Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival and Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, the partners working on the vision to revitalise the Royal Pavilion Estate, came together to present a major commission for the 50th Brighton Festival which - quite literally - illuminated its shared history.
Created by performance company Nutkhut, co-commissioned with 14-18 NOW, and and brought together by a creative team that included designer Tom Piper (Tower of London poppies), Dr Blighty was an ambitious, large-scale, immersive outdoor experience inspired by the Royal Pavilion Estate's role as a hospital for Indian soldiers during the First World War.
More than a million men travelled from India to fight for the Allies during the First World War, their collective experiences constituting one of military history’s great untold stories. Between 1914 and 1916, over 2000 Indian soldiers wounded on the Western Front were brought to a temporary hospital housed in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate.
Dr Blighty - which ran from 24 to 28 May - recalled this episode in Brighton’s wartime history, bringing the experiences of the soldiers - and the locals who came to care for them - movingly back to life via a number of immersive walk-through installations across the Royal Pavilion Estate. Animated by actors and enhanced by ambient soundscapes and theatrical interludes inspired by letters the soldiers sent back home, the event captured the essence of the hospital and those who recuperated here.
Ending each night with a spectacular light display using projection-mapping, Dr Blighty captivated audiences and critics alike. With audiences reaching almost 50,000 over its five day run, it set the city and social media abuzz. A video clip of the projections went viral, attracting over 500,000 views and accolades such as ‘spectacular’, ‘incredible’, ‘unique’ and ‘best festival event ever’.
The success of Dr Blighty gives an insight into the potential opportunities offered by the shared vision to revitalise the Royal Pavilion Estate which aims to reconnect and revitalise the historic buildings and gardens to create a world-class cultural destination for heritage, culture and the performing arts. Alongside plans for refurbishment and essential conservation work which will help secure the future of the Grade 1 listed Corn Exchange and the Grade ll listed Studio Theatre, the first phase of the project will include a new interpretation strategy and activity plan for the Estate which will aim to reveal inspirational stories, unfold layers of history, thought and knowledge and help more people learn, understand and care about the Estate and its history.
For more information about the proposed development plans click here.