This year’s Brighton Festival promises magic, wonder, hope and a bit of slime.

The annual celebration of the arts, which is the largest in England, has revealed its jam-packed programme of music, literature, theatre and more which has been inspired by the city’s “optimistic spirit”.

Guest director and award-winning children’s author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce, known for 24 Hour Party People, Millions and latest book The Wonder Brothers, has curated this year’s festival, which will run from May 4 to 26, around the themes of hope, magic and wonder.

Mr Cottrell-Boyce will be joined by fellow children's authors including Cressida Cowell (How to Train your Dragon), Joseph Coelho (poet and children's Laureate) and former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) to talk about inspiration and creativity in two events.

The Argus: Frank Cottrell-BoyceFrank Cottrell-Boyce (Image: James Hole)

Brighton Festival will welcome the English exclusive of Wonders, an awe-inspiring magic show by world-renowned illusionist and performance artist Scott Silven which explores the myth and mystery of his native Scotland through breathtaking illusions.

Other exclusives include Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular which will see a cast of 33 circus performers, including Netflix star Tallulah Haddon, World Record holding hula hoop artist Symoné and Bollywood dancer Kaajel, undertake a death-defying feminist and queer circus spectacular from theatre maker Marisa Carnesky.

The Argus: Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow SpectacularCarnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular (Image: Brighton Festival)

Brighton Festival Commissions include the world premiere of Ground, where audiences experience an immersive, locally sourced and specially curated three-course meal that reveals the history of plants at Brighton’s own off-grid eco-building, Earthship.

The outdoor programme stages live and interactive events on the streets of the city and beyond. 100 Miles of String, a free installation from Brighton-based artists Leap Then Look, sponsored by Southern Housing New Homes, encourages audiences to weave and wind thousands of metres of string to create a temporary landmark in the Royal Pavilion Gardens.

The Without Walls programme returns, supported by Graves Son and Pilcher, to present new works showcasing the best of outdoor performance including the world premiere of new aerial theatre from disabled and non-disabled circus company Head Over Wheels and a musical parade celebrating the power of community from award-winning experimental brass band Perhaps Contraption and deaf and BSL poet Zoë McWhinney.

The Argus: Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow SpectacularCarnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular (Image: Brighton Festival)

As part of Our Place, a partnership with community groups across the city supported by University of Sussex, Brighton Festival has commissioned a new piece of work from artist and anthropologist Victoria Melody. Re-enactment is an exclusive one-day event made with and for east Brighton residents inspired by The Diggers, a campaign group during the English Civil War.

In Neolithic Cannibals: Deep Listening to the Unheard, artists and campaigners Class Divide work with young people in Whitehawk and east Brighton to create a sound art piece inspired by the history of Neolithic east Brighton that asks people to consider the part everyone plays in addressing complex social issues. And all are welcome at Brighton Table Tennis Club’s AllStars Extravaganza, an experiment in mass participation table tennis at Brighton Dome’s newly refurbished Corn Exchange.

The Argus: Brighton Table Tennis Club AllStars ExtravaganzaBrighton Table Tennis Club AllStars Extravaganza (Image: Submitted)

An ambitious theatre programme includes Perfect Show for Rachel, a show directed in real-time by Rachel, a theatre-loving 33-year-old with learning disabilities seated on stage with a custom-built tech desk, and a UK premiere of cultural provocateur Cliff Cardinal’s The Land Acknowledgement or As You Like It, a daring retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy.

An expanded international programme, made possible by principal supporter The Pebble Trust, includes UK premieres The Making of Berlin, a combination of film, theatre and music that explores an attempt to stage a live radio broadcast of Wagner's Götterdämmerung in the city during the Second World War.

This year’s visual arts and installation programme includes Ooze Machines, a free solo exhibition by award-winning visual artist and quantum physicist, Dr Libby Heaney which uses the motif of slime, to explore both the microscopic quantum world and big tech.

The Argus: Ooze Machines by Libby HeaneyOoze Machines by Libby Heaney (Image: Libby Heaney)

There are many events for children and families too including Irish theatre company Branar’s UK premiere of You’ll See, an adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses that features a storyteller and a pop-up book to demystify the novel for children and adults.

Musical events include Norman Jay MBE, who brings his take on Northern Soul, Norman Soul, to Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall.

While West African outfit Orchestra Baobab celebrate half a century of Afro-Cuban beats and local heroes Carnival Collective deliver a tidal wave of energy with flavours of Latin, drum ’n’ bass, hip-hop, swing and funk for their 30th anniversary.

Dance music pioneer James Lavelle, a.k.a UNKLE, presents his immersive, multimedia show Ronin:Live; and the festival also welcomes back Brighton’s legendary club nights Gal Pals and Polyglamorous for Our Roots: Dreamland, a celebration of queer culture.

The Argus: MetamorphosisMetamorphosis (Image: Raphael Neal)

The classical programme opens with The London Symphony Orchestra under its new chief conductor designate, Sir Antonio Pappano with a programme of Barber, Ravel and Rachmaninov.

In Metamorphosis, transformative music from trail-blazing string players 12 Ensemble combines with an immersive, AI-generated holographic world. Other classical highlights include an evening of song from Glyndebourne’s leading lady Danielle de Niese.

For book lovers, bestselling author Sarah Perry (The Essex Serpent) presents Enlightenment and comedian Sara Pascoe discusses her new novel Weirdo.

The Argus: Triptych Triptych (Image: Rosie Powell)

Caroline Lucas will share her new book, Another England and writer and journalist Jason Okundaye will present his new work of social history Revolutionary Acts: Love and Brotherhood in Black Gay Britain.

In the comedy programme, supported by Mayo Wynne Baxter, Brighton Dome’s flagship comedy night Live at Brighton Dome returns with a Brighton Festival special, spotlighting up-and-coming stand-ups alongside big names. Comedy duo Shelf brings sketch comedy to children of all ages in The Kids Show plus anecdotes, songs and jokes to adults with Teenage Men, while play Fishbowl is a laugh-out-loud silent comedy from award-winning French company Le Fils du Grand Réseau.

The dance programme includes Triptych by Project Female, a triple bill of hip-hop-inspired dance performances that use multimedia, spoken word and technology to amplify youth voices; High Performance Packing Tape, an edge-of-seat show that pushes packing materials to breaking point; and Fault Lines, which follows characters navigating the world’s changing landscape.

The Argus: Last year's Children's ParadeLast year's Children's Parade (Image: Jamie MacMillan)

And the annual Children’s Parade will once again kick off the festival with a fiesta of colour, costume and live music around the theme of Dream Again, supported by Brighton Girls.

“I have had the time of my life helping the brilliant Brighton Festival crew find amazing acts, shows, ideas and performers from all over the world,” said Mr Cottrell-Boyce.

“I cannot wait for the days of May - when that team of bold explorers will unload their cargo of wonders for your delight and delectation. Get ready to laugh, cry, dance, be bedazzled. A festival full of magic and hope.”