By Tony Grant. All rights reserved
Jane Austen knew Brighton. In Pride and Prejudice it is the place Lydia Bennett rushes off to, enamoured of the regimental officers who had inhabited Meryton for a while before being moved to Brighton, especially Wickham. It is the place she elopes with Wickham from.
It could be interpreted that Brighton is Jane’s symbol of profligacy and impulsive actions. It could be argued that this was so especially as the Prince Regent used Brighton in this way. The regiment Lydia has gone to be near is there to defend the coast against invasion. This is the time of the Napoleonic Wars when invasion is a threat and the total disruption of the world Lydia, the Bennet sisters and Jane herself knew.
Brighton was also a new type of place. Jane begins to explore the development of seaside resorts in her unfinished novel Sanditon. It was the sort of place that people came from far afield and from various points of the compass, strangers, to be thrown together for short periods of time. It is interesting to see Jane begin to explore the loosening of moral codes and social rules within this sort of setting. Beau Nash invented his own code for these places at Bath and Tunbridge Wells. He had to invent a way for people to socialise.
Lydia Bennet has been shopping in the scene where Brighton is introduced in Pride and Prejudice and has obviously come back from her expedition with something not at all suitable.
“ Besides, it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the — shire have left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight.”
“Are they indeed?” cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction.
“They are going to be encamped near Brighton: and I do so want papa too take us all three for the summer! It would be such a delicious scheme, and I dare say would hardly cost anything at all. Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what a miserable summer else we shall have!”
“Yes,” thought Ellizabeth,”that would be a delightful scheme, indeed, and completely do for us at once. Good Heaven! Brighton, and whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been overset already by one regiment of militia, and the monthly balls of Meryton.”
So it appears that Lydia wants to go to Brighton and Elizabeth does not. In each case, to be fair to Brighton, their reasoning comes from a consideration of the military presence there. Lydia wants to go because of the regiment she has become acquainted with near Meryton and Elizabeth doesn’t want to, because of the same reason. Their views are not formed here by Brighton itself. At this time Brighton was becoming a very popular seaside resort frequented by no less a profligate person as the Prince Regent himself.
There he built a magnificent palace called The Brighton Pavilion. As for Jane Austen’s personal opinion we can only conjecture. She liked fun and dancing. Brighton had an abundance of these. She also enjoyed the seaside. The Austens visited Lyme and other seaside places in Devon and Cornwall and possibly South Wales.
Brighton Pavilion was begun in 1787. It was a farm house which the Prince Regent bought. There, he could have liaisons with Mrs Fitzherbert, his secret lover, away from the glare and attention of London. He got the architect Henry Holland, who had designed Carlton House , to develop it for him.
Between 1815 and 1822, the designer John Nash redesigned and extended the Pavilion. It is the work of Nash which we see today.
On bank Holiday Monday, 30th May, Marilyn, myself, Emily and Abigail drove down to Brighton from Wimbledon. It was a lovely sunny day. Brighton sea front was a little breezy and the water was too cold to go in for a dip but it was one of those bright sparkling days fresh and invigorating
and to be in Brighton was glorious. We went into the Pavilion to explore the magnificent interiors.
Photography is not allowed inside the pavilion. They are very strict about this. We saw some professional photographers, who queued at the entrance in front of us, turned away amidst quite a hullaballoo. They said they had received permission to come and photograph the interior of the pavilion. The security people argued they had not been informed and had no paper work to confirm their assertions. When we got inside, I had put my DSLR safely away in its bag and zipped it up firmly.
However, I slipped a small SONY digital camera inside my sleeve just in case an opportunity to snap a furtive, clandestine picture arose. There are a lot of security cameras around the pavilion so I had to position myself out of view of the cameras to take the pictures I did take. Some are blurred because of my hurried attempts. A person near me was asked to put their camera away but I escaped notice.
I think the city council of Brighton and Hove, who own the pavilion, don’t want some plastic copy of the pavilion ending up as a casino in Las Vegas. Ha! Ha!
Brighton today is a glorious mixture of the brash, the tacky, and the brilliant. It has a very special feel to it like no other place. You can feel a very creative energy about the city.
There is some magnificent graffiti , great restaurants and pubs and a whole community of new artistic entrepreneurs starting businesses connected with fashion, music, art and theatre.
I found one piece of graffiti that made my heart beat that little bit faster. Compared to most graffiti in Brighton it looked understated but I think it must be an original Banksy. Nobody has ever interviewed Banksy and obviously that is not his real name. Nobody knows what he looks like. He is
a mystery to the public. Since the 1990’s, from his first wall cartoons in Bristol where he originates he has made social , religious and political comments through his art. His graffiti appears in the most unusual places. He has had books of his work published and art galleries show his work all over Europe.
So I had found an iconic Banksy!!! Across the road and down an alleyway from a café we were having a cup of tea in. It shows some Mods. The Mods were a subculture of youth that originated in the early to mid sixties. They wore smart clothes with military style parkas and RAF, red, white
and blue roundels on their backs.
They rode motor scooters, Vespas and such like. They listened to Pete Townsend and the WHO. The Who were a MOD group and their lyrics reflect the MOD culture.
They were working class youth, factory workers, with their girlfriends, who challenged society in their own special way through clothes, music and lifestyle. Brighton and Margate were two coastal resorts they frequented, especially on Bank Holidays and weekends in the summer.
They would gather in their thousands. In opposition, the Rockers, leather clad and motorbike riders who rode BSA and Triumph 650’s, another sub culture of the time who listened to Elvis music, would come and challenge them on the beaches of Brighton and Margate. There would be pitched battles on the beach at Brighton using, stones, chains, knives and deck chairs.
Deck chairs were always readily at hand on the beach. People would end up in hospital. The WHO film, Quadrophenia, is about one such MOD group coming to Brighton. A pitched battle on the beach is portrayed in the film and of course the music is The Who. So you can imagine my excitement seeing a real Banksy recalling those times and the meaning it has for Brighton.
Brighton has other memories too. Our political parties have a conference every year to discuss any progress made, to air views and opinions and to announce new policies. The conferences are held at the major seaside resorts around the country, Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth. Each political party takes it in turn to congregate in each resort.
You might remember on the 12th October 1984 at The Grand Hotel in Brighton, The Provisional IRA blew up the Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher was working late in the hotel when the bomb went off. They wanted to assassinate Thatcher. They failed to kill any government minister
but Norman Tebbits wife was crippled for life. Some other officials were killed and thirty four were badly injured and rushed to hospital. The Grand Hotel has been rebuilt and extended and presents a magnificent structure right on the seafront.
Brighton is famous as a film set. Apart from The Who’s Quadrophenia, some minor B comedy movies from the fifties were filmed there starring Norman Wisdom. Oh What A Lovely War, directed by Richard Attenborough used Brighton Pier extensively and just recently the dark and sinister,
Brighton Rock starring Helen Mirren, based on Graham Greens novel of the same name is set there.
Some film clips:
- Quadrophenia: (The end scene of the film)
- Brighton Rock: (This is quite a dark clip..)
- Oh What A Lovely War: (featuring Brighton Pier)