Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Nostalgic memories of Brighton

Do you have a nostalgic photo or memory of Brighton? Fancy sharing them?

You could win a nostalgic break for 2 in a luxury boutique room at the sumptuous New Madeira Hotel in Brighton.

VisitBrighton have just set up a new group on the photo sharing site Flickr and throughout the summer we'll be seeking your photos and memories of the city - old and new. Whirling romances, London to Brighton car run stories, Bank Holiday seaside jaunts, cultural shennanigans, hidden Brighton gems, your favourite things about the city, a great band you saw, war stories or simply a funny thing that happened on the bus. Conventional or quirky, straight or funny, or even downright a bit weird, it doesn't matter - we want to find out what makes the city nostalgic for you. And if you live here, don't worry - simply share your photos and tell us what makes the city memorable in your world.

By sharing your memories, we hope the Brighton Revisited community will grow and offer people the opportunity to discover new aspects of an old favourite and keep the memories alive.

We'll pick our fav at the end of the summer and get the winners down for a nostalgic 2 night breal at the New Madeira. We'll even bung in a couple of tickets to the Royal Pavilion.

Go to our competition page or to find out more...


Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Brighton's the Topps

Peter Topping? Never heard of him? Well you have now!

Peter Topping is a visitor from Surrey who came to Brighton on Sunday and had an absolutely brilliant time.

In fact, he had such a good time he took the trouble to write to The Argus about his visit and what a great place Brighton is.

Find out why Peter thinks Brighton is such a top place...

If you fancy coming too, check out the VisitBrighton website - the official tourism guide for all things Brighton.

The South Downs Way meets Django Reinhardt

OK, so what are we gonna do now that the Festival is over? Hmm, well, apart from the fact that Brighton is literally bursting at the seams with things to do, one option is to take a hike up to the South Downs. Never much one for walking in the country as a child, now that i'm firmly ensconced in my 30s I seem to have found myself walking the South Downs Way. Not exactly the beer swilling, late night Marmite toast munching, EMF blaring shennanigans of my 20s, admittedly, but, look, its a lot more healthy OK.

And I managed to pick up a rare collection of Django Reinhardt tunes on the way too, so there. No really, I did. Here's how. I started the South Downs Way a few weeks ago and did the Cuckmere Haven to Beachy Head stretch (arguably the best bit) and was really taken in by how much countryside there is right on Brighton's doorstep. So on Saturday I decided to hurl my best foot forward and catch the Newhaven train to Southease, jump off and head on to Alfriston for the 8 mile trek across the Downs, complete with fantastic views down to Newhaven Harbour and across to Mount Caburn. I'll ignore the fact I got lost and ended up in a field of annoyed looking cattle, looking at one another with raised cow eyebrows(and its almost impossible to get lost on the SDW as there are big green arrows everywhere), as in my world I was trying to get away from the man who seemed to be following me (he wasn't!).

It was blowing a force 9 gale up there but it was brilliant. Everyone chirrups hello as they pass you (most of my neighbours don't do that) and the views on a good day really are lovely. Right on the top there are these birds that make a noise akin to a really fast gabba track (a subgenre of hardcore techno don't you know). Really, its true - go and have a listen if you don't believe me - its near the 2 big pylons.

Its not a difficult walk to Alfriston (sans wind that is) and when you get there, there's a lovely choice of quaint tea shops to settle into if you're looking quite as unkempt as I was. Curly hair and force 9 gales never did mix. I looked like a mad Kevin Keegan/Mika hybrid. There's even a little shop that sells old and rare recordings of 1900+ recording stars. Which is where Django comes in. I'd been looking for a CD of the 4 fingered guitar extrordinaire for ages but I didn't expect to find it half way along the South Downs Way!

There's actually over 14,000 acres of countryside in Brighton and the surrounding areas, so if you fancy a walk or a rest from the buzz of Brighton, you know where to go...


