics are all on the bill at the Brighton Festival.

The event runs from 3-25 May and features 448 performances, 34 venues and 37 premiers.

Among the famous names lined up are Emmylou Harris and Cat Power.

The former is one of the legends of country and western music. The 65-year-old singer pioneered county rock with Gram Parsons whose early death of a heroin overdose in 1973 robbed the world of a major talent. Harris appears at the Brighton Dome Concert hall on May 23.

Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, is returning to solo performance after many years’ absence. On May 18 she will present ,music from her hit album Sun.

According top to the Pitchfork website, the music “embraces darkness and light and exists completely and defiantly outside of any larger musical trends”.

Power is always amesemering if occasionally erratic stage presence and her return to the stage in Brighton will be keenly anticipated.

The Brighton Festival is known for raising eyebrows with its groundbreaking events and this year the one-woman sexual timebomb that is Peaches  presents Peaches Christ Superstar at the Theatre Royal on May 13. Peaches will perform the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical solo accompanied only by a piano.  Some may regard this as sacrilege, other as manna from heaven, but it is bound to be a dramatic and provocative evening.

Elsewhere, novelist Irvine Welsh will talk about his work 21 years after Trainspotting catapulted him to attention as the enfant terrible of the literary scene.

His latest book, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins,  is published this month.

It tells the story of  Lucy Brennan, a Miami Beach personal-fitness trainer, who disarms a gunman and is transformed into a media hero. An ey witness, Lena Sorensen, becomes obsessed with Lucy which is when the trouble kicks off.

The advance blurb promises murder, depravity and revenge – a bit like Brighton Festival in general.

Classical music buffs will look out for a celebration of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th birthday and a performance of Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss.

As ever, the three-week long extravaganza is launched with the Children’s Parade through the city, the largest event of its kind in Europe.

This year’s guest director, choreographer Hofesh Shechter, said: “In our festival there are no immigrants, there are no outsiders,we all belong and our opinions are going to shape our world for three weeks.”