Let’s face it, a lot of the country is really struggling right now, and just getting through things is a damn good start. But Brighton continues to be a rather marvellous place to live. Sure it’s not without its pitfalls – awful wages, savage seagulls, the continued existence of poi – but damn we love this place. So here’s our annual look at the city. Are we up on last year, or on a losing streak? Have a read of this and decide for yourself but we’re smiling today. Again.
There’s A Brighton Band Bonanza
It’s a great time for Brighton music, with 2013 blessing us with an abundant crop of new bands. From Late Night Lingerie to Brighton Rocks, Sea Monsters to this month’s Green Door celebration TwoThreeFour, the city’s local promoters and fans are more spoilt for choice than ever. It’s not just SOURCE taking notice either, with acts like The Wytches, Royal Blood, IYES and Luke Sital-Singh breaking into the national media and airwaves, and groups getting signed left, right and centre.
We can thank The Great Escape for some of this: you can’t underestimate the benefits of the international music industry visiting the city with a mission to discover new talent. Things are just as healthy in the mainstream too. Just think of everyone’s favourite pop stars Rizzle Kicks (new album due September), chart-topping records by Conor Maynard and ex-BIMM pupil Tom Odell and the global success of Mike Rosenberg’s Passenger (number one in 16 countries). There’s something in the (sea) water.
We’re Stopping Killing Ourselves With Drugs
So if you’re living in Brighton and reading SOURCE, it’s fairly likely you enjoy going out and having a drink, and you’ve probably taken drugs at least once. You’ve gotta be responsible with how you treat your body though, and, according to the council’s recently published annual report on public health*, the trend is positive. Once the drug death capital of the country, Brighton has shed that unwelcome accolade, with the city’s rate of drug-related deaths falling from 67 a year in 2000 down to 20 in 2011.
This may be partly because, in line with national patterns, the number of people using heroin and crack is falling, although the use of club drugs and legal highs is rising. Optimistically, the report also found a general decrease in drug and alcohol use by young (under 16) people, and a fall in the numbers of adult males who drank to excess (the figures for women remain unchanged). Keep it healthy, people.
*‘Happiness: The Eternal Pursuit’ – Annual Report of the Director of Public Health, Dr Tom Scanlon.
London Road Is Back From The Dead
A few years ago it looked like Tesco would soon own London Road, planning to pretty much knock it down and build a mega-supermarket. So it’s with some surprise that we’re seeing it regenerate in such a strong way. Work has started on the student flats where the Co-op used to be and, while it’s sad to see such a beautiful building torn down, it was in a right old state and the days of empty premises have to come to an end. Of course there are concerns about naïve kids getting burgled, but London Road’s remaining sketchiness could be the lesson in street smarts that they need.
Just a little further along is the Emporium theatre, a little gem of a place that made its name in the Fringe and has stayed open with quirky events and international names. Within spitting distance of the Duke Of York’s cinema, the neighbourhood is suddenly looking quite cultural.
At the other end of London Road, York Place is becoming Brighton’s Burger Quarter. As well as Troll’s Pantry and the equally brilliant Burger Brothers (around the corner at the bottom of North Road), London’s highly-regarded MEATliquor is due to arrive a few doors down from the Hobgoblin. That’s a lot of competition for the old stalwart Grubbs.
The End Of Guest DJ Era
Just as Brighton’s got a really healthy local band scene, there are also lots of great DJs living and spinning here – from Radio 1’s DJ Friction to former UK DMC champion JFB. But while the band scene is backed up by a daily stream of international acts taking to our stages, it seems like less and less guest DJs are taking to our decks. The seafront clubs especially are booking fewer flyer-emblazoning, name DJs in favour of events based around a fun music policy.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – nights like 90s dance music celebration Pump Up The Jam at Coalition and Digital’s Stonelove are hugely enjoyable, with extremely talented resident DJs at the helm. But there’s something about seeing one of your DJ heroes to make a night a real event. The truth is that it’s harder than ever to get people through the door and people have less money for expensive ticket prices. Meanwhile DJ fees remain astronomical. And let’s be honest, is someone who’s driven down from London necessarily going to be better than George Nunn, Charles Green, Rob Luis or any of a hundred other resident DJs who can hold the floor at peaktime?
But it’s not over. Props must go to Audio, who have been picking out the best up and coming house DJs for a while now and keeping them returning after they hit the big time. And to Life, whose Well Rounded nights book DJs from out of town but refuse to announce them. It’s all about the night itself after all.
You don’t need to have lost your job in the recession to be finding it difficult to get the money for your landlord every month. Brighton is now the most expensive place to rent outside of very central London, and as we all know our wages don’t match. Already the students that fall in love with the city while they study here are finding it difficult to find a job that pays enough to let them stay. It could lead to a situation where we lose the creative people who make Brighton such a joyous place to live. What’s the solution? We’re fucked if we know. Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.
Empty Shops Are Filling Up
This is based on no actual knowledge of economics or any actual facts but there’s more money in town, right? As we go to press the government has announced that the economy has grown by a massive 0.6% this quarter – which is a tiny step in the right direction – but we’ve noticed a lot of the empty shops in the key parts of town have started to fill up again. Churchill Square and the North Laine, places that we’d never seen empty spaces lingering in before the crash of 2008, are back at pretty much full capacity.
As you head down Western Road you can see a real change, with galleries, cafes and interesting shops popping up to lift the gloom that has hung over the street for a while. And thanks to the sun coming out for the first time in about three years we’ve actually had some tourism money come in, finally
Tourist Attractions Less Attractive
It’s been up for less than two years, but we almost can’t picture the seafront without the Brighton Wheel now – despite the fact there can’t be much to see from up there. We’re only due to have it til 2016, which is a bit of shame, not just cos it’s a giant metaphor for the tourist money that keeps the city’s economy turning, but also cos there’re no other new attractions taking its place.
We’ll believe the millions of pounds thrown at the planned i360 tower were worth it only when someone ships it over from the Netherlands and erects the thing. The project has stalled for so long that its name has become hopelessly dated before building has even started. Word is it’ll be up and open by 2015, but, like the renovation of the Hippodrome, we’re not holding our breath. Meantime, you’ll find us hanging out at the Dolphin Derby on the pier. Plus ça change.
Words by James Kendall and Stuart Huggett
Illustrations by shillustrations.com