Brighton Festival explores life on the edge

A fascinating new moving artwork/sound installation – which will physically travel between Brighton Pier and Worthing Pier for the Brighton Festival – asks what it is like to live on the edge.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 8:05 am
Pier to Pier - Brighton Festival 2021

It also asks: What keeps us balanced in turbulent times? And what do we feel when we look to the horizon?

Pier to Pier comes from theatre company RAPT and runs from May 10-June 6. You can find out its route and its precise locations from the website

RAPT is a Sussex based theatre company which collaborates with artists, researchers and community groups in order to examine difficult questions. The Pier to Pier project grew naturally out of the work that it does, as Emma Higham explains.

“We started this project by looking at tipping points, by looking at being on the edge. We are an island. We are living on the coast – on the edge. But what does it mean to be on the edge in the moment, in society? When we first conceived this, Brexit had been decided. If only we had known what was just around the corner! But whatever you thought of Brexit, it all felt like it was a tipping point – and that was the germ of the idea for this. But it spread into an exploration of what was the importance of the coast, in this stretch, the 14 miles between Brighton Pier and Worthing Pier.

“There are 14 miles and we interviewed 14 people that lived and worked on this stretch of the coast. We found them through a mixture of different avenues, and we just wanted as diverse a coastal community as possible. We were wanting people whose livelihood depends on this stretch of the coast.”

Among the interviewees were a sea swimmer, a whale-stranding expert, someone who left, someone who stayed, a nurse, a coastguard, a fisherman, a mother, a child and a scientist.

“We asked them a set amount of questions like ‘Have you ever felt on the edge?’ seeing what their definition of edge was. We asked them what they see or feel when they look at the horizon.”

The interviews were recorded and you will be able to access them by pushing a button on the project’s orange bench which will travel from Brighton to Worthing.

You will hear representations of all 14 of the voices. You will also hear a coastal choir formed specially for the project, singing a piece by Jocelyn Pook. It will all add up to an immersive sound installation, all played from the audio bench.

“The singers are the Pier to Pier choir and they are amazing. They have come from all different choirs up and down the coast or might just be people that love to sing in the shower. They are 50 singers that have recorded themselves and have sent it in and it has been put together.”

There is also a symbolism to the bench itself, as Emma explains: “Two people can sit there comfortably, either side of the speaker. The bench itself felt like an important symbol of the ability just to sit and be with someone else and connect and communicate… something which has obviously been much trickier during the lockdown. So you can just sit there and connect with the sea and with the waves.”

There is no need to book.

“You can just walk up. It is totally accessible.”

It will be at various locations on the seafront between Brighton Pier and Worthing Pier. The project has been supported by the Brighton Festival.