The Deans Beach and Environment Volunteers organise Saltdean beach clean this April. Nadia Abbas reports
Everyone loves the beach. Whether you’re an all-weather swimmer, someone who likes the promenade or maybe just an occasional visitor, everyone loves the beach.
In the summer our beaches are a bustling haven of activity with surfers, swimmers, and families filling up the seafront. But many of these people are unaware of the amount of rubbish that is left on the beaches. This waste is damaging to marine wildlife and human life, as plastic waste trickles into the food chain over time. One way to tackle this growing problem is to organise beach clean events, which is what The Deans Beach and Environment Volunteers group are doing.
The Deans Beach and Environment Volunteers are a group of volunteers. They raise awareness about ocean litter, and they remove rubbish that has been left on Brighton’s beaches. This organisation has been active for over ten years. They have organised a beach clean event on the 2nd of April 2023 at Saltdean beach. It starts at 11am and ends at 12:30pm. This event is open to the public and people will be provided with equipment, such as gloves and litter pickers. People can also bring their own equipment.
Rona Hunnisett, Deans Beach and Environment volunteer, said: “We regularly have more than one hundred people turning up and helping, which is amazing.” Once the litter has been collected, this organisation sorts through it and recycles as much as possible. “We weigh it because we then send the information, we’ve got back to the Environment Agency to say to them, this is the type of stuff we are seeing.”
Some of the waste that is found on the beaches is not recyclable, such as crisp packets and different plastics. These will remain on the beach for many years, and they will be ground down into microplastics. These microplastics end up in the food chain, as they are eaten by the fish and humans will eat the fish. “The oldest thing I’ve seen was a crisp packet which we dated back to 1984, I remember it from when I was a kid. They don’t break down,” said Rona. Other items that this group finds on the beaches includes clothing, fishing boat trays, glass cans, and food wrappers. “Last month we found the most enormous plastic tank, it took three of us to lift it off the beach.”
This volunteer group works with the Marine Conservation Society, who highlight the work of different beach cleaning groups. This group are also participating in the Great British Spring Clean campaign. This is the nation’s biggest environmental campaign, by independent charity Keep Britain Tidy. “We have committed to ten huge bags of rubbish that we are going to take away.”
To be able to stop what you’re doing, just fora moment, and let yourself be transported into another world is a little luxury we can all enjoy”. Nabihah Iqbal, Guest Director
Brighton Festival has officially launched and it’s jam packed with shows you won’t want to miss. From interactive art exhibits to dance, to multicultural, mixed media music performances the almost 80 page brochure has a lot to offer. This is our list of absolute must-see shows.
Galatea as adapted by Emma Frankland is described by Iqbal as the “centerpiece of the festival” in many ways. A modern adaptation of the classic John Lyly text from which many famous Shakespearean plays were adapted, Galatea centers around two young trans people finding love whilst escaping oppression.
Suroor to be presented by Iqbal herself with support from Qazi & Qazi in partnership with the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts is a “shape-shifting, experimental collaboration” that combines music influenced by heritage and society with aspects of, as Iqbal put it, “droney, doom metal”
The Sleeping Tree is an audio immersive experience coming from Invisible Flock studios that surrounds participants with the noises of the jungle that were recorded over a 3-month long stint in the great rainforests of North Sumatra. Guest Director Nabihah Iqbal is also collaborating with this exhibit to create a one-of-a-kind sound performance using extracts from the rainforest recordings and original texts to connect humans and the forest ecosystem.
The Enthusiasts is Victoria Melody’s latest passion project about the passions of others. The Enthusiasts invites onlookers into the extraordinary communities of “pigeon fanciers” and funeral directors by creating two intimate auditory experiences taking place at two secret locations across Brighton.
Kizlar is the world premiere of Ceyda Tanc Dance’s celebration of what it means to be a woman through dances interpreted from traditional male Turkish dancers and an all-female company.
Bakkhai follows a reimagining of the ancient Greek tragedy reframed in a contemporary anti-corporatization context. Performed by the incredible talents of ThirdSpace (formerly Windmill Young Actors) Bakkhai features a cast of over fifty people, aged 8-60 and is in collaboration with Ceyda Tanc Dance and Brighton People’s Theatre.
This barely scratches the surface of the 120 events that are set to take place during the course of the Festival and I’m eager to see the city transform into the hub of arts and culture it so passionately supports during this time.
Got to say, very excited – and I mean very – that A Certain Ratio are playing. I can’t begin to think how many times I’ve seen them since – I think – ’79 in Manchester and each time they’ve got better and better. Can’t wait.
It’s the perfect task for a wet and windy winter’s day. Flowers like lilies, gladioli and ranunculi can all be ordered in the winter for early-spring planting. Make the most of those days you’re stuck indoors to browse catalogues or websites for inspirational new varieties of seeds and bulbs to plant and grow this year.
