The UKs first ever LGBT History Month magazine is being launched with the support of Angela Eagle
Budget airline EasyJet yesterday offered to fly Pope Benedict XVI to the UK following the recent controversy surrounding his viewpoints on British Equality laws and estimated cost of his visit.
The Sun has caused havoc after publishing a poll yesterday asking whether gay people should be allowed to be cabinet ministers.
The Government will not push through proposals that churches argue would restrict their ability to deny jobs to gay people and transsexuals, Equality Minister Harriet Harman has confirmed.
The Guardian has looked into Brighton and how it is heading into new realms. What is it that everyone loves about Brighton for a weekend get away? Why are Londoners escape the hustle and bustle of the big bad city. Guardian writer Alexis Petridis looks into it.
They elected a Green MP at the general election. So are the residents of the south coast resort just a bunch of hopeless hippies - or do they know something the rest of us don't?
There are a number of potential reactions to the recent news that the constituency of Brighton Pavilion has elected Britain's first ever Green MP, in the shape of party leader Caroline Lucas. If you voted for her, you're entitled to feel a little smug about making political history. For others, news of her election will underline the view of Brighton as a kind of British equivalent of San Francisco: a bohemian city with a massive gay population and a penchant for alternative free-thinking. While for Londoners, the news was presumably greeted with little more than a shrug.
Brighton is, after all, the perennially irksome, unofficial British capital of what the late rock critic Steven Wells once memorably described as "crusty-wusty, hippy-dippy, twat-hatted, ning-nang-nongers". Of course it elected someone like Lucas – who was recently photographed at home, standing, alas, before a shelf laden with self-help books called things like Awaken the Giant Within.
In fairness, her victory was more complicated and hard-fought than that suggests. Brighton Pavilion is a diverse constituency. It includes Hanover, otherwise known as "muesli mountain" – home to a lot of students and commuters who junked London for something a little more Soil Association Certified – and the North Laines, the town's bohemian hub, where The Body Shop opened its first branch and where today you can find a shop called Bell Book and Candle, which has the local market in rune and casting stones pretty much sewn up. But it also includes Brighton's biggest council estate, Hollingbury. The seat was solid Tory until 1997 and a four-way marginal this time.
The campaign was not conducted in the atmosphere of zen-like calm one might expect to find in Bell Book and Candle's "float space". Opponents attempted to depict Lucas not as a whimsical tree-hugger but a ruthless career politician. There was a bit of smearing – persons unknown added Lucas's name to the anti-gay, anti- abortion Westminster Declaration – while the outgoing Labour MP could have been no less gracious in defeat had he stood behind Lucas flicking V-signs and making faces.
But when people ask me why I love Brighton, why I think it's a cool place to live, it's not Lucas that springs to mind. Nor is it the Brightonian nonconformist attitude or love of a theatrical gesture, deep-rooted though that is. You could argue that attitude stretches back to the arrival of the Prince Regent, who moved to an obscure south-coast fishing village and built a deranged Indo-Saracenic palace there, largely to get away from his parents – who among us hasn't entertained thoughts roughly along those lines, usually late afternoon on Boxing Day? – and which, you could argue, links the Brighton Pride carnival, the famously melodramatic headlines in local paper, the Argus (WAGNER RUINED OUR LIVES, WINDOW CLEANER KILLED BY GIANT PENCIL), and the crowd of around 40 people a friend recently saw assembled outside the Churchill shopping centre, their desire to visit Debenhams overridden by their desire to watch two seagulls having a fight.
It's not the beach, nor is it Brighton's panoply of celebrity residents – Fatboy Slim, Julie Burchill and the bloke who played the drug dealer in Withnail and I among them. It's not even the dinner-party game of What's Nick Cave Been Doing?, a kind of Brighton, goth-specific variant of Where's Wally? in which contestants compete to see who has spotted the Hove-based vizier of grand guignol rock in the most incongruous circumstances (victor ludorum: the person who saw this man who used to write his lyrics using a hypodermic syringe full of his own blood, en famille at a panto in the Theatre Royal, wearing a large foam hand and singing along to It's Chico Time).
No, when I think of why I love Brighton, it's The World's Least Convincing Transvestite that springs to mind.
I walk past The World's Least Convincing Transvestite every day, on the way to my office. A man who has made the bold fashion decision to sport a jaw-dropping combination of earrings, eyeshadow, stubble and shaving rash on a daily basis, he has all the bewitching femininity of a rugby league prop forward in a pencil skirt; by comparison, Grayson Perry is the absolute spit of Audrey Hepburn. Judging by his clothes – demure court shoes, tights, pussy-bow blouse – he's en route to a clerical job in an office. For all I know, he might be facing yet another day of bruising homophobia and derision from his colleagues, but it doesn't look like it. He just looks like an ordinary bloke on his way to an ordinary job, albeit dressed as a woman. I've got a sneaking suspicion his workmates just let him get on with it. And if they do, that would be very Brighton.
