TODAY marks the online release of the Brighton Fringe programme, the second largest open access arts festival in the UK, behind Edinburgh Fringe. ADRIAN IMMS takes you through some of the familiar faces and new acts coming down to the coast this May.

Brighton Fringe is back – and it will be bigger than ever.

More than 760 shows have been arranged for this year’s sprawling arts event, with more to be confirmed.

The four-week celebration of the arts, running from May 1 to 31, sees performers descend on Brighton and Hove from far and wide.

The festivities, spanning theatre, comedy, music, dance and exhibitions, take in venues from pubs to theatres to pop-up spaces.

Familiar acts return to the fold, including The Lady Boys of Bangkok and Brighton stand-up Zoe Lyons, pictured below.

The Argus:

The Fringe, as always, also provides a platform for new performances including a play based on the bombing of The Grand hotel in 1984.

One key aspect of this year’s Fringe will be its overlap with the General Election.

Otherplace Productions, which occupies part of The Basement in Kensington Street, will host an election night special with comedians.

Called The Late Show, it involves an evening of polls and puns, battling past the ballot box with a cabaret cabinet packed with political entertainment, followed by live election results screened until the early hours.

The free, non-ticketed event, starts at 11pm on May 7.

With a piece written in the 48 hours after the General Election, cabaret stars Bourgeois and Maurice are also set to be a hit.

They promise “sequin-clad satire for the politically jaded”, taking place at the Spiegeltent on May 9 at 7.15pm.

A similarly-devised show comes from satirical stalwart Mark Brailsford, pictured below, with his Treason Show, now in its 15th year.

The Argus:

The troupe will perform an Election Special from May 6 to 9 in their brand new home at The Rialto Theatre in Dyke Road – a performance which looks bound to evolve as the political landscape settles following the result.

Expect flashing lights, swearing and nudity.

Moving away from the elections but remaining topical is Crushed, a new play by Royal Court Young Writer Tim Cook about higher education, combining elements of direct address and spoken word poetry. It takes place at The Dukebox Theatre, inside The Iron Duke pub, in Waterloo Street, Hove, on May 21 to 23 at 8pm.

From politics to policing, learn about how women became an integrated part of the force today.

The Story of Women In Modern Policing, Sussex 1915-2015, is a family-friendly exhibition within the Old Police Cells Museum within Brighton Town Hall.

It celebrates women’s roles, contributions and achievements over the past 100 years, from “marginalised childminders to frontline protectors of Sussex”.

Running from May 19 to 22, it is one of a number of free events.

Women redress the balance in the comedy category this year, too.

More than 70 female comics appear out of the 200-odd acts taking place, representing a rise on previous years.

A regular at the Fringe is Zoe Lyons.

She brings her show Mustard Cutter to Komedia Studio on May 17 at 8pm.

Another returning artist and writer is local talent Jane Postlethwaite, picturd left.

A Latest Award nominee for Best Female Performer last year following two well-received roles, she introduces some interesting northern characters in her show Made In Cumbria. The free-entry event will take place at Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant on May 4, 16, 28 and 31.

From the established to those climbing the ladder, The Funny Women Awards, of which the aforementioned Postlethwaite was a semi-finalist last year, have been promoting female comic talent for more than a decade.

A clutch of new acts are vying for a place in the semi-finals at Komedia Studio on May 30, raising funds for Refuge and Rise at the same time. Bringing through the comics of tomorrow, all-female improv troupe Short & Girlie Show run a family-friendly workshop at The Verdict in Edward Street for women and children.

For all ages, abilities and backgrounds, the group has said the idea is to build confidence and make new friends. The workshops take place on May 16 and 17, with a 2.30pm slot for seven to 15-year-olds and a 5.30pm slot for women and over 16s.

Rising comedy stars

Elsewhere in the comedy sphere, Comic Boom make a welcome return and TV regular Romesh Ranganathan hosts another night featuring rising comedy stars at the Komedia on May 28.

Slightly ahead of the game, Komedia released its Fringe programme two weeks early, giving regulars to the Gardner Street venue a look-in on who’s on-stage.

The Argus:

Towards the beginning (May 3, 7.30pm), John Hegley brings his combination of spoken word and chaotic comedy to town.

Called New and Selected Potatoes, the comic, who was at Glastonbury last year, found admirers through his BBC Radio series Hearing With Hegley.

A Brighton regular, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer is back at Komedia (May 9, 9.30pm) for another hour of beats, rhymes, manners and general “chap-hopishness” – derived from his own genre, chaphop.

On the last day of the Fringe (May 31, 6pm), Tom Deacon returns with a brand new show he is calling a work in progress.

