Somewhere amongst my stuff, in a drawer or a box somewhere, is a Keep Brighton Weird badge. They were produced about 5 years ago by Ramsey Holman a local artist originally from Portland Oregon.
I’ve never been to Portland but I imagine it as a more twisted and intense version of Brighton. The show Portlandia desribed the town as ‘where young people go to retire’ which chimes with Brighton’s reputation as a graveyard of ambition. Portland is also described in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fugitives and Refugees and was where Katherine Dunn wrote the classic novel Geek Love.
The slogan Keep Portland Weird was part of a campaign based on an earlier Keep Austin Weird movement. The trademarked slogan both advertises Portland’s reputation for weirdness as well as marking it as something endangered. If we don’t do something, then Portland will become just another place.
I grew up in Sussex and came to Brighton for university as it seemed like the most exciting place. I loved the strangeness of the place and the wonderful cheap shops. Over twenty years the town has changed. The amazing second-hand bookshops have disappeared. Rents have become astronomical. Music venues have disappeared. The weirdness is still here but some people complain that it’s more self-conscious. It seems like everyone I know complains about hipsters, even the ones with beards and sleeve tattoos. But I’d rather have artificial weirdness than no weirdness at all.