2018 – The Story So Far

March already! How’s that even possible? So much has been happening at Evo headquarters this year, we hardly noticed it’s almost Spring – yes, weather, you heard correctly, Spring!

We cracked open 2018 with a cheese and wine soirée for our tutors to celebrate the Centre’s anniversary – Brighton & Hove’s longest-standing Arts & Wellbeing centre has reached the ripe old age of 25 (even Justin Beiber wasn’t born when we first opened).

The main purpose of the evening was to introduce our new Arts Centre Manager, David Weisz, who will be at the helm to help steer Evolution Arts into calmer and more exciting waters over the coming months. It was also an opportunity for our tutors to mingle and exchange more than the usual passing hello on the stairwell. Dancers chatted to weavers, musicians to yogis, photographers to artists – before long the main studio was fizzing with creative camaraderie.

A quiz about Brighton revealed how ofay everybody is or isn’t with our city. Although most people knew that Brighton was originally called Brighthelmstone, nobody could say what year Brighton Railway Station was built (call themselves Brightonians), and some people – not a lot – thought Paul Daniels was the star of the Brighton based film Quadrophenia. Creative writing tutor Gary Mepsted, the Centre’s longest-standing tutor who started putting quill to paper here over twenty years ago, did the honours of cutting the birthday cake, which even nutrition tutor Kirsten Chick couldn’t refuse a slice of.

January saw the Arts Centre in its wintery element, with swaths of people signing up to our courses and workshops on the back of their New Year’s resolutions and intentions: be healthier, try something new, learn a new skill, meet new people, have more fun. Oldtime faves like Acrylic Painting, Paiting in Oils and The Artist’s Way sold out as usual, but even newcomers like Experimental Weaving and the Live Again Singing Project pulled in the punters.

Students work: Painting in Oils course.

February was all hands on deck as we worked around the clock to get the new Evolution Arts Charity Shop ready for business. The charity shop has replaced the old Evolution shop on 89 Western Road. Here you’ll find an exciting mixture of second hand goodies – clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, furniture, bric-a-brac – as well as a range of new wellbeing products including essential oils, crystals and incense. All funds raised by the shop will be fed back into the Arts Centre helping us to give our community an even more enjoyable experience. Plans for 2018 include a new high-street entrance for the Arts Centre, and a ground-floor reception area and café.

Which brings us to March and the release of our sizzling summer programme. Courses and workshops are up and ready to book on our website and our new brochure will soon be coming to a library or café near you.

But unfortunately it’s not all thrills and spills. This month we wave goodbye to our office manager Ewan who has done a sterling job of keeping Evolution’s administration ticking like clockwork for over two years. Ewan’s calm and diligent presence will be greatly missed and we wish him the very best of luck in his new ventures in Norfolk. The office is also minus our charismatic creative captain Charles who recently took the plunge into fulltime teaching. Charles’ design wizardry has given our marketing a fresh lease of life of late and his legacy will live on in our newsletters and brochures.

But as old doors close new ones open, and in through ours walk two new Arts Centre staff: experienced general manager David Weisz and tech-savvy office manager Visarada. From herein both David and Visarada will be working hard alongside yours truly to ensure Evolution Arts keeps evolving and enhancing people’s lives through the arts, wellbeing and creativity for many more years to come.

At this exciting juncture in Evolution Arts’ history, we’d like to thank all Evolutionaires past and present: tutors, students, employees, volunteers, trustees, and anybody else who has helped our centre over the last 25 years. We look forward to growing even older together.

Til next month

Sarah x

P.S. Brighton station first opened in 1840.


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Yoga Yoga Yoga! Om Om Om!

 They say in London you’re never more than six feet from a rat. In Brighton you’re never more than six feet from a downward dog. Yoga is to Brighton & Hove as fake-tan is to Essex, and yoga classes in the city come in all shapes and stretches.

When Evolution Arts opened in 1993 it was one of the first places to offer yoga classes in Brighton. During these halcyon days, when Iyengar was the yoga du-jour, it was usual to find up to 30 people in a class. So great was the demand, that before long Evolution’s keen yogis started spilling over and filling the large upstairs space of the Old Market.

The yoga boom continued and by the end of the Noughties yoga was no longer the preserve of spiritual Buddhists and hippies seeking a way to stretch their minds and bodies towards enlightenment. With celebrities such as Madonna and Sting flaunting their toned, bendy bods and championing the benefits of the faster and more furious Astanga yoga, soon the hip and trendy wanted a slice of the yogic-pie.

Yoga centres started springing up on every other Brighton street corner, and more and more people from all walks of life started turning to yoga as an antidote to life in the stress lane.

