Festival showcases ground-breaking work uniting digital and cultural in city

Laurence Hill, Brighton Digital Festival manager
Laurence Hill, Brighton Digital Festival manager

Brighton Digital Festival 2018 launches on September 13. Here’s what Laurence Hill, the festival director has to share about this year’s programme.

What’s the idea behind Brighton Digital Festival (BDF) 2018?

It’s an exploration of digital culture that brings together the city’s digital and cultural clusters to showcase the ground-breaking work that happens here. It’s a festival made in Brighton for the world and part of what I do is to bring artists and thinkers from around the world to the city – so that there is a two-way exchange.

How has the festival changed since its inception?

The biggest change is that the festival is now a Community Interest Company, which means we are independent of any other organisation and have the freedom with the support of our trustees to take the festival in any direction we want.

I also think that in the years since the festival’s inception, digital has become much more prominent in all our lives and that has undoubtedly changed the tone of the festival. We moved from thinking of it as a celebration of digital culture to being more of an exploration - we also have a manifesto, available on our website, that lays this out in more detail.

What motivates you to do this festival?

As digital becomes the substrate of everybody’s lives and controls, whether we like it or not, much of what happens to us, I think that there are two important things that motivate us. Firstly, I think it’s important to recognise what I’d call ‘digital privilege and opportunity’ isn’t evenly spread and we need to be mindful of that. Secondly, I think it’s important for people to have a raised awareness of where the digital infrastructure is coming from, who is building it and who are they building it for? Whose views and needs are they taking into consideration? Artificial Intelligences for example, that are increasingly used to make decisions that impact us individually, are very often riddled with biases that are built into the system and the data on which they make those decisions.

What are the qualifications for the Festival’s events?

The festival runs an open programme, which means that anyone can put on an event during the festival and it will be presented on our platform with all the other events.

Alongside that is the programme that we put together that consists partly of curated arts and learning events, as well as our Grassroots awards, commissions and residencies for artists that we offer usually in partnership with other organisations.

What events have been curated this year?

Uncommon Natures, an exhibition of work selected by me from the shortlist of this year’s Lumen Prize for Digital Art.

This will be at Phoenix Gallery daily from 14 to 23 September and features works from artists across the world.

The Messy Edge, which is our in-house, low-cost conference returns at the Attenborough Centre for Contemporary Arts on 28 September.

This conference is where we look at some of those questions about the development of the digital and invite artists and thinkers to share their work and ideas. This is not your usual tech conference, it’s open to all and everybody is welcome.

Finally, we are working with ThinkNation to deliver a young people’s conference on October 13 at Platf9rm.

How can people get involved?

Check out brightondigitalfestival.org.uk for everything festival related and come along!