Tickets for the 50th Brighton Festival go on sale tomorrow (Thursday 18 February) to members.
Guest director Laurie Anderson was unable to be at the launch event as she is working in Brazil but recorded a message praising England’s biggest arts festival.
The experimental performance artist said: “We’ll be doing a concert for dogs.” She said she’d be intrigued to see who would turn up.
The British premiere of Music for Dogs has been described as a concert specially designed for the canine ear.
She will also be screening her new film Heart of a Dog which she described as “full of stories about how you make a story … nominally a film about me and my dog but really it’s not. It’s about love and language”. A short preview of the film generated plenty of laughs. It will be a must for dog lovers.
The theme of the festival this year is not dogs but home and Laurie Anderson also plans an exclusive new performance monologue about place and places called Slideshow.
She said that there would also be “a freewheeling walk through sonic spaces” with two fellow musician-composers – pianist Nik Bärtsch and guitarist Eivind Aarset.
The press launch opened with a spoof retro-style look at the first festival in 1967.
Home-grown artists and companies are celebrated in a series of special commissions that include two works marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.
Tim Crouch “cycled down from Hanover” to share details of the Complete Deaths, a re-enactment of every onstage death in Shakespeare’s plays.
Digging for Shakespeare by Marc Rees is a homage to 19th century Brighton eccentric and world-renowned Shakespearean scholar James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps.
Brighton playwright Neil Bartlett spoke about Stella, a theatrical love letter to one half of the infamous Victorian cross-dressing duo Fanny and Stella.
Other locally inspired highlights include a specially commissioned film Brighton: Symphony of a City, screened to a new score performed by Orchestra of Sound and Light.
And the entire Royal Pavilion estate will play host to Dr Blighty – “an ambitious, large-scale, immersive outdoor experience which highlights the untold story of wounded Indian soldiers hospitalised in Brighton during World War One”.
The festival starts as usual with the Children’s Parade – the largest of its kind in Europe – on Saturday 7 May with the theme “Brighton celebrates”.
Brighton Festival chief executive Andrew Comben said that the 50th festival would also see a record number of community-focused events.
These included the annual City Reads and Young City Reads produced in partnership with Collected Works and Future Gazers which asks school pupils to imagine the world in 50 years’ time.