Free Family Highlights For Brighton Fringe

If you can’t quite afford to ship the family all the way to Edinburgh Fringe this year, or simply feel it’s too great an undertaking altogether, why not combine a day out at the seaside with amazing arts activities from all genres, at the lesser known Brighton Fringe? This year’s kids and youth programme spans an incredible 126 shows and events, staged throughout May and the summer half term. If you’re looking to keep things cheap and cheerful, here’s my freebie family highlights that are definitely worth the day trip.

Freebie Theatre

Before you head anywhere, you might want to start by joining the obligatory face painting queue as French street theatre collective Le Facepainting promise to ensure that you look the part (The Warren Children’s Area, St. Peter’s Church North, from 10am, 5-7, 12-14, 19-21 May, All ages). Families will love A Fool and Three Courses, a new perspective on Shakespeare’s King Lear, which steps into the shoes of the King’s young daughters and the struggles that they face as siblings and as royalty (The Deck, Kings Road, 11am, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 May, All ages). If, however, you fancy a bit more control over your theatrical experience, Playback Impro (Laughing Horse @The Quadrant, North Street, 1pm, 20-21, 27-28 May, Age 7+) allows you to input into the narrative, with four actors taking it in turns to play back audience stories and moments, adding their own comic improvisation.

Cashless Cabaret

Circus duo Edwin and Emilia from Spain, pose as two English gentlemen in Upside Down and Inside Out, a traditional circus show featuring comedy, clowning, acrobatics and juggling (Brighton Spiegeltent: Bosco, Old Steine Gardens, 4pm, 27-29 May, All ages). Bringing their own form of cabaret dance, world record holders Marawa’s Majorettes are hosting a free hoola hooping workshop at Shiny Town in the Brighton Pavillion Gardens (12pm midday, 28 May and 4 June). In the same location, there’s also a range of sideshows on offer from 1pm on the 6 and 27 May during the Fringe City Family Picnic. If you’re visiting with older children, they might enjoy eclectic performance troupe House of Verse, who are hosting a Live Open Jam celebrating rap, beatbox, spoken word and DJing (Marwood Bar & Coffeehouse, 52 Ship Street, 5pm, 3-4 June, Age 12+). Workshops are also available earlier in the day for a small fee, but need to be booked in advance.

Music For No Money

Doing their bit to bring the sunshine skies of Rio to the Brighton Riviera, the city’s first and only traditional Samba school, Brighton School of Samba will be performing twenty-minute sets on the 6 May (2pm) and 27 May (2.15pm) at Fringe Venue 303 in New Road, all ages welcome. Also bringing their unique show to Brighton are masked music group GorillaBot, whose party always seems to be interrupted by strange and silly events (Ship Street pedestrianised area, 1pm and 3pm, 6-7 May, All ages). If, however, you take music a bit more seriously, there’s also free live organ music every Tuesday at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street (1.10pm, 9, 16, 23 and 30 May, All ages).

Accessible Art

Get to know the many faces of the city and get your own portrait done at Faces of Brighton & Hove, an exhibition hosting an eclectic array of work from a local arts collective (St Patrick’s Hove, Cambridge Road, 11am, 5-7, 10-14, 17-21 and 24-28 May, All ages). Those lucky enough to find The Banjo Groyne between Palace Pier and Brighton Marina on Madeira Drive, will be treated to more than just a sculptural installation, they’ll get a spoken word performance too, in The Tempest, The Shore (12pm midday, 5-31 May, 1-4 June, All ages). There’s a host of interactive exhibitions at Cultureground, a gallery that showcases children and young people’s work from across the city, inviting visitors to view, talk or make (Brighton Youth Centre, Edward Street, 5pm, 30-31 May and 1-3 June, Age 5+). If all this leaves you feeling in a need of an escape, why not get outside of Brighton to combine art with some fun at the farm, as artist Jon Clayton invites you to enjoy his farmyard sculpture and open studio, in a beautiful rural setting. He’s even making refreshments available – cue kids cheer (Ashurst Place Farm, Ashurst, from 11am, 6-7, 13-14, 20-21 May and 3-4 June, All ages).

Brighton Fringe, England’s largest arts festival runs from 5th May to 4th June at various venues.
See website for details and the full family programme.