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The Hanging Gardens Of Brighton
Last night saw the 15ft-high Gate Of Ishtar resurrected in the centre of Brighton to mark the biggest event in the closing weekend of the Fringe.
The Hanging Gardens Of Brighton is the first event by Babylon, a Bristol-based festival company which is set to launch its own summer festival in Wiltshire’s Charlton Park next year.
The organisers seem to be following the increasing vintage festival themes, and last year’s glut of steam-punkstyled events, through to their logical conclusion with this celebration of decadent society.
“We are going back to the roots of learning, where we all came from,” says Kieron Doswell, co-founder of Babylon.
“The zodiac was created by the Mesopotamians, who were also the first to measure time – they developed the 24-hour day and 60-minute hour. Babylon was seen as the religious centre for the gods.
“The original Gates Of Ishtar were made of blueglazed brick. The remains of the gates were taken to Berlin brick by brick in the 1930s [they formed part of a reconstruction of the gates in the city’s Pergamon Museum].”
The festival’s gates have been made of wood by Brighton-based carpenter Giles Davis, and were set to go up yesterday afternoon.
The gates, which will be a regular feature in future Babylon events, form the entrance to the site, which will hold two stages – the Garden and the Temple.
“The Garden is our main stage – it has a capacity of 800 to 900 people,” says Doswell, who reveals that in this section of the site the Old Steine’s Victorian gardens are being augmented by wildlife-like creations made from recycled materials.
“The Temple is more multimedia, and playing with the whole astrological aspect.”
Running The Temple, which will have shows going on into the early hours, are Brighton’s own Carnivalesque. “They will be giving it a cabaret and street performance vibe,” says Doswell. “There will be more of an environment of interaction rather than a show that you go and watch – it will be more immersive, surrounded by entertainers and artwork.
“The two will almost be like utopia and decadence.”
Although The Temple will house lesser-known acts, Doswell says the organisers have been very fussy when it comes to deciding who will play at the festival.
“We want good quality acts, who can play and have theatrical aspects so the audience is engaged with what’s going on rather than just spectating,” he says.
The festival is following a sustainable model, encouraging festivalgoers to travel by public transport and using a biodiesel generator, building on Doswell’s history of running a solarpowered stage at the Green Man and Sunrise festivals.
Ticket prices for the festival have been kept deliberately low, to ensure the event is affordable.
“It is costing us more than £200,000 to stage,” says Doswell. “It will be losing us money to stage it, even if we sell out. We are investing in the Brighton creative scene to develop our brand.
We hope it emphasises what we are about and that we are putting on the best show. We are already in discussions about next year.”
As well as the live music, which will run until 11pm, and the cabaret, which lasts until 2am, the festival will offer food including organic barbecue and drinks ranging from cocktails to chai lattes.
There will also be the option to buy a £1 wristband to move in and out of the site during the day.
“We’ve got the best location we could hope for,” says Doswell. “We’re honoured that the Fringe and Brighton and Hove City Council have helped us put this on as a finale event.
“Tickets are flying out at the moment, but we feel it’s important people aren’t left disappointed, so we are keeping a third back on the gate.”
For line-up highlights see below, or visit www.babylonfestivals.com
Old Steine Gardens, Brighton, Friday, May 25, to Sunday, May 27
Starts: Friday 4pm to 1.30am, Saturday 12.30pm to 1.30am, Sunday 12.30pm to 11pm, weekend pass £69, day tickets from £25.
Call 01273 917272.