May What’s On
May is a great time in Sussex with major festivals on at Brighton and Charleston and the weather hopefully conducive to outdoors fun. I’ll be updating my What’s On weekly and for the school half term but for now, here’s your stater for ten…
Charleston Festival, Charleston, Firle, near Lewes, Fri 18 – Mon 28 May
Charleston’s famous literary festival is back. Sir David Attenborough will be picking up a prize (sold out as you can imagine), Ali Smith will be writng prose inspired by the House’s famous Women Dinner Service; there’ll be a discssuion on May Sheley’s Frankenstein by two expert authors in The Creation Myth and Byron’s legacy for the women he left behind in In Byron’s Wake. There’s also a story of a president’s wife’s love affair in White Houses and much more. Book a particular session or a day ticket.
You Win Again, celebrating the music of the Bee Gees, The Capitol, Horsham, Wednesday 16 May
Fancy some Saturday Night Fever? or even some Wednesday night fever? The Gibb brothers’ back catalogue is quite something, as anyone who saw Glastonbury last year will recall… this show’s a tribute to the Bee Gees. I challenge you not to sing along!
May Day Weekender, Hastings Pier, Fri 5 – Mon 7 May
As part of the famous Jack In the Green event which sees little (and big) green men running around Hastings, the pier will have an international street food festival and there will be live music on the Fat Tuesday stage. Street performers and Brewing Brothers beer will add to the fun and neighbours Source Park are offering pop-up BMX tutorials.
Ladies Day Plumpton Race Course, Wed 13 May
It’s time to bring out that posh frock and big hat and head off to the geegees for some posing. There’s a prize for Best Dressed Lady, Most Dapper Gent and for the kids if they dress up. There’s a funfair and dining’s available in the Marquee restaurant. After the real racing, there’s the South East Pony Racing Finals to lose that last tenner on. From £10 in advance, accompanied under 18s free.
Kathleen Turner, Finding My Voice, The Capitol, Horsham Fri 11 May and Connaught Theatre, Worthing, Sun 13 May
Yes, it’s true, Husky-voiced Kathleen Turner – a staple of big 80s rom-coms like Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, The War of the Roses and Peggy Sue Got Married is coming to Sussex to sing cabaret! Something we’ve previously only see her do when she played Chandler’s drag queen dad in a cameo in Friends. She’ll also be telling stories about her Hollywood career. She’ll be in Horsham Fri 11 May (£29.50) and in Worthing on Sun 13 May (£28.50).
Brighton Festival, various venues, Sat 5 – Sun 27 May
Brighton Festival is here with Turner-prize nominated artist David Shrigley at the helm as guest director. As always theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate will feature, with highlights for 2018 including stand-up Bridget Christie, an exhibition from artists Gilbert and George and Problem in Brighton, a new ‘alt rock/pop pantomime’, written and directed by Shrigley himself. There will also be an overnight choral sleepover experience (yes, really) called The Arms of Sleep.
Brighton Fringe Festival, Fri 4 May – Sun 3 June
Running alongside the Festival of course is the Fringe with hundreds of cool and quirky, drama, comedy., spoken word, music, cabaret and kids events throughout the month. It’s the biggest in England don’tcha know? Plenty of good stuff on but for now my picks are Wot No Fish?, Circled in the Radio Times, Sh*tfaced Shakespeare, performance poet Luke Wright and Late Fight Gimp Fight (it’s a comedy sketch group!) I’ve seen them all – some several times – and they’re all great. Enjoy!
Mayfield Fringe/ Art Trail 6 – 14 May
It may be a lot smaller than Brighton’s but, not to be overlooked, Mayfield in East Sussex has its own Fringe going on with musical poetry, visual art, storytellng, theatre, film and wine running till mid May. It includes, new for this year, an Art Trail of makers’ houses.
