16 LGBTQ Facts about Brighton: Yes, It Really Is The Best Rainbow City In The UK


Brighton has one of Europe’s best-established and best-known LGBTQ communities and the city is proudly liberal and diverse. However, because there are so many options out there for you – it can be hard to get your head around everything at first. So, we’ve collected the most important information just to get you started.

Our 16 facts about Brighton include learning whether the

  1. Brighton is the gay capital of Europe
  2. When Brighton’s LGBT community started to flourish,
  3. Whether Brighton has the most gay couples and civil unions,
  4. the lowdown on the Pride festival
  5. and the Trans pride festival,
  6. all you need to know about the city’s gay media
  7. and sporting clubs,
  8. where the gay-friendly areas of the city are,
  9. where you can get an LGBT wedding,
  10. where the best gay bars
  11. Lesbian bars
  12. and cabarets are and
  13. What the special relationship the ladyboys of Bangkok have with Brighton!

1. Is Brighton The Gay Capital of Europe?

There is, as yet, no official gay capital of Europe. This is probably a good thing as many cities would then spend a lot of time arguing over who was top dog. However, it’s fair to say that the English cities of Brighton and Manchester would be in prime positions to win the title.

And of the two, Brighton is probably the one with the best claim. It’s been an unofficial hub for the gay community for a very long time. It’s thought that the initial draw was all the single soldiers who would have been stationed here to fight the Napoleonic Wars.

The city remains one of the most liberal in the world and more than 10% of people over 16 in Brighton identify as LGBTQ, today, one of the highest figures of any city in the world.

Whereas Manchester gained popularity in the late 20th century and had a much more “under the counter” approach to sexuality than Brighton until the eventual legalisation of homosexuality in the UK in 1967.

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2. When Did Brighton Start To Flourish As An LGBTQ Destination?

It’s important to note that while Brighton may have had a Gay history since the 19th century, it was the 1930s when Brighton really decided to embrace its place in the LGBTQ community.

It was in this decade that many gay and lesbian pubs established themselves in Brighton and a steady supply of troops passing through Brighton during the 2nd World War helped the gay community demonstrate that being “different” didn’t mean being “bad” to many service people.

It may also explain why the UK slowly became a more tolerant environment for gay folks as service people took their acceptance home and spread it around a bit.

3. Does Brighton Have The Largest Number of Cohabiting Gay Couples?

In 2001, the British national census determined that Brighton and Hove were home to the largest number of same-sex couples in the country with 1.29% of all households ticking the box. However, the 2011 census didn’t ask this question as it was probably considered too inflammatory to ask.

It seems likely that Brighton retains its title as the city with the largest number of cohabiting gay couples in the country, but we can’t prove it for the lack of data.

4. Does Brighton Have The Largest Number of Civil Unions In the UK?

Yes, it does. This may well be the indicator that demonstrates that Brighton is still home to the largest number of cohabiting gay couples in the UK too. The 2011 census revealed that 3.1% of Brighton’s legally committed partnerships were civil partnerships.

That encompasses 2,346 people. Gay marriage wasn’t legalised in the UK until 29 March 2014, so it’s a reasonable assumption that the majority of civil partnerships would have been for people in gay relationships.

5. Does Brighton Have the Largest Pride Festival in the UK?

Yes, we know that there are a lot of different claims out there to “biggest this” and that includes Pride Festivals. The right answer is this, yes, Brighton has the largest pride festival in the UK, and it has almost 300,000 people in attendance for the Pride weekend.

This is quite a lot smaller than the world’s largest Pride festival of 4-5 million attendees in New York, thankfully as Brighton wouldn’t be able to cope with that many visitors, and behind Madrid’s record turnout of 3.5 million people (again that’s more people than Brighton could safely accommodate).

Can’t go any further without sharing Kylie headlining 2019 Brighton Pride

Yet, given the size of Brighton – it’s still a huge turnout with more people in town for the Pride Festival than people who live in Brighton!

It’s worth noting that London is home to the biggest Pride Parade in the UK, however, and that sees about 1 million people but Brighton rules the roost when it comes to turning a weekend into a party everyone can enjoy.

6. Does Brighton Have the Largest Trans Pride Event in the UK?

Yes, though once again Brighton is beaten to the largest Trans Pride Parade by Londoners (no surprises, really, London is a much bigger city than Brighton and it is the capital), Brighton is definitely home to the UK’s largest trans pride event. It is run separately from the main Pride Festival and tends to take part in July.

In 2019, 5,000 people attended, and numbers are expected to increase in 2020 but it’s worth noting that the venue cannot hold more than 3,000 people at a time. The festival is sponsored by Sports England and much of their fundraising comes from the Trans Pride Fun Run held during the weekend.  

7. Does Brighton Have Any Gay/LGBT Media?

Yes, Brighton is home to Gscene Gay Magazine which caters to the full LGBTQ remit. If you’re looking to find things to do within the city’s gay scene, they have a big events calendar on the home page of their website which can be very handy if you’re new in town and wondering what to do with yourself.

They also cover LGBTQ issues in reasonable depth as well as other news issues that they feel are relevant to the community even if they are not specifically LGBTQ-related. They act as a signpost to community groups and support services too and also provide a classifieds section for people seeking to do business in the city.

8. Does Brighton Have Much In The Way Of Gay/LGBTQ Sports?

Yes, BLAGSS which is the Brighton LGBTQ Sports Society organizes a huge number of events in Brighton for the LGBTQ community. They offer a free 1-day membership (though depending on which sport you choose, you may need to pay court fees) and an annual membership is only £15.

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They host over 700 sporting events a year and have 450 permanent members from the LGBTQ community. Their emphasis is on getting healthy and having fun at the same time.

9. Where Are The Gay Friendly Areas Of Brighton?

It’s worth noting that Brighton is one of the most liberal and friendly cities in the world. The LGBT community is not just tolerated but welcomed throughout the city, however, as you’d expect from a city with such a long history with the gay community, there is an area of the city which attracts more LGBTQ visitors and locals than the others.

That is the Kemptown area and, in particular, St James Street and the roads leading off of it. This is where most of the city’s gay bars, gay shops and gay clubs are and Kemptown is unofficially known as Brighton’s “gay village”.

10. Can LGBTQ People Get Married In Brighton?

Yes, of course, they can. LGBTQ couples are allowed to get married anywhere in the United Kingdom since the law changed in 2014 (even Northern Ireland which put things off until the 13th of January, 2020) and Brighton must be one of the most popular places in the country to tie the knot.

5 Great Places To Get Married In Brighton

We’ve also got a few suggestions that you might appreciate to find a nice venue if you’re thinking of an LGBT wedding in the city:

  1. Brighton Unitarian Church. Is one of the most popular venues in the city for civil partnerships. Not only for its open approach to diversity, but it is also one of the most city central venues in Brighton. This is a big bonus. Here at the Unitarian church, they are happy to marry people of not only same-sex but also of different religions and of none.
  2. The Royal Pavilion. There are two sets of rooms licensed for civil ceremonies on the premises and you simply can’t get a location that says “Brighton” any better than the Royal Pavilion – you’ll need to book quite a long way in advance but it’s not everyone who can get married in the royal tradition, is it?
  3. Queens Hotel, Brighton. The Queens is a beautiful Regency period hotel with a long history of welcoming LGBT couples. They have an in-house wedding coordinator who can, for a fairly hefty price, take all the stress of planning your big day off of your hands. You’re in safe hands and we guarantee you’ll have a great time if you opt for this hotel.
  4. Pangdean Old Barn. Just 6 miles out of the city, you can turn up in a horse and carriage, it’s the perfect venue for intimate weddings as well as much larger wedding parties as they have several different locations suitable for the ceremony on the grounds. The view over the Downs is worth it in our book, it’s the perfect backdrop for your special day.
  5. Angel House. This is a really pleasant little venue which is ensconced in a townhouse on the seafront right on the border between Brighton and Hove. You can’t bring a massive wedding party because there’s a limit to 85 people inside but if you want something cosy but lively, then Angel House is a fantastic and more intimate place for an LGBT wedding.
  6. Brighton Pier. There may be no more traditionally British venue than the pier. It’s a huge amount of fun and you can all grab fish and chips and a beer for the reception, perhaps? It’s a wonderful photography spot and if you’re looking for wedding snaps to wow the crowds on Facebook, you can’t go wrong.

11. What Are The Best Gay Bars In Brighton?

Brighton has so many gay bars that you could spend a couple of nights grabbing a drink in each and you’d be very drunk by the end of it. The good news is that you don’t have to hit up everywhere to have a good time and we’ve picked some of the city’s better venues for you:

  1. The Bulldog Bar. They’ve been around since 1979 and they know what it takes to build up a high energy night. You’ll find drag acts, cabaret acts, and even karaoke playoffs within Bulldog bar’s walls. It’s one of the most popular gay choices during Pride too.
  2. The A Bar. The A (Amsterdam Bar and kitchen) and has a hotel above is a great summer gay bar. They’ve got some super views from their terrace and you can watch the sunset over the sea. It’s a great place and particularly in the company of a few friends. They run till late most evenings and they often host events for the community. It’s a very laid-back place and you should fit right in at the A Bar.
  3. Charles Street. It’s famous for its debauched atmosphere and rather over the top antics on the dance floor. Its a fun, sizzling no holds barred kinda place. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you like cheap drinks and a lot of dirty talk, this is the place to be.
  4. Bar Revenge. Just round the corner of Club Revenge and next door to Charles street, Bar Revenge is a jam-packed and bustling venue that is a straight-friendly gay bar (not that the others aren’t) that Rocks especially on a Friday night and has some very entertaining Urinals to boot. There’s something going on most nights and the big queer quiz on Mondays isn’t to be missed to see if your G knowledge is up to scratch.

12. What Are The Best Lesbian Clubs And Bars In Brighton?

There are plenty of bars just for the ladies too and Brighton is home to some excellent lesbian pubs including:

  1. Marlborough Pub & Theatre. This is an old stalwart of Brighton’s Lesbian/gay scene and everything is reassuringly familiar even if you’ve never been before. You’ll find plenty of regulars and visitors to the city comfortably rubbing shoulders over drinks here. You can even grab a board game and see who’s the current Monopoly champion. When you’re looking to feel like everybody knows your name, this is the place to go.
  2. Club Revenge. It’s always a gay-friendly place but check out Girls on Top if you’re looking for something that’s completely ladies only. You can expect foam, glitter balls, mirrored surfaces and plenty of other clichés in your quest to dance the night away in the company of your fellow women.

13. What Cabaret Options Are There In Brighton?

Brighton has a wonderful range of cabaret options in LGBT venues and the best of them include:

  1. Affinity Bar. One of the campest places in the city is the Affinity bar and that means one of the campest cabarets too. It’s a lot of fun and if you’re looking for laughs and a younger crowd, it’s where to go. It’s also very easy on the wallet if you’re a little short on cash.
  2. The Queen’s Arms. Burlesque, drag and cabaret performances are a regular feature at this easy-going bar in Kemptown. Everyone who is anyone on Brighton’s gay scene has visited The Queen’s Arms at some point and it deserves its popularity and reputation.
  3. Proud Cabaret.  This is Brighton’s glitziest and most expensive cabaret option. If you want to push the boat out and get behind the LGBT cabaret scene, this is the way to go. They don’t have shows every night but you can check the website to see when they do.

14. The Ladyboys Of Bangkok And Brighton

One final interesting fact about Brighton’s LGBTQ scene is that there is a strong bond between Brighton and the touring show of Bangkok’s katoey/ladyboy group The Ladyboys of Bangkok. Don’t worry “ladyboy” is not politically incorrect, it’s the self-chosen description of the trans-population of Southeast Asia and is not an insult.

The show brings dazzling choreography, amazing costumes and a super song list to Brighton on an annual basis during May and adding a vibrant glitter to May festival where there along with many other festivities, the annual Fringe festival and if you’re here, you really should check them out. They’re absolutely unforgettable.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our 16 LGBTQ facts about Brighton and that when you’re planning your first visit to the city, you’ll be able to have a great time here. Everyone in Brighton is proud of the diversity and differences that people bring to share with the city and its residents.

Carlo

Local Tour guide of Brighton and blogger

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