For Brighton Festival in May, 2022, we’ve picked 12 stories by 12 people in 12 places around Brighton and Hove to form a walking tour. You can join anytime you like by…
Picking up a free printed map from Brighton Dome throughout May.
Clicking here to download the app ‘Echoes’, where you can find the whole tour, including audio and photos (or you can download the app and search for “Archive of Favourite Places”.
Visiting our online map, which has links to all the stories here.
… or if you happen across one of our 12 mini-exhibitions across the city (each one is located where the story takes place), you can scan the QR code for more info. The cafe at St Ann’s Well Gardens also has a wider exhibition of the photographs made for this project.
Please keep sending us your stories of Brighton and Hove that we can add to the online archive throughout the festival. Click ‘send us your story’ for all the information.
My favourite place is St Ann’s Wells Gardens and imagining George Albert Smith and Laura Eugenia Bayley running the pleasure garden with a monkey house, fortune-teller and magic lantern displays. They also built the second film studio in the UK at St Ann’s Wells Gardens and were pioneers in early filmmaking known for comedies and explored the possibilities of special effects.
Jess’ story about St Ann’s Well Gardens has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
One of my favourite places in Brighton is the oldest working velodrome in the world, the Preston Park Velodrome (built 1877).
I have memories of being taken there as a child to watch the cycle racing and then for some 30 years it was where I played our ‘home’ cricket matches on many Saturdays and Sundays followed by nourishment and a fantastic social life in one of three pubs, one at the top of Preston Drove (where I met my late wife), then called the Stanmer Park Tavern, the Park View and the Crown and Anchor where I had my wedding reception in 1973.
Chris’ story about Preston Park Velodrome has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
Until last summer, Middle Street had been home (in one way or another) for about 15 years. My mum, Dee, bought a flat here in 2006 in a new development as it had been her dream to live in central Brighton.
The front gate of the building faced the Hippodrome (whose multi coloured stain glass facade I would admire often) and as she would later find out, the built on the site of an old mineral water factory for ‘R Fry and Co’.
Mum had many different careers, but her work as a writer had been a constant. She devastatingly got diagnosed suddenly with terminal cancer 8 years ago and was given not very long to live. Whatever project she was working on, she would get totally absorbed and obsessed. In the last few years she dedicated her time to local history and very specifically that of Middle Street. ‘One of the earliest streets of Brighton’ she would tell me.
She was passionate about recording all of the stories for this street. Which is quite unassuming on the surface, caught between the racier West St and more well treaded tourist route of East Street. She set about working out the full history of every single building and their many reincarnations. She emassed multiple notebooks, sent many hours in the archives and compiled first hand interviews (including with the Rabbi at the Synagogue to old landlords and performers from the venues). There were also multiple hand drawn maps and layouts she’d created in pen and pencil on tracing paper – where she had meticulously started to piece together it’s history from the very beginning. I remember getting an email when she was excited as she’d stumbled across the holiday let online where we’d hear all the noisy stag and hen dos disappear into, and she was able to get a peak behind those doors. Another bit of her puzzle!
… But one of the top things on her bucket list, when we found out she didn’t have long, was make sure she was able to hand over all her research, so it didn’t go to waste.
So a couple of weeks before she passed a local historian whom she admired, visited and collected it to take it for safekeeping at the local arrive at ‘The Keep’ Falmer. It is all there, if you would like a read!
Her plan was to write a book and also do a walking tour during the Brighton Festival (she’d also done stand up – it would have been great!), so hopefully this will be a small tribute to all of her hard work.
I’ve many fond memories from living on this street. Multiple hours spent in The Hop Poles – which basically became a surrogate family lounge and kitchen for my mum, brother and me – and where I’d end up meeting some my dearest friends behind the bar. Dancing together at Wild Fruit at Creation (which has just been knocked down – and you can see the gigantic space its left – as is reinvents itself again).
Wandering down to the beach with a blanket and some beers to watch the sunset, the novelty of having the sea at the end of the road never wearing off. Or watching the starlings murmerate around the spire of St Peters Church on West St, at the start of each winter. You can also spy the yeti her friend painted on the BT box on the corner near Middle Street school for her…
One of my favourites from the images she shared with me, was of these elephants walking down Middle Street (date unknown). Promoting the circus at the Hippodrome and stretching their legs between performances.
