IN 2010, the annual World Horror Convention rolled into Brighton. Its organisers believed the city to be the most haunted in the UK, pointing to an assortment of spirits floating around as a result of the deaths of smugglers, sailors, publicans and soldiers throughout Brighton’s history.

It is perhaps surprising, then, that there hasn’t been a unified local Halloween festival here in recent times – until Brighton Horrorfest, that is.

The inaugural event is held at the Sweet Dukebox theatre space in The Iron Duke Pub, Waterloo Street, Hove. Its co-founder and artistic director JD Henshaw, a self-proclaimed “horror buff ” who has worked for a long time in horror theatre, says it is about time the city followed in London’s footsteps and dedicated a festival to all things spooky. Fittingly, there are 13 events being held in as many days.

“I think people get a huge thrill out of being scared,” says Henshaw, who has worked with Mill Goble in putting the programme together.“It’s the reason why people go and watch romantic comedies – you want to see these extremes of life and then look at yourself and think, ‘I might be having a bad day but it’s not as bad as that’.”

Henshaw has clearly devoted time to the study and appeal of horror and uses another allegory – and an appropriate one for Brighton – to further his case. “It’s why people like dodgem cars – nobody would ever want to be in a car accident but people love to be on bumper cars and crash into each other. When you see things you should never see in a safe space and realise it isn’t real, there’s a thrill.”

Henshaw hopes to expand Brighton Horrorfest in coming years, branching out to more venues.“Brighton’s a great festival city.” Here, he runs us through some of the highlights of this year’s programme.

Nosferatu’s Shadow

Friday, October 21, 8pm, £10

The story of actor Max Schreck, the man behind perhaps the most iconic movie monster ever, the vampire Nosferatu.

“Actor Michael Daviot moves through Max Schrek’s life and takes him on as a person. The audience joins him as he walks through a woodland and he just starts talking to you. As the show progresses, Michael takes on the roles that Schrek played. He’s trying to get across to the viewer that Schrek was more than just Nosferatu – he played over 800 roles.

“In fact, that was one of his least favourite parts. It put a shadow across his life, and history, because that’s all people refer to him as. It’s one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time. Nosferatu is just a picture of sheer nightmare – if you have a really strong image of horror, it stays with you.”

Horror at Frankenstein’s Castle

Saturday, October 22, to Wednesday, October 26, family version 2pm, 3.30pm, 5pm, adult only version 7.30pm, 9pm, £10

Immersive theatre experience/interactive puzzle room game based around Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein.

“Frankenstein’s a really good thing to be looking at this year because it’s an anniversary for Mary Shelley (200th year since the author’s birth). People know what it is, which is obviously really helpful. It’s really important for us to have family programming and this is great for kids.

“Six people go into the show at one time and solve lots of spooky puzzles. If you get everything together you might be lucky enough to bring the monster to life. There are things you need to find around the room and then you can build other things. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s got to be a surprise."

Year Without Summer

Thursday, October 27, 8pm, £8

The story behind the creation of Mary Shelley’s classic tale, Frankenstein, and the eerie events surrounding it as the writer and other figures such as Lord Byron gathered at Lake Geneva. “It proved a wet, ungenial summer” wrote Shelley, as the swapping of ghost stories between the members of the gathering started to impact darkly upon their imaginations.

“It’s about trying to condense down those events that happened by Lake Geneva with all of these amazing figures and writers in one place. All the press at the time were wondering about the scandals and controversy going on.

“The show just tries to hone in on the events behind the brave decision to publish a dark book under Shelley’s own name, in an age when women weren’t prevalent as novelists. This had a really good reaction at Brighton Festival, so we’re glad to be bringing it back.”

Dr Bleak and Musical Medium

Thursday, October 27, 8pm, £8

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek performance. It’s half cabaret and half seance. It will give you wonder and spiritualism but there will also be chuckles along the way.”

Live Feed

Friday, October 28, and Saturday 29, 9.30pm, £7

“This is an alternative zombie play – it may not be entirely what it seems. There might be a twist.”

Three Ribbons – Two Sisters

Saturday, October 29 and Sunday 30, 7pm, £8

“It is very gothic, creepy storytelling. Puppets are usually associated with children so it’s good to show a different side to the art.”

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