102 Minutes: From Brighton to China via Peru G2 Magazine, supplement of The Guardian The house style of G2 uses humorous, informal language with regular insertions of puns and colloquial phrases. The following feature has been adapted to agree with this style. The article is well suited to the magazine as each issue features articles written on cultures within Britain, and would be pitched for the ‘comments and features’ section of the magazine. As G2 is associated with its sister newspaper, the article would need to feature in the magazine during a time in which Brighton receives much media coverage. The article would therefore be perfect during the Brighton festival, pitched as a feature to offer alternative methods of entertainment in Brighton when the festival has been sufficiently seen. Brighton festival is an exciting, patriotic occasion for any fun-loving coastal creature. However, should you become tiresome of the crowds, bustle and theatrics of the event; there is a secret world of museum culture that awaits your visit. I’m nursing a coffee and a hangover on a rainy, miserable Saturday. It’s the first day of the Brighton Festival, and there are children everywhere, largely populating the one chain of coffee shop reserved for adults in this country. This self-portrait doesn’t quite resonate, does it? As I do the ultimate no-no and open the lid of my laptop in Starbucks, I quietly shudder at the person I have become. I catch the stare of a fellow academic type sheltering from the rain across the sugar counter, and quickly flutter my eyelids back towards the screen as I tighten the grip of my 1
cable-knit cardigan and shrink into my seat with a sense of obscene 21 st century yuppie guilt. I reassure myself that within The Lanes, nobody judges another on their ostentatious coffee-shop displays. I’ve been sent to Brighton to report on something other than Brighton Festival. Difficult, when the city has wholly succumbed to the festive spirit of Carnival; decking the streets with advertisements of ‘lady boy’ shows and closing off half of the streets to give way to parades of gay pride and primary school choir groups. I was expecting the rain and the fuzzy head, but this feeling of bah-humbug Brighton isn’t a welcome surprise. I berate myself, and decide that time waits for no woman. Tapping furiously at the dell for some inspiration, I ignore the hyped up seven year-old who spills coffee over my lap despite the incessant pleas from her bored, soggy mother. At times like this, I need to release, to let my body love what it loves. Deciding on museums, my favourite tourist past time, I choose three random samples from a search engine, bid farewell to the Starbucks Rugrats, and head north via Queen Street to the Royal Pavilion. The Pavilion is a tourist attraction. There is no point in trying to inhale the scents of 18th century banquets, nor to be the first to imagine face-diving into the pristine model beds of sovereigns past. But the restoration of the house successfully rides the line between understated elegance and a fake Hollywood set, making it one of the few in Britain that allows the visitor to feel this way. This is the secret ingredient to total escapism in a historical surrounding. The museum was created during the Regency era by King George V as a weekend palace. “George was known by his associates as a split personality in every sense 2
of the word,” says Linda, tour guide at the Palace. “He was greedy, sociable, obese, generous, a lover of music but also of peace, but most of all he was known for his love of illusion.” For this reason, the place is a bit of a miss-match of cultural influence. While the exterior resembles an Indian temple, the interior ranges from subdued Mediterranean to Chinese extravagance, as seen primarily in the Banquet room. I find the apartments the most appealing aspect of the house. Due to George’s podgy-ness restricting movement, his apartment was moved downstairs. The colours connote classic wealth: navy and black with accents of silver. All apartments retain their practicality with minimal furnishing and décor, which is refreshing change within museums! The simplicity was not to satisfy Queen Victoria, however. Vicky said of her own bedroom, “It is the most peculiar, odd sort of place, where nothing fits with anything. It’s not that I don’t like the building, more that I don’t understand it.” The stubborn Queen didn’t give the house a chance; in the seven years that she owned a bedroom at the palace, she visited just four times. What a disappointment! When purchasing my ticket for the palace, I ask if the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery would be small, considering it’s built in the former stables of the Palace. The server replied, “I think you’ll be surprised, trust me.” The appeal of the museum is that unlike most in Britain, you don’t know what is available before or on arrival. The museum as a vast shell of zigzags, only discoverable should you explore deeper. As I weave around the lanes and passages, the exhibition variety broadens. I’m touched by a collection of watercolours, sketches and photography by a group of young artists living with learning 3
disabilities, and arrange a deal for a beautiful photo of the Brighton pier at night, for my father’s upcoming birthday. A particularly interesting exhibition is ‘World Stories, Young Voices’. With an emphasis the transportation of the exhibits as well as the historical subjects, the exhibition features theatrical costume from around the world, but essentially, Peru and Burma. The foreign-icity was particularly unexpected after leaving a permanent collection on the modern history of Brighton. I chose to make my last visit of the day to Brighton’s Toy and Model museum; I figured it may be something different. After my deflated introduction to Brighton, I’m not expecting much. Relatively unknown amongst Brighton (asking the locals for directions proves particularly hard) the museum missed out on the mass council investment into sites of historical and cultural significance in 2008 (of which millions was spent on the Pavilion). The result? An un-touched space, built through four of the Early Victorian arches supporting Brighton Railway Station’s forecourt. Small but welldesigned, the room is filled with ten thousand ornaments that take pride of place within the heart of the museum owner, Chris Littledale. Old-fashioned brands including Bing, Dinky, Hornby, Marklin, Meccano, Pelham Puppets and Steiff Bears are positively stuffed into the space, creating a visual slap in the face. I follow thousands of rows of model vehicles followed by selections of eerie dolls that would cause any girl to ponder how on earth she let one watch her while she slept. As I walk up and down the lanes, I’m aware of suspended model airplanes over me. “Darling, I think these may have been installed with the museum,” says one lady to her husband, as it dawns on us that 4
should the corrugated iron ceiling cave mid-visit, the chances of anyone hearing us are very small. Although the museum lacks an educative insight, itâ€™s nice to simply escape into a world of make believe. Warning: lots of oohing and aahing is to be heard around the museum, so take earplugs as a measure. As the second cultural capital to London, you would expect Brighton to provide innovative and exciting forms of culture. The way in which culture is presented is what makes Brighton unique. Brighton has a way of taking your rubbish mood, and turning it into a gratification of English culture. The cosmopolitan elegance of the Royal Pavilion, the pleasing variety of exhibits at the Museum and Art Gallery and the nostalgic wackiness of the Toy Museum combine to make a trippy, confusing but generally exciting and enjoyable hangover cure. And you donâ€™t even have to get your feet wet.