The country’s largest celebration of digital culture and creativity returned to Brighton and Hove yesterday. Over the next four weeks nearly 200 exhibitions, performances, conferences, workshops and events will be held as part of the Brighton Digital Festival – and organisers are promising another jam-packed schedule to keep thousands of visitors entertained. Ben Leo took a look at the first day of the festival and previews what’s in store at this year’s event.
Brighton Digital Festival is back – and organisers hope it will be bigger, brighter and better than ever.
Last year’s festival featured more than 170 events, workshops and exhibitions from the city’s arts and digital communities. It welcomed no less than 40,000 visitors across its four-week schedule.
This year’s offering kicked off yesterday with more than half a dozen events hoping to entice thousands of digital ambassadors and enthusiasts through its doors – including a nostalgic return to the childhood story of Little Bo Peep.
Creative digital studio RamJam, in collaboration with Brighton Animators Network Group, unveiled its ‘Little Bo Beep Has Lost Her Digital Sheep’ community event that allows people to discover the work of local animators and artists while trying their hand at winning prizes.
According to the plot, Little Bo Beep came to town to check out the digital festival but managed to lose all her sheep during the trip.
To help, visitors are tasked with helping find them by spotting sheep stickers and posters spread across Brighton and Hove.
When scanned with a smartphone, the stickers’ QR code reveals an animation with a secret message. Hawk-eye participants are challenged to find all six messages before emailing them to an address to scoop prizes created by local artists.
The sheep hunt is on for the entire duration of the festival, until September 28, and aims to provide a platform for local animators and creatives to showcase their work.
Those who want to roll up their sleeves and start the sheep hunt can find location hints for posters and stickers on Twitter using the hashtag #littlebobeep.
Elsewhere, a three-day conference titled Reasons to be Creative runs until tomorrow.
Targeting those who are “passionate about the craft that goes into your work”, the conference promises to bring the world’s most talented designers, coders, film makers, illustrators, animators and artists together for an “awe-inspiring” networking event that will leave visitors feeling “inspired and “enlightened”.
Brighton Digital Festival participants with a penchant for writing can test their creative flair at the Geo-Writing community storytelling event, which launched yesterday and runs until the end of the festival.
Wordsmiths across the city are tasked with writing up to 300 word stories inspired by various prompts spread throughout Brighton and Hove.
Prompts include a balloon with a message bouncing across the Old Steine, the sound of a car crash in the next street, a mysterious suitcase being left in a shop or a nun being attacked by seagulls.
There are more than 80 prompts strategically placed for people to use as they wish.
Developer of the project Richard Hearn said: “I love reading the unexpected stories which come back.
“I have deliberately placed echoes and repeated motifs through the prompts, but whether and how those prompts are used is out of my control.
“It’s up to each author to decide on their own style and approach.
“I think of it as a hallucinatory mismatched storytelling jigsaw.
“The main difference between this year and last is the fact that prompts are not just in Brighton and Hove, but spread further.
“Many writers I was in touch with last year wanted to take part, but were out of area.
“So I’ve considered them this year, with many of those prompts reflecting on events going on within our city.
“I've already had prompts in Sydney, Chicago, Tenerife activated, as well as Sunderland, Liverpool, Paisley and more. I'll now wait for the stories.”
Alongside the conferences and exhibitions, the festival has confirmed a selection of educational and family-friendly events in the 2014 programme.
They include the return of the Mini Maker Faire, which makes an appearance for a fourth year at the Corn Exchange. The faire opens its doors on Saturday to budding craftsmen, women and children who will be able to try their hand at soldering, woodwork, felting, knitting, weaving, bookbinding, paper-craft and more.
Roving Daleks and Star Wars characters will be on hand for picture-perfect family snaps while combat robots, a walking skeleton, underwater vehicles, 3D chocolate printing and a homemade electric car are just some of the other highlights faire visitors can indulge in.
For budding architects or town planners, the BlockBuilders event will help under-16s build their own vision of Brighton’s London Road redevelopment using popular online gaming platform Minecraft and Oculus Rift Virtual Reality digital technology. It will be held on September 13, 20 and 27 at the Jubilee Library.
Phil Jones, Brighton Digital Festival consortium member and managing director at Wired Sussex, said: “This year’s festival is looking bigger and better than ever.
“Over the next month, there are more than 70 events aimed at the business community, covering everything from bitcoin to gamification.
“So whether you are interested in starting, growing or exiting a business, it’s worth checking out the festival website.
“We’ve got some really great conferences taking place this week including Dots, Reasons to be Creative, dConstruct and Improving Reality.
“They are a great chance for local businesses to access some of the world’s top digital thinkers and to network with visitors to the festival coming from everywhere from Silicon Valley to Shanghai.”
For more information on Brighton Digital Festival and a full event programme, visit www.brightondigitalfestival.co.uk.