Today it is estimated that up to a million people practise yoga in the UK, and according to BYW figures the number of teachers is growing by at least 10 per cent a year. As well as the more traditional schools of yoga, new and more commercial styles are emerging, with teachers tapping into the zeitgeist in a bid to attract more people their classes. In Brighton alone, you can practise a different style of yoga every day of the week: Kundalini,  Vinyassa, Scaravelli, Vajrasati, Dynamic Hot Yoga, Restorative, Yin Yang, the list goes on – there’s even Naked Yoga classes for those looking, quite literally, to free up their down dog. With the recent addition of Berlin’s Beer Yoga – where a bottle of beer is incorporated into and drunk during the session – to the international yoga scene, and the Buti yoga craze, which is all about shaking your bootie, yoga’s popularity is far from peeking and sun (or beer) salutations could soon be hitting the mats of the masses.      

Evolution Arts offers a selection of yoga courses and drop-ins with some of Brighton’s most renowned and experienced instructors. Whether you’re after the invigorating and rejuvenating experience of Scaravelli, the slow-paced stretches and simple breathing exercises of Hatha or the slow-moving strap, block and chair using Iyengar, when it comes to yoga in Brighton, Evolution Arts is still where it’s at. Namaste.

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It’s All About Butoh

I first stumbled across Butoh at the Edinburgh Festival seven years ago. A show called Zeitgiest by Brisbane-based Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre was receiving rave reviews, and although it didn’t sound like something I’d normally choose to see, I put my faith in the critics. And, boy, am I glad I did. My friend and I left the theatre in stunned silence: Did that just happen? What just happened? Can we go back and see it again, please? Just a few of the questions whizzing around our seisimically-stimulated neurons.

Butoh is an avant garde Japanese performance art founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno in the early 1960s in rejection of western dance and rigid Japanese dance traditions. Over the years Butoh has drawn on and fused together elements of different historical periods and influences, including expressionism, the rebellion of the 1960s, surrealism, Flamenco and mime. The result is a kind of ritualistic, primal earth-dance where the internal is externalised and the external internalised by the performer. Butoh’s unconscious improvised movements, which rely on strength, flexibility and balance, allow the body to move authentically, free of social constraints. In Butoh it is often said that ‘the dancer should not dance, but be danced’.

” Butoh is a hybrid form of art, incorporating elements of theatre, dance, mime, Noh, Kabuki and at times the Chinese arts of Chi kung and Tai chi. It is up to the individual artist to find their own dance. But it should be a “dance” of discovery, rather than a calculated series of movements meant to manipulate the audience into a desired response.” – Don McLeod

Today Butoh is an ever-developing art form which is practiced and performed across the globe.

Zen Zen Zo’s Zeitgeist is an example of Butoh at its most raw, erotic and nightmarish. Think Dali meets David Lynch with a side order of Tarantino. The show, directed by Lynne Bradley, perfectly embodied the philosophy of Butoh dance to its core: naked bodies painted white, writhing, stretching, contracting and contorting: from their eyelids to their little toes it seemed every part of each performer’s anatomy was involved in this wild, visceral fantasy. At one point they cracked raw eggs into their mouths and spewed yolk up over each other and the front row of audience. It sounds grotesque. It was. But in no way was it gratuitous – in a strange way, it was beautiful.


I got back from Edinburgh, wanting to know more about this fascinating dance form. I Googled Butoh and discovered there was a Butoh workshop taking place in Brighton the following month. That’s one of the things I love about this city: you name it, there’s a workshop for it. And more often that not, it’s here at Evolution Arts, winky face. On this occasion, however, the workshop was run by Butoh Brighton. 

Eight years on, Yael Karavan, an award winning performer, dancer and director, and one of the three founding members of Butoh Brighton, came to Evolution Arts to deliver her Butoh Dance Workshop, and I was lucky enough to be among its participants.

Israeli born Yael has trained with several Butoh Masters including Kazuo Ohno and Tadashi Endo and her passion for this dance tradition was evident from the off.

Over the course of the two days Yael took us through a series of exercises that allowed us to discover and experiment with the basic elements of Butoh. The power and intensity of Butoh became clear early on, and proved both physically and emotionally challenging, especially for those in the group with no previous dance experience. But this didn’t stop any of us from taking part and exploring the art form in the safe, encouraging and fun space Yael had created.

At times, we were separate entities growing from inside each individual cell of our body, at others we were working in pairs, responding intuitively to our partners movements and creating a spontaneous conversation with our bodies. At times, we became one large connected being, changing form and shape like the starlings over Brighton Pier.

