05 Jun An Hour Away…Brighton
Being from the West of Africa, I have seen my fair share of beautiful beaches and after a few school trips to Southend, Margate and other shudder to mention English seaside towns the want of going to relax at the beach was firmly confined to my childhood frolicking on African sands. Seaside towns in England never stirred an interested as they were either overcrowded in peak season or looked like desolated towns off peak.
But Brighton was a jewel in the crown or so many have said, it became a get away from London for those who could afford a second home and frankly those dreams have ceased as Brighton is now so trendy it is now too expensive to consider. From the moment you step outside the main station there is agit-graffiti (read that as anti-Tory) down the slope to North Laine and then a sign of things to come a brightly decorated pub with a hundred famous faces.
North Laine is to be cherished as it proudly boasts hundreds of independent shops which is refreshing from the repetitive and unimaginative retail chain stores everywhere. The shops vary from Vinyl to vintage clothing stores and cafes. It felt eclectic and thrown together which can’t be a bad thing. Take a right down Sidney Street and you’ll even find tie-dye skirts and baggy Aladdin pants being sold on racks for a fiver. The 60s are dead let’s stop rehashing.
The walk down to The Royal Pavilion will take you past the modern edifice of the library, continue and turn left for the Brighton Dome or carry on to the park entrance which is filled with people just enjoy spring. This is the cultural centre of Brighton – the Royal Pavilion in all its mock Mughal glory and on the left the Brighton Art Gallery and Museum, you can purchase tickets for both venues inside. At the time of writing the gallery was hosting and exhibition by Gilbert and George – who constantly challenge narratives about the gay community and yes Thirst and Hunger were on display as well as Dead Heads.
But I was mostly intrigued by the work of Glyn Warren Philpot and the work he did around his muse Henry Thomas a Jamaican who became his servant, model and companion. All sorts of questions re power dynamics rose to mind but was at the same time saddened to hear that Philpot a talented painter interested in showing the figure of the black male sympathetically has not received his due recognition due to the controversy around his work. The gallery is only two floors filled with objects – on the ground floor were furnishings by the likes of Aalto and Breuer and stunning wooden panel by Edgar Brandt which used to be in Selfridges. Brighton also has open houses where you visit artists in their homes but you will have to be selective. Now back to the beach for ice cream and a lie down before returning to London.