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View to Brighton Pier from the New Steine, Brighton

LGBT history: take the Piers and Queers tour of Brighton

From each bed and breakfast and Brighton hotel there’s a rich history to be discovered – and revealing the LGBT history of Britain’s favourite weekend party town is the ‘Piers and Queers’ tour.

Headed up by Blue Badge guide Ric Morris, it’s a fascinating, interactive look at Brighton. Telling us more about it – and revealing his own place in it all, here’s Ric! And the Everest fact – love it!

When you first came to Brighton, what did you expect?

I first came to Brighton as a small child, and I expected ice-cream. When I came here to live, it took a while to find the things I liked, and avoid the things I didn’t like, but now I’ve got that sorted, it exceeds expectations on a regular basis.

Which fact about Brighton surprises you most?

If you count Hove, then you can see the grave of Sir George Everest, who gave his name to the mountain, in the graveyard next to Tescos.

LGBT Brighton - making history

LGBT Brighton - making history

What part does Brighton play in UK’s LGBT history?

Since it became a resort in the 1780s and especially after the opening of the railway in the 1840s, Brighton has been a place of escape and relaxation for a broad spectrum of Londoners. It has been a playground where people can escape the rules and responsibilities of the centres of production.

In the 1870s several members of the Boulton and Park (two men who were arrested for going out in women’s clothes) circle, fled prosecution by coming to Brighton.

In the 1920s Valerie Arkell-Smith came to Brighton to re-invent herself as Colonel Sir Victor Barker. Brighton was known in the 1930s as having many gay and (unusually) lesbian clubs and bars, more so than possibly any city outside London.

In 1835, the last man to be hanged in Britain for same-sex offences came from Brighton. In 2005, the first same-sex couple to legally tie the knot came from Brighton, and Brighton hosted the first Civil Partnerships in England.

Tell us a little about more about the ‘Piers and Queers’ tour.

It looks at nine people connected with Brighton from an LGBT perspective. Most of them made amazing contributions to our society – medicine, literature, music, philanthropy, acting – and looking at their lives helps us understand how people with unconventional sexual and gender identities created their own place within challenging environments. All in an hour and a bit.

Is Brighton’s LGBT community making history right now?

Time will tell. Having such a large LGBT population in a relatively small city means that there’s less ghettoisation, and LGBT people are closely woven within the fabric of the city as a whole. Everybody knows, works with, or encounters an out LGBT person on a daily basis, and I don’t think that happens anywhere else. So perhaps Brighton is leading the way with the normalisation of LGBT people in everyday life, and is a model for other places.

Every week there’s a Brighton Bed and Breakfast with people visiting for the first time. In a sentence, what should they expect?

Expect to walk the streets and be entertained by daily life in Brighton. You can party when you like, but if you want something else you can find it here too.


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