BE FESTIVAL – The soul of Europe in the heart of Birmingham

BE FESTIVAL, Birmingham’s annual summer festival of international performing arts, returns to Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 3 – 7 July. Serving up Europe’s frontline artists to Birmingham and UK audiences. It is a packed week-long celebration of theatre, dance and circus performances, welcoming artists from Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Germany and Greece and beyond. It also features a free programme of visual arts, live music and workshops.

As the larger fabric of our European community is set to unwind further, there is an undeniable tone examining what our worth is as individuals at a local and community level. How far can we push our individual boundaries and discover the resilience of the individual and the search to redefine our human relationships.

Festival highlights include P-Project from Bulgarian/UK artist Ivo Dimchev. An interactive performance where the audience is invited onstage to perform in exchange for hard cash. Each time the demands get increasingly more intrusive, testing their boundaries, and to see how far they are willing to ‘sell’ their body for money. This performance is a co-presentation with Fierce Festival. Three Rooms (Syria/ UK/ Turkey) is a hybrid-live digital performance that will take place simultaneously in Paris, Istanbul and the REP’s STUDIO theatre.

It uses Skype to overcome the obstacles of border crises and visa lock outs that faced refugee artists Amal Omran (Syria) and Onur Karaoglu (Turkey) and prevented them from meeting Kathryn Hamilton (UK) in 2016, and to question the possibilities and limitations of technology to mediate absence. Someone Loves You Drive With Care (UK) features performance artist and professional liar Tom Cassani. A crafty specialist of deception, who questions our collective construction of truth and lies, often challenging the borders of his own body using blunt and scary looking objects akin to the classic sideshow stunts made famous in vintage US circus.

Other highlights include Sisyphus (Belgium / UK) performed by radical Belgian painter and performer, Thibault Delferiere, in collaboration with UK director Jack McNamara, one of Europe’s most distinctive disabled artists. This intense performance uses the body, paint and brutal objects to explore the endless cycles of hope and failure. The almost entirely imagined Bon Jovi musical We’ve Got Each Other (UK) hits BE FESTIVAL as part of its global city-stop tour… with no band, no hydraulics… and a cast of one. Prepare yourselves for the breath-taking, high energy, tragic love story of Tommy and Gina (from Livin’ on a Prayer) created and starring local West Midlands theatre maker Paul O’Donnell, and fuelled by the power of your imaginations.

A note from, Isla Aguilar co-director of BE FESTIVAL:

Whilst originally from Spain, we have for over a decade been traversing and living between Birmingham and Madrid; forging partnerships between these two unique and spirited cities and across the continent. It is these amazing networks and partnerships that have supported us year on year, yet as we mark the ninth edition of the festival, we are under no illusion about the potential for change and the repercussions on our festival and the cultural sector post Brexit.

Co-director Miguel Oyarzun also said:

With that in mind and our belief in the importance of going deeper into what separation means, we invite audiences to reflect on the borders we unknowingly create as individuals and groups. Our 2018 programme features work that tests physical limitations, bodily boundaries, social preconceptions and draws on multiple disciplines.

Elsewhere in the festival, internationally celebrated and previous BE FESTIVAL prize winners Sotterraneo return to present their full version of Overload (Italy): a fast pace and comic commentary on our distracted society’s shrinking attention span, amidst the messages all canvassing for your attention.

In Take Care of Yourself (Switzerland) man bypasses the bar, walks straight on the stage and lines up ludicrous amounts of whisky shots. The audience watches on in equal parts fear and excitement as Swiss dance, circus and parkour practitioner Marc Oosterhoff attempts to perform. French company R14 lead by Julien Grosvalet present Tsunami, a visually arresting physical performance and choreography where light conjures and distorts an abundance of ideas connected to natural and personal disasters. Contrasting these two shows were he themes of chaos and being at the mercy of external factors is rife Kulu Orr goes to the other extreme in Control Freak (France). Kulu has done away with all the stage crew placing himself centre stage with his own invented suit that controls live music, light, sound and video across the stage… whilst performing circus tricks.

A free programme of live music and DJs BE Late Stage, will keep festival goers dancing into the early hours from award winning DJ Glyn Philips with his GlobalSoundClash, electric pop tri LYCIO and the folky, blues riffs of the Smokin’ Pilchards.

Highlights for BE FESTIVAL 2017:

2018 Trailer:

2018 digital programme:

Ticket Link:

Listings Information

  • LOCATION: Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 2EP – entrance via the Back Door on Cambridge Street
  • WEEKLY PASS: with dinner £100 (see up to 20 shows) | £60 without dinner
  • DAY TICKETS: with dinner £24 (up to 4 shows) | £16 without dinner
  • DAY TICKET CONCESSIONS: with dinner £20 | £12 without dinner


BE FESTIVAL champions emerging theatre, dance and circus artists from across Europe with an annual programme presented in Birmingham.  BE FESTIVAL has a particular focus on work which transcends cultural, linguistic and artistic boundaries and supports artists in finding new and innovative ways to engage with audiences and was voted among the UK’s top 50 festivals by the Sunday Times in 2014.

Every day, audiences are invited to meet at the festival HUB, bar and cafe that pops up in the backstages of the REP theatre. From here you can engage in professional workshops and chat to the artists at our Feedback Cafés; or venture out across the city to enjoy the site specific and visual arts programmes. Every night, audiences can expect to sample four performances, eat dinner together on the REP’s mainstage, and dance into the dawn with the BE Late Stage programme of live music and DJs.

Box Office: 0121 236 4455 Online Booking: | @befestival | |