Heads Up: War and peace, and dancing monks – the seaside beckons


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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? Michael Rosen, writer and former Children's Laureate, is guest director for this year's three-week season of theatre, music, dance and film.

Elevator pitch We're going on a bear hunt … in Brighton Festival

Prime movers Journalist Polly Toynbee returns to oversee the festival as chair; Andrew Comben is chief executive of Brighton Dome & Festival.

The Stars Take your pick: there are literary idols such as Lionel Shriver, Tracy Chevalier, and of course Michael Rosen. Musical highlights include Sinead O'Connor and the Flaming Lips, plus the premiering Britten: The Canticles. There are intriguing shows from Apparat, a German electronic musician presenting a musical "distillation" of Tolstoy's War and Peace, to British cartoonist Ralph Steadman and his Extinct Boids, to Sutra, a dance collaboration between choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, sculptor Antony Gormley and 17 Chinese Buddhist monks. Theatre includes Edinburgh fringe hit Bullet Catch, and a stage version of the hugely popular novel, The Kite Runner. We look forward to storytelling comedian Daniel Kitson and the chance to see the whole of German film-maker Rainer Werner Fassbinder's cult 1980s TV show, Berlin Alexanderplatz.

The early buzz The Telegraph's Teresa Machan writes that from literary readings to Victorian bathing machines, "anything goes". The Brighton Argus's Nione Meakin says Rosen is making his presence felt: "This will be a festival full of fun, a tribute to imagination and creativity."

Insider knowledge The Children's Parade, which has been opening Brighton Festival for the past 20 years, will be themed around the alphabet in response to Rosen's interest in language.

It's great that … last year's Brighton Festival staged a record-breaking 743 events – and almost 200 were free. This year should match that, with performances taking place everywhere from parks to churches to the beach itself.

It's a shame that … the weather may not be up to scratch. This is Britain, after all. Approach outdoor events with caution – bring sunscreen and an umbrella.

Hit potential Tickets are already being snapped up, with festival bosses announcing, in March, a 10 per cent increase in sales on last year.

The details Brighton Festival takes place at various venues, (brightonfestival.org), 4 to 26 May