• Carrot, beetroot, kale, leeks, broccoli, horseradish, chicory, and turnips. Spring onions are also great early vegetables to plant in March, as well as spinach (make sure the soil is enriched with organic matter), peas, shallots and parsnips.
Tidy up flower beds and borders
Have a general tidy up, removing leaves and other debris from flower beds and borders.
You can cut back the old dead growth of deciduous grasses and herbaceous perennials now, although, if you’d like to be wildlife friendly, it’s best to leave these until early spring.
Clear borders and beds back to bare soil. Put the dead organic matter you’ve cleared away into your compost pile or bin to break down.
Remove any weeds you can see. Don’t compost them as the seeds will germinate and cause you more problems later on.
Install water butts and start collecting rainwater
Install a water butt in your garden this winter to make the most of rainfall. Most of the year’s rain falls in winter, so now’s the time to collect it! Harvesting rainwater is essential for environmentally friendly gardening. Peak demand for water in the hotter months often forces water companies to resort to groundwater reserves and streams, which is harmful to the environment and costly for consumers.
It takes a lot of guts to be a writer, to not only put yourself in the centre of any narrative but to claim that your perspective is something new, fresh and worth reading. Les Misérables was first published in 1862 and has had countless adaptations and interpretations since then so it would be naive to suggest I could offer something new and exciting however I doubt many have looked at Les Mis through a Leeds United lens.
The novel begins with Jean Valjean being released from 19 years imprisonment for stealing bread and few metaphors describe Leeds United’s 16 year exile from the Premier League. Leeds first season in the Championship brought a play-off final defeat so fans would be forgiven for thinking a swift return to the big-time was on the cards however relegation to League One followed the season after. Les Miserables the musical opens with the song “Look Down.”
On 26th February 2022 I watched Leeds United against Tottenham Hotspur on television from the comfort of my living room before traveling to London to watch Les Misérables the musical. Despite the 4-0 scoreline in favour of the North London side, Leeds had hit the woodwork twice and Stuart Dallas seemed certain to score when putting the ball past Hugo Lloris only for a combination of Dallas’ patience and some determined defending from Ben Davies ensured that didn’t happen. That was Marcelo Bielsa’s last game in charge of Leeds United and I found out that he had “parted company” during the interval of Les Mis.
Susan Boyle was laughed at in her Britain’s Got Talent audition when she stated she wanted to be a professional singer and when Bielsa named his first starting 11 against Stoke City there were similar howls of derision. How had he included only one new signing in this team that finished 14th in the league the season before? Unlike Susan Boyle, Leeds fans had seen the same players only months prior and knew that they weren’t good enough to go up. If Boyle and Bielsa proved anything in their first public outing in the UK it was that looks could be deceiving. Boyle’s song choice – I dreamed a dream from Les Mis.
Bielsa’s nickname is El Loco and his intense fitness demands and steadfast refusal to deviate from his attacking philosophy is what earned him that nickname but he lived by an honour code that made him human and in the world of professional football that is crazy. He lived in a small flat in Wetherby so he could walk to and from the training ground refusing the plush surroundings initially offered to him by Leeds United, he was often seen preparing for games in the local coffee shop, he reportedly spent hours every morning responding individually to fans messages, he didn’t give exclusive interviews because to do so would undermine his weekly
press conference that was available to all. It’s important to remember he was doing this with Leeds United, Dirty Leeds. The team that celebrated Norman “bite yer legs” Hunter and the ground that during the 80’s became a hotbed of support for the National Front and the associated hooliganism that blighted English football for that decade. Leeds have never been popular and sometimes with good reason.
Bielsa’s ability to get Leeds promoted is nothing compared to the achievement that is getting supporters of other teams to actively like Leeds United and causes us Leeds fans to question who we actually are – much like Jean Valjean does in Les Mis. The nadir of this honour code was undoubtedly allowing Aston Villa to score unopposed at Elland Road following what was a controversial but not illegal goal. The willingness to risk the ire of the vociferous crowd in order to do what he thought was right shows the El Loco nickname is warranted.
The last song before the interval is “One Day More” and before I had turned my phone off to enjoy the show there had been rumblings that Bielsa was gone. The song begins with Jean Valjean pondering “These men who seem to know my crime will surely come a second time.”
But more suitable for Bielsa’s relationship with Leeds is the line “I did not live until today, how can I live when we are parted?”
Now not a lot of people know this, Artist Dotty says, in his most Michael Caine of accents. Directly above the Seven Dials medical centre on Montpelier Crescent, is the worlds largest night sky observatory. The telescope capabilities are truly phenomenal and being on a hill pinnacle, night-time air pollution is down to an absolute minimum. The telescope has one of the most powerful lenses in the world and the observatory is available to book via the furniture shop near Small Batch coffee.
