The Return (from Peter Pan Series), 1992, etching and aquatint, edition of 50 by Paula Rego. ©The artist, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd.
While festive lights twinkle in the street and shoppers in thick overcoats dash about, the museums and galleries of Brighton and Hove offer some happy distractions from the spending frenzy and respite from the chilly air.
Want some ideas for what to wear to all the Christmas parties? Fashion and Fancy Dress: The Messel Family Dress Collection 1865 - 2005 is on show at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until March 2006 (though the whole venue closes from December 24 - January 7). The display documents the gorgeous and slightly eccentric style of six generations of society ladies.
Evening dress, by Neville, c.1911-1913, worn by Maud Messel. Courtesy Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.
There’s also an exhibition of the prints of Paula Rego, which will be around through to January 22 2006. It’s a comprehensive retrospective, including some of her earliest etchings from the mid-1950s and her recent lithographs inspired by Jane Eyre.
Over the way, the Royal Pavilion is going all seasonal. Until February 2006, the entrance fee for locals is knocked down to £2.35 and accompanying children get in for free. (Just take along proof of address.)
See the full effect of the Pavilion's grand lighting after dark. Courtesy Royal Pavilion.
On December 16, you can take in mulled wine and mince pies at the Pavilion from 5.30pm, followed by a festive tour. The evening will end in the Music Room, where visitors will be entertained with old Sussex carols sung by the Wandering Minstrels. To book a place, call 01273 292798.
The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is also hosting Sussex-style festivities. From Boxing Day until January 2 2006, visitors can enjoy the spirit of Christmas through the ages in historic buildings decorated for Christmas as they would have been in the period when they were built. Expect Tudor mulled wine and other traditional fayre, plus period music and carol singing.
The Tudor hall is decked with boughs of holly at the Weald and Downland Museum. Courtesy Weald and Downland Museum.
Another stop you can make if you’re out and about in Sussex is the Amberley Working Museum, which is hosting a Santa’s grotto with an unusual theme – it’s ‘underwater’. Children and adults can ride on a vintage train to the grotto on December 17, 18 and 21 for £6, which includes a present. Make sure to book, though, on 01798 831370.
Hove's Booth Museum is celebrating the world of water, too, in Strandline: Secrets of the Seashore. The exhibition takes a look at all the fascinating objects, both natural and manmade, that turn up on our beaches every day. It runs until March 19 2006, so if you’re too busy over the winter holidays, there’s still some time to catch it in the new year.