It could almost be a parody: “London based arts chief takes seaside town to task for being too much like a seaside town.” (I know we’re a city now…)
But it’s real. Read it all here. Julian Caddy is the MD of the Brighton Fringe Festival and he thinks Brighton needs a better class of tourist. We need a Michelin starred restaurant on the Palace Pier, “proper restaurants” on the seafront, say farewell to Primark and JD Sports and, oh, no more fish and chips.
And he’s not shy. “I PERSONALLY hate the Palace Pier in its current form. It is a blot on the seafront that perpetuates a culture that brings Brighton down and entrenches its reputation as a cheap, out-of-date seaside destination.”
I feel sorry for anyone who hates our pier. I love it. I wish we had two. Even three, like Blackpool. I love the coin drop machines, the Dolphin Derby, the chips and the helter-skelter. I wonder if Caddy has ever stood at the end of that pier and watched the sun go down with a drink in his hand? He’s probably on the train back to London by then. More fool him.
Our Palace Pier. It is tacky but it survives and it prospers. The West Pier was the best pier but we lost it. Only a snobbish outsider would sneer at our Palace Pier. It must and can and will evolve and the new proprietor brings hope there. But he’s wrong to single it out for criticism. Of all of our Brighton assets, it’s doing well.
But that’s not his problem really. He doesn’t like the people who come to visit us. He bemoans “the people willing to spend their two pence on those machines, via Sports Direct and Primark on their way back to their coaches.”
I love those people. If he wants a tacky pier, he can find tackier, trust me, I’ve been there. Great Yarmouth springs to mind. And yet tacky is still fun. My life would be poorer without that pier. I recall a lot of snogging on long sunny afternoons when I was still snoggable. Back in the day.
And Caddy has previous. Under his leadership, the Brighton Fringe has become much more expensive for folks to stage a show (who remembers Umbrella?). Indeed, too many Brighton arty types don’t bother to show their gems and whimsy in May these days because of the fees. And that’s a bad thing. The Fringe used to be a much more inclusive event. Sky-high fees have driven out local talent.
Humphrey Lyttleton once described the people of Brighton in an I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue opening monologue as an “eclectic mix of white middle class people.” But that denigrates the tale of our two cities. Caddy sees a distinction between the North Laine and the seafront. But we do actually have genuine problems with poverty beyond the muesli beltway.
Brighton and Hove is so much more than that bit of land between station and sea. As anyone from Hangleton, Woodingdean, Portslade and even Hove will attest.
Keith Waterhouse said that “Brighton is a town that always looks as if it is helping police with their inquiries.” Brighton has to be raffish. It must be a bit dodgy. It’s the kiss me quick, dirty weekend vibe that gives us our edge. We’re tolerant of everything except gluten.
Gentrification, like Caddy promotes, will actually diminish the town’s charm. We all want nice things but we must also have a simmering shinky-shonky appeal. Brighton must always be a town for sex and drugs and rock and roll. That’s why George IV came here in the first place.
I suspect that Julian Caddy underestimated Brightonian pride when he penned his snobbish article. And that begs a question. Why is he in charge of the Brighton Fringe Festival when he clearly doesn’t like the city I love and won’t even live here?