1980s Brighton – people and places
We saved the best till last…Peter Chrisp shares his photos and memories of Brighton in the 1980s, when a Greek cargo ship ran aground next to the Palace Pier, the Anti-Nazi League marched against the National Front and the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel where the Conservative leadership was staying for the party conference.
Politics was simple in the 80s. We had an extreme right-wing Conservative government, and everyone knew that the Tories were evil. Although they were unpopular in Brighton, they regularly came here for their party conferences. I took this photo outside the Conference on 10 October 1980. There was a right-to-work march that day and the Tories were protected from the demonstrators by a massive police cordon, surrounding the Brighton centre and lining the seafront.
My friend Trevor O’Clarey and I thought it would be funny to make it look like a one-man demonstration. In those dark days, one man stood alone…
On 12 October 1984, the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel where the conservative leadership was staying during that year’s conference. We watched live TV footage of Norman Tebbit being carried out, feet first, from the rubble. I took this photograph the next day.
The late 70s saw a resurgent National Front which drew support from young working-class skinheads. Opposing it, there was the Anti-Nazi League and Rock against Racism. On 29 March 1980, the NF held a ‘march against Sussex Reds’. Here NF skins gather outside St Peter’s Church, protected by the police from the much bigger Anti-Nazi march.
The NF was pretty much a spent force by 1980, when these were taken. Britain had just elected a right-wing government, and the new Prime Minister promised to curb immigration, and talked about people’s fears of being “swamped by people with a different culture”.
The Athina B was a Greek ship, loaded with pumice, which ran aground to the east of the Palace Pier on 21 January 1980. Big crowds went to see it, and Volks railway opened specially to take visitors there. I took this on 2 February. On 21 February, she was towed away and scrapped. You can still see the ship’s anchor on the seafront.
The hull of the ship was turned into a huge blackboard, which Brightonians wrote their names on – an early outbreak of ‘tagging’. The child on the second left is writing ‘Good Luck’.
Here’s a 1981 picture of the shelter on the seafront opposite the Old Ship Hotel. Like lots of run-down seaside towns, Brighton was full of old people, and elderly ladies wore headscarves.
And a couple from the 1970s…
It’s 10 June 1978, and a street party is being prepared in Ewart Street in Hanover. I can’t remember why it was held, but it looks like the sort of polite, well-organised, street party people had at the end of World War Two. The houses were drab coloured back then, and many weren’t painted at all. Hanover streets had yet to be filled with cars parked on the pavements.
For my generation, the defining cultural event was punk, whose cleansing fires swept away our flared trousers, stack-heeled shoes and record collections. Here’s a moment from the transition from pre to post punk, captured furtively, in June 1978, on the top floor of a number 25 bus. This chap has maintained the stack heels, but lost the flares which ought to be covering them. It reminded me of Ian Dury’s line about “shoes like dead pigs’ noses”.