For the last month, Artist Dotty has been taking photos via the telescope and running the photos through a kaleidoscopic effect on his computer. Some of the effects are truly stunning and through his art he has uncovered what can only be best described as hidden Gods in the night skies. There have been errors of judgement though, on my first attempt, I thought I had discovered life on Mars and realised I had accidentally zoomed in on a spider suspended from a street lamp near Tesco Express on Dyke Road.
I was invited to the observatory to watch Artist Dotty identifying the best photo opportunities. The telescope rotates via a remote control and Artist Dotty enjoys listening to Mozart whilst appreciating the night skies. AD said he was inspired by a guy from Rochdale, Lancashire, called David Malin, a British-Australian astronomer and photographer who in his early years started out as a microscopist and found himself becoming a leading astrophotographer, who enjoyed looking at the night sky from the Smitz observatory, in Australia.
AD says, I first spotted David Malin’s work at the Liverpool museum of art back in the 90’s and was impressed with the way the art world acknowledged his photography as an art form. The images are of Nebulas and star clusters and are very hypnotising and mesmerising. Star gazing is a great way to put life’s struggles into a wider, mind expansive perspective. Certainly one of my tick box’s would be to visit more observatory’s around the world and take more photos.
A galaxy is named after him – Malin 1, which he discovered in 1986 and is the largest spiral galaxy so far discovered.
Artist Dotty genuinely believes his digital art, may also be contributing towards scientific research of space elasticity and dimension perception.
“My results are somewhat beyond comprehension and have blown my own mind, to the point I need to take a break from my latest art obsession, every now and then”.
The first night sky photo I took, was from a NASA image, on their website and after a touch of kaleidoscopic digital wizardry, I created a symmetrical God, that looked very similar to George Harrison from the Beatles.
I am now wondering if all the critical mass celebrities are hidden amongst the stars. All of this talk about outer-space is making me want to put on an early Star Trek and admire the great use of Royal Brittanica books on Captain Kirk’s book shelves in his bedroom.
I have approached NASA with my findings and also suggested having an art gallery on the moon to celebrate the spirit of adventure and discovery. Anyway after I sent the email to NASA, the most incredible thing happened. I haven’t heard back. But that’s OK, life goes on, if the moon doesn’t come to me, I will go to the moon, just need to find a huge elastic band and someone to hold it.
There are examples of AD’s works at St Augustine’s church in Brighton, near Preston Park. It’s a healing arts centre, with a Whole Earth food cafe. A great spot to relax and scoffie on a banoffie with a coffee. AD’s work is coming down on the 20th Feb, so if your looking to hedge your bets and make an investment on an emerging Artist, AD is one to look out for.
AD’s work has also been acknowledged by Castle Fine Art as incredible. They currently represent Billy Connolly.
Check out Artist Dotty’s latest work at St. Augustine’s Arts & Events Centre, Stanford Ave, Brighton BN1 6EA
Approaching 40, Annie Stanley is in the midst of a crisis – burnout, or existential angst. This former City financier and school teacher now spends her days in tracksuits at the local fleapit when suddenly her father dies, too soon after her mother.
Annie Stanley All at Sea is a kind, funny portrayal of a woman who’s stuck and doesn’t quite always get things right (who does?). When her father’s girlfriend announces she’s going to scatter his ashes somewhere meaningless to Annie, she takes matters into her own hands. In a fantastically comic set piece, she seizes the urn and on a whim takes her dad on a tour of the 31 sea areas that make up the shipping forecast, which he loved listening to, despite living in landlocked St Albans.
The unfolding story is reminiscent of the hugely successful Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, as Annie travels from Cromarty, Forth, Tyne etc. Along the way she looks up old friends and colleagues in a journey of self-discovery, working through her self-loathing, as she truly believes ‘making bad things worse’ is her default setting – as an ex in the Forth chapter helpfully tells her.
Sue Teddern is a Brighton writer – spot the character Simon living in a poky Seven Dials bedsit – and this is her first novel. Sue’s an accomplished scriptwriter and playwright (credits include The Archers) and her expertise shows in this charming book, with its crisp dialogue, light humour, deft characterisation and neat structure. We root for Annie, and we see what she can’t because of the sea fret of sadness – that maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem.
Dymphna Flynn is a development producer at Pier Productions in Brighton
I’m sitting in NuSoul Studios in Woodingdean – “the coolest & best rehearsal, recording, video & compact venue space locally” – talking to producer Simon Hill and singing coach Gary Whalen who run the studios and Millie, Maisie and Keira, three smart young women who are the vocal group NuSoul Union. Well, there’s a fourth, Libby, but she’s not here – “She’s a bit quiet at the moment, but she’s here in spirit” says Millie, who, at 18, is the oldest of the group.
