The Brighton Sea Life Centre, the oldest aquarium in Britain, is undergoing a program of renovation at the moment. I love this place, and it was a treat to be asked to go behind the scenes and take photographs of the work in progress. The architecture of the building has always enthralled me, and as layers of old paint are stripped off and bare brickwork and ornamental plasterwork is revealed it is sheds new light on some of its former glories. It is looking, if anything, slightly more ecclesiastical, but as a temple to sea life conservation perhaps that is only fitting, and it is gorgeous despite the noise and dust of the work in progress.
Of course in order to do the work safely quite a few of our aquatic friends have had to take up temporary residence elsewhere. To accommodate some of them a huge scaffolding platform has been built in the auditorium above the seats, and massive tanks placed on it. Meanwhile the residents of the main lagoon, sharks, turtles, rays and myriad fish, are graciously putting up with their temporary neighbours by getting on with life pretty much as usual. I suspect though, that they are missing their regular stream of visitors, going by the number of faces popping up to say Hi! at me from the water as I worked! I got a real treat when I was allowed to get up close and personal with the Giant Octopus. Amazing facts I learned: He is strong enough to pull a full grown person into his tank if he wanted to, but is actually very friendly, playful and likes the occasional tickle. He is also extremely intelligent, and has learned how to unscrew a lid on one of his toys to get at a treat inside.
When the Sea Life Centre reopens in March there will be new areas so that visitors can see more of the "Behind the scenes" activities that are an intriguing part of this wonderful place. I don't think Octopus tickling will be included but visitors will be able to see into the plant room, the food preparation room and the breeding areas to learn more about what is involved in running this busy underwater world. There will also be the exciting new Jellyfish Disco exhibition area, a new entrance and shop area. I can't wait to be back there!
© Julia Claxton Photography