Category Archives: The Arts

Local, national and international arts news

The Great Baldini

I kinda like magic. I like the idea of it, the mystery of it, the promise of something, of life being not quite as it seems. And I’ve always loved the mix of show, of comedy and magic – well, I once wrote the biography of Tommy Cooper, so… kinda biased. Which brings us to…

The Great Baldini, who is, according to the press release, a “legendary magician and illusionist”, sounds right up our alley and has a new show called ILLUSIONATI: A Magical Conspiracy, at the Brighton Fringe.

It’s 1930s Britain: The Great Baldini is a fixture of the British Music Hall Magic Circuit. However, he has never quite achieved the success he feels he truly deserves, and he suspects that an unseen power is working against him. When Baldini obtains the diary of the Great Lafayette, a clue scribbled on the last page identifies a secret cabal of Magicians (the ILLUSIONATI) as this power.

Baldini is determined to find and confront the ILLUSIONATI and finally take his rightful place as the preeminent magician of his age. The show will take audiences on a thrilling journey of mystery and intrigue, as Baldini reveals the secrets of the ILLUSIONATI. Combining comedy, storytelling and miraculous effects, Baldini will captivate and amaze audiences of all ages.

‘ILLUSIONATI: A Magical Conspiracy’ (50 minutes) By the Great Baldini 
29th May – 2nd June | Laughing Horse @ The Walrus (BN1 1AD) | 18:45 | £10 (£8 conc)

3rd-4th June | Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant (BN1 3GJ) | 14:45 | £10 (£8 conc)

A taste for genius… David Bramwell’s Odditorium

David Bramwell’s Odditorium returns and if you’re at all familiar with Dr Bramwell and The Catalyst Club – “celebrating the singular passions of everyday folk” – you’ll know we’re in the world of curious talks, performances, music and arch-weirdness from the fringes of culture. There’ll be people who’ll make you think or maybe smile. Expect the unexpected, as someone else probably said about something else. 

Lucy Cooke Bitch: Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal

Sun 14th 7.30-8.30pm, Bosco Theater

What does it mean to be female? Mother, carer, the weaker sex? Think again. Author and filmmaker Lucy Cooke demonstrates how the female of the species has been marginalised and misunderstood by the scientific patriarchy; not least Darwin, who cast the female in the shape of a Victorian housewife: passive, coy and monogamous.

The Weird and Wonderful World of Some Bizarre Records + The Book of Goth with Wesley Doyle & Cathi Unsworth

Wed 17th 7-8pm, Bosco Theater

Featuring the likes of Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Blancmange and The The, Some Bizarre was the vanguard of outsider music in the 1980s. Label boss Stevo’s unconventional dealings with the industry are legendary. Wesley Doyle tells us how a teenager from Dagenham took on the music industry and beat it at its own game.

Lifelong Goth, music journalist and crime-writer Cathi Unsworth takes us on a journey through Gothic music during the Eighties. 

Sing-Along-A-Wicker Man 50th Anniversary + Magnet’s Peter Brewis

Wed 17th 9-11pm, Spiegeltent 

Dust down your best Scottish accent, dress up as your favourite character and come join in with this horror classic. To mark the 50th anniversary of the film they’re joined by Peter Brewis, who appeared in the film and was  on the Wicker Man soundtrack.

Legacy of the Stones with Jeremy Deller, Annebella Pollen and other guests 

Tues 23rd 9-12pm, Spiegeltent

Billed as “An evening celebrating the rich neolithic history and stories around our henges and monoliths, our folk horror legacies and occult artists and groups”, speakers including Jeremy Deller and Annabella Pollen talk about Britain’s neolithic monuments and counterculture, and how they helped shape his work, and the mysterious green-clad hooded figures of the 1920s who performed ritual gestures (naked, obvs) on Silbury Hill, Stonehenge. The evening wouldn’t be complete without more Wicker Man (which Bramwell claims to have seen over 200 times) in the shape of The Dark Heart of Wicker Land. 

The Drone in Music 

Wed 31st 7.30-8.30pm, Bosco Tent 

Harry Sword, author of “Monolithic Undertow” joins  David Bramwell, for an exploration of the sub-cultural and spiritual significance of ‘the drone’. From the neolithic burial chambers of Malta to the psychedelic glory of Hawkwind; the vital influence of Indian drone traditions on the 1960’s counter culture to the thieving doom and stoner rock underground of today, They’ll also talk about the personal and spiritual significance of the ‘universal hum’.