Among other highlights include John Osborne performing his first ever hour-long poetry show at The Basement (May 8-10, 8.30pm).

With budgets tight, the free events are always likely to be a tempting draw for those milling about looking for something to do.

There are currently 216 free events registered for the Fringe, and that number is set to rise. Among them are the Pint-sized Plays, ideal for those short of change as well as attention span.

The five or ten-minute pieces veer between being dramatic or funny, performed in the bar area of selected Brighton pubs, the Duke Of Norfolk, The Iron Duke, The Robin Hood, The Basketmakers, The Lord Nelson and The Battle Of Trafalgar.

And for those after something completely different, a cabaret show comes with a free* haircut.

Peter Joannou, the singing barber, lets you choose the song while he chooses your style. He will be singing and styling from his window in Middle Street on May 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22 and 29-30 (*the event is free, non-ticketed, but donations sought for Cancer Research).

l What do you make of the Fringe line up? Email letters@, visit www.the /letters or write to us.

Something different from the norm

Those lucky enough to have burrowed down into the back street of Brighton will have visited The Warren last year, which, resembling a village fete secluded from the urban sprawl, occupied the grounds of St Paul’s Church in West Street.

Fringe regulars will be sad to see it is off the radar this year, though The Warren remains, having moved into a somewhat bigger church.

This year it takes over the grounds of St Peter’s Church in York Place, perhaps to cater for the growing congregation of Fringe-goers looking for something different to the norm.

One of the venue’s much-anticipated shows will be The Bombing Of The Grand Hotel, a new play about the relationship between Pat Magee, who planted the bomb, and Jo Berry, whose father was killed in the blast.

The bomb, planted in 1984, was intended to kill Conservative politicians attending a party conference.

Miss Berry said she had been approached by writers a number of years ago.

One of that team was Josie Melia who, along with co-writer Julie Everton, look to appeal to both those who know little of the events and others with a deeper understanding of what happened.

Ms Melia said: “It’s a Brighton story and we are all Brightonians so it feels like our story. It has to be told.

“People don’t need to have a huge historical knowledge. We are aiming for it to make sense to anybody.”

In the spirit of being local, it is directed by Paul Hodson, who previously produced a play about the Albion called Brighton ‘Till I Die. It takes place on May 6, 7 and 9 in the main house of the church.

On a more comical note, critically-acclaimed sketch sensation Beasts come back to Brighton for a third time with a brand-new hour of “inspired silliness”, having occupied Upstairs At Three And Ten twice before.

This time they will reside in The Warren on May 22 and 23 (8.30pm).

In the same space shortly before is Tom Allen with his new show Both Worlds on May 20 and 21 at 9.30pm.

On at the spiegeltent

The Spiegeltent in Old Steine is back.

Camille O’Sullivan is one of the big names to be performing this time around.

The original star of cabaret group La Clique has stunned audiences worldwide with dramatic interpretations of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Radiohead.

Evening performances take place on May 2-3, 4, 6-10, 12 and 13.

Lost In Transit, an award-winning cabaret show, returns having been handed an Argus Angel last time around.

Last year our reviewer described it as a “sensational piece of cabaret theatre that had the sold-out crowd roaring with laughter one minute and silent in awe at elegant aerial acrobatics the next”.

It runs on May 5, 18-20 and 21-24.

Tina C also performs. She celebrates the second volume of her autobiography on May 27-29 at 7.15pm.

And Ida Barr, well-known at the Fringe, makes another appearance.

The ex music hall star sings her own brand of artificial hip-hop. Expect laughter, sing-songs, dancing and topical comedy. Performances are scheduled take place on May 26 and 27 at 7.15pm. In a different vein, Andie Airfix, who is behind some of the 20th century’s iconic album designs, makes a return.

He spills the beans on his life in the music business on May 19 at 7.30pm.

The Argus:

Bursary for artists

For the first time ever, Brighton Fringe and Legal & General have joined forces to award 12 bursaries to artists from Brighton and Hove aged 60 and over as a way to encourage older people to take part.

Performers and events include 80-year-old cabaret artist Lynn Ruth Miller, described by the Scotsman as “a poster girl for growing old disgracefully”, video artist David de Pinna, who creates plays solely for YouTube, a poetry, song and spoken word piece in remembrance of the First World War from Alan Felton, a celebration of the great entertainer Joyce Grenfell from performer Jacquie Currie and a one-woman play about loss from Alanna McIntyre.

Other events include an exhibition of Brighton’s colourful and eccentric buildings from urban-landscape artist Jay Collins, musical offerings from one of the UK’s top slide guitarists John Crampton, an Early Music classical ensemble and a walking tour of Brighton from local historian Geoffrey Mead.