Thursday, 22 May 2008

Last weekend of the Festival

Well it seems only moments ago that we were watching the Children's Parade and rejoicing at the start of the Brighton Festival, however this weekend will be the finale for the Brighton Festival, Fringe Festival and the Artist Open Houses.

I'll be busy again as we have another group of journalists arriving today, this time from France, and we have another fun packed programme for them. This time around the lucky group will be staying at the luxurious Hotel Una. Then we'll start the day with lunch at Graze, which I'm looking forward to as I have heard only good things about it. After that we're having a tour of the art deco Embassy Court. The group will then be given an introductory walking tour of the city, before catching some comedy then we'll round off the evening with dinner at the Royal York hotel.

Tomorrow will start with a trip to the Royal Pavilion as no visit to Brighton would be complete without seeing the unique seaside palace, and as they are there they will then get to see our award-winning Visitor Information Centre and the lovely Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. In the afternoon it will be time to take in some fabulous festivaly shows - The Burst Pipe Dream at Jubilee Square, Shall We Dance at the Spiegeltent and Glow at Fabrica well we will be pausing to refuel at Riddle & Finns - a delicious seafood restaurant which even Gordon Ramsey couldn't fault!

Then Saturday we will be nosing around at the Hove Artist Open Houses before lunch at Carluccios and Fringe Street in New Road which is a brand new street arts festival which includes the inaugural Brighton International Buskers Festival. Not quite sure what to expect but then I find that's often the best way!

So there you have it a fun packed weekend and hopefully you'll all manage to catch a Festival show or event too :)


Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Speed violins at Brighton Dome

Saturday night was going to be one of those nights that could have gone either way. I had 2 free tickets for the Budapest Gypsy Orchestra featuring Tcha Limberger and 'speed daemons' Fanfare Ciocarlia. I'd never heard of either of them. And it was raining. And I was only going because my friends didn't want to go to the anti homophobia thing on the beach because it was 'a bit cold'. All in all, it wasn't looking like it was destined to be a Saturday night to remember...

But I called my sister anyway, as we'd been to Budapest recently and that was kind of a link.

So off we went in the drizzle and, well, all I can say is what a magical musical double-header!

Tcha Limberger turned out to be a blind violinist and played the violin so fast I initially thought the dry ice was steam coming from his bow! He was incredible. Tcha hails from a famous family of manouche musicians, steeped in the gypsy jazz legacy of Django Reinhardt. Actually from Belgium, he went to Budapest as a 17 year old, fell in love with the gypsy music and the rest is history. With his hand-picked ensemble of Hungary’s finest gypsy players, they played a rocking set of gypsy, folk and goodness knows what for 40 minutes and it was brilliant!

Still reeling from the speed violins, the second half saw ‘Speed daemons’ Fanfare Ciocarlia take to the stage. Beginning life as a village wedding band in the remote mountains of north-east Romania, today the band are the 2006 winners of BBC Radio 3’s World Music Award for Europe. Described as a fusion of 'dizzying roaring Roma funk and high velocity Eastern European dance music' they also melded gypsy with Latin American beats. Again, whatever you want to call it, it was thrilling. The audience were loving it too and the only thing that spoiled it was the man 2 to my left who kept shouting 'only for you' in a strange pseudo Eastern European accent. It made him look very stupid.

A cracking night - if you get a chance to see either - make sure you go.