In her Shoes, Uppark House and Garden, South Harting, near Petersfield, 5 May to 2 Sept
The National Trust’s Uppark House is commemorating the centenary of the granting of women’s right to vote with an exhibition about five intriguing women who shaped its history. Among them teenage Emma Hart was rumored to have danced on the table for the Prince Regent before becoming famous as Lord Nelson’s mistress Lady Hamilton. Mary Ann Bullock’s story is more the stuff of romantic fiction. In the 1820s Uppark’s owner Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, then in his seventies, fell in love with her when he heard her singing in the dairy. They married, and the 20-year-old bride went to Paris to learn the social skills required for her new station in life. Free, but normal admission prices apply.
Artists’ Open Houses, Brighton, Hove, Rottingdean and Ditchling, weekends 5 – 28 May
Buy art direct from the makers, often at nicely affordable prices during this big celebration of Sussex’s creators. It’s the largest event of its kind in the UK with 200,000 visiting the festival last year. You also get to snoop around some lovely houses! There’s an exhibition this year called Art From the Edge featuring work from the marginalised in society.
Summer of Circus, Worthing theatres, May 18 – 1 July
Worthing’s fantastic season of contemporary circus launches this month with ground-breaking international acts in town. The Exploded Circus will kick things off from all-female company Mimbre. Other shows include 8 Songs – skilled juggling set to Rock ’n’ Roll – and the Giant Balloon Show with big balloon sculptures. The programme ranges from family-friendly to adult-focused and includes workshops besides. There’s a multi-buy ticket offer and the odd thing is free.
Pete Cater Big Band, Frant Church, Frant, near Tunbridge Wells, 18 May
Drummer Pete brings his 16-piece band to Kent for a night of jazz in Frant. Pete has been making swinging big band sounds since 1995 and audiences keep coming back for more. He’s also worked with the likes of Tom Jones, Johnny Dankworth and Jamie Cullum, so he’s clearly a respected talent. There’s another reason to attend too, as proceeds go to the church’s conservation. £18, doors 7.30pm.
Sussex Street Food Festival, The Stade, Hastings, 18-20 May
Fill your boots, your tummy, your handbag and anything else at this gathering of more than 20 street food vendors. There’s also a bar, various other stalls and glitter painting. Foodie names like Monte Forte Pizza, Just Ribz and Orgazmic Milkshake will have you groaning with pleasure and prompt passers by to want what you’ve just had. Free, midday to 10pm.
Bubbletastic Weekend, The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux, Sat 5- Mon 7 May
There are times when you want to be in your own bubble and now you can be, at least momentarily. Stand in bubbles, make giant and even square ones and generally get in a good ol’ lather at this fun family bank holiday event. A light and colour exhibition gives you the scientific bit, so it’s educational as well. Free with normal admission.
Tenth Lewes May Fayre, Lewes, 20 May,
A decade of medieval magic will be celebrated at the Feast of St Pancras May Fayre, which returns to Lewes Priory Park. It’s Southover Bonfire Society’s tenth anniversary fayre and medieval garb is encouraged, so grab that wimple and hennin (look it up) and wear with pride, especially if you join the march from the town centre. Fearsome re-enactors Swords of Albion and Spears of Andred will be showing off their pointy joust things in the arena. Other fun includes smashing crockery, rolling swedes, splatting rats and tossing chickens to win some great prizes. £2.50, under 12s free, 10.30am until 4pm.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Theatre Royal, Brighton Saturday 5 May
We caught a snippet of this improv performance at a corporate do and it’s a real hoot. Shout out a musical style, a composer and a wacky situation and the Showstoppers will – literally – make a right old song and dance about it with hilarious results. This show is wildly popular when it’s at the Edinburgh Festival and deservedly earned a spin-off Radio 4 series, but for the full effect, make sure you catch it live while it’s in town. Age 14+ From £17.90
BalletBoyz: Fourteen Days, Connaught Theatre, Worthing, Sat 19 May
The men in tights (and out of them) are back. The first half of this performance is the result of four choreographers teaming with four composers and being given a fortnight to produce new work, playing with the concept of balance and imbalance. The award-winning Fallen forms the second half of the evening, choreographed by Russell Maliphantand and set to a powerful score by French film composer Armand Amar. £23.50
Borde Hill children’s/teens photography Workshops, West Sussex 29 May, 10.30am-1pm
This morning workshop is aimed at 7-11 year olds and run by Sharp Shots, which teaches kids that there’s more to photography than just selfies with their besties. The theme is capturing colour and Borde Hill’s blossoms and gardens the subject. Students will be taught camera mechanics, composition and how to take sharp colourful photos. £39, camera hire £5. An afternoon course on the same day, aimed at 12-15 year olds is £55, with DSLR camera rental £10.
