Revamped Attenborough Centre hosts performances in Brighton Festival's 50th anniversary programme

Laura McDermott, Creative Director of the Attenborough Centre

‘Folktronica’ pioneer Beth Orton and award-winning theatre company Complicite will give the first public performances at the soon-to-reopen Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. 

The events have been announced today (Wednesday 17 February) as part of Brighton Festival 2016, which takes place in May. 

The iconic arts venue at the University of Sussex is reopening after a £7 million refurbishment in time for the Festival’s 50th anniversary. It has been closed since 2007. 

Beth Orton will take to the Attenborough Centre stage for two exclusive shows - on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 May - premiering highly anticipated new material that explores her electronic roots. 

Orton has been one of the country’s most unique and beguiling voices in contemporary music for the past two decades - from debut LP Trailer Park in which she pioneered the synthesis of electronic beats and acoustic song writing, to her follow-up Central Reservation which brought international acclaim and a BRIT award. 

The Attenborough Centre will also host theatre company Complicite’s The Encounter, a solo performance inspired by the story of Loren McIntyre, a photographer who found himself lost among the people of the remote Javari Valley in Brazil. In a rare performance by Complicite’s award-winning artistic director, Simon McBurney traces his journey into the depths of the Amazon rainforest, incorporating innovative technology to build a shifting world of sound. 

Evening performances take place from Wednesday 11 to Saturday 14 May, with matinees on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May. 

Finally, the Attenborough Centre welcomes Guardian Live for a one-off debate on Thursday 26 May on the upcoming EU referendum. The debate will be chaired by Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. 

Laura McDermott, Creative Director of the Attenborough Centre, says: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Brighton Festival in their 50th anniversary year. Our building was first opened in 1969, so it is a child of the 1960s just like Brighton Festival.   

“We are working together to present three fantastic events in the newly refurbished Attenborough Centre building, all of which hint at the flavour of things to come in our public programme – theatre, music and public debate. 

“The performances are interdisciplinary – a theatre piece which uses technology to create a unique audience experience, and brand new material from a musician collaborating with a visual artist. It’s an honour to host Complicite, who previously performed here when the building was the Gardner Arts Centre and it’s hugely exciting that Beth Orton’s new material will be performed live for the first time in our auditorium." 

The Grade II*-listed building, designed by Sir Basil Spence, has been transformed into a modern, flexible environment for exhibitions and performance, and an important new teaching and research space for the University. The building takes its new title in tribute to the University’s former Chancellor Lord (Richard) Attenborough and his family. 

The space now hosts a state-of-the-art 350-seat auditorium, extensive gallery and display areas designed for art and audio visual installations, rehearsal studios, breakout creativity zones, and a new café and bar - to be enjoyed by students, staff and the public.

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Thursday, 18 February 2016