Cath's view

A silent pull towards Brighton
I have wanted to live in Brighton & Hove since I was 18 years old. I’d never been here and knew nothing about the place, but had a sense of being drawn to it. Although my plans to move here were set back by the loss of my father at 19 and the ensuing years of grief, further family tragedies and deep soul-searching, I finally managed it via a bizarre series of events at the grand old age of 36.

I was born and grew up on a council estate in Essex, close to the Dartford Tunnel. It had been built in the 1950s as part of the programme to re-house people from the bombed out areas of London. In spite of having many friends, I always felt something of a ‘misfit’ in the area. There was something missing, and my geographical ‘roots’ were clearly at odds with my psychological and spiritual ‘roots’.

Dreams and longing
When I met my partner, nine years ago, I persuaded him to join me on a journey to Brighton, in order to ascertain whether my sense of belonging would prove to be real. Indeed it did! Having come from a place of no opportunity with nowhere to go (especially as the M25 chewed up all the green spaces and woodlands I’d enjoyed as a child) and, quite literally, nothing to do, I was overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of what Brighton and Hove has to offer its residents in terms of learning opportunities, exploration, places to visit, beautiful scenery of all descriptions, and, perhaps most striking of all, people who smiled at you and said ‘Good morning’ in the street. We started driving down every Sunday morning, just to sit on the promenade, absorb the atmosphere, remind ourselves that there were ‘other ways’ and to revitalise ourselves before returning to our usual environment. Oftentimes, we would gaze longingly at a particular building from the promenade and express our deepest to desire to live within its walls. However, due to insufficient means, coupled with complications at home, we couldn’t see how we could ever fulfill the dream. All we could do was *wish* really hard, as children do. So – in the absence of anything more concrete – that’s what we did.

Brighton living: A collective independence
Over the following years, a series of changes occurred in my partner’s employment (none of which were instigated by him), until the day came when he was told that he would have to relocate. That relocation brought us, not only to Brighton and Hove, but to the very building we’d gazed at and ‘wished on’ from the promenade for all those years.

Almost immediately, after our arrival, I was able to involve myself in voluntary work that was directly concerned with the disadvantaged in the area, and I was deeply impressed with the degree to which ‘people power’ is at work here. Where I come from, there is no sense of that at all, just an utter submission to those who are branded as powerful. There were no protests against the road building in my home town, and whatever ‘improvements’ are put in place invariably ignore any sense of the human need for beauty and inspiration. In Brighton and Hove, the opposite seems true. Given that, it is unsurprising to me that so many creatives emerge from (and move to) this area, and so few (can’t think of one – oh… there was one ‘Rubette’ I think) from my place of birth.

Differences sides by side
At the very heart of my love for Brighton and Hove, though, is the way that difference seems to be celebrated, rather than used as a tool of divisiveness. There is a sense that you can be yourself here, and no-one will judge you – and that’s a rare feeling indeed. Given the amazing little oasis (oaseeeeeeees?) of calm scattered around this jam-packed city, the beautiful gardens, the huge horizon, the waves in all their moods, the dilapidated beauty of the West Pier at dawn and dusk, and the South Downs against which Brighton & Hove is painted, there is ample opportunity to touch base with who ‘you’ really are, and what really matters in the bigger scheme of things.

The future: Preserving the Brighton ethos
The rising cost of accommodation is making it more and more difficult for people (like us) who truly love the area and everything it represents to stay here, and that is of great concern to me. Brighton & Hove could not be what it is, in my view, without a strong creative, artistic, literate and intellectual undercurrent running through it. Such an undercurrent tends to be accompanied by a lack of finance and a less materialistic view of the world. The essence of Brighton and Hove is created by those who understand it and love it in all of its diversity, not by those who, as Oscar Wilde would say ‘know the price of everything and the value of nothing’. I hope that Brighton & Hove will influence the nature of those now moving towards it, rather than the other way around.

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