Show Calendar

URF broadcast from Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts

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We are delighted to be hosting URF - University Radio Falmer - for a special residency. 

URF - part of the University of Sussex’s campus since 1976 - is a student run, online and unplaylisted radio station. 

In conjunction with SMUTs (Sussex Musical Theatre) being here with us for their brand new production of Jekel and Hyde, the URF team will be in our Music Recording Studio for the week, broadcasting all shows from our building. 

Tune in to URF from Tuesday-Friday 20-23 March for news, current affairs, music, arts, chat and more. Here’s the link

ACCA Conversations: Chris Watson

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Chris Watson’s No Man’s Land is an audio installation that celebrates the sounds, rhythms and music from deep below the surface the world’s seas and oceans.

Taking place at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, from 27 March – 13 April and suitable for all ages, this city-specific edit of the sound work created by Watson (David Attenborough’s sound recordist), takes the listener from Brighton beach, through the soapy surf and out around the world, submerged on an oceanic journey for the ears and the imagination. We caught up with Chris to find out more about his work. 

You say that you use the tape recorder as instrument. How much do you manipulate the recordings of nature or do you organically let them weave into a soundtrack?

Most of the sounds I recorded via my hydrophones for ‘No Man’s Land’ have a strange, exotic and engaging quality, and they are intact, as recorded. The composition process is to discover ways of creating a seamless narrative movement through the ocean.

What sort of sounds can the visitor to No Man’s Land expect and where did you find them? Are there any you would have liked to include but have not yet recorded? 

Weddell seals singing under the antarctic sea ice, the myriad voices of crustaceans on a coral reef in the South China seas, the haunting songs of humpback whales on The Silverbank in the Caribbean, the siren calls of Grey seals by a British coastal island and the familiar push and pull of the surf through the pebbles on Brighton breach.

What are the most challenging situations you have faced when recording the sounds for No Man’s Land? Any interesting stories you’d like to tell us?

The ocean is a hostile environment and recording within the Polar regions is always a challenge. One of my favourite times was watching and recording pods of Orca hunting fish in Arctic waters, standing on the surface of sea ice and listening to the all the communications under my feet.

Why make the installation solely focus on sound? Do you think that having visual elements in the installation would disrupt the sonic recordings?

The seas and oceans are the most sound rich environments on the planet and all animals there live in a world of sound and vibration. For ‘No Man’s Land’ I’m interested in engaging the listeners imagination through sound, and the audience will create their own unique images.

Visit here to book your tickets to see the work. No Man’s Land is suitable for all ages. 

New Season. New cafe-bar menu.

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Spring is almost here and with the start of a new season, we are excited to announce the re-opening of our café-bar with its new, mouth-watering menu. If you are in search for a relaxing spot to grab a coffee, do some reading or have a delightful lunch, the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts café-bar is the answer. 

In between the University of Sussex library and the Sports Centre, our cafe-bar is placed perfectly for those who need a break. Accessible for all and nestled near the South Downs, the cafe-bar is furnished with original Basil Spence furniture and many lush green plants. Even on the bleakest of days, this venue allows for natural light which motivates you to keep reading, studying or simply relaxing.  It’s a place that is as much for families as for students - we also welcome well behaved canine friends. 

The menu includes sandwich options with rustic sun-grain or white sourdough breads, charcuterie, cheeseboards, seafood platters and a vegetarian platter option. We are also vegan friendly with plenty of things to choose from. We are now open from 10am, Monday to Friday and our breakfast menu includes morning pastries and a selection of homemade cakes. For this season, we are also offering the delicious leek and potato soup for just £3.50 which comes with two slices of patisserie bread and butter – perfect for this unusually cold March! For drinks, they range from soft drinks including a refreshing elderflower cordial, to revitalising coffees and a selection of white or dark chocolates with oat, almond and soya milk options. And for alcoholic beverages, the selection of wines and cocktails on offer allow for the ideal afternoon or pre-show treat. The cafe-bar is open 10am-6pm week days and in conjunction with our artistic programme. 

