Despite what was previously written on the subject, I love Brighton. It may not be perfect. It may have areas that a seasoned Police officer would think twice going to. But it has a character unlike anywhere else in the South, if not the whole of Britain.
1) The Music:
Resident Music and Rounder Records are just two of the still magnificently personal music shops that Brighton has nestled in The North Laines and The Lanes respectively, as far removed as possible from the soulless buying experience that other music outlets offer. Staff that want to help, headphones should you want to listen, bands that you need to discover, and CDs that you haven’t seen for years. Yes, downloading is what is done now, plus the relaxing ease of internet shopping, but nothing compares to browsing through a small record shop, looking for a rare gem. Paul McCartney, Tim Booth from James, DJ Norman ‘Fatboy Slim’ Cook, Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes and James Morrison all can call Brighton and Hove their home. Brighton has attracted The Strokes, Supergrass, The White Stripes and many more massive bands to sometimes intimate gigs.
I still remember vivid evenings in Concorde 2 with The Kills, rammed into Audio, with the blissful Little Joy and being within touching distance of The Von Bondies at The Barfly. Komedia is a superb venue, famous nationwide for music and comedy. Brighton has an amazing music scene. Music is I believe the heartbeat of Brighton, you cannot walk anywhere without hearing music from a house, from a shop, from a band practicing or see it in the very fashion style of the inhabitants of The Laines; where noir clad Goths mix with florescent adolescent teenagers and aging punks. Skinny jean wearing teenagers abound The Laines, and the earphones in view will range from the discreet to the extremely obvious. Outdoor beach gigs, by Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada and Razorlight amongst others have united the people of Sussex on barmy summer evenings, giving the city a unique ambience.
Yes, the public services, the hospitals, the schools and roads could do with investment; you will see the poor, the destitute, the homeless. But you will also see a community that tries to help, volunteers and an infrastructure that is there to be used and not abused.
2) The North Laines:
Yes, there are some kooky shops, but when you have a piercing shop called Punctured, a vegetarian fast-food outlet called Red Veg – complete with Soviet branding, a clothes store so vintage-stocked it is itself practically ramshackle, but yet so cool that their branded Dirty Harry’jumpers are worn by teenagers too young to realise that it shares the name and logo with the seminal 70s film starring Sabotage Time’s very own Clint Eastwood. The North Laines are packed with shops that offer something for everyone, and are a stone’s throw away from the city centre that offers those with a more traditional/safe approach to mainstream shopping their multi-storey car-parking experience complete with by-the-numbers shops and facades. Where else in Britain would a skate-boarding dog, pedestrians walking down the pavement wearing snorkels or hordes of tourists from every corner of the planet mix and socialise in relative peace and harmony? The North Laines is less a series of streets, and more a state of mind.
3) British Film:
Seminal British films and ice cool TV programmes have both used Brighton as a support character. Sugar Rush would have been more a saccharine stroll without Brighton. Brighton Rock; Richard Attenborough, Sam Riley, Quadrophenia; Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone…do I have to say anymore?!
Many screen legends call Brighton and Hove their home, or have recently lived there; Ralph Brown, Lord Richard Attenborough, Patrick Bergin, Cate Blanchett, Simon Callow, Nick Cave (who recently wrote off a speed camera in Hove…), Steve Coogan, Samantha Janus, Matt King, Amanda Redman and Denise van Outen being a handful of recognisable faces who flit through the Sussex streets. This doesn’t make Brighton any better than anywhere else in Britain, but it does I believe add a suitable layer of culture and buzz to a city that values its cultural significance more than most – heck, the place names its buses after famous residents!
Outdoor beach gigs, by Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada and Razorlight amongst others have united the people of Sussex on barmy summer evenings, giving the city a unique ambiance.
4) The History:
Sir Winston Churchill went to school in Brighton and Hove. Rudyard Kipling created his pieces in nearby Rottingdean. Roedean has been the go-to school for the great and the good to send their daughters. The IRA failed in an attempt to decapitate Thatcher’s government. The Green Party having their first MP elected in 2010. A massive storm ravaged it in 1987. Tourists flocked from every corner of the UK to see a stranded ship straddle the famous beach and the landmarks; the Palace Pier, The Royal Pavilion and Roedean School are famous worldwide. Brighton encapsulates what Britain is all about – ethnic, eye-catching, exciting, different and an attraction. Brighton is just over an hour by rail from London, and only five hours or so by road and sea from continental Europe.
5) The Overall Picture:
As someone who works at the foot of the nearby South Downs, I can appreciate how beautiful the countryside that surrounds Brighton is. The fields are as rolling and green as anywhere in the UK. The Downs as undulating and breathtaking as any national park, the woods as thick as any English forest, the ecosystem as diverse as anywhere that Britain could offer. Brighton sits in the middle. It has satellite towns that offer even more to the visiting tourist. Brighton offers education; both formally from several universities, and informally, through the school of life. Brighton introduced me to the homeless, the Big Issue sellers, the pitiful drunks that loiter around the station, the intoxicated youth who invade the streets from dusk onwards, and to casual drug use; a hash/incense haze is the unofficial aroma of The Laines, I saw that cocaine was flowing when Norman Cook had his second, massive Fatboy Slim beach gig. This wasn’t a lifestyle I knew or wanted to be part of, but Brighton has shown me all aspects of life, the whole spectrum.
I was born in nearby Shoreham, and have lived within thirty minutes of the city my whole life; Worthing, Denton and Chailey. It is certainly not a perfect place. I teach students from the estates of Brighton who have often never been to a library or walked in the country and social depravation certainly rears its depressing head in the areas away from the glossy fliers and tourist blurb. Yes, the public services, the hospitals, the schools and roads could do with investment; you will see the poor, the destitute, the homeless. But you will also see a community that tries to help, volunteers and an infrastructure that is there to be used and not abused. Every big city has areas that need communal help and financial support; would Rio de Janeiro be the same without the sprawling favelas? Would Buenos Aires lose a key part of its character if the barrios containing areas like Fuerte Apache? Would Johannesburg be half the cultural experience without Soweto? Of course, Moulscombe, Whitehawk and London Road are no shanty towns, but they make up the bigger picture of Brighton, which is a city of cultures and contrasts.
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