“So I’m the mother of the group”.
Are you sure you want to be seen like that? I ask, and she laughs.
The idea of NuSoul Union came to Simon and Gary a few years ago and different members have come and gone, but the line up has been settled since Keira joined almost two years ago. Now, they’ve got the together thing, the ‘finish each other’s sentences’ together thing.
We’re talking about what they do and how they do it and Simon said “a very big part of the reason it works is that they have four very different voices. Okay, even the kind of bands you could possibly compare them with like En Vogue or Destiny’s Child” – if you’re going to set a bar, set it high – “they’ve not got particularly different voices. They’re all great singers, but what we do is something different, we’ve got four very different voices.”
What do you mean, different voices? Do you mean like The Temptations or something where you have a very low, bass guy and…
“Let’s show you” said Gary. And they get up and walk over to the white grand piano – yes, there’s really a white grand piano in the studio – and break into a beautiful accapella version of their single “Boy” which is just lovely. They float in and out of the song, enjoying the moment in a way that people who are good and know they’re good do. I was going to say “effortlessly” but it’s far from effortless. They’ve really worked at their craft. They come in every day.
“Yes, every day” said Millie.
“Every single day” said Keira.
And what do you do, every single day?
“So we do individual lessons to work on our voices independently to stretch, do whatever we need to work on, songwriting and all of that stuff, work on new songs. Make sure the harmonies work, everything’s tight. We’re also working on everything else, dress, clothes, appearance, moves, dance, all that”
“And then we have our college as well, which is also here”. They’re studying for a Music Business diploma at Sutton District College, where Gary is Head of Performing Arts. There’s a branch in Woodingdean.
“It’s kind of just everything to do with the music industry. So yeah, we’re in college. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Brighton School of Singing on Monday”.
Since Christmas they’ve played the Brunswick and Shortts Bar in Kemptown, and they’ve got a new EP in the pipeline which they played under a promise “Please don’t share it” and which, OK, I won’t share but I will say it’s blimmin lovely and completely blows away the idea that it’s been largely made by three 16 year olds and an 18 year old.
What’s the best bit, what do you like doing best? “I think the best part is just been able to do it together. We’ve done solo stuff as well, and even though that’s like fun to do, it’s just nicer doing it with your friends. Yeah.”
It’s been a bit of a day. Everyone, they all want something. Whether it’s time or space or energy or just you. They all want something. God, you’re exhausted. Now imagine this. You’re lying down in a candlelit room. Slowly the air is filled by the undulating sounds of gongs and Tibetan bowls, rising and falling, swirling and twirling, sounds that take you away to… to somewhere calm and peaceful. Stress? Right now you don’t even know how to spell it.
Emma Thomas and Naomi Potter (left and right) run sound baths in St Michael & All Angels Church in Powis Road and, because they understand how stressful running The Whistler is, invited us along. And very lovely it was too. Floaty and blissful and lovely. The mesmeric sounds of the gongs and bowls are transporting and meditative and take you somewhere else. If you can stop yourself falling asleep – and I did, honest – it’s just beautiful. The next ones are February 11 and 18. Phone Emma on 07974309972 for details and tickets.
Back when we lived as hunter gatherers there was a limited supply of carbohydrate-rich foods. We hunted wild animals, caught fresh fish and foraged for green leafy vegetables, herbs, berries and nuts. We lived close to the land and honoured the seasonal changes. We had times of fasting and times of feasting. This is the way our bodies evolved. There was no bread, pasta, grains or refined sugar.
Today, we eat a vast amount of sugar-rich and starchy foods that push our bodies to their biochemical limits. When we eat carbohydrates our bodies produce insulin to allow glucose to enter the cells for fuel and keep blood sugar levels in check.
A high carb diet from overconsumption of grains, starches and sugary foods results in constant insulin spikes as the body attempts to keep blood sugar levels at their low default setting; a very narrow threshold that evolved over millions of years when there was hardly any glucose available to us.
When insulin keeps spiking from years of eating sugary and starchy foods, the cells of the body stop responding to its message and it can no longer do its job properly, as there is simply too much dietary sugar to deal with. The sugar gets converted into fat and the body loses its ability to regulate its glucose load.
The driver behind most degenerative conditions
Insulin resistance is the driver behind diabetes, inflammation, heart disease and high cholesterol, and can contribute to carcinogenic changes in the body (cancer cells are greedy for glucose), as well as setting the stage for Alzheimer’s, which is now being classed as type 3 diabetes. Female hormonal imbalances can be addressed by lowering excess glucose because high insulin plays havoc with hormonal balance.
