The air feels crisp, the light lower, the kids are back in school, and the pavements are strewn with leaves. It’s definitely autumn in Brighton! Today, I’m introducing the first in a new series of seasonal ‘what’s on in Brighton’ guides starting with autumn/winter 2022. So, whether you live in Brighton or will just be passing through, read on for my recommendations for events and things to do in Brighton during the colder months, from art exhibitions and foodie fixes to festivals, fairs and magic shows. Feel free to add others in the comments…
Art and museums
Spend a morning browsing 100 photos from the 58th edition of the Natural History Museum in London’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. You’ll see wildlife in unusual situations, and your head will pop reading stories about how photographers got their winning shots, like swimming with stripy snakes in a mangrove swap and diving with whales under thick frozen ice. At Brighton Museum & Gallery, until 22 January 2023, adults £11 non-resident, £3.50 residents
In Aubrey Beardsley: A Brighton Boy, you’ll learn about the young artist who shocked prudish late Victorians with his erotic and elegant black-and-white drawings. The exhibit celebrates 150 years since he was born and explores his life and work with an emphasis on his childhood in Brighton and the time he spent at Brighton Grammar School. At Brighton Museum & Gallery, until 27 November, free.
Fabrica’s autumn film installation, At Home in the Water, by Dublin-based artist Vanessa Daws gives us a peek into the world of a long-distance open-water swimmer. It also tells the story of little-known Brighton-born pioneer swimmer Mercedes Gleitze (1900-1981) the first Englishwoman to swim the Channel in 1927, a huge celebrity in her day, lauded for her record-breaking endurance swims. At Fabrica, until 27 November, free
Take little ones between two and five to a Mini Museum Explorers Club and introduce them to the excitement of museums through art activities, a museum expedition, a story and handling some museum objects. At Hove Museum of Creativity and The Booth Museum of Natural History, Mondays 10.30am to 12pm, from 7 November to 12 December
Cabaret, Theatre and jazz
Watch high-kicking showgirls, jaw-dropping acrobats, comic street singers, musicians and elegant burlesque at The Black Cat Christmas Soiree inspired by the cabaret culture of Montmartre in Paris in its heyday. At The Old Market, 14-17 December, £27
Feel energised watching FIQ! at Brighton Dome featuring the Moroccan dance troupe, Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger, performing acrobatics, breakdancing and freestyle football to the sound of scratching and fiery rap against a colourful, visual backdrop designed by celebrated artist Hassan Hajjaj. At Brighton Dome, 18-27 December, from £15
Enjoy some good-old family Christmas entertainment at The Old Market, at time-travelling magicians Morgan and West’s Great Big Christmas Magic Show. The witty duo dress up in old-fashioned Victorian men’s outfits, complete with incredible facial hair, perform sleight-of-hand card tricks, and mind games that impress kids and adults alike. At The Old Market, 16–21 December, £14.50
Circus performers, fire breathers, aerialists, drag artists, comedians and dancers are all on the line-up for Christmas Cabaret All Stars at Proud Cabaret in Kemptown – set in a former grave! Take in this extravaganza over a Christmas-themed cocktail or two and a fine three-course Christmas dinner. At Proud Cabaret, from 25 November, £69
Cosy up at Hand in Hand pub in Kemptown for Sunday Jazz Sessions – that’s if you don’t get distracted by the maximalist decor. Think: trinkets, tankards, ties, pictures, and ornaments everywhere. Being here feels like being in your eccentric relative’s front room. Other Brighton venues for jazz include The Verdict, Paris House and Bootlegger.
Spoken word and philosophy
Brighton’s regular off-beat spoken word event, The Catalyst Club (which ‘celebrates the ordinary passions of everyday folk’), hosts this one-man theatre special show, Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope. It tells the life story of the artist openly gay as early as the 1930s and spent years getting beaten up for being himself. At The Latest Music Bar, 16 November, £10
Meet the female lemurs of Madagascar, our ancient primate cousins that dominate the males physically and politically, female albatross couples, hooking up together to raise their chicks in Hawaii and the meerkat mothers of the Kalahari desert – the most murderous mammals on the planet at the next Brighton Skeptics Society talk, BITCH: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal. At The Nightingale Room inside the Grand Central Pub, 22 November, a £4 donation
Join the monthly spoken word event at Rebel Soapbox in Hove. Hosted by performance poet and creator extraordinaire, Jenny Foulds, featuring poetry challenges and an open-mic feature with eight slots to fill.