In the very last exercise Yael put little white paper hats on our heads and transformed us into Warriors of Peace. We walked up and down the studio in the slow crouched Butoh walk – our synchronised bodies pulled along by an invisible external and internal force -, an exhausted but joyful united front calling for: ‘Peace, Health, Love, Kindness, Empathy and Justice.’ A perfect end to a unifying and powerful workshop. And, not an eggy face in sight.

Another dance workshop, CREATIVE LAND, is happening at Evolution Arts on 25 & 26 March. Run by Marcos Rangel and Rodrigo Carinhana (pictured above), this workshop welcomes any adventurous spirit, be they performer, actor, dancer or anyone in the mood for discovery. The work will focus on the quest that nourishes us, and its motivation. Using elements of Afro-Brazilian tradition (songs, rhythms and dances – see below), you’ll be encouraged to open your imagination and discover true – rather than mechanical – action and seek creative answers to the deepest demands of our being. On the way, you will discover how to listen, stay aware, react, imagine, and be entirely present in yourself. Physical training, awareness of the space, voice work and song will help create a structure of individual and collective action – a Creative Land. Book your place here.

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Try Jan

So here we are in January, when the fairy lights of Christmastime dwindle and Western Road, Brighton & Hove no longer greets us with tidings of Peace, Love and Winkle (sorry, I meant Twinkle, I was too close to spot the T). But do not fear, this month might signal the end of bright baubles, mince pies for breakfast, and Dad’s eggnog fuelled dancing to Slade, but it’s also the perfect month for trying new things. Forget Dry Jan. Welcome to Try Jan!

Trying something new may feel scary, but it has a number of invaluable benefits: it can boost your confidence, increase your knowledge of yourself and the world around you, and you may discover new talents, interests and friends to boot. In the words of Carrie Fisher, god rest her cinnamon buns – “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

To help you through Try Jan we’ve compiled a list of ten new things that you can give a go in and around Brighton & Hove, or even from the comfort of your hopefully now pine-needle-free home.

  1. Improvised Comedy Course  – Get your creative cogs and confidence spinning with the award-winning improvised comedy troupe The Maydays.
  2. Butoh Dance Workshop – Set your body free with this avant-garde dance philosophy/method which emerged in post-war Japan.
  3. Laughter Yoga – really is the best medicine, and  by combining it with deep yogic breathing you will energise, relax, calm and connect, without the effort of a downward dog.
  4. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy  –This course will help you shake off those January blues and equip you with tools to help you lead a more stress-free and enriched life in each moment.
  5. Nutrition Course – After all those sugar-coated festive indulgences, discover the key elements of nutrition and how to eat your way to a healthy mind and body.
  1. Brighton Table Tennis Club –This award-winning tennis club offers group and 1:1 sessions for people of all ages & backgrounds to improve health, celebrate diversity and build a strong community. There are also sessions for people recovering from cancer and those with dementia.
  2. Collage and Mixed Media  – Wondering what to do with your old Christmas cards and decorations? Why not turn them and any found items and embellishments into beautiful new pieces on a course which covers techniques from collage to printing.
  3. Acting Classes  –Release your inner thespian in a very friendly and supportive environment.
  4. Life Drawing – Pick up your pencil and pop along to the Marwood Cafe for some cosy laid-back life drawing.
  5. Rosen Method Body Work – Treat yourself to some hands on healing through body and breath work that tackles chronic muscle tension and unconscious emotion (contact Brighton-based practitioner Georgia Aspion: georgia.aspion@gmail.com / 07973269155).

For those of you who have consigned yourself to an alcohol free Dry January, here are a few ideas for making your month merry in other ways.

  1. As We Are Series – check out this brand new Brighton based web series, which is already reaping recognition and awards across the globe.
  2. Indulge in some sausage-shaped shenanigans ‘My Sausage and I’ courtesy of Brighton’s funniest non-Batman comedian and organiser of the legendary Got Ham comedy night at the Joker on the first Wednesday of the month (oh, and for this month only, tonight!) and the talented Nikki Fishpool.
  3. It’s a laugh a nano-second at Brighton’s now-not-so-secret comedy night ‘The Secret Comedy Club’ A friendly and cosy night with established and up-and-coming comedians from Brighton and beyond at the dinky ‘n delightful Artista Studio.
  4. Are you sitting comfortably? Then pick up your pen or pencil and click here to enjoy a free 20 minute mindful drawing meditation with our renowned creative mindfulness tutor Wendy Ann Greenhalgh. If you sign up for her newsletter you will get free meditations or podcasts, book news, featured blogs and insights into her own creative mindfulness practice straight to your inbox every other month. Wendy Ann’s popular Mindfulness and the art of Creativity course starts again at Evolution Arts this February, you can book your place here.


