The season for skinny dipping and munching rock may be over but Brighton’s cultural scene is as hot as ever. As we offer photographers the chance to win a subsidised place on the Brighton Magnum Professional Practice seminar at the Photo Biennial this month, we’re leaving the prom to stroll with Nione Meakin through the creative lanes of the city by the sea…
Brighton is an all-you-can-eat-buffet of a city, its small size belying an extensive (and sometimes wacky) arts, culture and nightlife scene.
As the thousands of students who’ve just moved here will discover, it’s a place where no hobby is too niche, no idea too wild and it’s virtually impossible to be bored.
At its heart is the Brighton Dome complex, a grand building originally designed as stables for the Prince Regent – and if you think his stables were la-di-da, check out the adjacent Royal Pavilion, his famous seaside “pleasure palace”.
The Dome houses three venues where you can see big-name comics, world-class dance (Jasmin Vardimon and Hofesh Schechter have both premiered work here), theatre and music. It hosts the annual Brighton Festival and the October Comedy Festival.
Just around the corner is Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, which features ever-changing exhibitions and galleries (fashion icon Barbara Hulanicki is a current focus) and permanent exhibits including a Grayson Perry vase and Salvador Dalí's famous Mae West-lips sofa.
The city council also runs the wonderfully macabre Booth Museum of Natural History – a collection of taxidermy including stuffed Victorian bears, birds and other beasts – and Hove Museum & Art Gallery, which sheds light on the city’s early film pioneers.
In addition to the main Brighton Festival every May, there’s a thriving Fringe when you’ll spot tents springing up in Victoria Gardens and at St Peter’s Church, people flyering along New Road and a higher than average number of stilt walkers.
But for year-round fringe theatre and performance, pay a visit to The Nightingale where you can see new writing and literary debate; The Marlborough, which launched the city’s first Pink Fringe and puts on a packed programme of LGBT theatre; Upstairs at Three and Ten (where a range of comics including Daniel Kitson and Ben Target perform) and The Basement for naked dancing, live horses and other experimental hi-jinx.
For film fans, membership of the Duke of York’s Cinema is a must. It is the UK’s oldest continuously operating cinema and is famed for the stripy pair of giant legs waving from its rooftop. See all the latest arthouse releases with a beer, coffee or homemade cake. For those interested in making films as well as watching them, digital culture agency Lighthouse runs mentoring and production schemes, as well as a programme of courses and events.
Other places to pick up creative advice and meet like-minded souls include creative writing network New Writing South and Create Studios where top city snappers lead courses on everything from lighting to street photography.
You’re never far from a musician in Brighton (count the number of guitar cases propped up in pubs) and the city is well served for music venues. One of the oldest and best is Concorde 2, where acts from The White Stripes to Florence And The Machine have played early gigs. It’s also worth paying a visit to rock ‘n’ roll boozers such as The Albert and The Hope where you can catch live music most nights.
Exhausted yet? Take a seat (it may well be an old door) in the Marwood café, a friendly hangout with studio space upstairs and some of the best coffee in town downstairs. Decorated with dismembered shop mannequins and weird art, it’s the perfect example of Brighton’s eclectic spirit.
What are your top tips for Brighton? Leave a comment.
Are you a photographer aged 16 to 25? Apply for a subsidised place on the Brighton Magnum Professional Practice seminar.
Read our other cultural guides.
Image: Brighton Pier and beach 1 by Pondspider on a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.
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