Portillo's Hidden History of Britain

Brighton: A Seaside Escape

Series 2 - Episode 5 Brighton: A Seaside Escape



There’s a bizarre interlude on Brighton sea front when Michael Portillo has a go at being a Punch and Judy man using a puppet of the then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. He stabs him in the back with a trident and says in a silly voice: “Look for Michael Gove!”

It’s the final part of his journey, and he’s in the seaside town established as the place to see and be seen in Victorian times. He sails close to the eerie wreckage of the West Pier, a barnacled, ruined hulk since a devastating fire in 2003. And as no television presenter can ever resist the allure of sewers, Portillo explores part of the town’s labyrinthine waste system.


Michael Portillo ends his journey in Sussex at the popular seaside destination of Brighton, where he goes in search of the hidden history of this British coastal resort. The ghostly skeleton of the town's West pier has become one of the UK's most well-known ruins, and Michael discovers that its extraordinary staying power is thanks to its Victorian engineering. Later, Michael joins Britain's oldest swimming club for a bracing dip, before meeting Jo Berry, daughter of Conservative MP Anthony Berry, who was killed by an IRA bomb at Brighton's Grand Hotel during the party's 1984 conference.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Portillo
Executive Producer Jazz Gowans
Series Director Ruairi Fallon
Series Producer Ruairi Fallon
Documentary History