There’s also a Catalyst Club Special: Live from the End of the Pier at Horatio’s Bar on Palace Pier,  

Tues 9th 8pm


The Great Escape – what’s on and where to go

Tom Read checks out this year’s Great Escape artists 

Between May 10th and 13th Brighton is transformed as hundreds of artists descend for a weekend of music, The Great Escape. There’s no shortage of big names – Arlo Parks and Sussex born and raised Maisie Peters are the faces on the posters, but big names don’t come much bigger than Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders, who  are set to headline The Independent Stage  at The Old Market on Friday 12th. 

Leading the way in the “Catch Them While You Can” category are Dublin post-punk band The Murder Capital. Very very cool. 

For those hoping to stumble across their new favourite artists, there’s plenty on offer for you to discover with over 500 artists with a wealth of familiar styles and explorations into new sounds are waiting to be uncovered. 

One example of a fresh up and coming act is Avantdale Bowling Club, who bring New Zealand based jazz fused with easy-listening rap to create soothing and thought provoking music sure to attract any passers by. Another is James Marriott, the YouTuber turned alternative musician, who will be performing his first festival set since the release of his first EP, Bitter Tongues, in 2022. Having experienced success on streaming platforms and in gigs across the county, Marriott is sure to be a crowd pleaser. While you’re here, check out Mae Stephens, SORRY, PVA, Deb Never and… oh, even if you’ve never heard of them – especially if you’ve never heard of them – go, listen, open your ears and enjoy. 

For those wanting to continue, there’s also The Late Escape, where the late night dance continues at Patterns. 

While TGE brings a great range of new music, it also provides insightful panels discussing topical debates, networking opportunities, and a range of keynote speeches to leave any music lover satisfied. 

For those interested in the more underground festival scene, not to worry. TGE provides a range of secret gigs across the city, so keep your ears to the ground. 

The best fun to be had at TGE is just to hang out, listen to the word on the wind – and follow the scent. Ask around the 35 walk-in venues and on social media, you never know what you may find. 

The Whistler has it on good authority (it’s not what you know…) that the weekend will be bathed in brilliant sunshine, so turn up, tune in and check it all out. 

Check out for more details and information about The Brighton Whistler podcast Great Escape Special

Tickets can be purchased from

Brighton Festival Fringe highlights

One of the joys of festivals is just  hanging around and bumping into stuff you had no idea about – a dance troupe from Plotsk or ambient theatre from somewhere you can’t pronounce let alone say where it is. And while that’s lovely… three of The Whistler’s favourite artists are playing the Festival and we’ve seen them a thousand times, but we’re still very very excited. 

They’ve been around since we were all much younger, but Manchester’s finest
A Certain Ratio (May 6, Chalk) are right now better than they’ve ever been. Jah Wobble’s “Metal Box: Rebuilt in Dub” always seemed an odd idea – it was kinda built in dub in the first place, and while we’re not always a big fan of “revisiting” old classics – they’re classics for a reason – you know this will be interesting. Louder, heavier, dubbier. And anything involving Wobble will always be a treat. Talking of dubbier, there’s Aba Shanti-I with legendary producer Dennis Bovell (May 7, Concorde 2). Also on is Brighton Festival director Nabihah Iqbal, playing from her acclaimed debut album of shimmering electronica Weighing Of The Heart on the always cool Ninja Tune label. Staying with music – well, ish – Linton Kwesi Johnson is reading from his new prose selection, Time Come (May 14, Theatre Royal).

You can’t talk about an arts festival without talking about installations and The Sleeping Tree (May 6, 7, The Dome) sounds perfect. “Enter one of the last great rainforests of North Sumatra and follow a family of endangered Siamang Gibbons as they wake, roam across the jungle and return to their sleeping tree, one of six majestic trees that they have used for generations”. You’re there, aren’t you. The installation changes throughout the day and depending on the activity in the rainforest at the time you go there. Just lovely – and important.

An “unapologetically queer” tale that was first performed in front of Queen Elizabeth 1 more than 400 years ago, Galatea, is “set in a world where gods walk among mortals, two young trans people escape oppression and a shipwrecked migrant searches for his family”. Not sure about the gods walking among the mortals bit – though we do try to keep an open mind – but it doesn’t sound 400 years old. (May 6-21, Adur Recreation Ground, Shoreham).

Thirty years after it was released, Derek Jarman’s last film, Blue, has been given a makeover by director Neil Bartlett, (May 7, Theatre Royal). Blue Now sees Russell Tovey, Travis Alabanza, Joelle Taylor and Jay Bernard delivering Jarman’s words live on stage, accompanied by a new live score by the film’s composer, Simon Fisher Turner.

