Monday, November 01, 2010
Brightonians don't exactly take much persuading to dress up and stay out all night at the best of times, but for the last few years White Night has given us an offical excuse to celebrate the art of noctural recreation. A free festival that takes place across the city, White Night marks the clocks going back and celebrates the extra hour we get, by encouraging people to stay up and participate in all sorts of activities throughout the night.
I've been away for White Night the last few years and so this year's was my first one. The city was buzzing anyway with Halloween antics, and the massive Beach of the Dead walk that also happens every year got everyone into the spirit early in the day. By nightfall there was an amusing mix of ordinary punters, gruesome zombies and other ghoulish Halloweenites lining the streets. My first glimpse of White Night activity was as I turned into the North Laine to spy an opera singer belting out from the balcony above the betting shop on the corner of Bond Street. Unfortunately I missed a later performance in that same spot, reported by SessionLeopard on Twitter: "Brighton... where else can you watch a black drag queen dressed as a cloud singing barbara streisand above a betting shop?". Shame, but there was so much else to do.
My first proper stop-off was at the Brighton museum, which involved wending my way through the Pavilion Gardens, where little pockets of action were afoot all over the place. Inside the museum it was pretty much business as usual, apart from a few crafty making sessions and the presence of some willowy ladies in period clothing draped about the place. It did make me giggle to see zombies wandering about soaking up culture, but I drew the line at a man dressed as a spiderman clown and escaped to go and meet Steve and Linda at the Pavilion garden gates.
From there we decided to head for the Sealife centre, where I was utterly enchanted by the huge turtles and tiny seashorses. Not so endearing were the drunken youths flagrantly ignoring the 'please don't touch the fish' signs and whose behaviour was later reported to have started a riot. Things were altogether more civilised at the Library and though outside on Jubilee Square was heaving, the live spray paint artists there were well worth a stop. Inside, we had a play on a big dance mat that was wired up to a percussion loop programme, and enjoyed the relative calm before heading back out into the throng.
Kensington Street was another hive of activity, with both the Lighthouse and the Basement open for business and a multimedia installation called the Epiphany Dome outside. After a heavy dose of art, we were ready for some music, but not before swinging by Infinity cafe to re-fuel with soup hearty soup in a roll. At the Corn Exchange, a French music showcase was in full swing, but surprisingly there were no queues for the venue. Amiens in France also has a White Night (or Nuit Blanche as they call it) and our towns do a musical exchange for the night. When we arrived, a band called Oregone were playing. I had a little dance around and then spotted Ewan (aka Euzie) at the bar. It transpired that he and Linda both grew up in Wolverhampton and used to hang out in the same pub. Much disbelief and delighted cries of "you know so-and-so? No way!" ensued.
Next door in the Dome there was nothing much happening other than some pumping dance music and a couple of interactive installations. The night was flying by already and by the time we got down to the beach, the Bandstand happenings were dying down, with only a few half marathon runners straggling about. Walking back along the prom, we gained another cohort in the shape of Rob, who accompanied us up through the Lanes and eventually up to the Phoenix Gallery, which was one of the only places still going. By then the clocks had officially gone back, we'd gained our extra hour and I had completely lost track of what time it actually was.
A quick hot chocolate at the buzzy Cafe Moksha - where live music was still going on - made a very civilised end to the evening (or should I say, morning). My first White Night had been a riot (though thankfully not in the Sealife centre sense), but it was time for bed.