Monday, 19 May 2008

You don't have to call it dancing as long as you are moving

The title for today's post is a line from a song by The Boat People who were just one of the 13 bands we saw over the weekend. As this weekend was the Great Escape festival, with over 200 bands playing in a variety of venues across the city on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

So as we had successfully seen a lot of bands last year we were confident that we knew what we were doing, basically if a band have started to make a name for themselves then make sure you get to the venue early if you really want to see them. Which we managed to do on Thursday and Saturday although we were less successful with the Wombats on Friday night as although we got there about 7.30 and the first band weren't due to play until 8pm there was already a one in, one out policy and what with the delegates having priority over us regular punters there was no way we were going to get in. I do think it would be helpful if the booklet had said when the doors open to give people a chance but never mind, we were not bitter and certainly did not refer to the delegates as the scum of the earth ;)

Actually in all honesty I can't say I was that upset as if we had gone straight there we would have missed the aforementioned Boat People who we all liked. Then we ended up at the Prince Albert as their stage was in association with the BBC, hosted by Phil Jackson who has a weekly slot for unsigned bands on Southern Counties radio each Sunday night 7-9pm. This meant all the bands were there purely on merit rather then promoters trying to push certain acts. So that night we saw The MFV, Intervurt and Turning Green all of whom were excellent, well that is if you like things a bit rocky with a hint of funk thrown in for good measure. While I can't fault the music and I do like the venue I do still have one thing to moan about and that was the arrival of the purple posse who started jumping around in front of me and almost sat on me. In case you are wondering the purple posse were a group of people advertising a website, which I do remember the name of but I am not going to help promote on here. Anyway the site had obviously hired people to wear their t-shirts and give out flyers while they were at the gigs, which would have been fine if it was a couple of people but when 15-20 purple people suddenly arrive, especially in such a small venue it is rather irritating, but luckily they didn't stay too long...

Anyway overall we had a great time and got to jump around to Monster by the Automatic (you know - "what's that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a mon-ster....") and we can now feel smug about getting to see One Night Only in a small venue before they become really famous. But I think the best part about the Great Escape are the bands you happen upon by accident simply becasue they happen to be on at a convenient time, or because it was the only venue you could get into and then they turn out to be really good. In actual fact there were only a couple of bands that we were not that impressed with. So I'm sure I'll be going again next year, although it seemed some people found dancing around for three nights in a row a little too much to cope with.... :)

Monday, 12 May 2008

Brighton Festival press trip

You may remember that a while ago I wrote a delightful little 'A Day in the life..' style post and in that I said I would write again after I had been out on a press trip as that would hopefully be a bit more interesting, so here goes.....

We at VisitBrighton are very keen to spread the word about the fabulous Brighton Festival as it seems to be a little known fact that it is the largest arts festival in England (yes I know Edinburgh is bigger but that is why I said in England not the UK, clever stuff) Therefore we decided to invite a group of journalists from Germany to come and experience it for themselves so that they could write about it for their large national newspapers. Of course it's not just the Brighton Festival, there is the Fringe Festival and the Artist Open Houses as well.

Whenever we do these group trips we try and make sure that we accompany them as much as possible to make sure that they don't miss anything. Which does sometimes mean having to work outside of the usual office hours but it's not often and apart from getting time off in lieu I get to do things I might not otherwise get to do

Anyway back to the point - what did we actually do? Well the group arrived on Thursday and we had dinner at the New Steine Bistro where we welcomed as if we were part of the family. Friday was a jam packed day starting with a walking tour of the city and the Royal Pavilion, lunch at the new Zillis Cafe and a look around the myhotel. Then we went to see An Infinite Line which is a free art installation all about light in Brighton. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but it was actually quite effective, as they had lots of little mini projectors depicting images of Brighton onto little chalk slabs, maybe I just liked it because it was all diddy and mini. I'm sure this is not the most high-brow review of this installation but at least I'm being honest ;)

Then after a quick rest we went to the Heist bar to see some comedy for free courtesy of the Fringe, again this could have been a bit of a gamble but they were actually really good as the two chaps took suggestions from the audience and then dubbed new dialogue over well known film clips, silly but funny. Then we had cocktails at the very swanky new Okinami owned by Slim boy Fat, well that's what one of the journalists thought he was called and was slightly surprised when I told her he wasn't actually fat at all! Then we had dinner at Terre a Terre before seeing Le Scandal at the Udderbelly which was a burlesque cabaret show, some of the acts left me thinking - very clever but what's the point? Although I did like the juggling chap as everyone knows juggling is a very useful skill to have particularly if you can juggle a Norch (knife with a flaming torch strapped to it) whilst riding a unicycle and wearing a helmet which has a firework coming out of it!

