Brighton Reading Room
Part of a nationwide network supported by Pluto Press, the Brighton Reading Room was launched in June 2023 by the Centre for Global Political Economy, Hopeful Solidarities and One Church Brighton at One Church’s Florence Road Café in central Brighton.
The shelves are stocked with Pluto Press books, with additional contributions from Left Book Club, QueenSpark Books and other publishers. The reading room also hosts talks, reading groups and opportunities to meet authors, outside of café opening hours. Amy and Ben are actively involved in the Brighton Reading Room’s organising group.
Exeter Street Hall
Exeter Street Hall is a vibrant community centre situated in the heart of Prestonville, Brighton.
A campaigning group came together at the end of 2011 when residents were inspired by a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Exeter Street Hall had been put up for sale by St. Luke’s Church, and the community decided they wanted to secure the Hall as a community asset for future generations.
Volunteers, including Cath, knocked on all the doors in the neighbourhood asking residents to buy a £50 share in the hall so that the Victorian building would truly be owned by the community.
After eighteen months of campaigning and five months of fundraising, the volunteer team raised £180,000 and in August 2013 took ownership of Exeter Street Hall. Since then, the Hall has hosted regular activities for people of all ages, including Stay and Play for children, table tennis, art classes and a Repair Café. Exercise classes, music and comedy events, and seasonal celebrations are all hosted at the Hall.
In September 2023, the Hall celebrated its 10th anniversary with a Hall for All Festival.
Migrant English Project
Migrant English Project (MEP) was established in 2003 by a small group of volunteers at the Cowley Club, an activist space in Brighton.
Twenty years on – as anti-immigrant rhetoric remains rife, environments are made intentionally hostile, and immigration policies become increasingly punitive – this solidarity has become more important than ever.
Today, MEP continues to provide free, informal English classes for refugees and vulnerable migrants in a welcoming, friendly space. It is a space to learn, but also to find support, make friends, and connect with others. Every week lunch is cooked by volunteers and students, with students and staff coming together after morning classes to sit and eat together. After lunch, students come for the sewing group, to socialise as they stitch. Over the years, MEP has also developed organically to incorporate a range of activities beyond language classes, including allotment gardening, music and holiday outings. Students practise their English as they participate in the activities.
The project is run entirely by volunteers and students themselves with a non-hierarchical structure. Cath and Amy are both long-time volunteers with MEP and Cath is an organiser within the group. Our involvement with MEP came about through, and relied upon, these pre-existing and ongoing links since Migrant English Project. MEP is also connected to groups across Brighton and Hove and beyond through its involvement with Brighton’s Refugee and Migrant Forum.
Whitehawk Football Club
Whitehawk Football Club is a non-league football club founded in 1945 that attracted between 300 and 600 fans for its home games in the 2022-23 season.
During the pandemic, Ben noticed one of his neighbours wearing a Whitehawk FC t-shirt with the slogan NO RACISM, NO SEXISM, NO VIOLENCE, NO HOMOPHOBIA against a black background. He soon learned more about Whitehawk FC, its ethos of Football for All and its left-wing group of Ultras and, when matches restarted after lock-down began regularly attending matches there and is now a season ticket holder.
A life-long football fan Ben enjoys going to Whitehawk FC in spite of the cold and sees it as a practice of hope. As Isaac Gleave puts it, the Enclosed Ground is a place where the hope ceases to fade . There is an awareness in the songs of the Ultras that joy is to be found in turning up and being there, in singing together and in supporting the club, rather than the result of the matches, although goals and victories for Whitehawk FC certainly help.
Yiddish Singing Workshops
Yiddish singing workshops at the University of Sussex Meeting House are a collaboration between students, university staff and Polina Shepherd’s former Brighton and Hove Yiddish Choir, which Ben sang in for four years from 2018.
He elaborates how Yiddish songs based on works of the ‘proletarian poets’ form part of the 20th- and 21st- century life of Yiddish and a culture of aspiration for a fair, just world. They imagine common human thriving without borders and cruel nationalisms, even if only in death.
The workshops, organised initially by Ben and later by Taya Amit, grew out of intergenerational collaborations that had started between the University and College Union (a staff union) and the University of Sussex Students Union through practices of hope and solidarity such as picketing and teach-outs that built up over several years of industrial action from 2018. Locating the workshop at the Meeting House also built on staff and student relationships with the University Chaplaincy that had come about in part through joint work commemorating the tragic death of a student during the pandemic.
Other communities and organisations
Hopeful Solidarities has also worked with Brighton & Hove Libraries and Best Foot Music
Afrori Books, Jollof Café, Resist Glencore and Salty Seabirds all participated in our project with Brighton photographer Natasa Leoni: Practices of Hope and Solidarity in Brighton and Hove.