Visiting Brighton and the Labour Conference

Brighton #02Last Tuesday I headed down to Brighton to take some photos at the Labour conference. Both the town and the event were new to me, and it was a fun day.

I stayed overnight in Dorking – a couple of hours drive from Stratford – and headed into Brighton at just gone 07:00. Traffic was surprisingly light, but parking was difficult. I was hoping it’d be as easy as when I photographed the Dawkins event at last week’s Lib Dem conference: I parked outside the hotel. This wasn’t possible in Brighton due to tank-proof concrete barriers and men with frankly-excessive machine guns1. I swung up into town to find a car park, and the first had a large queue as the police searched every body/car. I figured I didn’t need that hassle, so eventually found an extra-expensive NCP multi-storey and walked down to the seafront. It was a lovely morning, and I found myself wondering – as always, when I’m outside at that time – why I don’t get up early more often.

I was there to photograph the BHA’s no-prayer breakfast – with secular pastries! – and it went pretty well. There was a good turnout, with A C Grayling, Lord Macdonald and Kelvin Hopkins MP answering questions amiably as everyone indulged in probably too much chocolate for that time of the morning. It was also nice to see blogging chum Mr Skuds in the audience, and we had a chat afterwards.

I was done by 09:30, so wandered around for a bit. I hadn’t been to a party conference before – not inside the secure areas, anyway – so everything was new. The hotels are crammed full of booths owned by all sorts of groups and organisations, all trying to attract Labour members and MPs. They often give stuff away (although I hear the real goodies are found at the Tory conference this year) and at the Terrence Higgins Trust booth I was handed free condoms – those’ll be handy – as well as a frisbee (with a disappointing lack of tossing jokes). I also had a go in their STI tombola and was pronounced clean of infection, so there’s no need to wash after reading this. Despite this I was curiously ignored by most booths, probably because I was carrying a large-ish camera and looked like one of the many professional photographers milling around, so was free to walk around unhindered and peek into the conference hall (my pass wouldn’t let me in, sadly) where Gordon Brown would speak later that day. It’s odd to see these important, glamorous tv-locations first-hand – it’s just like a big room. This is possibly not the most profound observation ever.

Eventually I ran out of things to see, so I left the secure zone and walked up the rocky beach for a while, taking the occasional photo but mostly just enjoying the quiet. I eventually started worrying about sunburn, though, so headed into town in search of food. It was only 11:30 by this point, despite feeling like mid-afternoon, but once I’d decided where to eat – there were about a billion possible cafes, all of which were perfect for me – the resulting fish and chips was most welcome.

In a curious fit of culture, I next decided to visit the Brighton Museum. This immediately proved a mistake, with the main hall displaying varying furniture styles from 1800-the present. This was, well, dull as shit, and I wondered how long I could pretend to myself that I was having a good time. Then, through a doorway, I spotted some Egyptian sarcophagi. Now you’re talking. Turns out some dude born in Brighton excavated lots of Egypt, so the museum has a fair bit of the resulting loot. This was better. Hieroglyphics, weaponry, mummified kittens…this is what museums are for.

My faith in culture was completely restored until I exited the exhibition and saw this:

Crap painting

It’s like a Photoshop Disaster of the 1800s. What the hell is going on with his right leg? No wonder the dog looks nervous. Why would you hang this up anywhere? Why?

Anyway. By this point I was somewhat sleep-deprived, so had a doze in the car for a couple of hours before heading down to the sea for golden hour. I walked up the almost-deserted pier as the sun set, then headed back to the beach for the final rays. I’m quite pleased with some of the resulting photos:

Brighton #16 Brighton #15

Brighton #18 Brighton #20

After that it was off to a Bloggers4Labour meetup, which just happened to be on the same day. The very friendly Andrew, Mr Skuds and Tom were there, and I finally got to meet Damian, who I’ve been communicating with electronically for years. I hadn’t been to a meetup for a few years, so it was cool to see people in person. I couldn’t stay for too long, sadly, as I didn’t want to be too tired on the ~3hr drive home, but I’m glad I hung around town.

  1. seriously, what’s that going to achieve that a handgun isn’t? Are the BNP trenches going to go over the top? []