Culture and Community - Syd Shelton

‘Becoming a One Planet City means focusing on nurturing a culture of sustainability, community and a sense of place which builds on local cultural heritage to foster identity and connection’ Brighton & Hove Sustainability Action Plan

Brighton & Hove has an international reputation for arts and culture. Its historic monuments, festivals, indoor and outdoor events have forged the city into one of Britain’s premier tourist destinations. Integral to this cultural activity is community participation where individuals come together from an inordinate range of social, cultural and geographical backgrounds.

These communities emerge, on the one hand, accidentally as in the street theatre of London Road, a major artery of Brighton or through organised events such as the Kemp Town Carnival which began as a form of village fete devoted to local inhabitants. The carnival is now a major calendar event of dance, music and local food that attracts some 25,000 people. The annual Big Screen on Brighton beach brings a diverse audience together and is powered by solar panels and used chip fat. Communities are also carefully nurtured by organisations such as the Brighton Youth Centre, Paradiso Productions and the Grow Project.

These forms of cultural activities illustrate how Brighton & Hove’s community involvement perpetuates the city’s sustainable and cultural dynamism.


I see my photographs as a visual argument. The culture and community brief of the One Planet Living project provided me with the space to maintain this perspective. As the month-long shoot developed, it was necessary to constantly review my work. I looked for gaps, repetition and changed direction in order to produce a balanced photographic essay which reflected the diversity of Brighton & Hove.

Additionally I wanted to find a balance between the ‘grabbed’ street photographs and the ‘set-up’ portraits of artists, musicians and allotmenteers that constitute this body of work. I originally intended to take all the photographs in black and white. But when I shot the Kemp Town Carnival on 7th June 2014, the vibrancy of this event made me realise that colour was needed for this assignment.

The camera I used was a digital range finder. Its demure size and near silent shutter operation enabled me to work fast and get close to people I wanted to photograph. I shot some 5,000 images for this project. Making the initial edit was a marathon in itself.

In the spirit of the One Planet Living Project I walked or travelled by bus to most of the locations.


This exhibition took place between 01/10/2014 – 31/07/2015 at the Brighton Dome Cafe-Bar and Earth & Stars pub in Brighton