This week it was announced that there is a major new commission for 2016 for the Brighton Festival. Brighton Festival and its commissioning partners, 14-18 NOW and Royal Pavilion & Museums Brighton and Hove, have announced that the commission is inspired by the untold story of the hundreds of thousands of men who travelled from India to fight for the Allies in the First World War.
The commission is created by performance company NUTKHUT, and brought together by a creative team that includes designer Tom Piper, who designed the Tower of London poppies. The outdoor, immersive experience is one of the latest events revealed for the fiftieth edition of the Brighton Festival in May 2016. Nutkhut was formed in 20013, and is an ideas-led, art focused performance company. They create work mixing performance, dance, film, participation and a distinctly British comedic sensibility and eccentricity. Nutkhut is led by two British Asian artists, Simmy Gupta and Ajay Chhabra.
More than a million men travelled from India to fight for the Allies during the First World War, their collective experiences constituting one of military history’s great untold stories. Between 1914 and 1916, over 2000 Indian soldiers wounded on the Western Front would be brought to a temporary hospital housed in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion. Dr Blighty, as the commission is so named, recalls this episode in Brighton’s wartime history, bringing the experience of the soldiers, and the locals that came to care for them, movingly back to life via an immersive walk-through installation across the Royal Pavilion Estate. There will be actors, installations, video projections, ambient soundscapes and theatrical interludes all inspired by letters the soldiers sent back home. The installation will be complemented by a series of related performances and participatory activities, drawing parallels with contemporary events. There will also be a spectacular after-dark production for four nights of the Festival, which will incorporate video projections on the Royal Pavilion, evoking memories of a very distant home for the soldiers. Not only this, but the Philharmonia Orchestra will perform a special concert with some of India’s leading contemporary musicians.
Anjay Chhabra said “Thousands of letters wer written from the Western Front back home to wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, and it’s the emotion within these letters that Dr Blighty is trying to bring into the public domain. They, alongside the propaganda and censorship, give us an insight into the lives of these young men, and give these many anonymous soldiers a voice. The project will essentially tell a 100-year-old story, and make it a contemporary one for new audiences”. The Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, Andrew Comben has said “This is an important story, both in the history of Brighton and Hove and in the wider context of the First World War – one which we think deserves to be better known. In Brighton Festival’s 50th year, it’s even more appropriate that we present this piece now and I am delighted to be working with our parners to bring it to fruition”. Brighton Festival is very lucky to have Laurie Anderson as it’s Guest Director to help celebrate its 50th year. The festival is England’s largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival which takes place across three weeks in the city each May.
14-18 NOW is a programme of extrodinary arts experiences that connect people with the Frist World War. Their programme takes place from 2014-2018 and is timed to mark the centenary of the war. The programme commissions artists from all art forms to look afresh at the First World War conflict and create shared experiences exploring this significant moment in time. 14-18 NOW ‘firmly believes in the transformative power of the arts to bring the stories of the First World War to life. Perceptions of the war have been shaped by the artists of the time, including poets, painters, photographers and film-makers’. Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW said “We are thrilled to be working with Brighton Festival to present this ambitious project with an amazing group of artists brought together by Nutkhut, which will offer audiences an insight into the little-known and remarkable story underpinning the city’s involvement with the First World War”
Full programme details of Brighton Festival 2016 will be announced on 17th February 2016.
all images except feature belong to the Imperial War Museum
feature image: ECPAD Collection Garros / Alliance Française de Dhaka