Kicking the Right-On Out of Brighton

By Gordon Vader

What’s so bloody great about Brighton? Well get your googlies on Google and you’ll find no end of sucking up. “Great for Hen nights”, “great location for studying English”, “great place to live when you get bored of living in London,” but there used to be some real meat to this statement and more and more these days the gravy train has sucked it to the bone.

superhero hens

If you talk to anyone outside the city (not that’s there are many in Brighton who do these days) you’ll likely hear a few choice words. Bohemian, Tri-becian and cosmopolitan spring to mind and it’s the latter word that grinds my goat.

Cosmopolitan – besides being the name of a magazine that is anything but – is a word we’re told means broad-based, multi-ethnic, and is usually banded about in cities which have more than one weekly salsa class and this is where the great city of Brighton and Hove sits.

She may have just missed out on the A by placing just 11th in Go UK’s list of top UK University towns, but Brighton has also made it onto the somewhat less esteemed top 100 crap UK towns. The list featured in the new book Crap Towns 11: The Nation Decides by journalist Sam Jordison, was voted for by members of the public, so it’s clear that while the academics and binge drinkers of Britain may rate the quaint fishing village of Brighthelmstone, Joe Public thinks it belongs in the sty with Hull, last year’s undisputed number one. I’ve lived in a good few of the cities on both the lists and I can understand why Brighton is straddling the fence.

Aesthetically the city is pretty enough to be fair, but while one would have little bother finding a vegan meal or a colonic irrigation you might be hard pushed to find one you could afford. The problem with Brighton is she’s being spoilt, in every sense of the word. As the gentry move in the plebs move out. The truth about the ‘mung bean salad’ and alternative remedies is they are very much at the whim of the IT crowd and their disposable income. Over the last decade, the time I have lived in the city, there has been a marked swing from quirk to fad as the fashion shifted.

Flea market turned into antiques shop; specialist shops became boutiques; youth hostels morphed boutique hotels and suddenly all the night clubs were funded by the Arts Council. Brighton in many ways is a victim of its own celebrity, a city that told the world that it’s streets were paved in platinum, and has been pretending ever since that it hasn’t been swamped by ‘bling’ worshipping Londoners. And for every two bed they take at twice the going rate – oh it’s steal compared to Dulwich don’t you know? – there’s a one-way ticket to Bath.

So where are we now? Going full circle on the story, Brighton is not the new Milan, she’s more likely to be the next Eastbourne. Just another faded seaside resort with pretty wide avenues, stone villas, and rich dying residents waiting for the ends of their days. In a city full of their old antiques their grateful relatives have been only too happy to sell off before letting the ancestral pad to the latest bunch of students.

The moral of this story, if this city has any morals left, is that you need more than a few yoga classes and a samba band to be cosmopolitan. It’s not the palace or the Pavilion that makes Brighton a cool city it’s the people and too many of the good ones are leaving.


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