Eight benefits of low carb eating
When blood sugar levels remain balanced, insulin stays low and stress hormones are spared, resulting in health benefits, such as:
• Quality protein from natural sources like grass-fed meat and wild fish
• Free range, organic eggs
• Raw nuts and seeds
• Healthy fats from cold-pressed oils, virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado, oily fish, fatty meats…
• Low sugar fruits packed with antioxidants like blueberries, strawberries & blackberries
• Some grass fed, organic dairy
A typical day of low carb eating:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs and veggies
Lunch: salad packed with leaves, a protein source and a decent drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of nuts and fresh herbs
Dinner: vegetables, a quality protein and lots of healthy fats, such as wild salmon with broccoli cooked in butter, or chicken and roasted veg drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
Your body knows best
Your body has a deep inner wisdom and you’ll be more finely tuned to listening to it if you get out of the perpetual cycle of sugar and starch addiction.
Find out for yourself
Try slowly cutting out sugary and starchy foods and see how good you can feel without them. I guarantee you will feel supercharged and awesome! Eating this way deeply supports your body’s biochemistry.
Get the help you need
If you’re a slave to cravings, addicted to sugar, starchy or processed foods and would like to experience a whole new level of health and vibrancy, or to address any health conditions with a therapeutic diet, seek the advice of a nutrition professional to help you find your balance again.
l Jo Rowkins, Nutritional Therapist & Lifestyle Coach at Awakening Health.
It’s been a wet old winter for your feathered friend as she braves the dark skies in search of the best food finds and drinking dens for her Whistler readers. But as the clouds part and the days get longer, it seems that there’s signs of new beginnings popping up all over West Hill.
In Guildford Road alone, the legendary Sussex Yeoman, at one time the easy winner of Best Sunday Roast in Brighton is set to welcome its new tenants after 18 years of the old regime. As your Gull hovers, the doors are bolted, the boards are up and the ‘substantial investment’ promised by owner, Greene King, seems to be already under way. The Gull had become used to a regular leftovers feast of a Sunday evening as the city’s largest portions defeated even the healthiest of appetites. Check in the next issue to see whether the new menu has whet the Gull’s super-discerning whistle.
Over at the ever-buzzing Eddy, those animal and bird-loving landladies, Hatt and Jess are planning more arty pub nights. With Deliveroo biking the food in from all corners of Brighton, your Gull is not the only scavenger waiting at the bins as punters pile in for rockabilly bands and fancy-dress film nights.
The take-away pizzas from VIP seem a particularly popular choice among the birds of West Hill, so large are they that there seems to be enough for everyone. This grumpy Gull did notice, however, that with palate in one hand and brush in other, there was precious few pickings at the end of the recent Bob Ross live paint-along, even for this art-loving bird. There will be more Bob Ross nights coming as soon as March, but in the meantime, the rockabillies coming out to play with the Box Stomping Boys on Feb 17th are a much better bet for a hungry gull. (And check out http://www.westhillwhistler.com for an interview)
Always on the hunt for food news, your Gull hears that Drakes Hotel in Kemptown has captured a couple of tasty chefs from 64 Degrees. Tom Stephens and Madeleine Riches are launching a tasting menu only restaurant called Dilsk in April. Expect five courses for £55 and 10 for £95, a sure-fire leftover offering for your hungry bird,
Catching a thermal, the Gull soars over to Western Road where a familiar scent of seafood is floating on the breeze. Sniffing closer, it seems that Brighton’s best chef, Duncan Ray, the man that Michelin missed, is sharing his brilliance at Atelier Du Vin’s new wine bar, Cases.
Shared is his new menu concept which takes him away from his (and your Gull’s) beloved bivalves at Little Fish Market (pictured) with a much meatier menu. At £90 for two and his signature oysters to start, just one sitting a night will get a tour of his other favourite dishes cooked by his mate, artisan maker and purveyors of fine pies, Al the Pieman. Expect a terrine of Fosse Meadow chicken, Al’s famed beef pie, rump of Saddlescombe lamb with Potato Anna and lentils and a little Financier biscuit with pear and salted caramel that your Gull’s got her beady eye on. Local, delicious food, cooked by the best in Brighton; this bird just hopes that Shared means what it says on the bin.
It’s when Brighton foodies refresh their Instagram feed, ready to pounce on Open Table and book the top 20 restaurants in the city, as voted by ‘those who know’. It’s that time when Brighton cab drivers high five each other, knowing that we’ll all be going out to eat more, taking confidence from the recommendations of Brighton’s Best.
