This coming weekend is the BIALL (British and Irish Association of Law Librarians) conference in Brighton. As always, the event looks set to be an engaging two days, with an excellent selection of speakers talking around the theme of ‘Collaboration, Co-operation and Connectivity.’ But how well do you know the host city? Read on to discover six examples of legal trivia about Brighton.
(1) The West Pier: protected Starling roosts
On autumn evenings, the sky above the Brighton waterfront is filled with the black, undulating shape of a starling flock, thousands strong. The natural spectacle is called a murmuration. Starlings are designated as critically endangered in this country and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The act, which makes it illegal to intentionally kill or injure a starling, or to damage or destroy an active nest, protects the roosting site on the Brighton’s West Pier from interference. The pier burnt down in 2003 and only the fire-damaged skeleton remains.
(2) Caroline Lucas’s seaside memento
When Caroline Lucas affirmed her positioned as Green Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion, she clutched a pebble from Brighton Beach to represent the interests of her constituents, which she would carry with her wherever she went. Unfortunately, due to the 1949 Coastal Protection Act it is illegal to remove stones from a British beach. The erosion of Britain’s sea defences is a serious issue due in part to members of the public removing stones by the barrel-load to landscape their gardens. Lucas duly returned the stone to its rightful place.
(3) Battle of the piers
The fire-damaged West Pier, built during the pleasure pier boom of the 1860s, was the first British pier to become Grade 1 listed. In 2001, it seemed the blackened wreck off Brighton’s coast would be returned to its former glory when the National Lottery fund pledged £14m towards the pier’s restoration. Alas, the Victorian structure remains dilapidated today. Brighton Pier, the fully-functioning, 21st century gambling and gaming attraction off Brighton Beach, claimed unfair competition and subsequently squashed all hopes of rejuvenating the West Pier in the legal battle that followed.
(4) Cannabis culture: an untapped revenue stream
Modern Brighton is awash with shops offering smoking paraphernalia. The shops are catering to the large counter-culture movement that wants cannabis legalised, citing the repeated studies that show prohibition does more harm than good. In 2014, Caroline Lucas obtained over 130,000 signatures petitioning the government to review the Misuse of Drugs Act. The Green Party supports the ‘Copenhagen Model’ of cannabis legalisation, putting distribution in the hands of the local government. If the campaign is successful, introducing European coffee-shop culture to Brighton could bring a significant new revenue stream to Brighton’s flagging economy.
(5) First to tie the knot
At midnight, on Saturday 29th March 2014, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into effect. In Brighton, competition to be the first same sex couple to tie the knot was fierce, with several night-weddings orchestrated perfectly so that the vows were spoken just as the clock struck twelve.
(6) Lewes bonfire night celebrations
The village of Lewes outside Brighton is infamous for the huge Bonfire Night celebrations on 5th November. Each year, 80,000 people descend on the small village, while the seven bonfire societies terrorize tourists with rockets and sinister face paint. The village has celebrated the foiling of the Guy Fawkes plot with ale-fuelled revelry for over 400 years. In 1606, An Acte for a publique Thancksgiving to Almighty God everie yeere of the Fifte day of November was passed proclaiming the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot should ‘be held in a perpetual Remembrance.’ The villagers have been true to the declaration ever since, marching through the streets in fancy dress, beating drums, and setting off fireworks with little regard for health and safety. In 2014, 14 people were arrested, 4 taken to hospital and a further 86 were injured.
Headline image credit: CCO Public Domain via Pixabay.