Take an adventure in world cinema with Brighton Film Festival, Cine City. Highlights include the 100th anniversary showing of the first ever horror movie, the 1922 Nosferatu, and The Nettle Dress, about textile artist Allan Brown who spends seven years making a dress by hand from foraged stinging nettles, all picked on the South Downs near Brighton. Check out Cine City at various venues in Brighton, 10-20 November
Order a Shiraz and a box of sweet-salty popcorn and settle in to watch a reworked version of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Gary Oldman is “outstanding” as Count Dracula says The Guardian. Also stars Winona Ryder, Richard E Grant, Keanu Reeves, and Anthony Hopkins. At the Duke of York’s, 31 October at 9pm
You’ll fall in love with the beauty of this little-known animated film, The Illusionist, about an ageing magician, friendship and a voyage of discovery. Hosted by purveyors of alternative, fun, interesting, unusual, cult and classic films, White Wall Cinema. At Wagner Hall, 28 November at 8pm, tickets £9
Put on a fancy dress or tuxedo for this royal-style Christmas banquet in the Royal Pavilion. The night starts with drinks and canapés like fizzy wine and hot smoked salmon on rye toast and Parmesan and rosemary shortbread, in the Great Kitchen, followed by a three-course dinner (including braised feather blade of beef, celeriac, neeps, wild mushroom and Madeira jus) with wine in the Banqueting Room. At the Royal Pavilion, 9, 10, 16, and 17 December, £150
Book your place at Brighton pop-up cocktail company, The Spirit Level’s Halloween night. They create botanical cocktails with seasonal ingredients that taste so refreshing and delicate but have a good kick. I recommend the Perfect Pear: gin, pear juice, star anise and chilli syrup with a dash of Prosecco. Yum.
Metrodeco tea room in Kemptown is hosting afternoon tea sessions – with a twist. During one of their magical Tea and Tarot Experiences, you’ll sip fragrant English breakfast tea and eat homemade scones while Fiona Coffey, founder of Tea and Tarot, talks you through the process of tarot card reading. At Metrodeco Tea Room, on Saturday 29 October 2pm-5pm, Sunday 27 November 2pm-5pm, Friday 30 December 2pm-5pm.
Find out the stories, passions, and politics behind Brighton’s independent food producers, and try lots of tasty samples on a magical mystery independent Brighton food tour. You’ll visit off-the-beaten-track street food stalls, hear about sustainable food systems, meet food industry revolutionaries, re-live old-school seaside Brighton and a whole lot more. Find out more at Brighton Food Tours.
Gather friends for a Christmas cheese and wine challenge at the city’s loveliest wine-tasting room, Ten Green Bottles. They warm you up with a glass of mulled wine before the challenge begins. Using tasting notes, you have to guess which white wine of three is which, then pair each with the best cheese, before moving on to red. The winning team gets a bottle of fizz. At Ten Green Bottles, £35pp
Join in with Brighton swim group, the Salty Seabirds’s Arctic Turn Swim Challenge, a fun six-month-long swim challenge to motivate people to swim throughout winter. You have to complete several cold-water swims wearing different outfits to raise money for a worthy cause. You can choose your level of donation to join in.
Meet by the Chalet Café in Preston Park, lantern in hand, for an atmospheric Halloween Lantern Walk around the park, starting with some entertainment at the Chalet Cafe which stays open for the event. There’s also a raffle and a fancy dress competition. At Preston Park, 29 October from 6pm (walk starts 7pm, finishes 8pm)
Fairs and festivals
See Europe’s tallest church decorated with 200-metres of string lights for the city’s annual design and craft fair, Made Brighton. Over 60 makers’ work will be on display. Shop for original jewellery, knitwear, ceramics, wood, print, silversmithing, textiles, clothes, toys and more At St Bartholomew’s Church, on 25 & 26 November
The magical walled One Garden at Stanmer Park is the setting for Wildfest! It’s a one-day family festival that celebrates the Sussex countryside through fun theatre workshops and performances, like live music from the Hangleton Brass Band, and environmental and forestry events. You’ll get to fuel up on homemade artisan food, too, and browse crafts for sale. At One Garden, Stanmer Park, 29 October, free.
Celebrate Black History Month with an atmospheric autumn walk through Brighton’s Victorian cemetery to discover the grave of, Thomas Highflyer, a young boy saved from a life of slavery in the mid-1800s when he came to live in Brighton. Find out more in the 2nd edition of Secret Brighton: An Unusual Guide.