Saturday was the last day and we started off looking at some of the Kemp Town Artist Open Houses before having lunch at Due South, then we had to make a slight change to the itinerary as I had not allowed enough time for shopping or even for resting weary feet after walking all over our compact city. The trip was rounded off by dinner at English's, where we sat outside, there was a lady singing opera and we were bathed in moonlight eating delicious seafood and trying to get something edible out of the lobster shell. As one of the journalists commented it was rather like being in a film, and I had to agree it was rather idyllic. He also asked what I would tell my colleagues about the group, and I was able to truthfully say that they had been a lovely group, a really relaxed bunch who seemed to genuinely enjoy being in Brighton.

So there you have it, a hectic weekend of work but I am sure there are worse ways to earn a living :)


Thursday, 8 May 2008

Brighton leading the way in sustainability

Someone told me a story yesterday about Stateside EcoMom parties.

Think groups of young mums, small pre-school kids under each arm, who meet every week to discuss how they can recycle what they throw out, compost what they don't. And, well, generally put the eco back into everyday. Surely there are worse ways to lower your carbon footprint than over mint tea grown from home made compost?

Until, that is, you step outside and trip over the 15 US versions of the Chelsea Tractor in the front yard.

Well, they have to get from their block 2 streets away SOMEHOW!

Hmmm, nice idea. But...

Ok, so maybe I've picked on the EcoMoms a bit, but it seems like being responsible environmentally can, like most things, be victim to the latest vogue. Which is why its so important to make things properly sustainable. People are definitely becoming more 'green' savvy. And whilst its great that people are starting to make changes in the home, research suggests 49% also take note of green aspects when making an actual buying decision. So it actually makes sound sense economically for businesses to 'go green'.

And this is what a lot of businesses in Brighton are starting to do really well, or indeed have been doing for a while. The recently opened Jury's Inn has combined style with sustainability and is one of the few hotels in the country to achieve an 'excellent' environmental assessment rating. The Brighton De Vere Grand was proven to be the most energy efficient of the hotels chosen last year by the 4 major political parties and many hotels and restaurants and sourcing local and organic produce over bulk supermarket fare.

Brighton has in fact been leading the way in sustainability for a while - the eco friendly Jubilee Library won a sustainability award in the Observer's Ethical Awards and the award winning city bus service uses some of the lowest emission diesel engines in the world. The city was also recently unveiled as top in the Sustainable Cities Index, as well as voted 'Green Capital of Britain' in recognition of the amount of organic food and recycled toilet paper residents buy.

So whilst small changes obviously can't hurt (unless 15 Chelsea Tractors are involved) its the long term strategies that take hold and make the big differencesa and I reckon Brighton is really starting to lead the way as a destination in the field of sustainability.


Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Brighton Fringe City

Well first of all I must thank Hilary for writing her post as I am taking some journalists to see Stockholm on Saturday so I am now even more excited about it!

Anyway I just thought I would pick up on Hilary's post as I went along to Fringe City on Saturday, and I must say I think it's a fab idea. Each Saturday of the Fringe Festival, New Road, Jubilee Street and the Pavilion Gardens become the Fringe City and there are a number of stages so that people can get a taste of some of the events happening during May.

When we were there on Saturday there was some caberet but we mainly went down to see the bands playing, in particular two local favourites - Friday Night Hero and Educated Animals. They will be playing as part of a night called Brighton's Finest on May 23rd along with two other bands so I suggest you get down there as it should be a great night.

