Brighton Fringe 2022
Brighton Fringe was back, but not quite fully yet. In many ways the first festival without Coronavirus measures since 2019 was the most challenging so far. The end of restrictions also meant the end of Covid financial support, leaving the scars of the past 2 years and laying bare the additional associated risks and costs of mounting an arts event on this scale. Also, several of our key stakeholders and even the central Brighton Fringe organisation were unsuccessful in receiving some of the funding from the central government, including ABCD funding. The result was a Brighton Fringe without a brochure, a limited distribution daily diary, and reduced staff and services, including box office, resources for training and support for the sector. We made sure that costs to artists remained lower than ever though and as much as possible retained the face-to-face participant services, which this year were based at the Ledward Centre on Jubilee Street.
The good news was that audiences were more excited than ever to return, despite the challenges. This year’s festival was of an audience capacity similar to 2014, with around 750 events, but with ticket sales closer to those seen in 2016: so there were greater numbers of people than ever attending per event and performance. Brighton Fringe may have been 40% smaller than 2019, but there was a nett increase in attendance of 10%.
In total, we welcomed attendances of 358,937 people, with ticketed sales of 136,500. Both audiences and participants were also more diverse than in previous years, which was a welcome development. Brighton Spiegeltent saw a great return too, despite the great difficulties they had faced in the run-up to the festival. We ran our free Fringe City community events every weekend of the festival, as well as family picnics in Pavilion Gardens, which were extremely well attended – with particular thanks to good weather!
There was a change in audience behaviour, with people booking much later than before, which meant that for many events it was extremely difficult to predict sales more than a few days in advance or even on the day itself. This is something that has been happening across the industry, both in the UK and worldwide, as people are less used or willing to commit to making plans too far in advance.
2023 will present further challenges as we set ambitious targets to develop the services that we provide to the sector. We plan to focus further on digital developments with website and box office upgrades, along with outdoor venue development to help provide much-needed performance spaces and also to diversify and increase income centrally.
Overall I would like to pay tribute to everyone that makes Brighton Fringe what it is, the artists, venues, technicians, staff, board, volunteers, Friends, partners, sponsors and of course funders- particularly the Pebble Trust, who have helped steer us through some of the most challenging times in our history.
We look forward to developing and improving. It is not enough to be England’s largest arts festival – we want, and our stakeholders deserve, that it should be nothing but the best as well!
By Julian Caddy, Chief Executive of Brighton Fringe
Brighton Festival 2022
Brighton Festival 2022 puts community at its heart in a successful return to full-scale
It was fantastic to see Brighton Festival back to full-scale in May, with more than 150 events, installations and live performances. We welcomed two Guest Co-Directors for the first time this year: Syrian author and architect Marwa Al-Sabouni and Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of Brighton theatre pioneers dreamthinkspeak. Marwa and Tristan chose the theme of Rebuilding for this year’s Festival, which echoes the return of England’s largest curated multi-arts festival and the recovery of Brighton & Hove’s vibrant cultural and creative sector.
We began by welcoming back our much-loved Children’s Parade for the first time since 2019. Over 5,000 school children took to the streets of the city in a riot of colour and creativity – always a sign that the Festival has really begun.
The Riwaq, a stunning wooden colonnade on Hove seafront, designed by Marwa and fellow Syrian architect Ghassan Jansiz, became a joyful community hub throughout the Festival, hosting free family events, creative workshops and live performances, plus artistic takeovers from local heroes Best Foot Music, Little Green Pig and Carousel. The people of Brighton really took The Riwaq to their hearts and it was only by working in partnership with brilliant creative organisations across the region that we were able to create such a compelling destination.
With Covid still present in our audiences’ minds, booking patterns and attendances were unpredictable but a heartening sign that audiences are at last returning to the thrill of live performance came via the sell-out run of another flagship event, the world premiere of dreamthinkspeak’s bold new theatrical work Unchain Me. The drama weaved its way through the streets and buildings of central Brighton and, due to phenomenal public demand, the show’s run was extended beyond the Festival into June.
One of the highlights of every Brighton Festival is our close partnerships with communities around the city, and we were thrilled to continue this vital work in 2022. The Our Place programme is where community meets creativity, with local people in Hangleton, East Brighton, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean enjoying everything from craft workshops to outdoor theatre performances and live music. Our Weekend Without Walls spread its wings outside the city with a weekend of live outdoor performances in Crawley, working with Crawley Borough Council and Creative Crawley and our site-specific events featuring writers and sound artists, entitled Witness Stand, visited Shoreham and The Chattri up on the South Downs.
The Festival came to a triumphant close with musicians and dancers from the inclusive Paraorchestra parading through East Brighton with their musical extravaganza SMOOSH! ending the festival with a bang.
I want to pay tribute to all our artists, our partner organisations, volunteers, colleagues, supporters and our Guest Co-Directors, Marwa Al-Sabouni and Tristan Sharps, for coming together so brilliantly and with resilience, especially following the challenges and uncertainty our sector and our city have faced in recent years. I’d especially like to thank our audiences and communities for welcoming the festival back so warmly this year – we can’t wait for Brighton Festival 2023 and I hope everyone will join us again next May.
Brighton Festival returns next year from 6-28 May 2023.
By Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival