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How Gay Is Your village?


I’m not sure where the phrase ‘ Kemptown Village’ originates from; it’s not a phrase that I have ever found in the local history books- well not in the older ones anyway. My own thoughts are that it may be phrase that you might use when you want to add value to a property that you intend to sell- or at least your estate agent might anyway.

I’ve lived in Brighton for most of my 42 years. I have spent brief spells away from here, but every time I return I feel like I am coming back to somewhere more than home. I feel that I am coming back to somewhere that actually looks after me.

Kemptown  is a symbolism of this safety. There is something very special about this place. I remember once how I wrote about how St James’s Street was the type of street where all stratums of society seemed happy with their lot and comfortable with each other.

Of-course such safety, in this instance, is not always in the physical realm. I would be a fool to suggest that a visit to Kemptown would render a person safe from every criminal nasty that open air may offer- in fact I read that the Queens Park Ward once ranked 4 in the Sussex Police crime statistics. No, the safety I speak about is one of cultural snugness.

Brighton is still a provincial town, it can be hard to remember that. Outside the town centre area, that enclave of the political elite, lays the suburbs, which by appearance could be anywhere else. In some areas liberal attitudes do not prevail quite so much and provincial constructs dwell. But most folk in the town are either part of, or indifferent to, its, for me, benignly Corinthian nature.

As for Kemptown (village), well, most Sunday mornings I take a walk from my tiny St Luke’s abode to St James’s Street. I’m not sure how this perennial ritual came about, but it somehow makes me feel complete.

I like to pop into a well-known coffee house at the bottom end of the street, sometimes to meet friends, other times on my own. The place gives me a sense of community belonging even if I don’t speak to anyone. It feels so personal, even if I’m saying or listening to nothing. I can’t think of many other places in this great land that can truly say that environments within have evolved a greater sense of liberal belonging.

A sense of togetherness can only be drawn from kindred spirits. I suppose churches and various other religious gatherings could claim something similar, and I wouldn’t deny them this. I think what I am saying is that the residents and frequenters of this area are not united in any common purpose though, they just…….be. And I feed off it.

We hear so much about people believing in this, fighting for that, and trying to impose unimaginable rules and ideologies in their attempts to place a code upon everyone’s existence to satisfy their own insecurities.

Granted, the floodgates of ignorance haven’t opened up so much in this nation of ours that  potential victims of every phobia and ism should have to fear for their life. But, there are few places in this country which can truly say that dwelling in them, and most attracted to them, are people who have such little interest in subscribing to urban conditioning, that great facilitator of the creative void, but every interest in exposing themselves to the experience of  ‘the here and now’ now without pre-conception or inherited judgement. Well many seem to find their way here, and as one of the indigenous breed it fills me with great pride not disdain.

Kempton is gay, yes, but in that all encompassing interpretation of the word. I always think that how gay your village is determines how free your village is. This is not to suggest that every free thinker needs to move to Hebden Bridge to live with that blessed colony of ladies who like ladies, or start looking at the prices of downtown rentals in San Francisco, just to experience creative, liberated culture.

No, what I am saying is that when so many people with cultural dreams, and so many potential victims of every ism and phobia thrive in one place, you know that whilst you can never feel totally safe in physical realm, you feel that your mind can wander into its most creative and uninhibited quarter and your mouth and hands can engage with its output. Like the liberated construct you always wanted to be….

So how gay is your village?


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