The thought of elephants walking down there, blows my mind. I love all the stories the Hippodrome could tell by itself.
She always said that one of the most important things in life was to ‘be curious’. And when I walk down Middle Street now, it reminds me of just that and her love for Brighton. All you can find under your nose, if you just go looking!
Lisa’s story about Middle Street has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
I’ve been in Brighton for 8 years but I never tire of being near the sea. I feel like it draws me in. As a child I adored the seaside, and scrapping about in rockpools at low tide was one of my favourite things to do. I remember my Dad lifting up what seemed like impossibly heavy stones in the deepest part of the rockpools so I could see what little sea creature would be hiding beneath – usually a crab that I would delight in following around until it scurried away into a new hiding place.
I think this is why my favourite place to go in Brighton is the Ovingdean rockpools. I love that whole stretch of the Undercliff walk from the Marina to Saltdean and the cliff top path that runs above it. But my favourite part of the route is seeing the white chalky rockpools at low tide. I feel like I’m in another world when I stare into the pools, full of tiny marine creatures that washed in with the tide and will soon be collected by the waves at high tide and carried away again. It’s a place that mesmerises me, and feeds my imagination.
In the lockdown I would cycle there, lugging my heavy tripod and 16mm camera with me so I could film the pools and the waves beyond. I think I was trying to capture snippets of the sea to take back home and keep.
Rachels’ story about the rockpools at Ovingdean has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
For three summers I was a driver on the world’s oldest running electric railway.
The question predominantly asked of me when I tell people this is ‘Did you have a little hat?!’ Unfortunately, I have to disappoint them with the fact that no, I did not have an official train driver’s hat but nonetheless it was this kind of gleeful response that made this such a special job.
There was a certain look that would flood the faces of onlookers when they noticed this contraption pootling towards them. Slight bewilderment followed by delight. It was a look that for a moment had the magical effect of showing what they had looked like as a child.
Since 1883 the brainchild of Magnus Volk has operated in some capacity along a stretch of Brighton seafront ranging vaguely from the aquarium to Blackrock station. This was the rough mile that I got to know so well from oiling the tracks of a morning and weeding the halfway station at Peter Pan’s playground, to hopping out to push car seven when she decided to stop over a dead spot and watching out for rogue volleyballs along the line.
I must have driven thousands of people along that mile of seafront. Each one of them had decided for fifteen minutes to give themselves over to an exercise of folly, to immerse themselves in novelty.
And although I can’t deny that at times there was a monotonous element to coursing that same short span of track, it was the waves that kept me going. Chugging along at 14 miles an hour top speed, past the nudist beach-goers,the mini-rallies, the enprammed toddlers, the marathon runners, the day-tripping families, the Passion recreationists, the bikers, the mods, the fishermen, the naked bike riders queuing for ice-creams at Blackrock station in shoes, hats and nothing in-between; they waved.
They all waved to strangers because of the simple joy of a little old train born of the inventive spirit that draws so many to our seaside home.
Debs’ story about The Volks Railway has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
My favourite place in Brighton is The Bevy in Hillside. The Bevy is more than a pub, it’s a community pub in the heart of Moulsecoomb and still the only community pub on a housing estate in the whole of the UK.
From it’s opening and blessing by the local vicar at the time Father John. The Bevy has always strived to put the community first.
With it’s mix of friendly staff and wonderfully diverse regulars and wide variety of groups and events. There is something for everyone.
From arts and crafts to memory moments cafe for people with dementia to the Friday friends lunch club. Great food monthly Saturday markets Saturday night music and the Bevy bus for home Brighton games.
For me it is like a second family. Where we all help each other out. From care packages to sorting out food from the garden and from fareshare and everything in between. I love enjoying a drink or two with one of the older regulars who I think of as a second dad.
During lockdown they started up The Bevy meals on wheels which has been voted the best in the country.
It’s a great place to meet up with family and friends. So why not hop on a 49 bus and come and join us all.
Marina’s story about The Bevy has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
I attach a photograph of myself, my mum and my aunt taken in 1962 in the Preston Park Rookery. Although better known now as The Rockery, in those days the trees at the top of the garden were filled with large nests and the rooks were very loud!