Celebrating International Women’s Day

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Culturefest Web

In celebration of International Women’s day this week, we’ve pulled together some of our top picks of things to look forward to at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts in the weeks ahead, as well as some news from our friends and colleagues. 

Split Britches: Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) combines Dr Strangelove-inspired performance with daring public conversation. In this show, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver lace an interactive piece with the playful urgency of the political landscape. Split Britches present an up-to-the-minute topical interactive show which takes unexploded ordnances as a metaphor for the unexplored potential in us all - particularly elders – and tries to uncover it.  Check it out on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 March, more information here.

Culture Fest is an event from Sussex University’s Afro Caribbean Society.  The event will include performance from our campus community that celebrates traditional female dances and cultures. Check it out on 16 March, more information here

Tune-Yards at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts this Spring has now sold out but lead female singer Merrill Garbus must also be mentioned during International Women’s day for her work as an intersectional feminist. Using her platform to discuss women issues in progressive ways, Tune-Yards are a band that are not afraid to be political. Watch the video below and see what they are all about.  

In the spirit of today, we also think back to when Laura McDermott awarded Lady Susan Woodford-Hollick an honorary degree earlier this year at the University of Sussex Winter Graduation. Check out this snap (left) of our Creative Director with Lady Woodford-Hollick, a life-long campaigner for human rights and diversity, and a businesswoman and consultant with a wide-ranging involvement in broadcasting and the arts. Laura told us, “Sue’s daring spirit: her bravery and commitment to challenging the status quo is the thread that runs throughout her career.” 

Split Britches: Meet and Greet on Sunday 11 March

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Split Britches Web

Ahead of their performances of Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) at Attenborough Centre for the Creative on the 13 and 14 March, Split Britches will be hosting a ‘meet and greet’ for friends, artists, and members of the local community in our cafe-bar on Sunday March 11. 

Join Lois and Peggy in conversation from 3pm-5pm as they discuss the themes of the performance, how we can act upon our unexplored desires, how we age in a world with an uncertain future, and enjoy a cup of tea and some cake! The event takes place in our cafe-bar and is free, drop in and open to all. Whose coming?

Snowy Weather

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At present, we are planning for all our events to go ahead as usual during the snowy weather that we are currently experiencing. 

If you are planning to travel to the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts for an event, you can check the following websites for up-to-date information about local public transport.  

Brighton & Hove Buses

National Rail Enquiries

Brighton & Hove City Council Transport Disruption page

If you have any further enquiries, or will be unable to attend a show for which you have tickets because of the weather, please contact the Box Office on boxoffice@attenboroughcentre.com or 01273 67 88 22.  

ACCA long read: Split Britches on Unexploded Ordinances (UXO)

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Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw of Split Britches sit down and tell us more about their latest show, Unexploded Ordinances (UXO) which comes to ACCA on 13-14 March. 

What inspired you to create UXO?

L: Two things, really. The first thing was we came across this term “unexploded ordnance,” which is a buried explosive left behind in an area of conflict. Sometimes a mine is called an unexploded ordnance. We came across this term, and we have been working with elders because we ourselves are elders. We try to work through our own questions about life in performance. We thought, “Oh, that’s a good metaphor for unexplored potential, especially in elders.” So we started playing around with that idea, keeping in mind that it had a military kind of influence. Then Peggy got obsessed with the film Dr. Strangelove, and so we thought, “Oh, let’s use Dr. Strangelove as a kind of spine, and we’ll build some of these other ideas around it.”

P: I think the other thing is that we hadn’t been in a show together since before my stroke in 2009. So we wanted to make a new show together because we had both been doing solo work. That was our initial reason for doing the show. And the other one came easy once we went to Governors Island and came across the rules that you couldn’t dig in the soil because there might be a Civil War cannonball buried underneath. It was kind of compelling.

The staging and performance of the show draws on the cult Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove, how did that come about? Are you film buffs, or Kubrick fans in particular?

