Photo courtesy of creative commons by Dominic’s pics
By Harriet Thacker
As the clocks go back Brighton’s revellers will be out in force for the fourth White Night Festival on 29th October. The free arts festival takes place in venues all over the city showcasing artists and events celebrating Brighton’s cultural diversity.
Over the last four years, the White Night Festival has become immensely popular and people now regard it as an established tradition. In an interview with Donna Close, Director of the White Night Festival, we find out why, and what’s in store for the future of the festival.
Why do you think the festival is so popular in Brighton?
“White Night delivers on different fronts to a wide range of people; it’s about mixing audiences and providing a high quality of art for free. It sums up Brighton, it’s quirky and off the wall and there’s the aspect of staying up partying all night. It really is ‘so Brighton’. Also it’s a chance to see pretty much everything the city has to offer, our venues, and the different kinds of talent as well. It’s the chance to do something really different in the middle of the night. It’s a good excuse for a party and to celebrate art and the changing seasons in our city. I think it’s popular for the same reasons as Burning the Clocks – it really encapsulates what Brighton is about and what we enjoy here. We’re expecting tens of thousands of people to come – that’s around the numbers we usually get.”
Tell us a bit about what’s happening this year.
“This year we have over 70 separate events and 14 new commissions from local artists. We already have a substantial following online through Twitter and Facebook with well over 1000 people, which I’m really happy about. We’re running a ‘Utopia’ theme this year so a lot of the installations are based around that idea and I’m really interested to see what people have come up with. We’ve got pretty much everything from dance flash mobs, golf through the streets and a midnight half marathon as well as night-time photography walks and seed-bombing. There’s a glow in the dark treasure hunt, loads of theatre, comedy, outdoor events, indoor events – there really is loads going on.”
Anything you’re looking forward to the most?
“Everything, obviously! I think it will all come together really well, I can’t wait to see the video jockeys mixing live footage from the night and recordings from Nuit Blanche Amiens [the sister festival in France] onto a sculpture in Jubilee Square. It will be good to the amalgamation of everything. I think as well that a lot of the street performances go down very well and the Sealife Centre at night should be really beautiful.”
Your bid to the Arts Council was turned down this year, was that a shock?
“Yes, we put in a bid for £45,000 which was unfortunately turned down – that’s around a third of the budget, but we’ve worked really closely with our sponsors and with local businesses and called in some favours to get this year’s festival up and running. Unfortunately that’s got to be a one off, we can’t operate like that every year.”
The Arts Council have, however, spent approximately £90,000 commissioning four unique pieces for the festival. Their website says: “We are delighted to once again be supporting White Night with Grants for the arts funding.”
“The money goes straight to the artists for research purposes. So it is in a way supporting us by funding the work we want to showcase. None of the money comes directly to us, but I’m pleased they are funding the artists.”
What does the future hold for White Nights?
“Well, hopefully by the time we come to next year we will have been able to work out a viable way to raise the revenue if we can’t get funding from the Arts Council, possibly sponsorship. Really it’s down to the people who come. If it is a success this year then we’ll look at other ways of enabling us to the festival again, if people still want it.
“I think this year’s festival though will be the best yet, we’ve got so much happening and it’s really exciting. The feedback we’ve had so far from people has been really positive too. People see the festival as a kind of institution now that it’s been running for four years; they do expect it to happen. I think that’s a good thing it shows how popular the festival is and how much it speaks to the people of Brighton. And to the visitors who come as well, it really gives you a taste of what our city is about and what a vibrant exciting place it is here. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”