We’re wearing our Sunday best clothes in the photo as the Rookery was felt at that time to be one of the ‘posh’ places in Brighton, suitable for visiting as a special treat. My aunt had come from Littlehampton and we spent a long time travelling from our home in Moulsecoomb on public transport, a difficult journey to make in 1962 so we didn’t do it often. I was so excited to walk across the big stepping stones and, as I got a bit older, to be allowed to climb up the rocky path to find the source of the waterfall. It was a real joy to gaze over at Preston Park across the road from the high bridge spanning the grassy hill.
I’m now 63 and lucky enough to live within walking distance of todays Rockery. The rooks are much fewer but the garden is as beautiful as ever. Somehow over the years it has remained the quieter sister to the noisy park on the other side of the road. Across the 60 years I’ve visited whenever I had a hard decision to make, to cheer me up when sad or for a quiet celebration. Ten years ago dad and I sponsored a bench at the side of the pond near the waterfall in honour of my mum. I often go there to sit on it and enjoy the peace, even in the winter. The dragonflies are beautiful in the summer and the goldfish are greedy all year! Every spring I marvel at the giant gunnera leaves growing up anew from almost nothing and remember how I used to play hide and seek under them when I was young. Occasionally there are parents with small children who seem as captivated as I was then and I love to see their enthusiasm!
The garden has been a truely magical place for me my whole life and I hope by raising its profile others will come to value it’s quiet charm for many years to come.
Karen’s story about the Preston Park Rookery has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
The place I’m choosing is Extra Mural Cemetery, Lewes Road.
I moved to Brighton 10 years ago (time flies in this city), I moved to the top of Hartington Road and at the time there was a gap in the fence, I could go inside the green space of the cemetery and relax a bit, listening to the birds and watching the foxes running around.
We used to laugh about how good and quiet the neighbours were.
A year later I moved to London Road, no green spaces by my home to relax and watch birds or foxes, just busy roads. Lucky me at that time they were remodelling The Open Market and this was the best place to make the shopping, in fact I still do it and wouldn’t change it.
But, as it couldn’t be otherwise I moved again; this time to Gladstone Place, at the bottom of the Extra Mural Cemetery, just in between the 2 gates, no gaps in the fence now. So I started to go there for my walk more and more often. To forget about the city, to forget about the cars. It felt strange at the beginning to be that comfortable in such a place, but the truth is that it is a gorgeous place full of trees and nature. I found my favourite spots and some nice benches too.
But then, I had to move again. Now I live in Bear Road. So funny I’ve been having the same neighbours since I move to Brighton and I never had a complaint! Neither do they!
It is true that the cemetery is not far from the road, and that it is a manmade space, but the circle of life becomes such a beauty in this spot of our city, the ancient holly trees, the roots breaking the stones, the little purple flowers in every sunny corner, the seagulls and crows battling each other, the foxes jumping the walls.
When I have visitors, usually from Spain (where the cemeteries are completely different to this one), and I said I’m going to take them to the cemetery, they all look at me, perplexed, then they understand and enjoy the trail and the hidden spots.
Ainoa’s story about the Extra Mural Cemetery has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
As a child I lived with my mum and my brothers in a small house opposite the back door of the Duke of York’s Cinema. It’s nothing much to look at, just a shabby-looking emergency exit set into a long concrete-rendered wall running the length of the cinema’s foyer and auditorium. It’s next to the back entrance of the fire station. For all of the beautiful parks and architecture in Brighton I suppose it is an odd place to get misty-eyed about, as it is without doubt one of the more unremarkable and bland of sites in the city.
In the early mid-seventies my mum was an usherette at the cinema, showing people to seats with a small flashlight and selling ice cream in the intervals. She wore one of those old-fashioned uniforms of a short white dress and paper hat. During the school holidays, having no close relatives and no partner, my mum smuggled us through the back door during daytime kids’ performances where we sat all day watching film after film, often on repeat. It was an unspoked agreement between Len, the chain-smoking, hard-drinking manager, and us that this would happen and he would turn a blind eye. I think he had more than a soft spot for my very young mother.
