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Brighton Art Fair Is Best One Yet

Brighton Art Fair has returned to its home at the city's Corn Exchange – and the 2008 show might just be the best one yet.

The finest artists in an eclectic collection are painters.

Natalie Martin has produced a stunning series of tightly cropped paintings of interiors, almost photo-realistic but with just enough painterly ambiguity to be truly enjoyable. Photo-realism gives away its secrets too easily, but these dark, mysterious paintings of forgotten corners and lost places would be constantly engaging.

Christopher Noulton pulls off a similar trick. His series of paintings are reminiscent of Thomas The Tank Engine illustrations, or the pages of old Ladybird books. They feature art deco architecture, 1950s vehicles and a cast of odd characters, and many allude to paganism, with the Green Man, Whicker Man and straw dollies all appearing. A certain sell-out.

Worthing artist Maggie Tredwell would sit well alongside either of these artists, with her series of very neat, almost architectural paintings of ordinary places; shops, cafes, burger bars and Airstream caravans.

There are of course plenty of much looser, abstract or expressionist painters.
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Noises Off brings the house down at Theatre Royal

Brighton Theatre Royal - Noises Off by Michael Frayn
Director: David Gilmore

It's rare you emerge from a night out at the theatre feeling exhausted, but such was the physical marathon the cast put themselves through last night, most of us felt we'd done it with them. We did, however, have the energy for a long ovation at the end of a massively entertaining show.

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Chichester Youth Theatre: Toad of Toad Hall

There's nothing quite like theatre in the open air - being able to move around with the action, using natural and man-made outdoor features, and seeing drama and music minus technology's eccentricities is really refreshing.

And refreshing is certainly one of the words I'd use to describe Chichester Youth Theatre's effervescent treatment of Toad of Toad Hall, staged in the grounds of Rolls-Royce at Chichester.
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Ben & Jerry Sundae on the Common

Yet another fine display of ice cream, sunshine and pop music. Clapham Common hosts the annual Ben & Jerry Summer Sundae on the Common, and this year we have new flavours, new attractions and old men, yes, Jerry graced us with his presence as it was Ben & Jerry’s 30th birthday this year.

I had got backstage VIP tickets to meet Jerry, and it was over in a flash as he was Personally Assisted from one person to meet and greet, and on to the next meet and greet. A lovely chap, and genuinely seemed happy to be there.

Saturday’s entertainment was highlighted by Florence and the Machines, a funky punky spiky energetic and colourful lot that oozed sunshine, just in case we didn’t have enough!
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Patti Smith & Kevin Shields - 'The Coral Sea'

Few of her New York punk contemporaries have sustained a career like Patti Smith.

She is one of rock 'n' rolls great visionary geniuses, producing everything from classic gritty punk albums to published poetry. And more recently, she has explored a strong Sussex connection, spending time at Charleston Farmhouse, home to the Bloomsbury artists. Like them, Smith is a true Bohemian.

'The Coral Sea' iwas written as a poetic tribute to the great photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, a close friend of Smith, who died of complications from Aids in 1989. Unable to perform the poem solo, the emotion too powerful even for Smith, she has worked with My Bloody Valentine guitarist Kevin Shields. Known for producing loud, heavy guitar soundscapes, My Bloody Valentine were always part rock band, part art-house experiment.

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Eliza Carthy's Dirty Dreams

In a 15 year career, Eliza Carthy has worked with the likes of Paul Weller, Joan Baez and Nick Cave. The daughter of folk legends Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy, she's undoubtedly a folk superstar – with seven BBC Folk Awards under her belt already. But she's twice been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize without winning, and has never quite achieved mainstream success.

'Dreams of Breathing Underwater' might win her that missing Mercury Prize, and might just see her crack the mainstream too.

It's a staggering work – easily the best in her long career.
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Boston, Barcelona, Berlin and Brighton on Baltic Fleet's Debut

It's tough, being in a successful band. You have to tour the world, spending time on tour buses, planes and in hotel rooms. It's a life that's highly regimented, organised by tour managers who keep their artists to a strict schedule of travel, soundchecks, rehearsals and concerts, the timetable broken occasionally by the excitement of TV appearances, radio sessions and press interviews.

Echo and the Bunnymen keyboard player Paul Fleming turned the experience of one world tour into an album. Recording on a laptop with whatever instruments were to hand, he created an album that's as atmospheric as you'd expect from an ex-Bunnyman. It's also named after a notorious pub in  Liverpool, hometown to the 80s band.

Baltic Fleet was inspired directly by that world tour, from Boston and Barcelona to Berlin and back to Brighton. It was written in moments stolen from a strict schedule, and then refined in a studio where Fleming worked with Klaxons producer Nick Terry
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Psycho Buildings at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank

This isn't the first time I have been misinformed by the way the Hayward markets its shows. 'Artists take on architecture' was the strap line and I expected architectural designs and models with a twist, but what we found was a poorly presented 6th Form End of Year Show (no disrespect to 6th formers intended).

There appeared to be no flow to the works, rooms filled with whatever would fit. No thought in to how these were presented or how access was to be achieved. Michael Beutler's [Awaiting Title] 2008 was paper mesh maze that looked like it's reason of existence was decided with hindsight, as opposed to a having a creative force behind it. Do Ho Suh's Staircase -V and Mike Nelson's To The Memory of HP Lovecraft looked to me as they were included due to their ability to create as opposed to their creative ability.
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Folk legends delight at Burgess Hill

Burgess Hill: Waterson Carthy, Rob Halligan, Gareth Davies-Jones, Julie Hall

It was a great coup for Fairtrade fundraisers in Burgess Hill to attract folk supergroup Waterson Carthy to the Martlets Hall, and a healthy crowd turned up to hear some of the classic performers from the UK folk scene.
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The John Baker Tapes

However much music you already have, there will always be something missing from your collection. And the John Baker Tapes fill a gap you didn't know you had.

John Baker was a pioneer of British electronic music, a cult hero on one hand (rumoured to have contributed electronic sound effects to the Beatles film 'Help!') – but also somebody whose music is instantly familiar to anyone of a certain age. If you watched the BBC from the early 60s to the late 70s, some of this will sound familiar.

Because Baker was a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, experimenting with early attempts at multitrack recording, pre-synthesiser weirdness and strange electronic noises. The workshop is best known for the Dr Who theme and other science fiction soundscapes, but they produced masses of music. And 50 years on, the music Baker made for news programmes, radio stations, documentaries and dramas is being released on two CDs. As well as rare BBC recordings, there are cuts from Baker's home recordings and his experiments as a jazz musician.