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Brighton during the festival

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Feb 18th, 2013, 01:22 PM
  #1
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Brighton during the festival

We will be in London briefly in May, and were thinking of taking a day trip to Brighton on May 16th. Now I see, quite coincidentally, that the annual Brighton Festival is occurring at that time. Since our purpose in visiting Brighton was just to walk the beach, browse in The Lane, and experience a different atmosphere from London which we've visited before - will the fact of this festival be a bonus or a deterrent to our enjoyment of Brighton? Is it easy to get around Brighton if you take the train from London?
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Feb 19th, 2013, 12:30 AM
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The Brighton Festival attracts visitors in their dozens from as far afield as 10 miles away.

No doubt some Brightonian will point out that much of Brighton's economy is built on day visitors from London, and the Festival's publicists, ever anxious to secure their drip feed of taxpayer subsidy, will insist that visitors from outside the area increase by 0.2% during the jollities.

But the truth is that, like all Britain's urban festivals apart from Edinburgh, Brighton's really just adds a lot of gaiety (pun intended) to what's already a pretty enjoyable town city and mostly gets its citizens out and about more.

When we happen to be there, we usually find a couple of hours meandering round artists' houses doesn't differ much from any other "open house" event anywhere else. But they're exceptionally thick on the ground in Brighton, so you can pack a lot into a short time, and we've rarely left the area without one more artwork to try to find wallspace for. They also constitute a more rewarding gentle stroll than yet another set of shops and antique stalls: I've still to see quite where the excitement of The Lanes is supposed to lie.

Go to the Festival website before you arrive and see what you might fit in.

Brighton, like all British towns, is designed to be walked around. By English standards its railway station is a fair (and rather boring) bit away from the centre, and you might want to get a bus the mile or so in.

Without wanting to detract one iota from Brighton, I wouldn't build up your expectations of "a different atmosphere from London" too much. I cannot think of anywhere on earth whose human atmosphere matches London's so precisely (though the sea breezes do make the air different and seagulls are audible only intermittently in London). It's the biggest of the historic cities turned suburbs scattered an hour out of London: its outer wastes share precisely the problems of London's grimier outlands, and its core feels almost interchangeable with gentrified inurbs like Islington or Notting Hill.
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Feb 19th, 2013, 12:43 AM
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I have to agree that Brighton isn't that much of a change to London compared with other choices like Bath, st albans, Oxford, Cambridge, Salisbury/Stonehenge...

And if you don't like crowds I would avoid the festival as Brighton is pretty busy at the weekends to begin with.
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Feb 19th, 2013, 12:58 AM
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The short answer to your question is that it will not impact your pleasure as long as you don't bring a car, which you shouldn't do anyway as there is no place to put it. As flanner says, do check the festival website because you may well be able to combine a particular event with a walk around the town and down the seafront. You can attend an evening event because there a frequent trains back to London.

If you have not been to the Royal Pavilion, it is an absolute must. You must also go to the Palace Pier, all the way out to the end where they have a sort of English fairgrounds with games all the way back to the 1910 era. Part of the experience for me is also an absolutely characteristic smell of ancient frying along the promenade, perhaps the same grease used since the days of Graham Greene's "A Burnt Out Case". I love it.

Like flanner, our favorite part of the Festival is visiting artists' homes, which happens on the weekends. Whether or not you like the art, it is always fun to wander about in other people's houses and many of these are of great interest.

Everything flanner says about Brighton is true, but I would reverse the emphasis: it is London in microcosm, all laid out on a shingle beach, mostly conveniently walkable. I have to give him credit for the comparison to Islington. There is a lot of fashionable Leftiness in Brighton, though they had a nudist Tory councilor for a bit. A lot of arty/academic types moved down from London because they could afford better housing and it is a swift commute. The result is sometimes amusing.

The walk from the station is indeed tedious, but you can parallel the main street by walking through the Laines and North Lanes on your way to the Lanes. On Sundays, there is a well-known boot sale (flea market) in the station parking lot.

Our oldest friend lives in Brighton and another friend has moved to Shoreham nearby. Happily, they have become friends though us. We are visiting them this spring, and we have chosen to visit during the Festival because we think it will be lots of fun.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 02:09 AM
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Having lived in both, I wouldn't compare Brighton to Islington – Islington is far too full of 20 something emerging bankers and lawyers. Brighton is much more hippy like. More like Camden. Or like the place people who used to live in Camden move to when they have kids.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 06:57 AM
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All my friends in Islington are older, artsy, and mostly bolshie, though rich from creative endeavors. Their kids must be moving home.

"Brighton is much more hippy like. More like Camden. Or like the place people who used to live in Camden move to when they have kids." I don't think I will quote this to my Brighton friends but it is spot on.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 07:43 AM
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Depends on your definition of Islington (and of Brighton).

Granted much of Kemptown's a lot shabbier than the Alwynes or Duncan Terrace (and a lot further from Chambers or hedge fund Mayfair). But there's a lot off even the Barnsbury bit of the Cally that's shabbier (and still inhabited by academics on public sector salaries or pensions) than anywhere in central Brighton.

Kate may be right, though. Oddly, when we first bought in Islington, Camden Town was definitely rated the smarter.
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