8 Words that Describe Brighton? Are You Sure?

As a keen member of the Brighton Chamber of Commerce, I often attend their debates.  Apart from the opportunity to meet new people and catch up with my existing networking contacts (there’s wine involved mostly), the subject matters are often exceedingly interesting – sometimes even controversial.  And they’re free, which is always a bonus.

So, it was with a degree of anticip…ation that I sallied forth in June to a debate called “The Future of Business in Brighton”, chaired by the charming, erudite Miranda Birch with a selection of jolly nice people on the panel.

I was particularly taken with the early part of proceedings: what words best sum up our city of Brighton and Hove? This question was offered to the audience (every seat was taken, by the way) and it solicited some interesting responses.  With your indulgence, as a self-employed Brighton resident of some 20 years, I would for what it’s worth like to offer my opinion, as some of these surprised me a little bit.  And some didn’t.

Here are just some of the definitions suggested by other Chamber members:


That’s for sure.  You can’t move for “creatives”; you can’t even leave the house for tripping over “creatives”.  I’m one of them.  Admittedly, my skills are nowhere near as cool as those of a graphic designer or web developer but there are still swathes of us out there offering you words, images and other marvellous technical stuff.

Seriously, we ARE a very creative city and not just in the digital arts: Brighton teems with musicians, actors, comedians and artists.  Why? It’s just the way it’s always been; a place full of certain types of people simply attracts other people with the same sorts of skills, perhaps.  It certainly makes for lively discussions at networking events.


Oh yes.  This word should nearly always be tacked on to “creative” for surely there is nowhere like Brighton to find the boom and bust culture that is our freelance economy.  Too much work to cope with, when you’re working 15 hour days…then not enough work to pay the rent.

What does this mean, though?  You (yes, this means you) need to get regular, retained work, get a reasonable fee for it and, as uncomfortable as it may sound, you need to be good.  If you’re just average, your competitors will get the job the next time it becomes available.

Brighton is however a fabulous place in which to set up shop.  I couldn’t think of a better place to have client meetings than the café next to the fountain at the Steine on a sunny day.  Lovely.


See above.  Again.

Goodness me, can someone please explain how people on average Brighton wages actually afford to live here?  Rents are sky high where I live (yeah, ok, it’s Kemptown) but even further out you’re looking at silly money just to rent a one bedroom flat.  And how on earth do people manage to buy property?

The consideration of why Brighton is so expensive was a key part of the debate.  The general view is that everything to the south of our city is water and unless I’ve missed something, building houses and starting businesses in the Channel isn’t going to happen anytime soon.   And, the South Downs to the north is a protected National Park.  We’re compressed.  There’s less space.  This makes entirely good sense.  This, and perhaps the fact that house prices in London have driven people out to places that are commutable – Brighton, perhaps.


Is Brighton a caring place?  Yes, I think so.  There’s a good community spirit here, I think.  People talk to each other in pubs, they greet each other when they’re out on walks and, what I particularly like, we thank our lovely bus drivers for taking us from A to Z.  I’m still waiting for a jolly “mind how you go!” from one of the drivers to make my life complete.

Tolerant and Inclusive

Well, of course.  We live in a veritable bubble of tolerance here.  Things I have seen in the last week:

  • A drag queen roller blading on the seafront esplanade. Nobody really took much notice.
  • A man out walking his pot-bellied pig. This did attract a fair few sideways glances, to be fair.
  • Numerous openly gay couples of both genders walking hand in hand.

Love of course, doesn’t discriminate and neither, it seems, do we.  Brighton was the first city to hold a gay marriage and the amazing Brighton Pride hardly needs an introduction or explanation.  We take our tolerance for granted, shrugging our shoulders to one another, “it’s Brighton, isn’t it?”


Now this word attracted a bit of comment because an audience member took umbrage (politely of course) and calmly asked how many black or Asian faces there were in the room.  There were almost none.  So, the argument went, it’s all very well to be super-tolerant when you have almost nothing to be tolerant of.

Brighton and Hove, is in my opinion, the ideal place to live but it is NOT a diverse city of ethnic cultures – far from it, in fact.  Having been born in Lewisham, I grew up in south east London and believe me, in comparison to the mix of races, backgrounds and cultures on offer there – which I almost didn’t notice as I took it for granted – when it comes to a multi-coloured, multi-race population,  we are nowhere.


Not sure if this is an actual word but sure, we’re not particularly corporate in Brighton, are we?

Very formally dressed, before I saw the light and moved down here, I used to commute to central London and now I don’t even own a suit.  People are pretty relaxed down here and that’s all to the good.

Or, have a missed something and are the good folks of American Express going to have a word with me?


Goodness me, have you BEEN to the Brighton Fringe Festival?  It’s just amazingly experimental, and full of whacky performances and theatre productions which would not otherwise see the light of day.

The architecture and style here is excellent, too.  The fresh, light and airy Jubilee Library nearly won a Stirling prize a few years ago and whether you love or hate the i360, you’ve got to admit that it’s certainly an example of someone pushing the design envelope.

What else was mentioned during the debate?  We’re also Productive (some of us), Hopeful and sometimes, as a city, we have Too Much Personality, although I’m not sure a city can ever have too much personality if it wants to carry on being the best place in the world to live ever ever ever.

Finally?  The subject for another blog perhaps:  Brighton-born, or did you just move here?  This, too, is A Thing.  Most of us weren’t born here, or so it seems.  But we love it just the same.