Interview with BDF 2014 Manager Jesse Black Mooney

Published On August 20, 2014 | By We Love Brighton | Theatre & Arts Features

This years Brighton Digital Festival is fast approaching and it’s going to be bigger than ever with over 115 events across 4 weeks from the 1st – 28th September. Here we speak to the new manager of this years festival Jesse Black Mooney about what the festival is all about, who it’s for, her event highlights, why Brighton is the best location and what the future holds.

As the new Manager of BDF what made you want to take on the role? What attracted you to BDF?

I’ve been involved with the festival since 2011, when a chance encounter with Aral Balkan got me interested with what was going on in the city during September. I helped organise an event in 2012, and was so excited by the festival that joined up as Coordinator and worked with former Festival Manager and supremely brilliant human being Tom Bailey to deliver the festival in 2013.

The passion and drive of the community that makes BDF possible is what made me so thrilled when I was asked to take on the Festival Manager role this year. The best part about my job is helping connect people together and see wonderful things happen. There’s no other feeling like it.

How would you describe BDF to people who have never been? And why should they check it out? Who is the festival for?

When I describe it in brief, Brighton Digital Festival is a celebration of digital culture. And it’s a lot more than just digital industry meet-ups! The Festival brings together award winning art exhibitions and internationally acclaimed conferences alongside a programme of comedy, live music, street performance, digital treasure hunts, art and tech hacks, and even augmented reality helmets that transport you into new virtual worlds. Brighton Digital Festival is diverse, it’s ambitious, and it’s amazing fun. 

Our events are predominantly organised independently by people who live and work in Brighton and Hove, so at it’s core the Festival programme is made for the community by the community. The festival has something for everyone; be you a parent with curious kids, a contemporary dance aficionado, a programmer enthralled by .NET development, or just looking for a super entertaining night out. I would definitely encourage everyone to check out our full programme online on our website to find out more.

What are some of your highlights for this years festival and why?

With over 115 events across 4 weeks, and more being added to the programme every week, it’s really tough choosing just a few! This year BDF have made six Arts and Technology commissions to digital artists and technologists to exhibit work, so I’m incredibly excited about those – and the ten Grassroots Fund events, which are outstanding community-organised activity that have been awarded grants from BDF in partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council.

dConstruct is a highlight for me personally – this year both Cory Doctorow and Warren Ellis (the writer, not the violinist) will be speaking, so I’m fan-girling over that rather hard. I’m also incredibly excited for Wireless-Fidelity, a project by Brighton-based artist Wesley Goatley that’s being hosted at the University of Brighton’s newly established Dorset Place Gallery. It’s a device you wear with headphones, and as you walk around the City it creates a generative sound-scape based on the strength and brand of wi-fi signals. So you’re literally hearing the data that’s being shared all around us. I think it’s beautiful.

Why do you think Brighton is a good place to hold the festival?

Brighton has a unique position of being a melting pot of talent – digital business is booming and we have a superb array of cultural institutions that support creative and curious minds. This fusion of corporate and cultural makes for a really interesting mix. Brighton is like a perpetual-motion machine when it comes to making cool ideas a reality. 

The Festival arose because there was a demand from the Brighton community to connect-up the myriad of digital culture events that take place here. So in that sense, Brighton is the perfect incubator for our community-led festival model.

What do you see for the future of BDF?

I want to strengthen our long-term sustainability and grow our core coordination team, so we’re able to support the development of the Festival in a really meaningful way. We’ve had amazing support from the corporate sector, with company’s recognising the significance of the Festival and the opportunities it gives for growth in the region.

It’s my hope that Brighton Digital Festival continues to raise the profile of the city as a hub for digital excellence while demystifying what digital culture means to the average Briton. Part of this means reaching out and inviting more people to get involved, be it as an organiser, volunteer or spectator. Our 2014 programme is already phenomenal, and I know big, wonderful things are already being prepared for 2015 and beyond… But don’t worry; I won’t give away any spoilers.

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