During the early-eighties my late brother Rob was manager of the cinema. It had become a very different place, full of drugs and sub-cultures. He lived three doors up from the cinema back door, in a squat beside the back door of the Unitarian Church. The free entry door was again open to me and I watched films almost every day after school and at weekends. In 1983 the cinema was due to change ownership, and Rob was told that he would no longer have a job. His response was to occupy the building and arrange an impromptu Punk festival with his co-workers. Whilst the police watched the front of the building, instruments and equipment were loaded in through the back door, which was then sealed to anyone but close friends and family. The building vibrated with 24-hour noise for several days before the police entered and evicted the revellers, including my brother.
When the new owners took the building over they hired new staff, including my best friend Ciaran who became assistant manager of, what was now, an arthouse cinema. We watched The Evil Dead on drugs, danced drunkenly to Stop Making Sense at the front of the auditorium and protected the screen during the high spirited showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Often, during the night time the projectionist would show the following day’s film for us, so we would all wander in after the pub, through the back door carrying take-out beers. It felt like home and we regularly slept in the seats, too tired and drunk to get home. Ciaran moved on from the job after a few years of joyous mismanagement.
I don’t get to go through that door anymore, I just have to go through the front with the other punters. But I still feel like I own it every time I visit.
Gordon’s story about The Duke of Yorks Cinema has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
For anyone Cornish living the ‘wrong’ side of the Tamar, it takes a special place to make you feel at home beyond the motherland. But in my 16 years in Brighton so far, there’s a very specific spot on the seafront that I return to time after time that leaves me feeling like the city is wrapping its arms around me. I bet some of you know it by ear… Between the two piers, queued up by Brighton Sailing Club and pointed wistfully out to sea, is a stretch of boats. Stripped of their sails their rigging whip against their masts incessantly, generating a cloud of rhythmic chiming reminiscent of a flock of hungry seagulls loitering impatiently outside a chip shop. I enjoy it most in the height of summer on a warm, violet-skied evening with the added percussion of the basketball court behind me – flood lit limbs and beer cans and the squeak of a shoe, loud laughter and traffic all joining in the chorus. City living by the sea is what I was promised all those years ago, and Brighton always delivers.
Victoria’s story about this part of Brighton Seafront has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
My favourite place in Brighton is outside the arch that belongs to Brighton Swimming Club just to the left of the Palace Pier. It’s been a magical place for many since 1860 and is still held dear all all current and past members.
When I joined the club some 6 years ago I was newly single and looking to find a new hobby. Every Saturday before the pandemic the changing rooms at 1030 would be a hive of activity with people chatting about their week and getting ready to go for a swim. All year round people would arrive without fail which was such a comfort when you felt alone in a big city.
After a swim one of the members would erect a Woden table outside the arch and bring bread, cakes and biscuits to have with hot tea and we would all gather around to talk swimming obviously.
During the pandemic the arch was closed for the first ever time in the clubs history (other than during the war), which so devastating for all the members it was a lifeline for. The lovely thing about the club though is that many of us still met on the beach outside the arch to swim and drink tea. We did very much however miss the hot showers and warm changing rooms in the cold winter months!
Lynettes’ story about Brighton Swimming Club has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.
Gloucester Road / the pavement outside Diamond Edge.
I’ve long held the opinion that the Basketmakers is the best pub in Brighton, and many people share that opinion. Lots of people will tell you all about the tins on the walls inside and the quirky notes in them, but the best place to stop and have a drink there is on the pavement opposite, on a sunny afternoon. It’s a perfect sun trap, and because it’s not on the obvious route through the North Laine you’re not in anyone’s way sitting there. There aren’t many other places I’d sit on the ground – the beach maybe – and doing so feels like a throwback to younger, more carefree times.
I’ve had many birthday celebrations around this spot too – the pub gets busy inside, and people like to come and go, so a drink outside means that the party feels the right size no matter how many people are about. Of course, my birthday falling on the same weekend as Brighton’s Pride celebrations means that the area is one big party anyway.
It’s also an act of quiet rebellion – in the window just above where I’d sit there’s a sign that says “no smoking, sitting, drinking in this spot”. But I’ve been doing that for at least fifteen years, and nobody’s stopped me yet.
Rob’s story about sitting outside The Basketmakers has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.