The Great Escape, various venues, Brighton 17, 18, 19 May
This is the weekend (for some reason slap bang in the middle of the Brighton Festival) when the music industry decamps to Brighton to see up-and-coming acts. Three day tickets covering a multitude of performances are £70, but there are lots of other options and there are usually plenty of free shows in the streets. It’s a must for music fans with the bonus that you fall out of venues close to delis and restaurants rather than into a traditional festival mudbath.
The Muddy Stilettos Awards, Sussex, Nominations stage ends Sun 6 May
They’re back! Nominate your favourite independent business across Sussex in 24 categories including cafe, destination pub, photographer, family attraction, fitness instructor and many more. You have until Sun 6 May, when nominations close, to help your choices into the final. They then resume with the top five businesses with the most nominations in the finals May 14 – 18.
Amberley Castle History Tour and Lunch, various dates from 8 May
Not many luxury hotels can boast a Grade I listed Tudor Manor within their walls or a mention in the Doomsday Book, but Amberley can claim both. Step through the portcullis and you go back 900 years to the era of chainmail, jousting and banqueting. Local historian Keith McKenna will fill you in on the heritage as you tour the buildings and grounds. Afterwards, there’s a three-course lunch with a glass of house wine. There’s no medieval spit roast boar here – the hotel is justly renowned for its fine dining. £55 per person, pre-booking essential.
Me and My Bee, Komedia Brighton, Sun 6 and Mon 7 May / The Hawth, Crawley, Sat 19 May
A smash hit at the Edinburgh festival, this family comedy from award-winning theatre company This Egg deals with our fragile eco system and the potential disappearance of the yellow and black minibeasts. It’s £9 at Komedia, with family tickets also available, and £7 at Crawley It’s also up in Tonbridge at the EM Forster Theatre on 17 June.
Shakespeare’s Globe, Chilham Castle, Canterbury, Kent, Fri 25 – Sun 27 May
It’s right over at Canterbury but it is Shakespeare’s Globe – the company returns to Chilham Castle for a triple-bill of outdoor performances this May. ‘The Merchant of Venice’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ will be performed across the weekend in the dreamy grounds . If you feel like treating yourself, the events premium seats include a glass of champagne and an invitation to the canapé reception inside the Castle’s Grand Hall. The Globe is also coming to Brighton Open Air Theatre this summer.
G & Tea Dance, Bolney Wine Estate, Fri 4 May
A nice cuppa tea and a bit of a jitterbug put a smile on many a face during the dark days of World War II. Then they got the gin out and really went for it. You can enjoy the experience at Bolney’s celebration of VE day, the vineyard’s first vintage Tea Dance. Expect jive, jazz and swing with a DJ to take you through the eras. Included in the ticket price is a G&T or a glass of Lychgate White or Red plus a small ploughman’s platter. Tickets £14 online/£15 on the door.
Eurovision party, Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton, Sat 12 May
The UK entry for Eurovision 2018 was selected at a televised event in Brighton this year and now you can cheer SuRie on at this Brighton institution, the annual Duke of York’s party. I’ve been before and it’s great fun with the overblown power ballads and terrible Europop on screen accompanied by serious dressing up and camping up, with games in the interval, silly signs, goody bags and trashy raffle prizes. Tickets cost from £21 and it usually sells out early. Don’t take kids; it’s on the rude side…
Nightingale Safaris, Knepp Wildland Safaris, Dial Post, near Horsham, 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 May
Knepp Wildland Safaris brings you the chance to hear a Nightingale sing, something most of us have not had the privilege of experiencing. What’s more, you get to do it after enjoying a late evening dinner and a glass or two of organic wine in the park’s Cow Barn. As you eat, experts will tell you all you need to know about these rare birds before you head out at around 10.30pm to (hopefully) hear their call. 9pm –midnight, £70.