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Refugee Art

As the number of refugees in the world hits a staggering 60 million, and with camps such as the Calais ‘Jungle’ closing down, an increasing number of artists are creating work that shines a light on this appalling crisis.

Given arts power to wow and move us, it comes as no surprise that people are using the medium as a response to the ongoing refugee crisis. Across the globe, artists, organizations and activists are producing art about migrants and refugees in an attempt to raise awareness, change misconceptions and enhance cultural integration.

#SafePassage, 2016 © Ai Weiwei Studio

Chinese dissident artist and activist Ai Weiwei, known for his critical view of the Chinese government, has used various artistic tactics to draw attention to what he calls ‘”the biggest, most shameful humanitarian crisis since World War II”. As well as his controversial recreation of the image of  a Syrian toddler who drowned off the coast of Turkey, Ai Weiwei covered the columns of Berlin’s Konzerthaus concert hall with 14,000 salvaged refugee life vests and wrapped golden thermal blankets around his Zodiac animal sculptures on display in front of the National Gallery’s Trade and Fair Palace in Prague. His large solo exhibition #SafePassage, on display in Amsterdam’s Foam Gallery until December, includes thousands of photos taken by Weiwei on his iPhone whilst visiting refugee camps all around the Mediterranean.

Exhibition SafePassage Ai Weiwei C Foam 2016 Photo Anne van der Weijden

The recent Refugees exhibition in Sydney brought together the work of 22 world-renowned artists including Max Ernst, Lucien Freud, Helmut Newton and Yoko Ono, to offer a platform for discussing the plight of refugees around the world and address the lack of compassion that has been shown in Australia towards asylum seekers. The curator of Refugees, Toni Bailey, told the Guardian, “I’m hoping that these artists who have big reputations can attract attention, and in doing that we can change misconceptions about refugees and asylum seekers.”

Prominent artists have also been voicing solidarity with the refugees via street art and graffiti on walls across the the globe. Parisian street artist JR (think Banksy meets Damien Hirst) has long been making the invisible, marginalised and forgotten visible with his provocative supersized murals that grace buildings, tower blocks, even entire streets.  Since pasting an image of a pregnant refugee on half a mile of the Seine embankment in Paris, JR has continued to throw up images of immigrants on cityscapes around the world. With a wave of his artist’s wand he turned a container ship into an epic cruising art-work which, coincidently, ended up rescuing a boatload of immigrants from Libya.

JR at Galerie Perrotin, 2015

Artists closer to home are also riding the refugee art wave and producing work which packs a socio-political punch. Over the last year, Evolution Arts tutor and Brighton based socially engaged artist Bern O’Donoghue has been busy making hundreds of origami paper boats for her project Refugees Crossing. The boats are a response to the estimated 3,771 migrants and refugees who drowned in 2015 while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.  Speaking to the Guardian, Bern said:

“We all need to help these people and engage the government to take a more compassionate position. Each paper boat has a fact about refugees on them. I’d like the boats to be seen in towns and cities across the UK, to remind people that refugees need and deserve our help.”

As well as appearing in exhibitions in the UK, the colourful boats have been placed in streets, on buses, trains, planes, at stations and bus stops in over 100 towns and cities world-wide in an attempt to generate wider debate and change the negative discourse surrounding the crisis. Bern recently paired up her boats with polaroids by the photojournalist Giovanna Del Sarto for the joint exhibition Another Crossing at Murmuarations Gallery (see top image).

Art is all the more powerful when it comes from the hearts, hands and minds of the refugees themselves. Since 2006 Art Refugee UK has been providing safe creative spaces inside refugee camps, where teams of professionals encourage and enable refugees to express themselves through mediums including drawing, film and photography.


Plasticine figures made in the camp by the residents in the groups run by Art Refuge 

Art Refugee UK’s Tony Gammidge is organising a symposium at Brighton University on 9th November with the title ‘(How) Can the arts engage with the ongoing refugee crisis’. Book a place on the morning session here (unfortunately the afternoon session is full).

Counterpoints Arts is another organisation that supports and produces art by and about migrants and refugees and who believes in ‘the ability of the arts to inspire social change and enhance inclusion and cultural integration of refugees and migrants’. Writing for Forced Migration Review, Awet Andemicael champions the myriad psychological, emotional and social benefits of artistic activity, and its power to enhance lives of refugees both within and beyond the camps.

Don’t miss the chance to appreciate some drawings and paintings by kids currently living in Al-Abrar refugee camp in Lebanon at the From Syria With Love exhibition at Sussex University on 3rd November.

You can experience the transformative power of art for yourself by booking a course or workshop at Evolution Arts Brighton. From beginner’s drawing, to stained glass and street photography we offer many outlets for crossing the borders of creativity.

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