Lemn Sissay MBE  launches the Brighton Festival 2021 programme as guest director, with the theme of ‘care’.

The acclaimed British and Ethiopian poet, playwright and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay MBE has launched the Brighton Festival 2021 programme as guest director, with the theme of ‘care’.


Following a year of momentous tragedy, disruption and hardship, Lemn’s vision is that the arts and Brighton Festival will play a role in the healing of communities and in the care we show for ourselves and to each other. This year’s programme abounds with fun, enjoyment and curiosity, alongside serious reflection but above all will give hope that a brighter future is on the way.

94 events, performances and installations will take place from 1 May to 31 May, online, outdoors and safely back on stage.

Artists have responded to the theme of care and to their own experiences of the last year to create newly commissioned work that involves, engages and inspires.

Featuring 10 world and UK premieres and commissions, we present new work by the actress Jane Horrocks; theatre directors Neil BartlettTim Crouch and Peter Sellars. Performances from classical artists Roderick WilliamsPaul Lewis, Jessie Montgomery and Isata Kanneh-Mason; musicians Le Gateau ChocolatEliza Carthy and Gwenno; visual artist Olafur Eliasson; comedians Josie Long and Mark Watson; author Jacqueline Wilson and poet Michael Rosen will be celebrating his birthday in true festival style!

Lemn Sissay’s Brighton Festival commission, Tell Me Something About Family is an online conversation that will connect people through the complexity and variety of what family can mean. From his own personal experience of growing up without a family, Lemn invites you, along with other artists, friends and peers to share your personal memories and ‘light up the world with stories, phrases or sayings about family via a new website

Speaking with Black History 365 Guest director Sissay said: “After such a difficult year for everyone, I am thrilled and proud to be sharing this programme as guest director. The range of events on offer is incredible and I’m honoured to have some of my favourite artists taking part, presenting opportunities to reflect and discuss what’s been happening socially and politically. There are also plenty of events that are simply joyful and celebratory, giving everyone the chance to enjoy themselves and be inspired by the arts.”

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival commented:  “This year’s Festival programme really does have something for everyone to enjoy in a safe way that will connect on so many different levels. We have completely rethought the festival to work in these circumstances and although we realise that many of our regular festival audiences wont be able to join us this year we hope our online events will bring a festival experience to them wherever they are.

This programme has taken an enormous effort to bring together and we are so grateful for Lemn’s direction and all of the artists and behind the scenes creatives who have risen to the challenge of adapting and re-shaping their work to be delivered in line with regulations and guidance. We are enormously proud to be in a city that believes in the value of the arts, both economically and socially, and to have such strong support from Brighton & Hove City Council, Arts Council England and all our sponsors and donors. We are also grateful to have local audiences and supporters who we know are looking forward to experiencing the arts again and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”

Brighton & Hove City Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty added:  “Brighton Festival is always a special time for the city and this year even more so, as we move cautiously towards the easing of lockdown. We still have much to do to stop Covid-19, but with powerful wayfinders such as the festival to guide us, we’ll find comfort for these times of grief and the opportunity to reflect on what brings us together rather than what keeps us apart. The festival promises to be a veritable feast for the senses and I welcome that owing to the obvious restrictions, it is going ahead, shaped and necessarily different because of the pandemic. We must all play our part to enjoy culture safely.”


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