Queer Girl City Guide: Brighton, UK

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0. 2/20/2012 – Here/Queer Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 3/02/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Montreal, Canada, by Sid
2. 3/05/2012 – Playlist: Here/Queer, by Riese
3. 3/05/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Portland, Oregon, by Lesbians in PDX
4. 3/07/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Brighton, United Kingdom, by Sarah Magdalena

No one in Brighton ever grows up, it’s the Peter Pan of cities. I came to live by the sea after two wild years in Berlin and absolutely love this place for its creative queerness. Brighton is known in Europe to be a very gay and liberal little place with beaches, cute little cafés and tons of girls with good haircuts. One might say it’s the European equivalent of San Francisco, with a diverse scene extending beyond clubs and embracing people of all genders, orientations and views. I wouldn’t want to miss the Brighton-time in my life for anything in the world. Also apparently Virginia Woolf and her lover Vita had sexytime here!

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Queer Clubs & Bars

The safest go-to club night is “Girls on Top” on Thursdays at Revenge. The club is the biggest gay dancing establishment in the South East of England and attracts hundreds of girls every week. Watch out for live acts and performances, but be aware that tourists can give the place a rather sleazy feel at peak times during the year. Revenge is a wonderful place on other weekdays too and has two dance floors and a roof terrace overlooking the sea. The associated Bar Revenge around the corner is a good place to get tipsy and look at cute people before you hit Revenge.

The Marlborough Pub (4 Princes Street, Brighton, East) is close too and famous for its lesbian audience. It has wifi, board games and a pool table to make you feel at home. Legends Brighton is a beautiful gay hotel at the seafront with an elegant bar that attracts a good mix of people.

If you’re feeling wild you might like Hot Wax!, a very promising brand new punk rock / pop punk / alternative night at Psychsocial. Keep an eye on Brighton’s Online LGBT Community for details of forthcoming events and listings of all things queer in Brighton. You will also love Charles Street, a gay bar with dance floor and a seafront restaurant.

Charles Street

Generally Brighton is such a homogay place that you will have a good time in most places, regardless of whom you’re kissing or how you express your unicorn-gender-identity. Try to avoid touristy places and you’ll be fine. Gay Brighton is another good website to check if are looking for homo things to do.

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Restaurants & Cafés

Oh, where to start! You might or might not know (I didn’t) that British people think their pub is the centre of the universe and go there not only to drink, but also to eat actual food. So, reconsider your concept of restaurants and try The Hussy for a Sunday roast.

Brighton has lots of places that cater to vegans and vegetarians, it might even be a vegetarian heaven. Especially wonderful is Food for Friends. While not very cheap, it’s definitely worth every penny. Terre á Terre is another award winning vegetarian restaurant you should visit if your budget allows some culinary naughtiness.

Street View, Brighton

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LGBTQ Groups, Family Support & Gay Pride

Brighton Pride is totally legendary and should be experienced by every queer person in the universe at least once. There has been some controversy about commercial aspects in recent years which has resulted in various free fringe events. So hurray for even more diversity!

The Brighton & Hove LGBT switch board offers support and help for all areas of life and connects queer people in the area with charities and services that might be useful. For shiny young people under the tender age of 26 there is also the Allsorts Youth Project that offers drop-ins and individual support for LGBTQ folks.

Feminist Brighton brings together wonderful people to work on the gender revolution and society in general. It’s not an exclusively gay space, but you will obviously find lots of fellow lesbians there. They regularly organize events and discussions and have various links with other activists groups.

Brighton Bandstand

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College Life in Brighton

Brighton has two universities, the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. Both have diverse, strong LGBTQ groups and student representatives. For many aspiring queers these unis are first choice because of their inclusive environment, so it can be hard to get into popular subjects. The Master’s degree in Gender Studies at Sussex has a world reputation in this field and offers various conferences, workshops and open lectures throughout the year.

Another alternative is the Brighton City College which seems to be very queer friendly too and offers lots of professional and higher education courses that go well with an alternative lifestyle. Join the LGBTQ societies of these institutions and you’re sorted with new friends and lovers.

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Art Groups, Bookstores & Other Magic

Meetup.com offers some really nice social groups for various interests such as the Creative Arts Brighton meet up. For creative courses, check Brighton City College , The Friends Centre or The Evolution Art Centre. Life drawing sessions are a big thing in Brighton and you’ll find various cheap drop-in sessions all over town.

Street Art Around Brighton

Brighton has a number of small, independent book shops that are worth a visit, especially if you want to impress those cute bookish girls. The Kemptown Bookshop is also a cute café and won “Best Bookshop of the Year” for London and the South in 2010. Amnesty International is running a wonderful charity shop in the North Lanes (15 Sydney Street) that also stocks vinyl, comics, greeting cards and fair trade chocolate.

The Brighton Festival is a celebration of everything artsy (which is a lot in this city!) and attracts way too many tourists for my taste, but what can you do? Classical music, visual art, films, wild dancing and theatre all make Brighton even more crazy during the festival. There is also a Fringe Festival that features emerging artists.

mural by brighton artist Pearl Bates

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Getting Dates, Tattoos and Hair Cuts in Brighton

Brighton has a fantastic infrastructure to provide everything your queer heart desires. There are a few really good hair dressers in the North Lanes Kemptown. I actually doubt you could find a straight one if you tried. My personal favourite is Forde Hair, a cute, creative hair salon on St. James Street where employees will always try to understand all your feelings and needs.

Magnum Opus is a wonderful tattoo place than can make your wildest wishes come true. They are super serious and professional, and won’t judge you if you want Tegan and Sara on your arm. Really!

