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Brighton Festival announces 2019 Children’s Parade theme and Young City Reads author

4-26 May 2019

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The streets of Brighton will feature folk tales of the world for the 2019 Brighton Festival Children’s Parade next May. Schools from across the region will be allocated a folk tale from a selection, chosen to reflect the diversity of artists taking part in the Festival. The stories will be studied and explored by teachers and pupils before being presented in costume, music and carnival structures by around 5,000 school children and community groups.

Jointly produced with award-winning community arts organisation Same Sky and sponsored by the University of Brighton for the second year, the annual Children’s Parade will take place on Saturday 4 May 2019 to officially launch the Festival. The largest of its kind in Europe, the free event takes place in central Brighton and has delighted participants and spectators for nearly 30 years. With a different imaginative theme each year, previous parades have seen children dress up as paintings, letters of the alphabet, woodland creatures and street names.

The 2019 theme connects strongly with the next Brighton Festival Guest Director, Malian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traoré. With her work rooted in the Malian musical tradition, Traoré will present the UK premiere of Dream Mandé Djata, a musical monologue based on West African oral history storytelling. The Parade will be led by Rokia alongside schools representing folk tales originating from West Africa.

Pippa Smith, Brighton Festival’s Children & Family programmer said: “Folk tales are typically stories that are passed down from generation to generation and are often linked to childhood memories, when parents or grandparents would tell them at bedtime. There are so many fascinating folk tales to explore, from the Anansi tales of West Africa to European tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. We can’t wait to see the wildly imaginative creations that participating schools and community groups will present.”

One of the most spectacular community events in the UK, Same Sky spend months working behind the scenes to create the Children’s Parade. Artists collaborate with teachers to make magnificent effigies, choreograph dance routines and compose parade chants, with free masterclasses to develop design ideas and encourage imagination to flow.

John Varah, Artistic Director, Same Sky added: “Same Sky is excited to be working again with 70 local schools to create next year’s Brighton Festival Children’s Parade. The theme of folk stories is a rich and colourful seam for us to mine and we think the schools will find something unique and wonderful to celebrate with their students. Same Sky is celebrating its 30th anniversary and we’re dedicated to creating new stories with communities. What better way to share the world’s stories here in Brighton and Hove.”

Professor Debra Humphris, University of Brighton Vice-Chancellor said: “The Children’s Parade is a real high point of the year in the City and it is always a great way to start the Brighton Festival. I am absolutely delighted that the University of Brighton will once again be sponsoring this wonderful and joyous event that does so much to bring the whole community together and is enjoyed by everyone, young and old.”

Brighton Festival will take place from 4-26 May 2019 and will feature an extended Children and Young People’s programming strand with new partnerships and participatory activities in the run-up to the Festival. Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival have also revealed that Onjali Q. Raúf’s The Boy at the Back of the Class has been chosen as the 2019 ‘big read’ for children across Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond. The concept is simple – one book, by one author is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.

The Boy at the Back of the Class is the story of new boy Ahmet, a refugee from Syria. It is told from the point of view of one of his classmates who goes to great lengths to make friends and give Ahmet a sense of belonging. The unexpected adventure that follows strikes the perfect balance between humour and poignancy, topped off with a terrific twist.

Onjali Q. Raúf said: “I am utterly thrilled to have ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ chosen for Young City Reads! It is such an honour. I hope all human ‘beans’ (of every age!) reading and engaging with it, reach its end feeling a little more understanding and hopeful about what we can all do to ease the plight of refugee children the world over. Sometimes the best, most joyous things start with a story, and my deepest wish for this book is that it helps inspire lots of interesting discussions and ideas about one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our times. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to make this happen.” 

Sarah Hutchings, Director of Collected Works CIC added:

“Onjali Q. Raúf’s book has all the qualities that we look for – empathy, kindness, adventure and humour. In 2018, nearly 2,000 children took part in the project with 1,438 coming to the final event at Brighton Festival. I know that our Young City Readers will love getting to know Ahmet and his friends.”

The full Brighton Festival programme will be announced on Wednesday 13 February 2019.

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