P: I would tell them it’s a show combining social engagement with performance, and some people will be involved in it, but it’s not a difficult process, it’s a new form of getting the audience to be part of the performance. And it’s concentrating on elders.

L: Over the years we’ve created a way of looking at things in performance. I would say it’s a funny take off on Dr. Strangelove that also seriously looks at all the issues involved. And we parallel that with what it means to get older, to have a short period of time left in your life as an older person compared, to what it might be like to have a short period of time left in your life if there’s a doomsday situation. And so that’s humorous, and it’s also serious, and it’s also inclusive. And it’s visual. And those are all the things Split Britches have always woven together in this multilayered kind of performance.

P: I feel like, when the audience comes in, already they’re a part of the situation and they see the three maps on the wall and they’re moving and they’re bleeping and because of the lights and the way the audience are set up, that they already feel part of the show, that they’re actually in a room where there’s something going on. And it’s all about time, and they know that they show is only going be an hour, or 59 minutes, and they’re constantly thinking about time, and that there’s always time.

L: But I also think that one of the things we do is that we combine entertaining, ideas about entertainment, with an opportunity to think about serious issues.

P: I feel like what we are is kind of obsessive people, and when we’re working on a project, when something enters our brain it becomes part of our process. And Dr. Strangelove for some reason entered my brain and I wouldn’t give it up. It was so beautifully acted and it was so funny, and it was so much like our work in a way, and there were so many ideas in it.

 L: You’re right about the obsession because you were the one who saw the movie because you watch a lot of movies, but one of the things that you do is that you like to trawl the internet and look for references or ideas in the same way that we used to trawl.

 P: Thrift stores-

L: - thrift stores looking for old record recordings or whatever looking for ideas. And you came across this and you thought “I want to do this!” and that often that happens and I go “what is she talking about how are we ever going to incorporate that into the work.” But there was something about wanting to talk about the militarization that we stumbled across when we heard the term unexploded ordnance. We wanted to talk about the military in some way, and war. And how that relates to climate change, for instance, what would happen if some of these unexploded ordnances were uncovered by natural disasters? And then when we actually sat down and looked at it we realized the comedic potential… and we always follow our great fantasies about what we want to do on stage, and you wanted to be, or play, or play around with George C Scott (the actor who played General Buck Turgidson in Dr Strangelove).

P: It was also at a time before the presidential election in New York and Hillary Clinton was considered a shoe-in, so Lois having the same birthday as Hillary Clinton and being the same age, would play the president, and it would be a woman president.

L: Yeah so we thought those were fun things to work with.

Stanley Kubrick’s film was made in the 1960s during the Cold War. Do you think there’s relevance to what’s happening in the world now?

P: Yes. Of course. It’s Russia. And the jokes about Russia, and the knowledge we have about Russia is not all that different than it was during the Cold War. I feel like the stereotypes are still there; the spies and the deaths.

L: And the arms race.

 P: And the arms race, suddenly we’re in an arms race again and suddenly we have a lunatic president who could press the button at any moment.

L: But the interesting thing is we don’t we say the word Russia at all in the performance. One of the reasons is that when we made the piece, it was before Trump was elected and it was before this whole Russian thing had come back into our consciousness, so we wanted to make it about a generic, if there is such a thing, nuclear fear. And in 2016 before the election, that still felt remote. Something that we grew up with in the 50s and 60s, but we hadn’t yet thought about it in the same way as we are thinking about it now because Trump is such a madman and has his finger literally on the button. So all of those references to a mad person bringing us to the brink of nuclear disaster is now real, but it wasn’t real when we started the performance.

 P: For example, in Hawaii recently, they set off an emergency on the whole island that a nuclear bomb was about to blow up and it turned out the guy had heard it wrong. There is no failsafe or.

 L: Yeah, but even the fact that we went now to that moment where it was believable, I mean two years ago, if that had happened people would’ve said something must be wrong, but now it’s completely plausible because of Trump. So, it’s absolutely what’s happening and even in the last few weeks, Trump has reiterated his commitment to building our nuclear arsenal, so it is the kind of fear we a lot of us used to have as kids.

