In the first week of the school summer holidays 2018 we took eighty parents and children to the Sealife Centre and the i360. These are two of the most popular attractions in Brighton, visited by thousand of families from the City and by tourists, but both prohibitively expensive for families on little or no money.
Many of our children might have heard about the Sealife Centre from their schoolmates, and have stared at the i360 from the seafront, but never had a chance of a visit.
In a city where, due to low wages, high rents and shrinking welfare benefits for housing costs, many families have to choose between eating or heating, cultural and exciting experiences like these have become a luxury.
We first went to the Sealife Centre. This is a large aquarium located on the Brighton’s seafront. For more information about the Sealife Centre plese click here. There we spent a fascinating two hours exploring the weird and wonderful life that lives in the sea.
The Sealife Centre displays a number of tanks with local and exotic fish, including cute seahorses, molluscs and crustaceans, next to screens and posters which give interesting information about them, their names, origins and anatomy. In a central fountain our children could not just see but even touch strange creatures such as starfish, while an attendant would speak to the families and answer questions from the children. The most exciting part of the exibition was a corridor built under an enormous glass tank, where we would see ourselves surrounded by enormous sting rays and sharks – this was an unforgettable, thrilling experience.
The visit of the Sealife Centre was followed by a picnic outside.
Our original plans had to be revised at the last moment, as some families refused to go for the picnic to the beach, as they feared that we could be ambushed and mugged by hungry seagulls. The feathery creatures of the Brighton seafront could indeed be fiercer and scarier than the giants sharks we had just looked at!
The ‘theatre’ inside the Sealife Centre was unsuitable for eating, due to its dark environment and the labyrinthine way to it.
However, thanks to the generosity and flexibility of the Sealife Centre staff, we were given the possibility to use the venue’s courtyard for our buffet lunch, which proved to be the ideal solution. We are very grateful to the Sealife Centre manager for relieving us from this stressful situation.
After lunch the coach picked us and took us down the seafront for our ‘flight’ on the i360.
The i360 is an enormous glass-cased pod which glides up and down a 140m (450ft) tall tower. It is run by British Airways, thus they call the 25 minutes trips on it ‘flights’. For more information on the i360 click here.
The experience an actual ‘flight’ started from the waiting room, which looked like an airport. We had to queue for our airport-like procedures including bag search security and metal detecting scans! While waiting for the pod to come back from the previous ‘flight’ and touch ground, children could play with Lego pieces at a table while we adults could watch an interesting video on a big screen, showing the history, design and construction of the i360, or just chat.
We then entered the pod. A few parents were initially terrified of feeling claustrophobic or dizzy in the pod, while all the children were just thrilled. However, the pod was spacious and and people could sit on chairs far from the glass.
The flight took us high above Brighton. We could see the whole of the city and the South Downs beyond. Our guests had fun spotting large buildings such as the Brighton Central station, parks and hospitals, hills beyond Brighton and the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Some other guests enjoyed the view of the sea.
After the ‘flight’, waiting for the coach to take us back to Hollingdean, we sat on the beach to relax. That was a treat too, and the children immediately started playing, throwing stones in the sea, running away from the waves, and looking for shells. Although the day was too cold for a swim, it was great, after having explored the depths of the seas, and looked at the English Channel from 450ft above ground, to enjoy the sea smell and have a close look at pebbles, shells, algae and cuttlefish bones.
Some of our guests preferred to walk back or catch a bus from the seafront, if they lived nearer than Hollingdean.
A good time was had by all.
Here there are some comments from our guests:
‘Thank you for letting us come on this great time you guys work brilliantly to bring it all together’
‘Lovely day, organised and accomodative ladies. Scared at first but after a while got used to it. Very friendly and chilled unrestrictive rules’
‘Thank you for a fab day. thank you to all CASE Central workers. Kids has a fab time, and appreciate all that you do’.