As founder of the Juicy Guide and Awards back in the early 2000s, I’ve witnessed the influence of a gong. Judged by a panel of the city’s most well-fed foodies, the Top 20 will be announced at Brighton’s Best 2023 on March 20. But Euan MacDonald, one of the four founders of the awards which has been rating Brighton and Hove’s favourite restaurants for the last eight years, told me that it’s its autumnal sister, October Best which can give the most interesting indicators of what the public choose. The annual of feasting at £25 per head at any one of that year’s crop has become a bit of bun fight, with the public voting with their wallets; the clear favourites are sold out within an hour of release, or in the case of Bincho Yakitori within minutes…
‘We had 60,000 people visit the site in the first hour’ Euan told me, ‘and that’s predominantly from within Brighton and Hove. It’s like the public poll.’ Less 64 Degrees and more Chilli Pickle is what ticks the local box.
So where else among the BB top 20, other than Bincho, did Brighton and Hove food fans go for last year? ‘Well, I think Namo (Eats) had a really interesting October Best. We had so many people who didn’t know them, but she put on a terrific value menu. I think it was 25 quid for two. And we know that with it was chefs who were ordering her takeaway auction last year more than anyone else.’
It’s part of Brighton’s Best’s mission to support indie restaurants in Brighton and Hove, and Namo Eats is a great example of how it works. Another is Halisco. ‘As they’re next door to Bincho, I think people who couldn’t get in there went, “Well, let’s just see what Halisco’s doing. They put on a mix of both menu and events, including a charity night to raise money’, Euan told me. ‘They had cocktails as part of their package, so they had a brilliant October Best!’
It’s also a great way to reach new diners even for those we think of as booked up all year round. ‘Dave from Bincho used to use October Best as his main marketing strategy’ said Euan. ‘He’d lose money in October because it was his way to go out and meet loads of new customers and get them on his books. The Set had a fantastically popular October Best because they were raffling tables off. And so they were able to accrue a huge amount of new followers to their Instagram stuff.’
But what does it say about the way that people are eating out in Brighton now? A city once leading the way in sustainable choices – Terre a Terre was scooping up the national awards decades ago; the vegan Happy Maki was born here – is now less interested in where its meat and fish comes from than a climate conscious foodie in more, let’s say food literate cities might be. In short, Brighton and Hove food fans are perhaps more into their Instagram stories than the unfolding drama of soil health and climate change.
‘Well, I think that food literacy had a peak’ said Euan, stepping out of BB’s shoes for a moment and into his food consultant’s. ‘Dan Kenny (The Set) is a great example. Whatever Dan does, I know he won’t sell himself short on that type of thing.
“But what we’ve got at the minute is a lot of people who are conscious of overheads, and so conscious of costs. So what can they do? They ask themselves what they’re prepared to trade off. Brighton has never wanted to spend huge amounts on eating out. We’re so close to London, but we just have never had the pockets.’
Part of the problem in Brighton’s sustainable food scene is the tourist; Euan says that post-pandemic, many restarateurs just can’t prioritise ethical choices when the tourist pound is so integral to their survival. ‘Really, I don’t think it’s something that is front of mind for a lot of the owners and operators’, Euan told me. ‘What a lot of visitors to Brighton do in a way that you might not do in London is they’ll try and go to three places in a night. If they’re down for a weekend, they want to see as much of it as they can. So if
they’re not keen on the price, they’ll jump somewhere else. And that’s a real worry for restaurants at the moment.’
More worryingly for the planet is that Brighton diners don’t care much either. ‘It never comes into it’ said Euan, when I asked if Brighton’s Best is ‘marked’ on its sustainable sourcing. ‘It’s about the dining experience. And that has never been raised in any feedback. I would say it’s not front of mind for a lot of people.’
So what should we look out for in 2023 in Brighton and Hove restaurants? ‘The year was split into two hubs for most restaurateurs’, Euan told me. ‘First is: are we still going to be here at Easter? I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as people thought it was. But I know that at the tail end of last year, a lot of people were very worried about the first six months of this year. So first of all, I think everyone will just do what they got to do to stay where they are. So that doesn’t breed a lot of innovation unless you’ve got deep pocket backers behind you.
‘The fact that the whole industry had to be supported during the pandemic has changed the way investors will look at opening restaurants at the minute. And so, what you’re looking at is something which then starts to talk to that entire night out, rather than just the meal. So, keeping people under a roof for cocktails, accommodation. There’s a massive hotel being built on Middle Street. It’s operating more like a Soho House or a club that keeps you in. I’m not saying it’ll be club membership by any stretch, but the prices will reflect that I’m sure.
‘The Albert Schloss group which has venues across the North has looked at Brighton. The food’s actually really good; they lean towards the sort of schnitzel side of things. But they are about getting you in and keeping you in for music, for food for everything. And I think Brighton’s missing that at the minute.’
