In April 2013, Brighton playwright and construction manager Adrian Bunting was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in May 2013, aged 47. In his final days Adrian threw his efforts into realising a long held ambition: the creation of a permanent, open-air 425-seater amphitheatre for the city he loved. Adrian identified the perfect site – the redundant bowling green in Dyke Road Park – drew up designs and left his life savings of £18,000 to kick start the project.
Working with supporters and partners, Adrian’s friends negotiated the design and planning process, established Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) as a charity and ensured an additional £100,000 was raised through stand-up comedy benefits, an art auction and many hugely generous individual donations. In October 2014 formal planning permission was granted. Construction began in January 2015 and BOAT was formally opened by Adrian’s Mother, Isobelle Bunting, on 9 May 2015 – almost two years to the day after Adrian passed away.
Its second season launched in 2016, (with a little help and champagne from Will Shakespeare and A Little Prince, shown left) operating from May to September each year providing a space for local artists, schools and community groups alongside national touring productions. Run mainly by volunteers, the theatre’s programme is primarily made up of theatre but BOAT also plays host to music, comedy, screenings and spoken word events. From Shakespearean classics to Sowetan choirs, shows for children, to Laurie Anderson’s Music for Dogs, Don Giovanni to David Bowie; there’s something for everyone this season. See the full programme at brightonopenairtheatre.co.uk.