What better way to spend your bank holiday weekend than at a festival? And for those too far south for Glasgow's Mayfest (see p3) or Manchester's Streets Ahead festival (see p42), Sussex has the answer. Today sees the start of the 31st Brighton Festival, which kicks off with a range of outdoor activities including tonight's fireworks fiesta (9.30pm Madeira Drive, free). The month-long festival features a wide range of arts, and for the first time this year, a programme of fringe events has also been included.

Literature is particularly well represented in the main festival for 97, with everyone from Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney and Poet Laureate Ted Hughes reading from their latest collaboration, The School Bag (Clarendon Centre, 8 May), to Irvine Welsh talking about his work in "Keeping Tabs" (The Dome, 15 May). Iain Banks discusses cult fiction (Pavilion Theatre, 13 May) and Blake Morrison (Pavilion Theatre, 7 May) and Ian McEwan (Pavilion Theatre, 9 May) also put in an appearance.

There is theatre from around the world, including the UK premiere of Joshua Sobol's K'far - The Village, from Israel, which is set in peaceful rural Palestine during WWII (Gardner Arts Centre, 6-10 May). The Gandini Juggling Project will perform Septet - a celebration of the movement of juggling (Corn Exchange, 15-17 May) and the adult-only black comedy, Trance (Komedia, to 12 May).

For dance fans there's the Rambert Dance Co in Moonshine, Stream and the world premiere of New Ballet (Theatre Royal 7-10 May; Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (Theatre Royal, 12-13 May), and Siobhan Davies Dance Company (Gardner Arts Centre, 15-17 May).

Followers of classical music will not be disappointed either, as highlights include the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle (left, The Dome 3.30pm, today) and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (16 May) as well as Contemporary Music Day (10 May). Opera buffs can see the British premiere of Danton's Death (The Dome 7,10 May) and Opera Box's Madam Butterfly (15/16 May).

There's comedy from the likes of Mark Thomas, Jo Brand and Mark Little, and open-air fun with the aerial artistry of Heir of Insanity (above, 10 May).

And don't forget the fringe festival, with everyone from Armando Iannucci to Richard Hell and Kathy Acker. And if you're still up for more, next Bank Holiday sees Brighton's Essential Music Festival (24-26 May) with brilliant line-ups including BabyBird and Space (info: 0891 230 190, 50p per min). For tickets and info for the main festival, call 01273 709709. For all Fringe events ring 01273 673777.