Brighton Festival 2017

Five Short Blasts

Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey

Genre: Site-specific

Venue: Brighton Marina


Low Down

The international maritime warning sound signal of five shorts blasts indicates ‘I am not sure of your intentions and I am concerned we are going to collide!’

Be lost in this shared act of navigating the unknown as you contemplate the uncertainty and contingencies of journeys over the sea. Audiences cast off aboard our small seagoing vessels, a perfect crucible for listening to where you are. There, amidst the changing of the tide, you experience the voyage into mystery that the water always holds.


A site specific performance that has been forced to take place at a different site is bound to be a tricky thing to pull off, and unfortunately for the artists who made this piece (Madeline Flynn & Tim Humphrey) they don’t quite manage it.

Originally intended to be performed on a boat that would sail down the River Adur and out to sea at Shoreham Harbour, some tidal complications meant that it had to be relocated to Brighton Marina at the last minute.

Perhaps this move was better than cancelling the performance altogether, but it meant we missed out on seeing the wild beauty and quirky houseboats of the heavily tidal Shoreham Harbour, and instead sailed out to sea past GBK and Las Iguanas in the clinical and industrial setting of Brighton Marina.

This isn’t to say that the team didn’t make the best of the setting, trombonists stood on the harbour walls and blew maritime signals to us as we motored past them, with a sound that was timeless and incongruous. Also, having lived in Brighton for a decade and never gone out to sea, it was a real treat to have a boat ride and see my city from a new vantage point.

However, because we were in the wrong place, the audio was somewhat disjointed, with descriptions of mud flats that couldn’t be seen, and lifeboat stations that didn’t exist.

I really did like the idea though, it is a wonderful thing to celebrate the maritime history of our environment, and to learn about it through soundscapes and verbatim recordings was beautiful. There was also the nice addition of being given some tea and biscuits halfway through the voyage, which helped to give us passengers a sense of community.

I would recommend seeing this performance, because, despite its shortcomings due to location, it is possible to look past this, and enjoy being on a boat ride, hearing stories of local people, and trying to imagine you are in Shoreham!