Despite the lingering April showers, we are now into our second week of May which sees Brighton hold its 45th annual Brighton Festival.
The first ever Brighton Festival was held in 1967 and controversially included the first ever exhibition of concrete poetry, alongside performances by Laurence Oliver and Anthony Hopkins.
Since then, Brighton Festival has become England’s most established mixed arts festival and is one of the largest street festivals in the UK. It marks a major milestone on the international cultural calendar and attracts over 200,000 visitors from all around the world, contributing £20m to the local economy.
This year, 675 events will be held across 193 venues, including music, theatre, visual arts, cabaret, comedy and literary events. It promises to be more ambitious and eclectic than ever. Last year’s festival is a tough act to follow with the likes of the St Ann’s Well Gardens’ ‘Jardin Flambeau’, which saw the 18th Century Hove park set alight and come alive with kinetic, fire-breathing scrap-metal machinery.
Brighton Dome, producer of and home to many of the Brighton Festival events, is one of my favourite buildings. Built in 1805 and originally covered with a huge, segmented glass dome, the tiled entrances and staircases are exquisite and lead to further elegance in the main concert hall.
However, there was always one element that, until recently, was a complete disaster: the ticket office. Devoid of beauty, it contained my pet hates: wood chip wallpaper, artex, inadequate lighting and furniture that would not look out of place in an office supplies catalogue. Of course, such visual charm was only revealed after a half-hour queue on the rain-battered pavement.
So, back in January 2011 when we were invited to enter a design competition to refurbish the Brighton Dome Ticket office, I jumped at the chance. It was clear to Yelo that the place needed gutting, and also a solution to the queueing problem. We proposed a radical design that involved decanting majority of the staff out of the main shop area and into two rooms at the back. In doing so, the shop area at the front could be opened up and the sales desks moved further away from the doors, consequently alleviating the problem of queues.
We presented our ideas to a specially selected committee and – unfortunately for the wood chip – we won the competition.
The budget was tiny, the work extensive, the wish list larger and, what’s more, we had just a few weeks to build it as the 2011 festival season was about to begin.
We kept it simple by cleaning away everything that I was visually allergic to and then providing an elegant room with smooth lines in a simple palette. Finally, we ‘decorated’ with some key pieces of bespoke furniture.
It reopened in July 2011. We were incredibly pleased with the job and the client was astounded by the dramatic transformation and end-result. Carole Britten, Director of Marketing for Brighton Dome, said that the new space will give them the flexibility to be able to increase their sales team in busy periods, whilst more people will be able to queue in the building itself, rather than on the street.
If you’re planning on taking part in the Brighton Festival 2012, rest assured that buying your tickets from the Dome Ticket Office is now a pleasant, harmonious and, above all, dry experience without the slightest trace of wood chip.