For blow-in students and Brightonians of a certain age, the Basement club and bar underneath the Art College on Grand Parade was a trendy, artsy haunt offering boozing, clubbing and happenings. The spirit of the place is more than aptly summed up by the title of Melita Dennitt’s Book of the Basement: “Sticky Floors and Sweaty Walls.” It was a dive club and bar but ever so lovable.
I was a Britpop indie kid circa 1994 to 1996 when the Basement closed. I was mostly underage drinking there because I was born in the year that punk broke and the king died: 1977. There was never any problem getting in.
Late to the Basement party, I know it was thriving while I was still in short trousers. My much missed friend Adrian Bunting, for many years, ran the open mic night to everyone known as ZincBar. I never saw it. But however dismal your mime, song, dance or talk might have been, Bunting as mercurial host would cheerfully declare to be: “MAGNIFICENT.”
Three Basement memories of my own:
Brienne of Tarth: Gwen (it was always Gwen back then but it’s Gwendolen now) Christie was often to be seen in the Basement when she was at Varndean. Now I see her in Game of Thrones. The dear love, and she was always a poppet, was tall, lithe and gorgeous at the height of Britpop and never shied away from that. She wore big heels and an ‘Attack of the 50ft woman’ t-shirt. I was too short to even try and snog her.
Alex James: After a Blur gig in town the Blur man came to the Basement (he could have gone anywhere.) A sweet girl friend of mine approached him (he was with some lovelies) and she gushed at how much she adored him. He impishly replied: “You’ve already blown it.” My friend blushed with delight.
The last night of the Basement: I was there but can’t really recall what happened. They were basically giving the booze away. The DJ locked himself in the caged booth in the middle of the dance floor and I think we all got turfed out long after 2am when they cut the leccy off. I stumbled home up Albion Hill knowing something good was gone.\
The Market Street Diner: I never managed a Gutbuster, but a Market Special was a regular end of night feed. I remember on some nights we’d depart just before the 2am Basement curfew to ensure we skipped the worst of the queues at that magnificent greasy spoon.
For a rather more academic look at the Basement, that considers the earlier years, check out this page on the University of Brighton.