Friday, 23 October 2009

a birthday in brighton part 2...

And so my birthday continued in the weak autumn sunshine in my beautiful Brighton.
After exiting the surprise street art exhibition we crossed the road (easier now the area has been landscaped to prioritise the pedestrian), walked past the Corn Exchange, the old Brighton Library, and through the heavy gates into the grounds of the Pavilion.

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (Hove has it's own museum actually)- once small and dated, is now much larger than I remember it being in my youth, and holds an impressive variety of collections from local studies to Ancient Egypt.
We started off in the ceramics room, and looked at the history of salt and pepper pots and oddly shaped teapots and vases, including once which was a tiger eating a man.

Then we trotted into the Brighton room - a whistle stop tour of the history of Brighton, landmarks that have come and gone, those which still survive and those which have been appropriated for another use. An interesting mix of histories are told, from the Regency foundations to Pride, Fat Boy Slim's notorious party on the beach when the whole of the UK descended onto the pebbles to dance till they twisted their ankles and the Mods and Rockers affairs.

Across the hall the history of Brighton continued but in a much more personal and everyday way - clubs, football teams, dairies and even a rescued shop front from the old arches which sold cork and closed in 1983. I felt a little bit of nostalgia when we came across an old turnstile from the old Goldstone Ground - the former home of Brighton and Hove Albion. The little card told the story of the last game played and the result - I remember because I worked at the Goldstone in the catering areas at the time and I could not believe the stuff that people were ripping up to take home as a souvenir. I even got an offer for the tea urn I was carrying across the pitch.

Ancient Egypt next where I wrote my name in hieroglyphics and was transfixed by the beautiful blue scarabs and mini mummies which turned out to be cats, ibis and a crocodile leg. Incredible.

The centre of the museum told a (very) brief overview of design, and I was sad to see that the Mae West lips sofa is no longer there, along with the Salvador Dali lobster phone.
I had also forgotten how beautiful the tessellated tiles and stairs are. Wonderful.

Upstairs we visited a very interesting collection of costumes and stories from people of Brighton and further afield before entering the main exhibition at the moment - The Land Army Girls.

I have a particular love for the forties and fifties - the pain and suffering I can of course never understand, but the pride, resourcefulness and adaptability of people is beyond inspirational.
The new found loves of thrift, baking, growing your own, knitting etc is nothing new, with the forties and fifties being the foundation of much of the current trends.

I have often said that if I was in my twenties in the war I would have either flown a plane (unlikely though given that I am female!) or been in the Land Army.

The new exhibition examines the progression of one lady from typist to land girl and features many Brightonians who worked the fields on the Downs - photos, diary entries and video interviews. One lady I know, and it was incredible to see her story and images from her youth. It was truly inspiring and humbling.

The Land Girls exhibition is on until March 2010, and is completely free - please visit if you can.

The last visit was to the Fabrica Gallery in Ship Street, which is bang in the centre of town. 'Chameleon' is an installation by Tina Gonsalves and examines emotional transference between people in a crowd.

A darkened space, you enter to see a series of hanging double sided screens filling the void - each one with a projection of a still face. Periodically, these faces awaken to portray an emotion to the viewers, but the REALLY clever bit is that these awakenings are triggered by the viewers own emotions. Highly advanced face and emotion recognition software has been developed to let the installation 'read' you, then alter according to your own emotions. Incredible.

I made a man start to scream, which was a little worrying - did I look like I needed to scream? Did I look frustrating? I then of course looked worried, which made someone else smile to make me feel better....

An amazing exhibition, which I am sure will be heightened if there are lots of visitors - we were two of only four people at the time, and I felt a little uncomfortable with the 'team' in the depths of the shadows on the perimeter of the room - was I being watched and recorded by them as well???

But again - great - and free once more. Visit until 29 November.

So, after feeling very cultural, I went home, had a fantastic and immense Mexican meal with my family and celebrated the turn of my next decade.


  1. I have to make a confession about Brighton...
    I have been there twice.
    Firstly on a school trip to see the Pavilion where we sloped off to ride the dodgems and smoke.
    I pinched some sweets from a shop.
    My second visit was when I went and removed six bags of pebbles from a beach to sell to a client of mine in London (in my defence this was a very long time ago before such things were considered unacceptable).
    The greatest shock was the completely naked man who wandered past while I was shovelling. For a while I was worried that everybody in Brighton was naked and a bit saggy.
    So both my Brighton experiences ended in some sort of criminal activity for which I would like to apologise.

  2. Great birthday, part-two. Actually, Claire, you could have flown a plane during word war two, had you wanted to do so. I have met many women who did just that, ferrying planes from factory to airfield - some of them (the ladies) were so tiny I have no idea how they even reached the rudder pedals.

  3. This is a great post.. Very informative... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your every post that's why I think I'd come here more often. Keep it up! By the way, you can also drop by my blogs. They're about Vegetable Gardening and Composting. I'm sure you'd find my blogs helpful too.

  4. hello James - I am afraid as a true Brightonian citizen I will have to report you immediately for two counts of theft from the city and place you under indefinate citizens arrest.

    WSC - wow - I never knew that I could have flown a plane in the war! This has made my day and I'm sure I will go to bed dreaming if sitting in the beautiful Spitfire...

    Micah - thank you for you post and I will indeed have a reciprical wander over to your blogs. Welcome along!

  5. You have reminded me that another visit to the museum is 20 years overdue! I'm sad that they don't have the Mae West lips sofa anymore. I do hope they still have the monkey/fish joined together skeleton that was billed as the first captured mermaid.

    I will definitely go to the Fabrica Gallery too.