Quentin Blake: A Hundred Portraits

Having lived in Hastings for more than 40 years, the illustrator and artist regards the East Sussex town as his ‘spiritual home’. This exhibition of 100 imaginary portraits, ranging from large watercolour pencil pieces to postcard-sized biro images, have all been donated for sale by Sir Quentin, with proceeds going to support the gallery.

Hastings Contemporary, until September 8, Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-5pm, from £10, residents £5, under-18s free, hastingscontemporary.org


Bing’s Nature Explorers

Join dungaree-clad bunny Bing and his mysterious clothbound carer Flop to become a nature explorer on the boardwalks of Arundel Wetland Centre. There are activity trails, story sessions, and a range of Bing toys in the gift shop, naturally.

Arundel Wetland Centre, until June 2, 10am-4.30pm, from £13.59, £8.63 children, wwt.org.uk

Spoken word

John Robb

John is the sort of music journalist that shouldn’t really exist anymore. A bona fide punk rocker, leading the band the Membranes, his CV includes being the first writer to interview Nirvana in 1988, coining the word Britpop and penning a classic biog of The Stone Roses, and his latest tome: The Art of Darkness – The History of Goth. He will be joined by Wire legend Colin Newman.

Komedia, Brighton, Thursday, May 2, 8pm, £14.50, £12.50 concessions, komedia.co.uk/brighton


The Grand Tour

A musical journey through 18th-century Europe, in the company of Consonos Baroque, starting with the English baroque style of Thomas Arne and taking in Parisian Guillemain and Italian Vivaldi as well as German-born Handel. The group comes to Anne of Cleves House in Lewes on May 17 with a programme of works by Bach and his sons.

Michelham Priory, Upper Dicker, Friday, May 3, doors 6.30pm, £18, sussexpast.co.uk


The House Party

This reimagining of Strindberg’s Miss Julie by Laura Lomas, Headlong and Frantic Assembly, is set in the aftermath of a wild 18th birthday party. Audience members have the option to be immersed in the action, as the dumped birthday girl drowns her sorrows, while her long-suffering friend Christine and boyfriend Jon try to pick up the pieces.

Minerva Theatre, Chichester, May 3-June 1, 7.15pm, 2.15pm matinees, from £10, cft.org.uk


Motown Tribute Show

Eastbourne’s seafront landmark is lining up live music made famous by more than 80 international acts this summer, all the way through to October. Launching the 2024 season, which sees tribute acts play every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, is a tribute to Motown. This summer you can also see shows celebrating the music of Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Queen, the Rolling Stones and Adele without the need to pay stadium prices.

Eastbourne Bandstand, Friday, May 3, 8pm, from £11.50, children £9.25, eastbournebandstand.co.uk


Summer Exhibition

More than 40 artists and sculptors drawn from across the country feature in Moncrieff-Bay's annual Summer Exhibition, which has now been running for 20 years. Highlights include abstract bronzes by Lucy Lutyens, a sweeping two-metre landscape painted by John Hitchens in 1972, and a selection of paintings by Deborah Gourlay from her time as artist in residence at Glyndebourne.

Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, Petworth, May 3-June 15, 10am-6pm opening weekend, Tues to Sat 10am-4pm, moncrieff-bray.com


Brighton Fringe

Brighton Festival’s upstart little brother now starts before the main festival, runs for an extra week after it, and offers six times as many shows - ranging from grassroots amateur dramatics to international touring shows and covering all bases from cabaret and circus to (loads of) comedy and literature. As ever there’s a heavy local contingent behind the Fringe, both among the promoters, writers and the performers, in both established and pop-up venues, such as the Rotunda and Sabai Pavilion. Why not dive in and take a chance? You might see the next big thing.

Across Brighton and Hove, May 3-June 2, various times and prices, brightonfringe.org


Brighton Festival 2024

Launching with the Children’s Parade on Saturday (don’t forget your umbrella), Brighton becomes the centre of the UK arts and culture scene throughout May. This year sees the festival welcome its 15th guest director - author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Highlights across 128 events include music from Spiritualized, the London Symphony Orchestra, Glyndebourne’s leading lady Danielle de Niese and UNKLE, a spoken word night hosted by Kae Tempest, magic from Scott Silven, eco-supper club Ground and the chance to weave 100 miles of string across Pavilion Gardens.

Across Brighton and Hove, May 4-26, various times and prices, brightonfestival.org


John Kearns: The Varnishing Days

Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning John Kearns has reached a whole new audience after being christened Taskmaster’s ‘dafty in the middle’. Donning his comedy fright wig and false teeth, John will be trying his best once more – as his audience consider their dinner plans.

