News: Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is inspiration for this year’s Brighton Festival

By Poppy Bragg

Photo by Stuart Isett -

The 2011 Brighton Festival is taking inspiration from its guest director, Burmese Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, by celebrating liberty and freedom of expression.

Suu Kyi is the third person to hold this position, following artist Anish Kapoor in 2009 and musician/producer Brian Eno in 2010.

But unlike her predecessors she will not be able to attend the event, due to fears that if she leaves Burma she will be prevented from returning by the military junta that rules the country.

Suu Kyi said in a recorded video message that the festival was: “A time for festivity, for diversity, for creativity, for expression, for freedom of expression.

“We look to you, to use your freedom of expression to let the world know what it is like in our country, what it is like to not be able to say what you want to say.”

Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Dome and Festival, said that it was a great honour to build the festival around Suu Kyi.

He said: “I hope this programme reflects some of her extraordinary spirit.”

Although not solely dedicated to freedom of expression and liberty, a substantial portion of the festival explores these themes.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be involved in the festival as part of a discussion panel analysing the right to free speech.

Asian Dub Foundation’s Music of Resistance, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Brighton Festival Chorus’s performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio will explore through music the themes of resistance and political struggle.

There are also events relating specifically to the situation in Burma.

Suu Kyi herself provides the subject for some of these, including an updated version of Richard Shannon’s play “The Lady of Burma”.

Polly Toynbee will also be chairing a discussion on the future of Burma.

The story of Zoya Phan – a campaign manager for Burma Campaign UK, whose village was destroyed when she was 14, will be featured as well.

Zoya Phan

Phan, a Burmese refugee living in London will be reading from her autobiography and  speaking to journalist Sue Lloyd-Roberts.
She said: “Having Aung San Suu Kyi as Guest Director for Brighton Festival means so much to me and for people in Burma, I am so proud to see our leader is such an important international figure.”
The Brighton Festival runs from May 7 – 29

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