And there are plenty of opportunities for investors. The development of The Hippodrome is ‘up for grabs’; Churchill Square’s food offering is expanding very soon, which Euan says will look to keep people across three floors of drinks and food. That’s going to be the challenge for the smaller operators,’ he warned. ‘Whereas at the minute, I’ll go to a couple of bars and I’ll go to Bincho or I’ll go to Chilli Pickle, that’s going to change for most people’
It’s a depressing vision of Brighton’s next food chapter. What we need is something new in Brighton, Euan tells me, and for him, Palmito, the Latin-Indo collaboration between Curry Leaf chef, Kanthi Thamma and his pal from his Chilli Pickle days, Diego Ricaurte is it. ‘I’m absolutely in love with Palmito. It’s just food you haven’t had before. And for that reason alone, it’s just so exciting.’
I’ve come full circle with Valentine’s Day. I used to get right grumpy about things like Valentine’s Day. Being told what to do and when to do it. I don’t need Hallmark or Cadbury’s telling me when to be romantic. It’s like all those other days that have crept into the calendar, days that have different names – Black Friday or whatever – but are all basically the same. Today is “Buy Stuff Monday”. I’ll decide when I want electronic things and I’ll decide when I want to give an expression of my love. It’s commercialised nonsense, it’s rampant capitalism exploiting our love. But then
“Have you forgotten anything?”
“No, not all at. I know it’s Valentine’s Day, but I’m not buying into that. We don’t need to be tol…”
“You forgot, didn’t you”
It was never a conversation that was going go well. What do you mean, the chances are she was probably right?
Things change, we get older and different things seem important. Things that used to seem important… I don’t even know anymore. As I write there’s a bit of a kerfuffle because the Welsh rugby people have banned the singing of the Tom Jones song Delilah. Should they, shouldn’t they? Is it right, is it wrong? No idea. Sure the lyrics are seriously dodgy and no one – you’d hope – would write that now. But should it be banned? Instinctively, I’d say it shouldn’t be simply because I don’t like banning things. Apart from people who vote Tory. And Arsenal fans. And marmite butter which my fine wife has just started to make which is basically taking some perfectly good butter and rendering it inedible. So… shouldn’t be banned. But then, maybe it shouldn’t be sung either. Life’s not easy being liberal.
Talking of Arsenal, wasn’t it a treat to see Brighton smile sweetly at their attempts to steal Moises Caicedo. Even in football, money doesn’t always talk.
Anyway. Valentine’s Day. Let’s embrace it. Telling your loved ones you love them, there are worse things to be corralled into. So take it on and do it your way, and if you’re going to get a Valentine’s Day card, why not avoid all the corporate stuff and support local artists, and maybe head to FlyingCircusDesigns at http://www.flyingcirc.us – because if you can’t give your friends a plug, what is the point of life?
We’ve given The Mighty Whistler a bit of a re-jig this month. There’s a new quiz page, recipes, gardening tips, a murder story… Next issue we’re starting a new column with a local councillor to talk about all things local and councilly. And if anyone would like to get involved, we’re looking for someone to write about architecture and local history. Maybe at the same time. Think about it. The pay’s really good.
Next time out we’ll have a feature on the hot new sport Pickleball, which is as good a link to Pickle, our new-ish pup, as we’re going to get.
For Pickle, every day is Valentine’s Day. He knows he’s loved and he knows that even if he runs off and gets lost in the woods for two days and two nights on the coldest weekend of the year and worries mum and dad stupid, they’ll still love him unconditionally*. He’s not going to care if he gets a card. A treat he’d care about. Chicken, that’s the hallmark of love. Be more Pickle is, I think, generally a decent mantra for life.
*Just don’t push your luck. We’ve still got the receipt from the rescue centre.
It’s a funny old thing, supporting a football team. The majority of supporters never set foot in the grounds of the clubs they support; many of them don’t even live in the same country. In their a heyday, a map of Man Utd’s fans would be properly global; and this was a cause for some taunting by others.
The proper thing to do is to start at an early age and adopt the team nearest to you. For me, this meant Arsenal, although I was, as a North Londoner, unsure whether to support them or Spurs; a persuasive argument from the school bully when I was around six or seven helped to settle the matter: he put my head in the toilet bowl and threatened to flush it if I didn’t promise to support Arsenal for the rest of my life. As I was of an age to at least half-believe that flushing the bog would result in my joining the North London sewer system, I thought this a good enough deal; and as Arsenal won the Double next season, I in time became grateful to him. And, true to is word. He has never stuck my head down the toilet and flushed it ever again.
