FEATURE: If you’re young and queer – Brighton is the place to be!

Xantippe Steele September 18, 2023

There’s no doubt about it, if you’re young and queer – Brighton is the place to be. Known for its eccentric bars, thriving nightlife, artistic flair and progressive values, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me when I turned 18 to pack my bags, and enter into the bustling hive of life here in the city that has earned itself the unofficial title as ‘the gay capital of Britain’.

Picture the iconic scene where Dorothy moves from black and white Kansas into the startling City of Emeralds. My hometown felt like a chewed up piece of gum that had lost all its flavour. The yellow brick road (more commonly known as the M23) trundled me away from the monochrome town that I had squeezed every last drop out of, and Brighton was the explosion of colour and noise that I had been aching for. 

The first thing that struck me upon moving here was the genuine warmth and friendliness that welcomed me. Having moved from my hometown that seemed virtually cut off from the rest of the world, Brighton plunged me into an immediate change of tone. All of a sudden  my outfits that would once have been considered completely outrageous blended nicely into the array of stiletto heels, strappy tops, feather boas and striking makeup. I was no longer the most eccentric person in the room – something both intimidating and inspiring.

“Brighton is alive with music, laughter and art, with an adventure waiting just outside your doorstep.”

I also noted how there was a culture of kindness – gone were the days of ‘every man for himself’, people in Brighton seemed to be overflowing with love – everyone was everyone’s cheerleader. On my first day in the city by myself, a busker showed me his drum kit, we talked about tuning up the snare, and he encouraged me to continue to play the instrument.

I was lucky enough to have an old friend living in Brighton, and that evening I ended up with her on the beach, surrounded by people I didn’t know, but all of us laughing and eating up the night as though it was a delicious spoonful of some delicacy. A day or so later, I asked two strangers if they knew where I could find the club Revenge, and I went on to paint the town red with them until the early hours of the morning. It wasn’t hard work to strike up conversations, and as long as you went in with a broad smile and an easy laugh, people would happily carry you along for the ride. In a world so lacking in genuine human connection, Brighton is filled with it. 

For an 18-year-old like me, the nightlife was irresistible. When the sun sets over the crashing waves of Palace Pier, and the fluorescent lights of thumping nightclubs come up, you can forget New York, because Brighton is the city that never sleeps, with roaring lyrics on the dancefloor, and philosophical conversations in the smoking area.

“We danced with strangers as though they were our best friends, we shot white sambucas at the bar that was alive with people.”

The first drink I had was at Bar Revenge, a feisty seafront bar, fitted with dazzling disco balls and fluorescent tube lighting. The place is fizzling with energy from the live DJ, who gets everyone on the dancefloor with queer-coded Katy Perry tunes. It was outside of there that I struck up conversation with two strangers, and within minutes we were arm in arm, making our way to the nightclub that seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues.

Revenge is known for its drag queen events, its thumping dancefloor, and the bustling energy that seems to vibrate out of the entire building. I entered into a world of music that sizzled out of the speakers, and strobe lights shooting down on the beautifully dressed attendants. We danced with strangers as though they were our best friends, we shot white sambucas at the bar that was alive with people, and soon we made our way to the dazzling rooftop, where you get a majestical view of Brighton, the horizon lit up by the seafront and the various other pubs and clubs calling our name.

My extroverted self was finally getting the chance to blossom as we talked about everything from political affairs to humiliating sex stories, arms wrapped around each other in a drunken embrace. A night out in Brighton felt like entering Neverland, and we were convinced that in this place we’d stay young forever. 

“Talent and innovation is everywhere in a place as beautifully untamed and bold as Brighton.” 

Brighton is just as much buzzing with energy during the day as it is at night. Whilst I haven’t had the time to really sink my teeth into it, it’s very hard to miss the artistic canvas that Brighton has become. From musicals to literature, self expression thrives in the streets. Beautiful people are creating beautiful art, whether it be for a political statement such as the Brighton Feminist Bookshop, or simply in the splashes of spray painted colour that decorate the brick walls and cobbled streets. Talent and innovation is everywhere in a place as beautifully untamed and bold as Brighton. 

But perhaps the most enticing thing is the incredible activism scene. People are hungry for change, and aren’t afraid to fight for it either. From incredible political murals that paint the walls of Kemptown, to the endless lists of organisations and groups dedicated to bettering the world around us, such as the Brighton Women’s Centre or Brighton Peace and Environment Centre. People aren’t comfortable with being bystanders or maintaining the status quo – we are not afraid to create a stage when the world denies us a platform. The old fashioned politics is being stamped out, and the diversity and culture within Brighton is certainly the boot that is doing it. 

I’ve only been here a week, but if my analogy of Dorothy entering into the City of Emeralds is correct, I won’t be tapping my ruby red heels anytime soon. Brighton is alive with music, laughter and art, with an adventure waiting just outside your doorstep. Goodbye Kansas, and a warm hello to the future – let’s see what you’ve got in store.