A Travellerspoint blog

Focus on Brighton: 5 Acts


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As my friends at home celebrate Pride I find myself exceedingly busy with school work now as crunch time has kicked in. I have approximately two weeks to finish my own research from home, my placement at the University of Brighton and the Brussels course. On Tuesday A. comes to town for a week (!) and then on July 16th I meet my brother in Scotland (!). But in the spirit of procrastination I thought I would compile some Brighton highlights since I've recently been using this blog to focus on everywhere else.

These are in no particular order:

1. Banksy's 'The Kiss'

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This was one of Bansky's "non-commissioned" works and sits on the side of the Prince Albert Pub on Trafalgar street. It also bears the distinction of being one of Brighton's most photographed sites. In 2006 it was severely defaced but somehow they salvaged it and subsequently stuck it under plastic. Apparently locals hate when you take pictures of it.

I am not that Banksy crazy though I do like stencils and I appreciate the use of urban landscapes. I think his work is generally creative and ultimately he makes cities more interesting to look at. Besides, love him or hate him he gets people talking about the use, purpose and definition of art and how it is or is not wed to politics. But even more then that, I'm fascinated by his growing cultural significance and the ongoing Banksy-mania. In 2008 one of his images, a six meter long spray painting called 'Laugh now', depicting a row of chimps wearing placards emblazoned, 'Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge' sold for £200,000! Hell, even Toronto got a taste of it in May (thanks A.). And if that doesn't convince you nothing says you made it like swarms of celebrity collectors including Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera.

2. Preston Park: Rose Garden

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Every time I walk home from downtown Brighton I peak into the rose garden in Preston Park. For weeks I was waiting for something to happen but the thorny plants laid dormant waiting for the right time and combination of elements. Finally, these was an explosion of colours as the roses bloomed. According to Wikipedia Preston Park, "remains green throughout the summer because of a non-drinkable underground water source, known as the Wellesbourne, which runs below Preston Park, London Road and The Level. The source dates back many centuries and is often referred to as Brighton's lost river." That's pretty cool, right? Sometimes I lay on the grass, staring at the sky and think about how far away I am from Canada. I can't help but miss everyone and have a nostalgic longing for summer in Toronto.

3. The Grand Hotel

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Right on the seafront you find the Grand Hotel famous for the 1984 IRA assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet which came to be known as the 'Brighton hotel bombing'. The bomb was planted three weeks prior to the conservative party conference and when it detonated it blew out a chunk of the hotel and killed five people. However, Thatcher escaped unscathed and went on to rule Britain for another six years.

Last month there was a minor flurry of controversy when John McDonnell, one of the leadership contenders for the Labour party, joked he wanted to go back in time to assassinate Thatcher. Apparently he got a standing ovation from the crowd who still remember the burn of Thatcher's neo-liberal domestic and foreign policies. Outside of those walls his comment led to subsequent national hand wringing on the nature of humour/joking in politics, the so-called advocacy of violence and the Baroness herself. He later apologized.

4. Royal Pavilion Park

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The Royal Pavilion is this odd complex sitting in the middle of downtown Brighton. Built in 1787 as the seaside home of George, Prince of Wales (later George IV) people have struggled to describe it, making comparisons to a Norfolk turnip, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, a chessboard and the Kremlin. It is pretty surreal. I've spent many afternoons wandering through the courtyard or sitting in the cafe sipping coffee. Like most outdoor spaces in Brighton in the summer it is always packed with children, dogs and buskers, everyone sprawled out and trying to enjoy the relatively good weather (for England). When I told my friend C. that it seemed like no one really works in Brighton she said that was because it was true! She said that the city is so full of students and people working shift work in the service industry that the 9-5 crowd really is a minority. You can totally tell.

5. Palace Pier at Night

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Most weeks my friends from work suggest we head down to the pier in the evening to drink beer while lounging on the beach, tossing pebbles, and playing cards. We watch the sunset over Brighton and see the city get progressively drunker as the sun retreats. By the time darkness falls people are swarming the streets, clutching bottles and looking for fun and/or fights. Everything smells like cheap cologne, urine and the sea. On those nights (which is really every night) Brighton really feels like a young city exhibiting a combination of bravado, desperation and the pursuit of good times at any cost. By 10 pm the actual pier closes but the lights stay on, flashing and dancing out patterns. There is something so soothing and mesmerizing in watching those lights and for some brief moments it's like time stands still.

Posted by broden 10:27 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

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