'Brighton arts centres break the mould'

Laurence Olivier became its Baron, Oscar Wilde its hermit, and Turner Prize-winner Rachel Whiteread one of its most notable graduates.

Laurence Olivier became its Baron, Oscar Wilde its hermit, and Turner Prize-winner Rachel Whiteread one of its most notable graduates. Brighton has always been a source of inspiration for creatives, malcontents and social outcasts. From the murderous underclass of Graheme Greene's Brighton Rock and the feuding Mods and rockers of Franc Roddam's film Quadrophenia has grown Brighton's current exciting and altogether less aggressive arts scene.

A strength in recent years has been music. Brighton's thriving club scene isn't the half of it: Brighton Dome (01273 709 709; www.brighton-dome.org.uk) is the region's foremost classical music venue, with the London Philharmonic playing on 7 April, as well as a leading venue for all other types of music. Upcoming gigs include Idlewild (11 April) and The Hives (16 April).

Another major music venue is the Brighton Centre (0870 900 9100 www.brightoncentre.co.uk), which draws in everyone from Kasabian (29 April) to Little Richard (4 May) and Girls Aloud (5 May). For kids, there's Disney Live (12-17 April).

If you prefer more static arts, head for one of Brighton's many unique galleries. Phoenix Arts (01273 603 700; www.phoenixarts.org) runs talks, screenings and workshops alongside contemporary exhibitions. Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (01273 290 900; brighton.virtualmuseum.info) boasts work by Dali, Sir Henry Moore, William Blake and Jimmy Choo, among other A-listers. Fabrica (01273 778 646; www.fabrica.org.uk) resides in the former Holy Trinity Church in Brighton centre. Its up-coming exhibition Memory Sticks (23 April - 30 May), displays textile art by Michele Walker.

Performing arts are equally vibrant throughout Brighton. The Theatre Royal (08700 606 650; www.theambassadors.com/theatreroyal) showcases drama, comedy, dance and opera. Forthcoming highlights include Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (11-16 April), choreographer Matthew Bourne's acclaimed Highland Fling (19-23 April) and the Ukrainian National Opera's Madama Butterfly (6-11 June). And back at Brighton Dome (see above), Brazilan dancers Grupo Corpo feature on 18-19 April.

Joogleberry Playhouse (01273 687 171; www.joogleberry.com) opened in 2003, has a sky-lit café and offers nightly jazz, flamenco and comedy, as well as daily "lunchtime specials". Typically diverse, this week brings comedy and song by drag queen Dave Lynn (4 April), lo-fi pop from Villa Real (5 April), flamenco with Alahaima (6 April), Club Bollywood (7 April), and Lucy Baxter's blues band (8-9 April). Nearby Komedia (01273 647 100; www.komedia.co.uk) is a multi-stage venue, also offering a great alternative scene. "Brighton people are known for being eccentric," says Alice Hardmann from Komedia. "That's why Brighton arts centres are confident to break the mould."

Sussex University's Gardner Arts Centre, seven miles outside Brighton, has a reputation for arthouse film, art and theatre. Likewise, the Duke of York's cinema (01273 602 503; www.picturehouses.co.uk) shows current, classic, independent and foreign films, exhibits art and has a licensed auditorium. Equally alcohol-friendly but more gloriously seedy is Ali-Cats ( www.alicatsbar.com) - a studenty basement bar with a cult-loving cinema. Even the apparently exclusive Sussex Arts Club (01273 727 371; www.sussexarts.com) welcomes local arts-lovers.

"There's a warm creative scene in Brighton," says Hardmann. "There's a lot of talent here - it's really taking off."

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