Like a skittering holographic projection Brighton Digital Festival is about to beam itself into September. Running since 2010, it is now the largest of its kind in the UK. And whether you spend the rest of the year in blissful ignorance of Brighton’s importance as a national digital hub (our city has the highest density of digital companies in the country), or you’re one of the artists and entrepreneurs at the heart of it, the festival has something for you.
The Old Market hosts one of the festival’s centrepieces, the VR lab, which offers 15 different virtual reality experiences “at the cutting edge” of arts and gaming. Premium ticket holders are also guaranteed entry into “In the Eyes of the Animal” a 360 degree cinematic experience that lets you flutter like a dragonfly or jump like a frog (September 16-18, £10/£15 premium).
A series of independent day-conferences orbit the main festival, and besides those focussed on professions and sectors, eg marketing (Dots), radio (Radio//Future Sounds) and digital education (Spark! Brighton) there are several gems for the general public. On September 8, Lighthouse present The Long Progress Bar, a one-day festival of talks, screenings and music hosted by Warren Ellis and celebrating empowerment and radical imagination (Brighton Dome Studio Theatre (£48/£32 concs until 21 August).
StoryHACK at the Old Market, all day on September 12, (£45/£35 concs) investigates how immersive tech is reshaping the creative arts and will be sure to appeal to the broadly curious. And on September 17, obesity, stupidity, climate change and the complete history of the universe are subject to controlled, double-blind testing by Big Science Saturday (£7/£5 concs, Sallis Benney Theatre).
This year as ever, the festival’s offer for young people interested in pursuing skills in the digital (dark) arts is convincing. Blockbuilders invites 7-16 year olds to reshape their city using a brand new Minecraft map of Brighton (First three Sundays in September, Alcampo Lounge, £10), while MakerClub offer 10-16 year olds a day-long Pokemon Go!-themed programming workshop that will introduce them to 3D printing and teach them how to hack the new BBC micro:bit (September 5, Eagle Labs, £59).
Meanwhile, grown ups can comb the shores of Silicon Beach in a five-day, open-door event organised by Wired Sussex that sees workshops, drop-ins, demos and even games tournaments hosted at the offices of some of Brighton’s most switched on creative, digital and IT companies (CDIT open studios, September 5-9).
Other highlights include the Fort Process sound art festival at Newhaven Fort (September 3, £35), near real-time cultural criticism by multi-media troupe The Private Sector (September 10, Rialto Theatre, £5), drone choreography and performance (September 10, Phoenix Brighton, £35), and interactive lamp posts and SMS-able sundry street furniture city-wide (throughout the festival, free).
Brighton Digital Festival, 1st-30th September 2016
Words by Becky Hogge