Ingmar Burgman season at The Picturehouse, Brighton, from Sun 22 April – 20 May
See where Scandi noir began with this retrospective of famous Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Burgman from the BFI, being shown at Brighton’s Picturehouse cinemas. Tickets are £8 (£5 members)
Dollywould, The Old Market, Brighton, Tues 22 – Fri 25 May
One of the hotly tipped Brighton Fringe shows that’s set to sell out – as it did on its Edinburgh run. Billed as an ‘exhilaratingly daft love letter to Dolly Parton’ It may contain stories about branding, immortality and death and Dolly the cloned sheep. Tickets are £12.50
LAST CHANCE TO CATCH
Young British Artists, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 7 May
Six important works by Damien Hirst, Peter Blake, Tracey Emin, Michael Craig-Martin, Gavin Turk and Rachel Whiteread, show how a generation of artists adopted and expanded on 1960s Pop Art. I heard this exhibition being discussed on Radio 4 the other day. Check it out for yourself with a visit (£11 for adults).
Bluebell walks in Sussex, various locations, until late May
Bluebells are generally showing off from early or mid-April to the end of May, hanging out in old woodland and on bracken-covered hills. See my round-up of the ten best places in Sussex to catch them.
Female Suffrage, The Other Side, Bodiam Castle, until 3 Sept
The side we hear less about – the anti suffragette movement is the subject of a new exhibition – Female Suffrage, The Other Side – at Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, starting 10 March and on till early Sept. It tells how Lord Curzon lead the campaign against allowing women the vote. Boo, hiss.
Spring tearoom opening, The Artisan Bakehouse, Ashurst, near Steyning, selected dates 17 April – 11 May
Spring has sprung and that’s a great excuse for scones! The Artisan Bakehouse, in a lovely garden setting near Steyning, is open to the public from 17 April through until 11 May every Tues, Weds, Thurs and Friday 12 – 5pm serving award-winning lunches, freshly made bread, cakes, scones and afternoon teas. If you want to have a go at creating something tasty yourself, take a look at the two-day Serious about Sourdough class coming up with internationally renowned baker and author Emmanuel Hadjiandreou on 22 and 23 May.
Artist Rooms, Gilbert & George, Brighton Museum, Sat 28 April to Sept 2
Arty funsters G&G bring their stuff to Brighton for the summer in this exhibition that draws on works from the Tate and the Artist Rooms touring collections. Expect nudity, sex, poo and many other things that make life satisfying. The official blurb says the exhibition from the Turner Prize-winning pair is ‘challenging’, so best not take the kids or Aunty Gladys. Brighton and Hove residents £3.50, non-residents £5.20.
Underbelly Festival, Southbank Centre, London 6 April – 30 Sept
The giant purple cow returns for its 10th summer with a fun-packed programme of circus acts, theatre, cabaret, comedy, music and kids’ shows. You can also feast on street food from the riverside vendors and grab a drink at one of London’s biggest outdoor bars. It’s a mini fringe at one venue!
Fashioned From Nature, V&A Museum, London 21 April 2018 – 27 January 2019
The V&A’s new fashion exhibition traces the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world since 1600. A pineapple fibre clutch-bag, Emma Watson’s Calvin Klein dress made from recycled plastic bottles and a cape of cockerel feathers are amongst the 300 beautiful, intriguing and unsettling objects on display. Tickets cost £12 per person.
Votes for Women, Museum of London, ongoing
I remember getting quite emotional when I saw the Suffragette artefacts in the Museum of London for the first time. Now, for the 100th anniversary of the first votes for women, the museum has launched a tie-in series of events and displays. There are powerful new films and historical artefacts like Emmeline Pankhurst’s hunger strike medal and an ‘anti Suffragette alphabet’ that will make you seethe. There’s also a bus tour of key Suffragette sites on 26 Aug.