History of BOAT


In April 2013 Brighton playwright and construction manager, Adrian Bunting, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in May 2013, aged 47. In his final days Adrian threw his efforts into realising a long held ambition; the creation of a permanent open-air theatre for the city he loved. Adrian identified the perfect site, the redundant bowling green in Dyke Road Park, drew up designs and left his life savings of £18,000 to kick-start the project. Shortly before he passed away he asked four friends – Steve Turner, Claire Rafferty, James Payne and Donna Close – if they would see his dream through. Steve, Claire, James and Donna became BOAT’s founding Trustees.

Working with supporters and partners, Adrian’s friends negotiated the design and planning process, established Brighton Open Air Theatre as a charity and ensured an additional £100,000 was raised through stand-up comedy benefits, an art auction and many hugely generous individual donations. In October 2014 planning permission was granted. Construction began in January 2015.

BOAT was formally opened by Adrian’s Mother; Isobelle Bunting, on the 9th May 2015, almost two years to the day after Adrian passed away.

Since its opening in 2015 BOAT has gone from strength to strength. We are now well-established as one of the UK’s premiere outdoor theatres and are a key cultural touchstone within Brighton and Hove.

BOAT’s story touches the hearts of all those who hear it. It is testimony to the power of friendship and collective goodwill. That ‘BOAT spirit’ is perfectly crystallised in the amazing work of its volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure BOAT remains a magical place to be.

BOAT has cemented it’s place as one of the UK’s finest outdoor venues. Audience numbers increase year on year as our reputation grows, and we continue to attract the very best of UK touring theatre, music, comedy, dance and more to our stage. In 2021, despite a delayed opening and reduced capacity, BOAT’s summer season welcomed 148 performances and over 22,700 audience members through our gates.