At the recent launch of Festival of Europe’s Summer of Europe, I introduced a series of events running from May to September throughout the UK to celebrate our connection to Europe, including a mini festival in Brighton on Sunday 29 May.
In today’s current climate of self-inflicted antagonism with our closest European friends and neighbours (trade wars, ongoing visa and immigration issues, threats over the Northern Ireland Protocol), this might sound like a tall order, but a festival that expresses a need to be friendly, positive and conciliatory feels important. Our launch was a great success, much to do with the fact that the United Strings of Europe performed our patron Howard Goodall’s new composition, Freedom & Movement, written specially for the festival.
Festival of Europe comes to Brighton
Exactly a month later, our mini festival in Brighton is finally underway on 29 May. An afternoon of debate, music and poetry on the subject of Democracy under Fire and Transcending Borders kicks off at 3pm and we have the wonderful, centrally located, Unitarian Church until 6pm, so I’m hoping for a good crowd. Chaired by Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and with three exciting speakers – Molly Scott-Cato, Peter Jukes and Madeleina Kay – I think there promises be some fire to this discussion, and with good reason.
We are at a tipping point in our country, with attempts to undermine our democracy left, right and centre – the Elections Bill and the Police, Crime & Sentencing Bill (the latter which challenges our right to protest) being just two examples. The KilltheBill protests recently demonstrated the passionate opposition to this infringement of our human rights and civil liberties.
It seems apt that in the same week as our event, we witnessed the SNP MP Mhairi Black give a blistering attack on the government, saying: “We are sleepwalking closer and closer to the F word” (i.e. fascism). I strongly advise anyone who has not seen Mhairi’s speech to give it a watch.
Cultural events can help highlight injustice
As a theatre maker myself, I am passionate about the need for cultural experiences to highlight issues, for example, of injustice or hostility. The mini festival in Brighton also features music by the Undead Musicians Club and commemorates the work of the late Rich Beahan, who founded the band and performed on Led by Donkeys videos. Rich’s rich gravelly voice is reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, and his ballad Welcome to the Human Race is truly moving. His untimely death in December 2021 provoked an outpouring of grief in Sussex that is unsurprising when you listen to the passion of his music. Thanks to Susie Courtault (who led Rich’s funeral last year) for initiating contact with this talented band.
We are also very lucky to have Undead Musicians Club’s musical director Chris Hookway performing bass, with an array of musical talent alongside him. We shall also feature poems performed by students from Poetry by Heart on the subject of transcending borders.
The event will be live-streamed if you are unable to make it to Brighton. We have a suggested donation of £10 for the live stream. Unlike the Brexit Festival (renamed Unboxed), we have not received a government grant of £120 million and we ask that those who are able to please give generously. Festival of Europe is a charitable incorporated company (CIC) and is currently run by volunteers.
Our performers and panellists have kindly donated their time and expertise because, like all of us, they believe that building cultural bridges, especially with our nearest neighbours, enhances us all. We are indebted to them for their support and look forward to future collaborations. We will be donating 25% of money raised from this event to the Ukraine Humanitarian appeal.
We plan for our festival to get bigger and better year upon year and to include events on the continent as well as the UK, so watch this space and get in touch if you would like to know more: [email protected]
Please join us and support us in whatever way you can. We need you!
For a link to Sunday’s event event and how to book tickets please go here: https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/festival-of-europe-presents-164426/
You can see all of our Summer of Europe events here: https://festivalofeurope.uk/summer-of-europe/