In Conversation With Cara Courage
Cara Courage is an international arts consultant involved with several organisations in the city, including Embassy Court, Brighton And Hove 10:10 carbon emission campaign and the Threshold architecture pop up event. Her current projects include researching a book length study of Brighton’s arts community.
How healthy do you think the Brighton arts scene is currently?
I’ve worked in the arts for about 15 years and in this time I have seen it go from strength to strength. The arts has a high profile here – there is a busy events calendar, it’s attracting funding, creating opportunities to show work in the city and is also leading the wider arts sector in many aspects. The Digital Festival is a great grassroots-initiated example of this. It’s still cheaper to live and work here in Brighton than London and it offers many a lifestyle they want. We are close to each other, to services that are here for artists. The lack of studio space has been an issue in the past but less so now, with studios like Blank adding to the volume, The Basement and Lighthouse hosting artists and flexi spaces like Super+Super starting.
What disadvantages face artists in Brighton?
Artists are still facing some perennial issues. The London talent drain is still a problem, and not all feel that there is a real scene here once you get beneath the surface. Whilst people joke that you are tripping over artists in Brighton, you can see the same faces at events and leave wondering where the new talent is. It’s coming into the city all the time of course, they just may not be on the arts radar yet. Also, with so many artists here, why isn’t Brighton attracting the agents to snap them up? Where’s the large white walled gallery space that other south coast places have? I would hope that Brighton does know the value of its arts, even at just the level of economic return. Any way that venues, the council and the business community here can mitigate the effects of the local funds cuts is worth investigating.
How is Brighton’s artistic community viewed from the outside?
Brighton is a jewel in the UK’s arts scene and I will defend that position against any naysayer. We have great artists, two great unis, a host of venues and talent developers, an arts manager at the council who works her socks off, and a public that is really receptive to arts. But it has been said that Brighton is a bubble, that artists ‘plateau’ here because they aren’t creatively stretched or the milieu of the Brighton lifestyle leads people to stay on one level, rather than raise their ambition. That’s said of the city anyway though, not just of the arts.
What are your favourite Brighton artists and events?
I love the degree shows, the Photo Biennial, the Miniclick events at The Old Market, whatever the Phoenix and Lighthouse put on, and The Warren was a blessing. The folk-based scene is on a real upsurge and Bleeding Hearts curate a great monthly night at the Albert, while Nick Hudson is one of the most prolific and singular talented musicians and filmmakers. I love the art and poems of Gary Goodman; Mary Jane Ansell and Shaun Ferguson are both high profile artists worth investigating; and Sam Hewitt – he’s often showing at the Tin Drum or the Sidewinder. If I have to put my money where my mouth is, the only art work I have bought recently is that of Luke Beachey, a truly gifted and compelling artist.
Word by Stuart Huggett
Photo by Rob Orchard