Latest Bill: This Way for Kemp Town

I wasn’t born here I was born to be here, between The Village & Brighton Pier, writes Bill Smith

I love Brighton. I actually love Hove too. I like every little bit of it. In my time I’ve loved living near Preston Circus and seeing so many great films at Brighton’s wonderful independent cinema, The Duke of York’s. I love going to the beach – okay, I know, it’s pebbles, I still love it. I love living where I am now, in between Kemp Town, Whitehawk and Roedean. I could go on for days.

Money flows west
But what don’t I like? I don’t like the fact that when you come into Brighton, whether it be by car, bus or train, all the signs direct tourists and would-be residents to west of the Brighton Pier. Most of the money in Brighton in the last decade has been spent west of the pier. The Cultural Quarter with The Dome and The Royal Pavilion is world class, the Lanes and the North Laine are amazing. The pedestrianisation of New Road by the Theatre Royal is fab and all the clubs that have been developed over the last 20 years in between the piers have made Brighton CelebCity and ClubCity. I used to joke that when I first came to Brighton there were only three clubs – The Escape Club on the seafront (now Audio), the Zap Club between the piers (now Digital) and my house! However, east of the pier hasn’t seen the same investment.

Sign post it
I believe you’re supposed to declare a vested interest, so I’d better tell you that Latest Musicbar is in Kemp Town but I also have a vested interest in promoting Brighton. I’m not biased or setting one part of the city against another, I just want to promote all our great bits.There are so many signs when you come into Brighton – that’s great. But how hard is it to add the words ‘Kemp Town Village’ or just ‘Kemp Town’ as often as you see the words ‘Cultural Quarter’, ‘Royal Pavilion’ or ‘Brighton Centre’?

Rock hub
After all, the main 24/7 rock venue for the city is Concorde 2, where Fatboy Slim’s Big Beach Boutique started, and where so many amazing bands play, such as Scissor Sisters, White Stripes and Kaiser Chiefs. Brighton now has loads of comedy clubs but the first was Crocodile Cabaret, started by Lucy Barry in 1987 and starring Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair and Patrick Marber (author of Notes on a Scandal and Closer) which moved from one end of Kemp Town to the other, from The Rock pub to the Concorde. The Levellers’ HQ is not far away at The Metway. There’s Brighton’s jazz venue – The Verdict. The Brighton Wheel has rolled into town too. It’s even got its own magazine, The Kemptown Rag. And across the road we have Yellowave, the Volks Railway and the Brighton Marina which has gone from strength to strength in the last few years – witness the proliferation of yachts and big companies moving in.

Kemp Town Pride
And of course Kemp Town is principally known for its diversity – the gay scene and most of the Pride weekend takes place around The Village. You can argue about whether you should advertise that but hundreds of thousands of people come to Brighton for that very reason, and perhaps they want to know where it is. A sign for Kemp Town Village would help.

Appreciate The Village
Hopefully our city TV station will be situated in Kemp Town. Currently we broadcast online from Latest Musicbar. Over 500 band videos have been made there, and artists like The Kooks, Jo Harman, Newton Faulkner and the great Amy Winehouse have all played there. The Catalyst Club and Club Scientifique are in Kemp Town. BIMM, one of the UK’s main music colleges, started in Kemp Town and is still there. ACT, the main stage school, is there. Brighton Ballroom has glamorous showbiz events and big name Burlesque stars. There are so many amazing bars and clubs here. Julie Anne Gilburt’s JAG gallery is on the seafront. So Kemp Town is also quite cultural, maybe not a quarter but what about the Cultural Eighth?

Brighton’s main hospital, the courts and the police station, the city’s main employer American Express and their amazing building – all are east of the pier.

The column’s called Outspoken, so this is what I want. Signs all the way into Brighton and outside the pier, The coach station and the train station pointing the way to Kemp Town and all its myriad attractions. Pedestrianisation of some streets. For instance, couldn’t we pedestrianise Manchester Street which leads from the pier to the main shopping street in Kemp Town as well as St James’s Street, which leads on to St George’s Road. When Pride is on and other big events these streets are pedestrianised so why not every weekend for a start? They could be like New Road – cars could still go up and down but very slowly. That’s it really. Signs and pedestrianisation.

Kemp Town’s always been on the map. Let’s put it on the signs.

Bill Smith is Managing Editor of Latest 7/Homes magazine and
a director of Latest TV.

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