Local Literature: Brighton

24th Feb 2014

Local Literature: Brighton
A long-time hub of creativity and freedom, it’s no surprise Brighton has an exciting and inclusive literary scene...

“In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing place covered with officers. She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown.

She saw all the glories of the camp; its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.” – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Austen’s description of Brighton may have been written over 200 years ago, but the idea of the city as a place of pleasure and escape still abounds. A historical holiday resort and creative hotspot, it continues to attract artists, writers and musicians from around the world.

1960s Brighton was well-known for its beach fights between mods and rockers. At the same time, Ann Quin was writing influential nouvelle vague novels (strangely more successful in the US than in her homeland).

Her Brighton-based novel Berg was influenced by Virginia Woolf and the French nouveau roman. She set the dark, psychological tone with the first line: “A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father…”

More recently, controversial journalist Julie Burchill set her YA novel Sugar Rush in Brighton. The story of a 15-year old lesbian who falls in love with her best friend, it was made into a BAFTA-nominated TV series in 2005.

Brighton, often referred to as the ‘Gay Capital of Europe’ is known for its tolerance and diversity, playing host to the annual Brighton Pride festival.

This month is LGBT History Month, and Jubilee Library is holding various exhibitions and screenings, including a free film on a trans theme every Sunday. Wednesday 26th February sees the launch of Queer in Brighton, an anthology featuring creative writing, essays, photographs and oral histories from over a hundred LGBT people.

Just an hour away from London, Brighton boasts a city centre which is both small and thrivingLocal independent publishers Myriad Editions have championed several exciting women writers, including Elizabeth Haynes and Sue Eckstein.

They also publish some rising stars in the world of graphic novels, including Hannah Eaton (Naming Monsters) and Nicola Streeten (Billy, Me and You). Myriad runs the First Graphic Novel Competition – if you’re interested, get on it and see if you can make the deadline of March 3rd!

Just an hour away from London, Brighton boasts a city centre which is both small and thriving, encouraging local writers to get involved in the scene. As you might expect, there is plenty going on in terms of live literary events.

Coming up in March, Nina De La Mer will read at Have a Word, a LGBTQ literary arts and performance event. Myriad recently published De La Mer’s Layla, the provocative story of a naïve young lap dancer who dreams of a quieter life.

Held in the gloriously trashy Hotel Pelirocco, Ace Stories has brought some fantastic women writers to Brighton, including Cathi Unsworth and Sylvie Simmons. New Writing South has its offices in the bustling North Laine area, and puts on regular events and courses to encourage emerging writers.

Edgy literary night Grit Lit has featured the likes of Martine McDonagh and Erinna Mettler, and the next event is on Thursday 8th May at Redroaster Coffeehouse. Story Studio (which has previously teamed up with Grit Lit for flash fiction events) is a live lit cabaret night featuring new and well-known writers and artists at comedy club, Komedia.

If you fancy a day out in the country, head to nearby Charleston, once home to Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Time your visit with the Charleston Festival in May: Lorrie Moore, Carol Ann Duffy and Eileen Atkins are among the participants this year.

Head back in September for Small Wonder short story festival, where those involved with The Asham Award made an appearance last year, as well as Jhumpa Lahiri and A.S. Byatt.

The first vaguely warm and sunny day of the year will inevitably herald a huge incoming crowd from London and elsewhere, swarming onto the famously (or infamously…) pebbly beach.

Yet more people will arrive for Brighton Festival, which takes place in May and covers everything from art and film to comedy and music.

Past literary events at the festival have included readings by Tracy Chevalier and Lionel Shriver, plus a talk on Fifty Shades of Feminism. Hopefully the 2014 schedule will hold plenty of women-centred delights.

Have we missed anything? What do you love about Brighton’s literary scene?


  • Audrey says:

    Brighton being my favorite city in the world, your blog being the greatest one on the internet, LGBTQ issues being one of my main interests… I think I gotta read all of this!! Thanks for a great article (again) :)))

  • Erinna Mettler says:

    Hi Alexis, thanks for the mention! People might also be interested in The Brighton Prize, a short story comp run by local group Rattle Tales, Judged by Bethan Roberts and Laura Lockington with a prize fund of £500 and performance of the winning story at Brighton Fringe http://www.brightonprize.com – thanks.