If you’ve got the hair cut and the tattoos but need a date, you could just hang out at Revenge for ten minutes or sign up at Gaydar Girls. There are lots and lots of cute ladies that live in the area and are probably dying to meet you! For dating advice refer to Autostraddle, obvi! If you don’t believe in online dating like me, you should borrow someone’s dog and hang out at the beach near the pier, it always works!

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Nuts & Bolts

Unfortunately Brighton is, together with London, one of the most expensive places in the UK. The short distance to London (50 minutes on a train) and the beach front make this place very attractive to people with higher incomes,and with all the students in town the competition for cheap places is high. Many people live in Brighton and work in London, so making big city money and living by the sea is possible. The queerest gayborhood is Kemptown, it’s really uncool to hold hands with straight people there.

Sea Birds in Brighton

I never felt unsafe in Brighton, but just like in every other big city you’ll have to be careful if you walk home alone in the night. Many bus routes run all night and there are always plenty of taxis available to get you home safe. I would say that homophobia is a really rare thing in Brighton compared to other cities, but can’t be ruled out completely. Few of my trans* friends have had extremely bad experiences in queer spaces and I think that most venues are very welcoming. Sadly there are still hate crimes happening out there and Brighton is no exception. The Brighton Police has established a community safety team to support LGBTQ victims of hate crimes and provide information.

Whether you’re looking for a place to get inked, sip coffee or dance your face off, (among loads of other queer friendly activities), you’ll find a place for it — and people to do it with — in Brighton.

Part of an ongoing series of Queer Girl City Guides.

I`m a writer, yoga student & teacher, activist, poet, dog person, buddhist, creative, feminist, translator, queer, beach walker, copy editor, traveller and photographer living by the sea near Brighton, UK. I have graduated from the Open University with a degree in social science, creative writing and business studies and am currently studying for an MA in english literature.

Sarah has written 2 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this! I have been living in England for just about a year now, after 25 years in Florida, and Brighton is my MOST favorite place to hang out! Been to the Marlborough, been to the Pier, the shops, casino and cafes, and now I’m looking forward to a lezzie cool haircut at Forde Hair! Thank you, Sarah! Great stuff!

  2. I love Brighton. I always visit at least a few times a year, usually with family since we’re veggies. The one thing I will say though on hotter weekends and bank holidays it does seem like half of southern england descends on the place, so I would advise public transport as driving and parking is manic. Or go early and have brekkie there.

  3. I was just in Brighton! It’s a really awesome place. I met a lot of great, friendly people with fantastic hair, danced my face off, and hung out with queer ladies at the Malborough (which is adorable). So I would say that this guide is spot on. The only downside of the trip was loosing my phone. Oh, and the seagulls. There are way too many of them for my liking.

  4. I was putting down my choices for Uni at the end of last year, and I very almost put down Brighton solely for the queerness. After a bit of thought, I ended up putting in for Glasgow Uni instead, almost solely for Glasgay!
    Yes, given the first opportunity to actually make an important choice about my life, I just straight up followed my vagina. Shoot me.

  5. Come see us on the winter solstice. Not a LBGT parade but so awesome amazing celebration to perform in and watch 😀 (also Pride is awesome!) Come join our wonderful campness!

  6. Don’t forget to go to the Dumb Waiter in the North Laines (and the Laines in general)… best homity pie in the world, and they do proper bubble & squeak with their fry-ups 😀

  7. My mum surprise took me on holiday to Brighton a few years ago, and her reasoning was ‘because it’s really gay there’ (my mum is great) 🙂 I loved it, I’m super sad to hear it’s expensive to live there because it’s on my list of places to escape London for. Also, the food at Terre á Terre was amaaaazing.

    • I have a friend who lives on the outskirts of Brighton, where the rent is marginally cheaper for a shared flat. The bus came right up to her street, so transportation was not an issue at all. Even as a Yank, I’m considering moving to Brighton.

  8. Brighton was my favourite when I visited England this past winter break, with Norwich being a close second. It had the best of London, combined with a beach gayborhood. I highly recommend The Tea Cosy, right in Kemptown. It’s covered in Royal Family kitsch, the more gaudy and tawdry, the better. If you’re lucky, you will get a very gay, very drunk man sharing your table and cursing about the NHS, while dropping his scones on the table and smearing jam on the walls on his way to the bathroom.

    I love Brighton.

  9. Sugar Rush anyone? Loved that series, Olivia Hallinan is simply adorable! Also love these articles, there should be Lesbian road trips that visit all these cities. 🙂 Europe Road Trip sounds good to me!

  10. I’m from London and I miss London so much but Brighton is great. I was only there for a short while on holiday once but I loved Brighton.

    It really embraces it’s queer-friendly reputation. There are little rainbow flags on the windows of shops and stuff and the fish and chips are yummy. It’s lovely walking by the Pier in the morning. I had terrible jet lag because the time difference between home and Brighton was 12 hrs so at 2am I was wide wide awake. I used to just get up and walk along the Pier at like 5am before it started to get more windy. It was so pleasant.
    My friend from primary (Elementary) school went to the Uni of Sussex so I said hello. That was nice, too.

  11. Just wanted to mention that Brighton’s also a pretty good place for radical politics in general. There’s a really active squatters network, anti-fascist network, loads of environmental and bike groups, feminist and women’s groups all over the place, and alternative gay stuff at the Cowley Club which is also probs the cheapest place in town to buy a pint, plus an independent cinema to show all of the indie queer films. You should have seen the place when they showed Tomboy. Dykes everywhere.

    Also featuring the UKs only Green MP and Green majority council.

  12. Great and helpful post on Brighton! I know few more places like Volks Railways is the world oldest operating electric rail board and we can have a ride in it, is it right? Wow, can’t believe a history lover like me is going to love this thing. Looking for more Brighton Guide to know what other attractions there are.

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