I thought it worked really well as a lot of time when skimming through the brochures you can think something sounds good but then be a bit wary about just booking it, so this way you can have a taster and see if you like it and who doens't love a bit of free entertainment?! Of course the weather helped and there was a great atmosphere, as it was busy but there was no bother as everyone was relaxed and happy.

I'm also pleased to see the Udderbelly is back as surely anyone who sees a giant upside down purple cow can't help but smile. So why not come and see for yourself and if you come down by First Capital Connect trains then you can also take advantage of our great offers


Tuesday, 6 May 2008

What a night! And what a weekend! Stockholm…

The Brighton Festival is up and running and the weather has been amazing. Saturday’s Children’s Parade took up most of the day with all the usual colour and noise from the many children who take to the streets for this annual event. Great fun!

But I want to elaborate on my Saturday night in Brighton. We arrived at about 7 pm and headed for the Corn Exchange. We entered New Road under a large banner proclaiming ‘Fringe City’ and were aware that a number of street performance acts were packing up for the night. The crowds were already milling about outside the Theatre Royal and the bench seats opposite the theatre were pretty full. Incidentally, on my way home later that night I discovered that there are small lights set in these benches that flash on and off giving quite a fairyland effect. A very attractive idea.

The weather was very pleasant and the crowds had spilled out of the pubs and sat at tables set out in this newly pedestrianised area which leads to the North Laine. Brighton really is the place to be if you want to spend the evening eating or drinking whilst soaking up the atmosphere. There’s nowhere quite like it.

And now we come to Stockholm. Well, I’m not going to spoil it for any of you that already have tickets. All I can say is “If you don’t have tickets, go get some”. It is one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen. It isn’t just a play, it’s an experience. The drama and movement are crafted together to produce something quite stunning. The story builds and the whole production builds with it. Speech, music, dance/movement, special effects – it’s really quite something. You won’t walk out and forget it. It leaves an impression.

It is certainly worth going to see and is definitely up to the usual Brighton Festival standard.


Thursday, 1 May 2008

Off gallivanting again...

Yes we were off out again earlier this week, and this time we had to squeeze two trips into one outing, what busy bees we are!

So first of all we trundled off to Kemp Town, well more precisely to Broad Street to see Nineteen which was one of the first boutique hotels to open up in Brighton. Walking in we all agreed that apart from having a tardis-like quality to the building, there was also a very welcoming atmosphere. Mark then explained to us the whole ethos behind Nineteen as Mark himself as a design background, so there are some unique features including lights under the bed, but the highlight has to in the downstairs bedroom which has it's own private courtyard with a massive hot tub with room for four to relax in and sip Champagne, fabulous. Another key feature is the high level of service Mark offers including on one occasion tracking down a restaurant which serves halal meat. To get a flavour of what Nineteen is like then take a look at their website:

After seeing Nineteen we then moved on to Bar 106 at the Hilton Brighton Metropole to attend the launch party for the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival. This celebration of local food and drink will run from the 1st to the 30th September, as in previous years there will be the Fiery Food Festival and the Bar Idol contest to find the best bar tender in the city. But personally the highlight from last year's festival was the Taste of Sussex market on the newly pedestrianised New Road, so I'm very pleased to see that is back again and it looks like it will bigger as it will spread out into the Pavilion Gardens and Jubilee Square as well.

We enjoyed this event as not only did we get a couple of glasses of local Champagne but we also got to take part in a sausage taste test and vote for our favourite, although sadly what I felt was the tastiest sausage didn't win but it was good getting to try them all. The event was also attended by Aldo Zilli who was shamelessly promoting his new Cafe which recently opened in the myhotel and the full restaurant will be opening there in a couple of months time.

And it's not just Aldo Zilli as Jamie Oliver is soon to open a new restaurant and Norman Cook has also jumped on the bandwagon and just opened Okinami. All this and the Food Festival keeps getting bigger and better plus Terre a Terre were recently named the best vegetarian. Surely Brighton must be a food fanatics paradise!