The Old Market, Hove, Saturday, May 4, 7.30pm, £18.50, theoldmarket.com

Get outside

Eastbourne Walking Weekend

Ahead of September’s Walking Festival is this new two-day event to mark the launch of National Walking Month. Wander through Sussex villages and across the Downs, in a series of strolls led by experienced guides. Walks include an eight-and-a-half-mile trek taking in a Cold War radar station and Herstmonceux Castle, a performance path walk around Eastbourne featuring choreography by local dancer Yanaëlle Thiran, and a circular walk going up Mount Caburn and passing Glyndebourne Opera House.

Across Eastbourne and beyond, May 4-5, various times, free but places must be booked in advance, eastbournewalkingfestival.com

Car show

Magnificent Motors 2024

Enjoy a selection of vintage and classic cars, commercial and military vehicles, motorbikes and more, plus a funfair in this annual family fave, featuring more than 600 vehicles on display over the weekend.

Western Lawns, Eastbourne, May 4-5, 10am-5pm, free, magnificentmotors.co.uk


Artists Open Houses

Discover the creativity usually going on behind closed doors (and get a sneaky look around some lovely houses) as hundreds of artists throw open their studios to visitors for the 42nd Artists Open Houses. Among the big names taking part across 150 venues are painters Faye Bridgewater, Nick Gardner and Lucy Bristow, maker Becky Blair, and Sarah Arnett who has designed the cover of this year’s brochure. Plus there’s the biannual Dog Show, where seven artists create canine-inspired artworks.

Across Brighton and Hove, weekends and bank holiday Mondays May 4-27, various times, free, aoh.org.uk

Food and drink

Brighton Foodies Festival

The city’s top chefs, including Stephen Edwards, Alun Sperring and Michael Bremner, join forces with the likes of MasterChef the Professionals champion Alex Webb and 2021 MasterChef Tom Rhodes in this celebration of food excellence. As well as plenty of street food stalls, a Silent Disco and chilli-eating competition there will be live music from Scouting For Girls, Sister Sledge and Symphonic Ibiza across the weekend.

Preston Park, Brighton, May 4-6, 11am-9pm (8pm Mon), day tickets from £21, £4 children, £42 weekend, foodiesfestival.com/events/brighton-2


Six Chick Flicks

An Edinburgh Fringe hit, Six Chick Flicks is a two-hander feminist send-up of favourite ‘chick flicks’ Titanic, Pretty Woman, Legally Blonde, Beaches, The Notebook and Dirty Dancing. Performed by co-writers Kerry Ipema and KK Apple the show brings iconic moments to life, with dance breaks and original songs.

The Hawth Studio, Crawley, Sunday, May 5, 7.45pm, £25.50, hawth.co.uk


Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band

Having long been seen on the fringes of the UK independent music scene with his critically acclaimed bands the Pale Fountains, The Strands and Shack, Liverpool’s Michael Head seems to finally be getting the attention he deserves. His last release Dear Scott was Mojo magazine’s album of 2022, and its follow-up Loophole is due out this May, closely followed in August by Michael’s autobiography Ciao Ciao Bambino.

Chalk, Brighton, Wednesday, May 8, doors 7pm, from £27.50, chalkvenue.com


Emma Stibbon: Melting Ice/Rising Tides

Having cleared out the twisted metal and wiped down the pencil drawings from this year’s Turner Prize exhibition, Towner is launching into its 2024 season with a UK solo show by Emma Stibbon. Based on her observations of the melting polar ice sheets, the exhibition of large-scale drawings and prints transpose what is happening in remote extreme environments to the impact it might have on the Sussex coastline, based around her central 2023 installation Cliff Fall.

Towner Eastbourne, May 9-September 15, Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm, tickets TBC, townereastbourne.org.uk


Sussex Art Fair

The fifth Sussex Art Fair offers the chance to meet 90 exhibitors, showing more than 3,000 artworks including paintings, digital art, photography, sculpture, glasswork, ceramics and mixed media, which will all be available for purchase. Sussex Wildlife Trust is also set to benefit from the sale of original £50 artworks donated by exhibitors with proceeds going to the fair’s partner charity.

Goodwood Racecourse, near Chichester, May 10-12, Fri 5.30pm-8.30pm, Sat/Sun 11am-5pm, private view from £10, Sat/Sun from £5, under-16s free, sussexartfair.co.uk


The Blockheads

Arguably the tightest band to come out of the UK punk scene, the late Ian Dury’s former backing band still features original members Chaz Jankel, Mick Gallagher and John Turnbull, who will be performing classics from Lord Upminster’s back catalogue, including Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Reasons to be Cheerful Part Three and What A Waste.

Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham, Friday, May 10, 8pm, £30, ropetacklecentre.co.uk


Eastbourne Spring Water Festival

Plastic Free Eastbourne brings its fourth eco-festival to the seafront in May, celebrating both the town’s water, beach and 19km-long network of free spring water refill stations. Across the 10 days are a range of walks, an EcoFair on Western Lawns on Saturday, May 11, a film festival at Towner Gallery and weekend water sports.

Across Eastbourne, May 10-19, various times and prices, plasticfreeeastbourne.co.uk/festival


Troy Hawke: The Greeters Guild

Dressed in a silk smoking jacket and sporting a fine pencil moustache, Troy Hawke is a true 1930s throwback, trying to bring some old-fashioned courtesy back to 21st-century life. His show explores why his attempts to do that has caused him such a kerfuffle, on a journey taking him from Macclesfield TK Maxx to the orbit of heavyweight boxers and Formula One legends.

Also at The Hawth, Crawley, Saturday, May 18 and Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Friday, June 7.

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Saturday, May 11, 8pm, from £20.50, dlwp.com


Oh What A Lovely War

Employing the songs of World War I, Joan Littlewood’s devised musical became a perfect summation of the slaughter and horror of the first mechanised war, and the bravery of the lions led by donkeys. Catch Blackeyed Theatre’s version in Worthing for one night only.

Connaught Theatre, Worthing, Sunday, May 12, 7pm, from £10, wtm.uk


Sculpting a willow hare

Curious House is taking over the Big Room at the popular country pub for a series of creative courses. This popular course to create a sculptured willow hare for your garden is led by Dominic Parrette. Later this month look out for a day with Dani Humberstone leading a course in colour and abstract painting on Thursday, May 16, and drawing in nature with Victoria Threlfall on Saturday, May 18.

The Bell, Ticehurst, Tuesday, May 14, 10am-3.30pm, £135, curioushouse.net


The Great Escape Festival

Brighton’s seafront fills with confused-looking DFLs sporting various wristbands and lanyards, in this celebration of the best new music from across the world. Ostensible headliner is the critically acclaimed US songwriter Faye Webster, who plays a spotlight show at Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Friday, May 17, otherwise new music aficionados can explore venues across the city for the next buzz band, wannabe or never-will-be. Names to look out for this year include Kneecap, Big Special, Lambrini Girls, Ugly and Wunderhorse.

Across Brighton and Hove, May 15-18, day tickets from £47.10, three-day ticket from £119.50, greatescapefestival.com


Charleston Festival 2024

Now in its 35th year, the former Bloomsbury farmhouse is vying with the big dogs of Hay and Cheltenham when it comes to guests for its annual celebration of the written word. Coming down this year are Peep Show and Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, designer Es Devlin, composer Nitin Sawhney, artists Gilbert and George and Grayson Perry, actors Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench, Lenny Henry, Joanna Lumley and Toby Jones, politicians Nicola Sturgeon and Caroline Lucas and award-winning writers Joseph Coelho, Jackie Kay, Val McDermid, Marilynne Robinson, Margaret Drabble, David Nicholls, Colm Toibin, Marlon James and David Mitchell.

Charleston, Firle, May 16-27, various times, day tickets from £60, charleston.org.uk/festival


Petworth Park Antiques and Fine Art Fair

The collector’s paradise returns to Petworth for the 10th year, with more than 60 exhibitors taking over the purpose-built marquee in the grounds of the National Trust property. Look out for Peter Symonds’ West Sussex landscapes, paintings by Ivon Hitchens, Art Deco and mid-century furniture, ceramics and jewellery, plus enjoy free entry to the house and park.

Petworth Park, May 17-19, Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 10.30am-6pm, Sun 10.30am-5pm, £10, free to National Trust members, adfl.co.uk

Food and drink

Beer and Cider by the Sea

With more than 100 drinks to sample, and a perfect seafront location, it’s no surprise that Eastbourne’s annual celebration of the ale and apple is so popular. This year sees live music from Eastbourne Queen tribute band Fat Freddie and The Queens on Friday, and The Morph Ska 6 on Saturday.

Western Lawns, Eastbourne, May 17-19, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat 11am-4pm and 5pm-10pm, Sun noon-5pm, from £6, eastbournebeerfestivals.co.uk



This canine festival features special guest Clare Balding, who will be reading from her new book in Literary Corner. Elsewhere there will be two labrador parades, the Goodwoof Games, painting and photography pawtraits, competitions, woodland walks, an off-lead area, dog lido and wellness centre.