Daring To Be Frida is a photography and fashion exhibition inspired by the life and work of Frida Kahlo opens on May 1, and will be on at 114 Church St for the rest of May. 

You want a bit of comedy? What’s wrong with comedy? You don’t like comedy etc etc. The Fringe isn’t  the Fringe without a bit of stand-up comedy and In How To Be Jewish Gillian Fischer (pictured) wants to be Jewish. Actually she already is, but somewhere she’s forgotten this. Now she’s a mother…  (May 16-18, Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant) 

And that picture at the top of the page? “Expect a wild and vivid night filled with happy hedonism, fabulous fashion, go-go performers, and non-stop dancing to a banquet of bangers, including pop, disco, house and techno”. You’re there already, aren’t you. Our Roots is a celebration of queer chaos at the Dome (May 27) 

“Think ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ meets David Lynch”. Love it. It’s got Fringe written all over it. Degenerate is “a hellscape stand-up comedy fever dream” that descends into a full frontal face-off with the concept of ageing”. Ageing? No, no idea. None at all. May 31, June 1 The Rotunda Theatre: Squeak. 

For more info:

And for news and Festival podcasts 

Matt Whistler talks Dotty’s Ditties

“I’ve got an exhibition coming up in a coffee record coffee shop just round the corner, dressed as Sir Dot A lot. 

I will be reciting Dotty Ditties, with coffee froth on the end of my nose. Recently I exhibited at the Brighton and Hove Engineerium housed in the Goldstone pump station. The big art extravaganza was to celebrate International Happiness Day and to launch a new well being centre. 

“The Professor of Happiness was there. I had a thoroughly miserable experience. Only jesting, it was clowntastic. In-between art shows I head to Montpelier Crescent, to backspin a hula hoop, to then run alongside with the challenge of diving through the hoop without touching it. 

“My latest two creations are Fender BOT, a Dotty mannequin with a silver fender guitar for a head. Fender Bot can be seen in Brighton’s new Bits On Wall Gallery at 50 Grand Parade. Then there’s Sozzled Bot, which is an upturned Star Wars at Walker, on a Dotty canvass with a gilded frame painted in a metallic blue. Exhibiting destination as yet unknown. 

“I’ve been going to launderettes to do book signings of second hand books, with my Dotty art on the front, this is the best way to not ever have to write a book. My wearable Dotty art is going to be featured at Brighton’s funky retail outlet Popstacular among 20 other great fashion designers. Madonna will be present”. 

Dotty continued to tell me about his DottyVerse and all the other incarnations he has created over the years, some of which include Jah Scooterman, AKA Whistles, Totally Absurd Man, Ro-Bot and Kaptin Avatar. 

Artist Dotty looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and the most incredible realisation hit me, that I have been interviewing a modern day version of Charlie Chaplin, minus the kid, the dogs, the funny walk, the stick, jacket and hat. I genuinely thought during that one moment of eye contact, that Artist Dotty is one of the clown greats, but not in the poodle balloon sense, more in a art imitating life sense. I suddenly realised how utterly honoured I have been to follow Artist Dotty’s steps over the last few months and that Dotty has phenomenal potential to become a rising star and bag the Netflix series prior to death. 

What I like about Dotty, is his ability to tell you about his art capers and yet be a humble modest guy with total humility. You can tell he’s just about able to discuss his achievements with confidence and isn’t one of those all-singing all-dancing stars and flagrant self publicists who perpetually bangs his own drum.

I wandered over to Artist Dotty and offered to buy him a crate of Prosecco and a jar of expensive Olives, with a free packet of pretzels. He gladly accepted, mounted the Prosecco on his electric scooter then sped over the middle of 7 Dials roundabout. 

What a great guy I thought. He really is an incredible dude. He’s got razzmatazz. I almost felt my kitchen needed an Artist Dotty calendar. I watched him slowly disappear down Montpelier Rd and was just about to head off when he took a u-turn and began to head back towards me. With a rattling crate of Prosecco tied to the foot stand, Dotty once again scootered straight over the middle of the roundabout, to finally stop outside the Small Batch coffee shop. He pulled up his vizor and slowly turned to look at me. What was Dotty going to say, could this be a scoop for a Dotty story ? 

I could barely contain my excitement. In a loud Northern Burnley excitement, Dotty said. 

“You did pay for the coffee didn’t you?” 

Dotty sped off down a different road and I was left thinking. What a guy.