Brighton were chosen as one of the pilot groups to make plans for one of the first Sunday Assemblies outside London (before the kick-starter idea had gained so much interest and momentum). We formed our
committee of 8 people in June (this number increased to 9 in October) and held our first Sunday Assembly in Brighton on the 22nd September.
We chose the theme ‘Beginnings’ and sang Build me up Buttercup, Born to Be Wild and Don’t Stop Me Now, accompanied by our brilliant house band (keyboard, bass, guitar, vocals). We had a reading by one of our
committee: a poem by Edgar Guest entitled ‘It couldn’t be done’ (very apt for taking on a project like this – worth a read). Mark Stevenson (author of an Optimists Tour of the Future) gave an inspiring motivational talk, and another of our committee members talked about ‘Trying her best’, relaying the story of starting Sunday Assembly Brighton, and also about how some things begin in a way that you least expect and told of her experience of helping deliver a baby on a picnic bench! Having come down from London, Sanderson was present and able to give the address. We counted 233 people through the door, many of whom stayed afterwards for tea and cake. Our venue is a disused church built in the mid-1800s with capacity for 250 people, where we will continue to be on the 4th Sunday of every month.
Our Brighton 40 Dates event went really well on Thursday 24th October. We held it in a community centre which is home the local United Reformed church and which was a change from our regular venue which wasn’t available due to a regular booking. We had between 120 and 160 people (two different counts!) and we used the theme of ‘Play’. We sang the theme from Happy Days, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (good old British 80s classic!), a song by Supergrass and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, all of which went down very well (once again with our house band, now with the addition of a blind drummer – an amazing guy and incredibly inspiring). We had a reading by one of our committee from Polyanna which told of a ‘game’ she played that reminds us to be thankful for things in life; some Danish Clapping; and a local speaker who talked about the fun that can be had with mail-art. Pippa talked about how she’s ‘trying her best’ and Sanderson acted as host for the evening. We showed the crowdfunding video on a livestream which unfortunately was pretty jumpy owing to the poor internet connection in the venue. The whole event lasted just over an hour. We had the usual tea and cake at the end, and then went to the pub after that. We had a lot of people staying around for tea (which we weren’t sure they’d want at that time in the evening) but people were keen to hang around to chat. The cake that was leftover we took to a local homeless shelter.
Our future events include Winter Wonder-land on December 22nd and a special event in March for the Brighton Science Festival with Jim Al-Khalili confirmed as guest speaker.
We are very proud of our achievements so far and have had some great feedback. We have had media coverage in local newspapers, we’ve had 2 interviews on local radio stations and had a TV camera from the local ITV news programme at the first event. On behalf of Sunday Assembly we have been interviewed for an Italian Catholic newspaper (though I’ve no idea if it was complimentary or not owing to the fact I don’t speak Italian!).
We are holding a meeting in December for people to come along with ideas for interest groups and which we will encourage members of the congregation to facilitate and lead, with 2 members of our committee acting as links between the groups and the committee (we’ll call them Sunday Assembly Brighton communities liaison officers or something). We have had interest expressed in setting up a choir, a conservation group and ‘Smoups’ which has been used in London and is a small groups peer-to-peer discussion and support network.
The best thing about it is the people I’ve met through doing this and the new experiences I’ve encountered. None of us in the committee knew more than one or two people in the group at the start and we were relative strangers. But we have all worked incredibly well together and it is a privilege to be part of such a great proactive and supportive team (thank you all so much!!).
I’m proud to be part of something so inspiring and positive. Thanks to Pippa and Sanderson for having the drive to get things off the ground when others might have thought it too big an undertaking, and to Mark for trouble-shooting some of our admin issues along the way.