Brighton Rocks

Everything you need to know

Music is in Brighton’s bones. Most days in summer see an eclectic mix of buskers playing around the New Road piazza in the centre of town, next to the Brighton Dome and the Brighton Corn Exchange with their big-name shows and major festivals.

Mere minutes away is the seafront, where much loved Fortune Of War puts on funk bands aplenty, and clubs beneath the arches lure in international DJs for those who can tear themselves away from the beach. Just behind the busy seafront is the larger Brighton Centre, an aircraft-hanger-like-venue for arena acts that has hosted names like Simply Red to the Kaiser Chiefs and The Script.

And then there’s Brighton’s hundreds of pubs – more of them per head than anywhere in the country bar London. Up-and-coming bands head to The Hope and The Prince Albert, their upstairs rooms damp from the sweat of years of gigs, while the alternative crowd file to The Green Door Store for experimental jazz or club nights from Vice. Pretty much everywhere that has a bar in Brighton becomes a gig venue at some time, a point made particularly clear during the Brighton Festival/The Great Escape time in May when at any moment you’re barely more than a few metres away from an amplifier kicking in.

If massive bands in small spaces are your thing, check out what’s on at the nightclubs Concorde 2 (they recently hosted a secret Foo Fighters gig), The Haunt or Komedia.  Further into Hove The Old Market, is just metres from one of the BIMM college buildings and often plays home to our End of Term or Live and Lyrical gigs. If it’s clubbing you’re into there’s Audio for massive bass, the Kemp Town area for gay clubs like Revenge, Coalition on the seafront for the trendy, West Street for the cheesy and The Volks near Brighton Pier for pretty much everything else. And while the city can be pricey, Brighton’s packed with free music events all year round to make up for it. Just check Brighton Source or look out for flyers and posters to keep up with the latest listings.

There’s more to Brighton than bright lights and speaker stacks

There’s way more to Brighton than bright lights and speaker stacks. You can just as happily wander through the winding Lanes and stop for a coffee and some people watching in a city that specialises in affable eccentricity. What Brighton does, quite uniquely, is concentrate all of the spontaneous, innocent, cynical, dirty, sweet and crazy elements you’ll find in a major metropolitan centre into a couple of easily-walkable square miles, and makes all this feverish activity seem effortlessly laid-back.

So, let’s take a walk, starting north of the city at the Duke Of York’s at Preston Circus. The oldest working cinema in Britain, The Duke (along with its sister screens in the North Laine) mixes up blockbusters with art house movies, runs late night cult films at the weekends, and even stages the occasional gig. Proceed down London Road, currently in a frenzy of redevelopment and gentrification, with the Emporium theatre café on the left housed in an old Methodist church. A little further down is The Open Market selling everything you need; and The Cowley Club on the right. This anarchist book centre and member’s club hidden behind a shopfront parties hard at weekends and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Right around the corner on Ditchling Road is The Caroline Of Brunswick, a fabulous spit ‘n’ sawdust pub which celebrates all things punk, goth, rockabilly, metal and industrial. Cross the road and you’ll hit the skatepark at the strangely named The Level – a newly restored green space which has plenty of places to sit and dream, write, or sing. You’ll definitely see a group or two gathered around a guitar here in the evening too.

Walk south past the towering St Peter’s Church, turn right and we’re into Trafalgar Street and Brighton’s funkiest area, North Laine, filled with boutique stores and market stalls, tight streets and organic food, vegetarian shoes and crazy haircuts. There’s the Komedia, the south’s best comedy venue, and Resident Records, twice voted the country’s best record shop. Dave’s Comics sells… well… comics, and Snooper’s Paradise, the largest flea market for miles around, sells pretty much everything. A giant Les Paul marks out GAK, every musician’s go-to whether for instruments or just to hang out.

Moving on – although few ever want to – we’re heading south through the vibrant hub of New Road, where Brighton’s two favourite outdoor pubs, Fitzherbert’s and The Mash Tun, back on to the former royal gardens of the Pavilion, all minarets and onion domes and buskers swaying in the dusky light. Cross the main road and we’re into the warren of quaint alleyways known as The Lanes – a tourist trap, certainly, but a worthy one. There are restaurants and jewellery shops at every turn, and the Marwood Coffee Shop – a baffling space of childhood toys, broken chairs and amazing cake. For movie buffs and The Who fans alike, there’s ‘Quadrophenia Alley’, just off Little East Street, where Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash did some rather famous celluloid fumbling in the middle of the ‘Mods and Rockers’ seaside riots.

Soak up the Seaside Vibes

A short walk and you’ll hit the seaside and the world famous Brighton Pier, packed full of nostalgic seaside fare like a karaoke pub (where Happy Mondays played a secret gig a few years back), fruit machines, fairground rides, cockles and mussels, ice-creams and kiosks selling bratwurst.

Move east into Kemp Town, and you’re in the heart of the city’s legendary gay scene – a sprawl of cheap cafés, B&Bs, great pubs and clubs, and ceaseless, fascinating humanity: St. James Street teems with life, rough and smooth, and especially at night. And if you’re gay (or simply broad-minded) there’s wild nights to be had at Charles Street Bar, the Bulldog and the Queens Arms.

Chances are by now you’ll have stumbled upon someone famous. It’s inevitable: celebs are everywhere in this town, including Nick Cave, Fatboy Slim and Zoe Ball, Julie Burchill, The Levellers, Steve Coogan, Royal Blood and Chris Eubank. Not that it matters of course: everyone here’s far too cool for gawping.

So we’ve finished our walk, and not even got around to discussing the many Regency delights of Hove, nor Sussex Cricket or the new Brighton Amex football stadium. We’ve barely mentioned Brighton’s many festivals, from Europe’s leading music industry showcase The Great Escape to October’s comedy festival and the thousands of festival and Fringe events held each May, the streets seething with excitement and groaning from the hangovers. There’s just too many delights to mention, from the burnt-out husk of the West Pier at sunset, to swimming in the English Channel and hiking on The South Downs. Not forgetting, of course, the incredible annual Naked Bike Ride and December’s Burning Of The Clocks parade.

For a small town in sleepy Sussex, Brighton and Hove does a damn good impression of being a city that never sleeps. It’s a place that dances like a city but welcomes you in like a village.

If you’re thinking of studying in Brighton, come and see the sights for yourself and have a tour of BIMM : book on to one of our Open Days.