Community News

Kingscliffe Society responds to allegations of “homophobic undercurrents”

January 25, 2019

In response to the GScene online report of the public meeting held on January 14 at St Mary’s, Robert Edwards, Chair and longstanding committee member of the Kingscliffe Society, who himself is gay, is concerned to allay any suspicions of “homophobic undercurrents” within the charity. Mr Edwards was not present at the meeting.

THE Kingscliffe Society is one of a substantial range of amenity groups across the city that are formally recognised by the city council as consultees on planning matters in their respective conservation areas. Many of these organisations focus their attention not only on questions of heritage, urban design and development but also environmental and community needs in their areas.

The East Cliff Conservation Area, in whose interests the Kingscliffe Society acts, is a particularly extensive and complex conservation area. Its western boundary adjoins the Palace Pier and the Steine; its eastern end is three-quarters of a mile away at Rock Street and Chichester Place. It includes Madeira Drive and the beaches as far as Banjo Groyne, while its northern boundary runs alternately alongside and close to Edward Street and Eastern Road.

The society was formed in the early 1970s following the designation of the conservation area. Its three-figure membership has always reflected the diverse and generally urbane character of the local population and has always included a large number of LGBT people. Its presidents, a former secretary and chair, have all been gay. The committee has never been without any gay members.

One of the more challenging issues posed for the society has always been that of how to help balance the needs of a predominantly residential neighbourhood around a commercial centre with a mixed retail and leisure profile. Everyone who knows the St James’s Street neighbourhood is aware of the presence among and around the shops, hotels, pubs, clubs and cafes of an exceptionally diverse community of residents, occupying some vibrant premises along with numerous peaceful, quirky Georgian and Regency streets.

The Pride Party presents a test of the neighbourhood’s capacity to contribute to the logistics of a very special event, one that attracts immense crowds including many people who are not LGBT who flock to the centre of Brighton to party in the streets. Directly and indirectly their revels during the weekend compound the impact on the most local residents. Over the years various negotiations have taken place in the hope of coordinating temporary and extra infrastructure, and reconciling contrasting routines and expectations. Some facilities and arrangements prove more successful than others.

Both the event and the locality remain, in our view, under-resourced. Nevertheless it is counter-productive to deny that many residents and some local businesses endure inconvenience and disruption during the weekend. Equally, there is a responsibility on those of us representing residents’ interests to be constructive. It serves no one’s interests to embolden mutual and cross-current resentments.

We have to admit that the public meeting jointly arranged by our society with the LAT was too hastily planned and operated by us, and its purpose was not sufficiently clear. The occasion was evidently marked by an intemperate mood on the part of some of those attending, and in turn a degree of alarm and frustration for our ill-prepared member chairing at the start, for whose reactive use of some unfortunate phrases, particularly as quoted out of context, he and I apologise.

Our society’s serious aim and purpose are to engage in the formulation of practical solutions, not to oppose the concept and occurrence of this celebratory event. Our wish is that the council’s current consultation on the Pride Party would aim for an outcome that is more satisfactory for all, catering for those attending while reassuring residents, some of whom are of course the same people.

Robert Edwards
Chair of Kingcliffe Society

David Hainsworth who recently resigned as secretary of the Kingcliff Society respond to the Chairs statement saying:

“In my view, Roger Rolfe has caused reputational damage to the Kingscliffe Society by his mis-handling of the meeting on January 14, 2019 as well as comments made by him during the meeting.

“The statement issued by Kingscliffe above offers a meaningless and hollow apology.”

Regarding the future of the Pride Village Party, he said:

“Of course it should continue! For the last few years the Pride Team has successfully handled the event which, from the organisational point of view, continues to improve each year. Prior to that, and without any formal structure and organisation, the event was seriously chaotic and at times, dangerous.

“There are calls to move the event to the seafront. There are advantages to this, one is that it would be away from residential streets. The question would then be, how are members of the public that remain attracted to the various establishments in the St James’ Street area managed? Residents don’t want chaos to return.

“The consultation is an opportunity for everyone who lives in the area to put their view forward, not just the few. It’s an opportunity to collectively secure the future of this crucially important part of the city’s Pride Festivities.”