In preparation for this article, I decided to canvass some opinions on the city from fellow residents, via Twitter. There were a wide variety of responses as to what made Brighton great – popular choices included the brilliant vegetarian restaurant Terre A Terre; Coffee@33, the spartan Trafalgar Street cafe where the barristas pore over every mocha like men conducting an experiment of potentially world-changing importance; the fact that "the pubs are open until 1am and it feels safe for a woman to walk home alone afterwards" – but the word that came up most regularly, was tolerance. That sounds a bit pious, and if there's one thing Brighton residents aren't, it's pious: a priest from an evangelical church who fetched up here last year declared it "the most godless city in Britain", which, according to a poll in the local paper, 93% of residents thought was a compliment. But I know what they mean.
There's definitely a sense that Brighton is a city in which it would take an almost superhuman effort to be a misfit: it seems capable of assimilating anybody, up to and including Heather Mills. No one group appears to have the upper hand. There's been a lot of talk about the middle-class gentrification of Brighton over the last decade, but it doesn't seem to have impacted much on the city's famous air of slightly seedy licentiousness, on Keith Waterhouse's famous judgment that it's a town that always looks as if it's helping police with their inquiries. It now looks like a town that's helping police with its inquiries while enjoying an organic, locally sourced panini.
The arrival of the London-fleeing young families with their bugaboos and their Abel and Cole delivery boxes doesn't seem to have impacted on the city's mammoth appetite for taking drugs, apparently the largest in the UK, in the same way that the drag queens in Kemp Town seem to rub along OK with the defiantly non-fabulous dreadlocked hoards: 15 years after the rest of Britain gave up on crusty, Brighton remains thronged with people who think playing the didgeridoo in public is a good idea. Actually, if you're looking for a symbol of Brightonian tolerance, the fact that, as yet, no one seems to have been driven to rip the didgeridoo from their lips and beat them to death with it may well rival even our old friend, the World's Least Convincing Transvestite.
Why we love our city, by five more residents
For a crime writer, Brighton has absolutely everything. The city always had a dirty weekends sort of reputation, and then in the 1840s it became a haven for criminals from London. And nowadays, several police officers have told me, it's one of the favourite places for top criminals to live in the UK. You've got two seaports on either side, you've got Shoreham airport with no customs post, you've got masses of unguarded coastline and a quick train to London; in other words - a fast exit. Then you've got the largest number of antique shops in the UK for fencing stuff, and you've got a massive recreational-drug market with two universities, a big gay population and arty middle-class residents. One of Brighton's distinctions – although the local tourist office doesn't talk about it - is that it's the drug-injecting death capital of the UK, and has been for nine years (we lost the title to Liverpool for a year or so, but we've got it back now).
Peter James, crime writer
I do think that having a criminal undertow, a dark edge, makes a city exciting. I was standing on the pier a couple of days ago, looking along the seafront, and I thought to myself: "That is one of the most stunning views on the planet." You're not looking at a dead town, a washed-up, has-been seaside resort, you're looking at sadness, great beauty, a really vibrant place. One of the buzziest cities in the world.
Chris Eubank, former boxer
I love Brighton because there is a natural phenomenon that attracts artistic souls to its pebble beach shores. Artistic souls are referred to as eccentrics, and they call me Lord of the Manor of Brighton!
Andy Sturgeon, gardener and TV presenter
I escaped from London like so many people here, and I love the pace of life. You're not surrounded by people chasing the buck; people who live down here have more realistic priorities. I love the fact that it's small too. I can finish work, get the children and go to the beach, or out into the countryside and it's all about five minutes away. There's a holiday feel to Brighton, something to do with the seagulls and the sea. Every time I come in from London to the station, even though I've lived here for nine years, I still think, "I'm on holiday!"
Chris Maltman, opera singer
When we lived in London we used to drive off to see friends who, theoretically, lived in the same town, but you'd be driving for an hour and a half. In an hour and a half from Brighton, where can you be? You've got this fantastically eclectic and energetic cultural life, with weird one-off events that you just don't get anywhere else. You've got shops that you don't get anywhere else in the country, and then you've got the Downs 15 minutes in the other direction.
Simon Fanshawe, broadcaster and writer
People here feel they can be who they are. But tolerance doesn't necessarily breed tolerance. There is very little homophobia here but, when it does erupt, it can be more vicious than elsewhere. Brighton is full of people who came here to work for the season and then stayed. I'm chair of the University of Sussex, and the students just don't leave, they come, they graduate and then they stay for years and years.
Bibi van der Zee
Source: The Guardian
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