 P: And (in the show) we play on those fears by reshowing the pathetic procedures they had for what happens in a nuclear attack, like hiding under your desk or covering your face or… so we point to those… because in Hawaii when that did happen they still had no process.   

 L: No emergency procedure.

 P: No emergency procedure, it was the same as duck and cover.

The show involves some members of the audience taking part in the show. What would you say to anyone coming to the show but not sure they would like to take part? Although you’re New York based, you have a long history of performing in the UK – when did you first come to Britain?

P: It’s not necessarily for anyone to take part. We make it so easy for people that they actually get disappointed when they’re not going to be the one at the table because the process is so organic. They’re all up there and then suddenly they’re asked to sit at the table and in fact, everyone wants to do it and they don’t all get to do it. We try to get all the elders in the room. It’s not always the most elderly but it usually is because people have a lot to say right now.

L: I think that’s right. We’re not asking people to get up there and perform. In fact it doesn’t work when people do that. We’re just asking people to get up and be with us on stage. We just ask people to be themselves and respond to questions. Nobody’s trying to catch anyone out or seeing who’s the cleverest, it’s just about mining, you know, what’s inside an everyday person, which is all of us.

P: It comes from trying to find the truth, rather than what we’ve been told is going on in the world. We just did a three-week run at La Mama in New York and every night everything everybody said was different. So, you get to find out what the truth is, how do people feel. 

P: Well I first came to London in the early 70s with Hot Peaches and I then went to Amsterdam, and that’s where I ran into Lois and Spiderwoman and-

L: But you have a great history in London when you started out, and Hot Peaches came to come and do gay theatre in Europe.

P: Sure. It’s like ‘oh let’s do a gay tour of Europe’ was the attitude, so we just did it and called it that and we had no bookings we just came to London with nowhere to live and we just did the tour-

L: Where did you first perform? 

 P: At the Oval Theatre in London. Everyone first performed at the Oval Theatre in London.

L: So did we with Spiderwoman. I first came to London in 1977 with Spiderwoman Theatre because we had been invited to a festival in Nancy, France and someone saw us and said ‘why don’t you come perform at the Oval?’ so we came in 1977 and then over the years came back as a company, Spiderwoman Theatre, and sometimes the whole company, some part of the company, and just kept performing there. And then when you – go ahead, you want to say something else?

P: Well the reason we kept performing there is that there were many festivals in Europe, unlike New York.

 L: Well, there were venues, we didn’t have any venues in the states at that point that could accommodate a touring company that did any kind of experimental theatre or alternative performance. Then you and I started going to the women’s festivals in Europe when we were both in Spiderwoman in ’79. We experienced a culture of theatre and performance that just didn’t exist in the states and a lot of companies went there to survive, really.

 P: And we wanted to bring that culture to New York, because there was nowhere for lesbians and women to perform in New York separately from men. So we decided to create that for ourselves.

Any outstanding memories of performing here?

L: As Split Britches we performed at OvalHouse and then we performed at the Drill Hall. We took our Dress Suits to Hire there and Drill Hall was the site of real queer performance, lesbian and gay performance, so it was great to be there. We created Belle Reprieve with the Drill Hall, those were great experiences.

P: We did one off performances at the Drill Hall, like New Year’s Eve, or people would work up bits to do them at the Drill Hall it was a very exciting queer venue.

 L: And it was our home for a little while, it was our home from probably about 1988 to I would say 2005, which is when I did my show What Tammy Needs to Know, and then you did Menopausal Gentleman, and I did Faith and Dancing I think and then –

P: You’re Just Like My Father

L: You’re Just Like My Father – and then we also went back to back there with Dress Suits to Hire. We did it there first in 1988 and then we did it there in 2005, when we did the revision.

P: We did?

