Brighton's proudly queer, 'Community Asset' is as flamboyant as ever
Previously called The Marlborough, this location, like many in the area, has tons of history, dating back to the late 1700s when the pub was launched as The Golden Cross and, rumour has it, provided a discreet underground route for Prince George to rendezvous with ladies of the night.
In the 1970s the pub began to form it’s connections with the LGBT community when Gay and Lesbian groups made the pub their home for meetings and events. The theatre above the pub was created during this decade as well and has been heavily linked with LGBTQ+ theatre groups and HIV awareness movements.
Recently the pub has won awards for best LGBT venue, and in 2022 The Actors Brighton was successfully assigned an Asset of Community Value, meaning it has furthered the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.
The seating area outside is simple enough and there isn’t much of it, but on nice days this is probably where you’d opt to sit, as it’s located on a quiet backstreet with glimpses of Brighton Pavilion across the road.
As you enter the pub you have options left and right, both kitted out with plush bench seating, small round tables and stools. Perhaps due to it’s location and lack of natural light, this pub has always felt a little bit dingy to me inside. Following a post-COVID refresh though, the right hand bar feels more uplifting, classy and fresh, nicely warmed by the glow of art deco lamps. The left bar and the space towards the back still offers that duskier, cosy, discreet corner option.
The decoration is simple and tasteful. Here and there on the walls are large masks, which nod to the pubs new name and link it to the theatrical space upstairs that is so intertwined with this pubs recent history.
The events board advertises weekly events but a look at their social media and Designmynight page suggests lots more in the form of visiting comedians, cabaret acts, workshops, pop-up markets and more. It’s all happening here at The Actors Brighton.
The bar offers a range of Laines’ craft keg beers such as Source and Mangolicious, plus an alternative craft tap, serving Brixton Lager. You can also get some other mass produced lagers and Guinness. There are a couple of cask pumps but nothing of note was serving on my visit.
The options are pretty limited really. I realise that it’s Laine Pub Co owned, but it’s a shame they haven’t teamed up with someone like Queer Brewing, which would suit the pub’s reputation and clientele very well and make it a destination for craft beer enthusiasts as well.
The Website suggests various pizzas from Pizzafaced are available but I’ve personally never eaten here.
I had a nice chat with the Supervisor last visit who I recognised from a music event. They are a queer, Black spoken-word artist and activist who identify as they/them. It’s very encouraging to see that under Laine, the Actors is still staffed by members of the community which the pub has historically served.
The Actors Brighton has become the modern, well decorated product you expect to find in Brighton these days. Happily it also retains that special intangible quality that comes from it’s legacy as a safe and inclusive space for Brighton’s LGBTQ+ clientele. It truly is a community asset.