Barry Pitman

Barry Pitman



In 1972 I was working at Cox's Pill factory and thinking about photography. I'd just bought my first camera, was keen to learn and set out to photograph all I could. Going through my archive there seems to be a common thread around performance both live and on the street including events and activities that are not often recorded.

For me Brighton has always been about performance. It's a show town and the images I have selected from my personal archive are just a glimpse into performance and performances in the city.

Brighton is a place were home grown talent is cultivated. That was especially true of a band Rocky Sharpe & the Razors whose founders Den Hegarty and Rita Rey (aka Lydia Sowa) went on to form Darts.

In the 1970s the Punk phenomenon really made an impact, again featuring local local talent with bands such as Joby and the Hooligans, Wrist Action and the Molesters who were filmed by Southern Television performing an impromptu gig in the Gents urinals beneath the Clock Tower. Who remembers there being a public convenience underneath the Clock Tower?

Over the years, Brighton has also been a home for alternative and often overlooked musical forms. Sherry's Dixieland Showbar in West Street was an early pioneer of Disco Dancing competitions attracting dancers from all corners of the UK. Nowadays, Sherry's is better known as "Head Kandi".

The early eighties saw the beginning of "community arts" in the city with groups such as Brighton Community Arts Workshop in Kemp Town and the subsequent growth of "pub theatre".

BCAW was instrumental in organising the entertainment for a community bonfire in Eastern Road on land, where Danny Sheldon House now stands, opposite the Wellington Public House. Bert Read, the landlord, arranged the licensing and was also on the committee that organised the annual Kemp Town Pram Race. This took place around the streets of Kemp Town with "guest" prams including one from the Landsdowne Public House which was owned and run by David Day (now the owner of the Golden Lion Group).

Something that is particularly memorable for me about these events, as you can see from another shot of the Kemp Town community bonfire, is the lack of people with cameras. Nowadays, if this event took place, everybody would be snapping away with their own cameras.

The rise of "community arts" projects also spawned the emergence of local theatre groups which then evolved into street theatre. Of note is the Cliffhanger Theatre Company founded by the late Pete McCarthy along with Rebecca Stevens and Steve McNicholas who later become one of the founder members of PookieSnackenburger.

The Pookies eventually graduated from the streets of Brighton onto the stage at the Pavilion Theatre and were at the forefront of what became "alternative comedy". Wits End Weekly was another "alternative comedy" club which featured early performances by today's mainstream comedians such as Ben Elton, French & Saunders and Alexei Sayle.

Other, often overlooked music events, are the World Sacred Music Festival and the Brighton Early Music Festival. Over the years, these have been staged in often surprising venues. In 2010, for example, the BREMF was held in St Bartholomews Church while the WSMF culminated in a concert by Stella Chiweshe, a M'bira player from Zimbabwe, in The Sallis Benney Hall at the University of Brighton. The festival was publicised by Thomas Mayo of U'Zambezi Arts performing on an old style No.7 Brighton bus.

But all of this is not entirely new. The tradition of street performance coupling music and dance has a long been a tradition in Brighton and is celebrated each year during the Brighton Festival with a Day of Dance organised by Brighton Morris.

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