Goodwood, near Chichester, May 18-19, 9.30am, day tickets from £30, dogs free, goodwood.com/goodwoof


The Handsome Family

City promoter Melting Vinyl brings the king and queen of Americana Gothic to Brighton as they celebrate 30 years on the scene. Across 11 albums – the latest being Hollow – the pair have influenced cult artist Andrew Bird, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Phoebe Bridgers, while their song Far From Any Road soundtracked the first season of True Detective.

Komedia, Brighton, Wednesday, May 22, 8pm, £22.50, komedia.co.uk/brighton


Griff Rhys Jones: The Cat's Pyjamas

Starting out as part of the Not The Nine O’Clock News team, Griff has enjoyed a long comedy career both as part of the double act Smith and Jones, and in his own right as a presenter on the first Comic Relief, amiable sailor in Three Men in a Boat and most recently as an explorer, crossing Canada for hit Channel Four series Griff’s Canadian Adventure.

Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Wednesday, May 22, 7.30pm, from £22.50, wtm.uk


Barry Adamson

Rising to prominence as bassist with Manchester post-punk legends Magazine, and then as a member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, Barry Adamson has also enjoyed a highly acclaimed solo career, heavily influenced by classic cinema scores. This intimate show is in support of Cut To Black, his first solo album in eight years.

Komedia Studio, Brighton, Thursday, May 23, 7.30pm, £25, komedia.co.uk/brighton


Jon Boden

Bellowhead frontman, and one-half of folk duo Spiers and Boden, Jon is performing a solo set drawing on his extensive back catalogue. Having recorded a folk song a day for 365 days of one year he should have plenty of material to draw from...

Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham, Thursday, May 23, 7.30pm, £21, ropetacklecentre.co.uk


Coram Boy

Having opened the 2024 Festival season with an adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s tales of Henry VIII’s Tudor court (see page xx), the Festival Theatre moves the clock forward to the 18th century, with this adaptation of Jamila Gavin’s Whitbread Award-winning novel. It follows two intertwining stories of two abandoned children from very different worlds.

Chichester Festival Theatre, May 24-June15, 7.30pm, 2.30pm matinees, from £10, cft.org.uk


Strictly The Professionals

A dozen of the dancers who brighten up BBC’s weekend programming descend on Brighton for a glamorous show directed by Strictly’s own creative director Jason Gilkison and supported by a live band.

Brighton Centre, May 24-25, 1.30pm and 6.30pm, see venue for prices, brightoncentre.co.uk


Nature Olympics

Youngsters can earn their Nature Olympics badge this half-term, as part of Wakehurst’s year-long search for Sussex’s planet-protecting heroes.

Wakehurst, May 25-June 2, from 10am, from £3, kew.org/wakehurst


Brighton Valley Festival Series

East Brighton hosts two nights of live music over the Whitsun bank holiday, kicking off on Friday with a live set by The Streets, backed by Kojey Radical and Billy Nomates. Then Sunday sees an afternoon of nostalgic noughties pop courtesy of boyband Busted following the release of their second Greatest Hits collection.

East Brighton Park, Friday, May 24, 4pm, and Sunday, May 26, 2pm, from £37.50, brighton-valley-series.co.uk


Medieval Festival

While the Earl is away a 15th-century French raiding party tries to take control of Arundel Castle in this exciting reenactment, featuring three tented encampments offering period crafts, cookery, weaponry, archery and axe-throwing, plus falconry and medieval music performances. Look out for Arundel’s Allium Extravaganza in May too, when the gorgeous flowers come into bloom in the castle grounds.

Arundel Castle, May 25-27, 10am-5pm, £27, children £12, arundelcastle.org


YolanDa's Band Jam

The CBeebies star and double-MOBO Award-winning musician YolanDa Brown plays two very different shows in Worthing. The matinee is a recreation of her popular technicolor TV children’s band jams, with youngsters encouraged to dance and join in, while the evening session underlines why the saxophonist has worked with the likes of Jools Holland, The Temptations, Billy Ocean and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.

Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Saturday, May 25, 2.30pm, from £19, and 7.30pm, from £30, wtm.uk


The Lovely Eggs

The long overdue return of Lancashire’s premium psyche-punk power duo, ahead of a new album Eggsistentialism recorded with legendary Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann. Just don’t expect a fake encore – they just won’t do them.

Chalk, Brighton, Wednesday, May 29, doors 6.30pm, from £18, chalkvenue.com


Jimmy Carr: Laughs Funny

The Eight out of 10 Cats host has long been one of the hardest working comedians on the circuit, engaging on a seemingly never-ending tour in between his many television engagements (perhaps to pay off his tax bill). Expect the usual fast-paced mix of edgy one-liners, just as likely to make you gasp as laugh. Also at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne, Friday, May 31.

Assembly Hall, Worthing, 7pm and 9.30pm, from £37, wtm.uk