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What to expect at Bournemouth Arts by the Sea 2017

PUBLISHED: 16:02 13 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:02 13 October 2017

The Hydromania show by Avanti Display will take over Bournemouths Town Hall

The Hydromania show by Avanti Display will take over Bournemouths Town Hall


From elephants roaming Bournemouth to a watery takeover at the Town Hall, Helen Stiles is dazzled by the line-up at this year’s Arts by the Sea Festival and its Fringe

Intimate theatre shows and secret pop-up gigs, solar powered cinema, illuminated installations, a fish on a bike and large outdoor spectaculars, not to mention a whole raft of events dedicated to celebrating the town’s international community - without doubt Bournemouth Arts by the Sea is a dazzling ray of light in Dorset cultural calendar. For the last six year this late autumn festival has regularly attracted world class entertainment, as well as home grown talent, especially from the more quirky end of the arts spectrum. With both the main Arts by the Sea Festival and its Fringe Festival, there is an eclectic range of events for all tastes and ages and, even better, most are completely free.

Opening this year’s festival is a diverse selection of pop-up performances, walkabout, music and contemporary dance events. The launch weekend is packed to bursting with free events happening all over town. Things get underway on Saturday 14 October, spread across the Town Square and Gardens from midday. On both nights of the opening weekend, the Hydromania show by Avanti Display will take over Bournemouth’s Town Hall at 7.30pm. Combining a vibrant interplay of water and light, physical performance and live music, performers will utilise balconies, windows and the roof of this hallmark building, in a unique spectacle that’s not to be missed at this free event.

There is an equally spectacular finale closing Arts by the Sea on the 21 October. Sense of Unity (another free event) brings together outdoor puppeteers Dundu and percussion ensemble Worldbeaters in an evening of visual spectacle and live music. The high-energy beats of Worldbeaters lead a procession in search of the giant, illuminated puppets of Dundu, it will be a real crowd pleaser.

The Arts by the Sea’s theme this year is ‘Plastic Beach’; the issue of waste plastics polluting our oceans and shores has been very much in the news over the summer. Artists have been invited to explore and highlight critical environmental issues through the creation of new work, as Dr Roxy Robinson, Creative Producer of the Festival reveals: “Watch out for some seriously curious characters, installations and bespoke transformations: from wandering lionfish and fiery laboratories to a watery takeover of Bournemouth’s Town Hall.”

Other ‘Plastic Beach’ inspired highlights (which are all free) include Turning the Tide - a light installation in the Lower Gardens by Mick Stephenson where you walk in a sea of plastic (14 & 15 Oct); the solar powered Sol Cinema will be screening films highlighting the issues of plastics in our ocean in the Lower Gardens (14 Oct); and the Rockpool by Kerith Ogden and Bee Jasco takes over Pier Approach (14-15 Oct) with a fictional-future marine life sideshow featuring drink-bottle sea anemones, battered Lego fish and plastic-bag seaweed. Look out also for Lulu Quinn’s beach installation Save Our Seas: Message in a Bottle - an art installation combining environmental messaging and interactive workshops (14-15 Oct).

From the indoor theatre, comedy and performance programme, highlights include Labels by Joe Sellman-Leave (14 Oct, Shelley Theatre) - a funny, moving and honest story about mixed heritage and immigration using comedy, storytelling and spoken word. Luke Jermay will be doing some mind-reading in Sixth Sense (18 Oct, Shelley Theatre), and Livia Rita & Artists channel the avant-garde in extraordinary costumes in Rewild (17 Oct, Shelley Theatre). Meanwhile funky families can dance their socks off at the Surf’s Up Family Rave by Big Fish Little Fish at the Old Fire Station (21 Oct).

This fabulous Dorset festival, which is delivered annually by Arts Bournemouth in collaboration with local, national and international partners, with public funding by Arts Council England and Bournemouth Borough Council, has much to celebrate at the moment. It has just been awarded funding for the next four years under Arts Council England’s National Portfolio. So this means that Bournemouth Arts by the Sea will remain a key part of our county’s autumn line-up for some years to come. Arts by the Sea team - please take a bow!

Arts by the Sea runs 14-21 October. The first Fringe event is 11 October and closes with The One World by the Sea Event 26–28 October. More details at artsbythesea.co.uk. Many events are free but some are ticketed buy online at bhlive.co.uk. Follow on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

14 October

Mechanical Heart by Felicity Jones

This steampunk inspired sculpture fuses the organic shapes of an anatomical heart with a man-made mechanical aesthetic of riveted steel plate and machine. Watch it beating in the Lower Gardens from midday – 11pm.

The Celestial Soundcloud with Pif-Paf

A multi-sensory interactive installation of melodies, harmonies, and colour changes in Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens. Midday – 11pm.

The Sea Sphere by Show Globe

Say hello to the mermaid in her Sea Sphere at Bournemouth’s Town Square at midday, 3pm & 6.45pm.

Davy Jones, The Deep Sea Fish by Rag & Bone

A deep sea fish on a bike cycles around Lower Gardens, The Square & The Triangle where he speaks of the mysteries of the seas, squirting water at passers-by and playing Deep Sea Radio through his gills at 1.35pm, 3.15pm & 6pm.

Lobsters a la Cart by Artizani

The new masters of the planet have arisen from the seas in the form of huge inflatable, illuminated lobsters. Catch them on the prowl in the Square at 1pm, 5,30pm & 7pm.

Rising Sun by William Simpson & Toby Wiltshire

As the sun sets a huge light and sound installation comes to life on Bournemouth Pier with pencil beam and flower search lights and multichannel surround sound convey the unbridled power of nuclear fusion at the heart of the sun. From 6.30pm.

Dr Kronovator’s Fire Laboratory by Emergency Exit Arts

Help Dr Kronovator by preparing experiments on the workbench and get involved with operating fire effects in Bournemouth’s Central Gardens at 8pm.

14 & 15 October

The Umbrella Project by Cirque Bijou

Find this moving art installation travelling through Bournemouth from The Triangle to the beach. Sat: 8pm/Sun: 6.40pm.

Wandering Lionfish by Artemis

Spectacular, roaming sea creatures wander through the Lower Gardens. Sat: 12.30pm, 2pm & 5pm/ Sun: midday, 3pm & 5pm. 

14 & 21 October

Land by Michele O’Brien

Outdoor theatrical show which references the beautiful geology, flora and fauna of Bournemouth. 14 Oct: 12.30pm, 3pm & 5.30pm in Lower Gardens; 21 Oct: Russell-Cotes Gardens 10.30am & 2pm. 

15 October

Willy & Wally by Cocoloco

Join Willy and Wally as they guide you along the topics of climate change amongst Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens and Pier Approach at 1.30pm, 3pm & 5.30pm.

Mother Ukers

The legendary ukulele trio from Bournemouth perform their own unique blend of music at the Bandstand in the Lower Gardens at midday & 6pm.


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