HMS Rockwater – Pride. A Review For Sussex Visitor

Like so many other Brighton and Hove residents, I was absolutely gutted when it was announced that Brighton Pride had been cancelled for the second year in a row due to concerns over health and safety for visitors, residents, staff and volunteers due to Covid 19. It is a time when Brighton comes alive to celebrate and show support for the LGBTQ+ community, is a time for us to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards LGBT equality and to acknowledge the fact that we stand on the shoulders of all those who have fought so hard over the years to achieve this. It is also one hell of a weekend long, city-wide party extravaganza that has to be seen to be believed.

Thankfully the Team behind Rockwater, Hove’s hottest seafront destination, partnered with the LGBT+ charity Switchboard, and stepped up! Drag queens, DJs and performers descended on Hove for the bar’s first Pride event – HMS Rockwater – which took place over Pride weekend. We were invited to come along and check it out on Saturday, and I have to say the event was a huge success, despite the somewhat incremental weather.

I have been a frequent visitor to Rockwater since they opened. It is no secret they have got off to a rocky start, with Covid restrictions meaning delays to opening, and some resistance from a handful of local residents. I for one absolutely love the venue and all that it stands for. It is an absolutely stunning three floored colossal  community hub with a huge garden and seafront decking that provides something for everyone, from morning coffee on the deck to cocktails on the spectacular roof terrace, and everything in between. Ever since it opened its doors I have waiting for them to host a big event such as this, so I was excited to see what the team behind this incredible venue is truly capable of putting on whilst making the most of the incredible space available.

We arrived just after midday and the drag brunch hosted by Ophelia Payne & friends was already in full swing on the top deck. The Pride Festival on the lawns behind the venue was about to kick off with some local comedy acts so we decided to check that out first before heading upstairs. As we stepped out onto the lawns I was immediately impressed by what I saw. A huge stage, complete with cat-walk had been set up for the days entertainment with bars and food options dotted around the edges. We grabbed a couple of delicious and almost guilt free Truly wild berry hard seltzers and settled on the lawns for three outrageous and incredibly funny stand up comediennes Kate McGann, Lauren Douglin and Charlotte Fox who all went down an absolute storm with the crowd.

We could see the rain clouds building in the distance, so after the comedy we took a trip upstairs the beautiful roof terrace to witness the last couple of acts at the Drag Brunch, we could hear cheering and roars of laughter as we approached and were greeted by drag Harley Quinn lookalike assaulting unsuspecting diners with an inflatable baseball bat! All the acts we saw were obviously very established in their field. Clearly very gifted entertainers and dancers with incredibly singing voices. All the drag queens performed a variety of solo numbers with a wide range of styles to keep the crowd entertained, with cheap gags, dirty jokes and a fully fledged high quality theatrical experience, along with some very poignant reminders as to why the pride message is so very important. After the show DJ Chris Barker had the entire room up dancing with the drag queens with a beautiful extended mix of Madonna’s “Borderline” followed by a host of feel good disco tracks that had everyone in the room smiling as they moved to the beat before heading downstairs and out onto the lawns.

Which is when it began to absolutely chuck it down… DJ Blonde Ambition and the Savage dancers were absolutely rocking the catwalk, but alas, after a while the wet weather made it impossible to carry on with the show outside any longer. The team behind the scenes were quick to react though. So after a brief interlude the show continued in the fabulous Rockwater lounge bar with Lord Hicks offering up a great fun musical romp through queer history, followed by the gorgeous Savage Disco dancers getting everyone up dancing to camp disco classics spun by DJ Joshua James and finishing up with a great fun lip sync battle between Brighton queens and the Savage queens with Juniper DJ and Ophelia Payne as host.

Rockwater members then had a real treat to finish off the night with Brighton’s very own legend Fat Boy Slim back up on the roof terrace where revellers were able to dance the night away till the early hours with support from Savage DJ Jonjo, the Savage Disco Dancers and 1BTN’s Sophie Lloyd.

It really was a wonderful day that captured the spirit of pride. Even though It was a massive shame that all the effort and expense that went into setting up the outdoor stage area on the lawns went almost entirely to waste due to the weather, everyone who attended still had an amazing fun time and I am sure it will be talk of the town. Having now witnessed Rockwater in all its glory I am super excited to see what they have in store for us in future and will be first in the queue whenever they host another big event. I truly hope the campest cruise ship in town HMS Rockwater sets sail again next year as part of the return of official Brighton Pride.