‘That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion…’
When my dad found out I was moving to Brighton, he launched an insistent campaign to get me to reconsider. He suggested Worthing, or at a push, Shoreham. Naturally, I ignored him.
When the deed was done, and my boyfriend of the time and I were firmly ensconced in our first city pad (above a chip shop, oh the glamour) Dad decided to confirm his suspicions and pay us a visit. We planned an evening of gentle, non-threatening activities to ease him onto the scene, a quick drink, a nice meal. Nevertheless, he didn’t take too kindly to the Brighton night life.
Getting ID’d at the first pub didn’t help. Then he sat in the corner clutching his pint and staring at all the people with funny hats and purple hair. For some reason, he found it all a bit un-nerving.
He calmed down a bit when we got to the restaurant. Until that is, my brother spotted two women straddling each other in a parked car just outside the window, and gave us a running commentary of their every action throughout the main course. ‘She’s got her hand down her top now’; ‘the blonde one’s sticking her tongue in the other one’s ear now’.
It was a beautiful family moment, as we sat watching the impromptu floor show over the Thai green curry. My dad was in bed by half past ten that night, with a nice cup of chamomile tea and some rather interesting memories.
Despite my continued efforts to convince him that this town isn’t all about iniquity, vice and dingy streets splattered with vomit, Dad remains firmly convinced that no good can come of living here. He doesn’t quite seem to grasp that informal street theatre, subversive fashion statements, dimly lit venues and breezy freedom are why most people move here. Not to drop out of society and prematurely end their days shooting up in a bin.
However, if you know somebody of a similar opinion, it’s always a bit of a laugh to take them for a walk on the wild and weird side. Somewhere they are guaranteed to find strange, and probably offensive. Just to see their face. These are a few locations where alternative living, Brighton style, can be observed in all its skewed glory.
Punktured, 35 Gardner Street, BN1 1UN
Dermal punching, scarification – I don’t know what these procedures entail, or how the end result will look, but the staff at Punktured sure as heck do. They will pierce anything you care to place on the slab. Hence the name, I suppose. Body art is oft misunderstood, so you can hang around outside and watch the freshly punctured customers leave with expressions of satisfaction, or if you’re feeling adventurous, prove your point by having something pierced yourself.
Tickled, 15 Gardner Street, BN1 1UP
At first glance, this shop looks like the sort of gaff to pick up a slightly cheeky gift. A few friendly looking vibrators peer coquettishly from the shelves, but they are very tastefully packaged. There’s some lovely bath stuff, a range of naughty fridge magnets….venture down to the lower floor however, and your eyes will be straining to take in a huge range of sex toys and accessories, to suit every possibly orifice. A lot less gaudy but definitely more specialised than Ann Summers, and plenty for the daring to get to grips with, and the not-so daring to get the giggles over.
Dragon’s Gate, 13 St James’s St, BN2 1RE
Officially classed as a new age and ethnic store, this is a haven for pagans, witches, warlocks and anybody else who likes to dabble with the mysterious. Shrouded in incense and mystical gloom, it sells ornaments, robes, herbs, text books – I wouldn’t be surprised to see a jar of poisoned dragon’s liver on the counter. You can reach out and touch the occult here. But you might want to wear gloves.
The Marketplace, 7-8 Meeting House Lane, BN1 1HB
‘Drugs paraphernalia step right up and get yer lovely drugs paraphernalia…’ Aimed at students, staffed by people who look like they certainly know what they are taking, sorry, talking about, The Marketplace wouldn’t be entirely out of place in a scene from Harry Potter. Once Harry has turned 18, obviously. It stocks a vast and almost magical range of everything you could possibly need to, well, you know, do your thing.
The Zone, 33 St James’s St, BN2 1RF
Much like live comedy, it’s best to sit at the back when watching a drag queen perform. Anybody within ten feet of the stage tends to become a target. Unfortunately, The Zone is just a bit too small to escape the attention, so best come prepared, and fortify yourself with a few drinks before the act begins. These ladies are here to perform, and probably force some unfortunate audience members to do the same. Cabaret, karaoke and general crudeness, straight up (sort of).