L: Yeah. I think we spent a lot of good times in the UK. It was the first time that I realized that I could be in a theatrical community where you had access to loads of different kinds of talented people. Whereas I felt like in New York people were very compartmentalized and isolated. And it felt like when we went to London we had the opportunity to set up some great collaborations: Lackadaisical, and Kate Owen, Annabelle Lee who was our set designer. The other thing we got excited about when we first came to the UK was that people liked to talk about politics. And one of the things that had happened in the U.S is that you couldn’t disagree with anybody. If you disagreed with somebody, then you were a communist. And I remember when we would sit around a dinner table at women’s houses in London, people were really disagreeing with each other, and it was so refreshing because here, in my experience anyways, people either agreed with you or didn’t, a kind of love you or leave you attitude.

P: And it’s very interesting you say that because I also feel like in London people were very afraid, at that time, to laugh at the wrong place, and in New York people were totally prepared to give up their laughs to laugh at something. And they weren’t worried about being correct or that they were laughing at the wrong place.

 L: That goes into what I was saying earlier, you know, in London, people are really committed to the theatre, which is fantastic, but as a result they’re realty committed to a narrative, a story to follow, and we were never committed to a story, we were doing kind of nonlinear performance from the moment we started, and I think that was kind of baffling to an English audience when we first started Split Britches in the 80s, people wanted to know what the story was. And they were embarrassed or worried if they didn’t get it.

Any memories of performing in Brighton?

P: I often think of the old days in Brighton in the 70s when it was not so queer. It was pretty rough and there weren’t very many venues and we wouldn’t get paid and we would stay in places that smelled like oil burners in the basement, always in the basement, and we’d never have money to get the train fare even. But now Brighton is different because of the Marlborough and because of making sure that we’re well taken care of when we go down there.

 L: Now there’s so many fantastic venues and it’s such a vibrant place for creative work, so I’m really excited to go there. 

ACCA Conversations: Beth O’Leary, Senior Technician, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts

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©Brionycampbell2016 Acca 910

As part of an ongoing series, we are catching up with various members of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts team so you can get a feel for what goes on behind the scenes in our venue and how we make the magic happen. 

Meet Beth O’Leary, our Senior Technician. 

What is your job title and what does it entail exactly?

I am Senior Technician here and I work with Greg, who is the Production Manager. It’s a bit cheesy, but I guess I facilitate other people’s dreams. I translate shows through light and design and I am also a point of contact for the technicians, so it becomes easier to leave the team do the event in the auditorium and I do all the running. It is a nice system!

What is your favourite part of working as a Senior Technician?

I love working here with the artists in residence and I get to work with things that are not already made. You get to participate and feed into the creative process. 

What’s challenging about bringing a performance to life by the use of lighting and sound?

Just by putting a spotlight on a dark stage, it creates an atmosphere, and it sparks people’s imagination. Lighting can highlight nuances in a play or in an event. By placing light on the human body, it changes depending where they are lit; from underneath they look scary, dead from the top they look very shadowy, from the side you pick up on people’s muscles. It changes what people feel about a piece depending on the different colours of light used such as warm, cold or LED lights.

Here, learning about our sound has been a massive learning curve for me, as it is done through DANTE. Which is an acronym that stands for: Digital Audio Network Through Ether. It gives us a fail/safe system, completely different from analogue. So, it has changed how I work with sound which has been very exciting.

What’s special about our theatre?

ACCA is very new technology-wise, which is great. Audio-visually we’ve made it so you can do anything anywhere in the building. This is handy but every time you do something there are also a lot of things in the background that need to be plugged in!

In terms of what makes our venue special, our theatre has an exceptionally large stage for the size of shows that we host which makes it a brilliant place to see work or be part of a piece being created or performed here.  

What’s the last thing you do before a performance runs and the curtain goes up?

Several things.  I usually have an emergency wee because there is nothing worse than starting a show and needing the toilet!  I then make sure I have my radio on and my bum bag on -  as long as I have my technical bum bag I can do practically anything. And the last thing I usually do is a panic check that my mobile phone is on silent and then I’m set. 

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