Dangling from Brighton’s i360 – for a Great Cause

Brighton, that melange of oddities nestled between the English Channel’s chilly tides and the rolling South Downs, does not do normal. Nor does my friend Ann.  And she’s certainly not doing what most people would consider “normal” on this ‘getting a bit chillier now, isn’t it?’ Tuesday evening in mid October.

Underside of Brighton i360 Observation Pod
Brighton i360 Observation Pod

On the Brighton seafront, some distance towards Hove (actually), right where the once majestic West Pier used to connect to land, stands the futuristic i360.  A cross between St John’s beacon in Liverpool and the BT Tower in London, I’m sure I last saw it on the cover of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ LP.  When the lights go down and it glows red, one could really think it’s descended from Mars.  I find myself humming “but still they coooooome – duh-duh-duj, duh-duh-duh” (OK, it’s not quite the same in print. Give me a break, I’m doing my best here!).

Brighton’s i360 is a great way to appreciate the spirit of the city as it offers a birds-eye view of Brighton & Hove’s eclectic patchwork. From up top, the candy-coloured barrage of buildings along Brighton Pier resembles a gameboard packed with cultural icons.

Brighton looking East from i360
Looking east to Palace Pier from the top of i360 Tower

Begin at the epicentre of eccentric Brighton: the Royal Pavilion, built by party animal, Prince Regent in 1815. This Indian-styled palace, bedecked in dragons and minarets, was the Prince’s pleasure palace for lavish fetes. You can take an interior tour and imagine the exorbitant shindigs once held within these jewel-toned walls.

Look to the Lanes, a cobblestoned maze of jewellers and boutiques selling everything from antique maps to vegan shoes.  The North Laine neighbourhood, once an artisan quarter, retains its artsy vibe with indie shops stocking hand-crafted wares.  Students mingle with artists, tourists and musicians heading to the distinctive red and yellow painted GAK store to browse instruments and replenish consumables.

Looking further north you’ll see the manicured green of Preston Park, the busy A27 and beyond that the beautiful, wild South Downs whose wooly-backed residents and their erstwhile guardian we’ve written about in previous articles. To the west beyond Hove you’ll see along the coast toward Worthing and catch a beautiful sunset if you’re there at the right time.  To the south across the English Channel, sea, sea and more deep blue sea.

I don’t want to spoil your voyage of discovery.  I’m just saying, you can see a whole lot of surrounding geography when you’re 138 metres up a 162m tower in a fully enclosed observation pod that offers views in all directions. The journey up and down its shaft takes about 30 minutes, enough time to enjoy a cocktail at the Nyetimber Sky Bar (local products, of course).

Ann about to raise funds for Heads On Mental Health Charity
“I’m going up there”

I hope to bring you a full review of the pod and its facilities in a future article, but let me switch back to my friend Ann, mentioned in my opening paragraph.  Bet you thought I’d forgotten, but you’re mistaken because Ann is the reason I find myself at the foot of the i360 gawping up at the structure thinking that anyone who didn’t like heights would probably still cope because they’d feel quite safe within its enclosed pod.

Except that Ann, and a number of others identifiable by their identical t-shirts, are not about to remain safe within the enclosed pod.  Oh no, not for them a relaxing viewing trip with a chill-out cocktail in hand. They’re all planning to be dangled from a rope and dropped from the pod, once it’s fully ascended, back to the ground.  I suggest that the pod has to come down anyway so she might as well stay in there and wait, but she’s adamant that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the task at hand.

So what is the task at hand?  Well, it’s a fundraising event for Heads On, a Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust charity that helps people with mental health issues to feel supported, remain active and get involved with their communities.  Ann, is due to retire from her career in the NHS in a couple of weeks so this is her parting gift.

i360 tower as night falls
War of the Worlds!

As the intrepid danglers are fitted with their safety harnesses and run through anything they need to know, those of us who’ve come along to whoop and holler for our friends remain safely within the viewing deck.  We’ve entered through what is the original West Pier entrance building that now houses a very well-stocked, clean and efficiently-run bar and café with modern toilet and washing facilities.  There are tables and chairs in here, too, but once we’ve grabbed our refreshments, we’re all outside getting cricked necks peering through the dark towards those ominous red lights.

Every so often, we see a black shape emerging from the pod’s open doorway (don’t worry, it remains closed during general public trips), but each figure is some way down before we can make out who it is.  We all clap and shout encouragement regardless.  Every one of those doing the rope drop is raising funds and doing something pretty admirably scary in the process.

Rope dangling from Brighton i360 Tower
A black shape descends

I hear snatches of conversation around me, many including the words “…wouldn’t catch me…” yet every person who bounces toward us after being released from their harness is grinning from ear to ear, buzzing from the experience and expressing exhilaration with many saying they want to do it again.  Including Ann, I might add. But then I always knew she was a fearless warrior.

 I can’t tell you exactly how much she’s raised by this point because she’s already beaten her target twice, but that won’t stop you contributing if you think it’s deserved (it is).  Just visit her donations page at the link below and throw in some pennies.  I, she, Heads On and the NHS will much appreciate it.

Ann’s fundraising page

Heads On Charity:  https://www.headsoncharity.org/home/index.html

Brighton i360:  https://brightoni360.co.uk


  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

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