One of the most exciting parts of living in Brighton & Hove is how diverse the cultural events are. Night after night we’re spoilt by the city’s arts – just look at our comedy scene for god’s sake. A leading strength in the industry across the county is Hove’s Zoe Lyons, whose credentials are impressive to say the least. With 15 years of comedy under her belt, 12 of those have been spent living by the seaside. “We were living in London and one day we just reached a point where we wanted out from the mayhem of the capital,” she tells me. But who is ‘we’? Well it’s Lyons and her wife, together for the long-haul, they’ve tied the knot in recent years. But more on that later. The beauty of a city like Brighton is the chilled pace of life, that’s for sure. The inclusivity of a community like ours is, at times, so wholesome that we can forget what it’s like elsewhere. “I have never regretted the decision,” she continues. “I love living here, we live quite close to the sea and I walk beside the sea every day.”
Setting her roots down here has helped shape Lyons’ life and career. At the helm of Komedia’s Bent Double for over ten years, “it is by far [her] favourite gig to do.” Her graciousness comes through as she tells me it’s all thanks to the audience and Komedia itself, though perhaps she should look closer to home for this one. “The audiences have been so supporting and loyal over the years and the venue has been so helpful in making the night a continued success. The fact that acts love coming to Brighton to play the gig makes me very happy.” Its LGBT+ accessibility shines a prominent light on a proportion of society which can sometimes fall by the wayside.
As with anywhere, our clubs and abundance of watering holes need to constantly evolve – this is particularly true of gay venues as we’ve seen with the unbelievable amount of closures in recent times. Lyons ponders this for a moment. From her experience explains, “obviously there is a long-standing LGBT+ scene here in the city. I think to survive it does need to adapt and change as a new generation of LGBT+ people come to Brighton. The need for ‘traditional’ venues is changing.” On the whole, in local establishments I feel comfortable. But that’s not to say everyone does – I count myself lucky to be able to say that. She’s completely right – a younger crowd might not want a stale pub environment where you might be stared at for being against the grain. It’s the inclusive nights that set Brighton apart from other places in the country. Look at the offerings from The Marlborough, for example, and the queer nights that are institutions for those who might not feel safe or relaxed in your average venue. In a nod to our friends, and the city’s most inclusive crowd, Lyons muses, “nights like Traumfrau are a great addition to the scene.” Welcoming people of all age and gender, Traumfrau is a queer, non-judgemental, inclusive, non-ageist, non-sexist space. Many promoters could learn a thing or two from them. Alternative and exciting, it never gets old.
With such a demanding schedule, it’s a wonder Lyons has the chance to enjoy these delights. She tells me, “I get so few nights out these days as I work so many evenings but I am enjoying the city’s ever-growing list of great places to eat. So ideal night out for me now would be bite to eat followed by a few cocktails at the Plotting Parlour in Kemptown, such a great wee bar.” It’s refreshing that a comedian of her stature is so content to enjoy the smaller things in life.
Lyons goes on to tell me about her favourite night out in the city. Now this is incredibly sweet so try and hold back the ugly cry tears. “The wife and I ‘upgraded’ our Civil Partnership to marriage a couple of years ago. Because we had had a pretty big party for the civil partnership we decided to keep the conversion very simple. It was just the two of us, we signed the papers (overseen by the wonderful Mr Trevor Love who had conducted our CP years ago) and then went for a lovely meal and several cocktails, so it was indeed my ideal night out in Brighton.” See? Adorable.
Bent Double is every month at Brighton’s Komedia