That said, I have been very pleased by Brighton’s success in the Premier League and FA Cup (so far) lately. At the moment of writing, they have beaten Liverpool in both, and as I once had a girlfriend who broke my heart terribly and also supported Liverpool, I give a little cheer whenever anyone beats them. Klopp may be a decent guy and Liverpool a team with a fine underlying philosophy, but, to paraphrase Gore Vidal on success and friends, it is not enough that Brighton should win; Liverpool must lose.
As it happens, the editor of this fine journal is a Spurs fan, and a serious one; so it would be unbecoming, and ungentlemanly, for me to mention the result of their most recent encounter (2-0 to Arsenal, playing away). He has his own cross to bear. Or, shall we say, his own cross to fail to score a goal with.
He has lived in Brighton for many years, and, like me, although he is happy for the team when they win, when his loyalties are tested he supports Spurs, as I support Arsenal when they play B&HA FC. That said, I am now entertaining a reverie in which the team is split in two, one side representing Brighton, the other Hove.
How wonderful that would be! Imagine the derbies! Pitched battles on either side of Boundary Passage, effete Hovians being taunted to tears by mighty Brightonians, a Berlin-style wall being erected to keep an uneasy peace. The Hove side teased by images of tattoo parlours and interesting architecture and people actually having a good time. It would make Man U/Man C, or Liverpool/Everton rivalries look like walks in the park on a sunny day. It’s a long shot but one can dream.
Aladdin pantomime comes to the Brighton Centre this Christmas season. By Nadia Abbas
The magical world of Aladdin with its golden sand dunes, genies, and flying carpets has been a fan favourite since the Disney films release in 1993. Fans now have a chance to experience their very own Arabian night as the Aladdin pantomime is coming to the Brighton Centre this December. The pantomime promises to reunite the audience with the beloved love story of Princess Jasmine and the charming thief Aladdin. There will also be unexpected twists and turns in the story that will leave the audience laughing all night long.
Brighton production company E3 is bringing the Aladdin pantomime to the Brighton Centre. Aladdin will be running from Thursday 22nd to Tuesday 27th December (excluding Christmas Day). The pantomime features a talented and diverse West End cast. This includes Anita Dobson who has starred in Eastenders, Mark Inscoe who was in Sweeney Todd, and BBC Radio Sussex presenter Allison Ferns. Mark Inscoe plays the character of Widow Twankey who is Aladdin’s mother in this production. Mark Inscoe, said: “With pantomime it’s such a family experience that it’s going to be wonderful for people to get out and bring the whole family.”
This Aladdin production will differ from the original Aladdin story. It will be set in Old Peking in China instead of the mythical land of Agrabah like in the Disney film. Some of the character names are also different in this Aladdin pantomime. It does not have the villain Jafar, but instead they have a villain called Abanazar who is played by Anita Dobson. Mark Inscoe, said:” Widow Twankey that I’m playing does not exist in the original story, but she’s one of the most famous pantomime dames.” Aladdin’s brother’s character Wishee Washee is also not in the original story but is a new addition in this unique spin on the tale of Aladdin.
This pantomime was supposed to take place in 2021, but it was postponed due to concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19. This affected the suppliers, the costume makers, stage management, and set staff. Mark Inscoe, said: “Two days before we were due to start rehearsals everything just came to a close.” Fortunately, most of the company that were supposed to take part last year, are back to do it this year. Mark Inscoe, said: “People are now much more comfortable about going into a confined space and going back to the theatre again.”
E3 production company will support nine charities across the Sussex area. Each performance of this Aladdin pantomime will support a different charity. The audience will be encouraged to make donations to these charities at each showing. Some of the charities include The Sussex Beacon, Chestnut Tree House, and The Starr Trust. The first performance on Thursday the 22nd of December will be supporting The Focus Foundation.
Ticket prices for this pantomime range between £15- £35 and they can be purchased from the Brighton Centre’s website.
Christmas. You love Christmas. Family you haven’t seen since… oh, blimey, do you remember that time? It’s fine. It’ll be different this year. It’s cool. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’ll be lovely. Probably. Or it could be like the script EastEnders rejected because it was too scary. Do you remember that time?? Blimey. Who’s coming round? So… he’s vegan and she eats anything as long as it’s high welfare? Are you sure it’s that way round?
Forget all that for a minute. De-stress. Relax. Have you ever had a sound bath?
A sound bath is – and I found this quote on the internet so it must be true – a way of managing anxiety, soothing the nervous system, and blocking all the ideas and thoughts out of your consciousness as you connect with your body. Actually, I’ve had one before and it’s blimmin lovely.
Actually it really is lovely. And if you’re struggling to think of what to get your loved one as a present… read on.
Naomi Potter and Emma Thomas run sound baths in St Michael & All Angels Church in Powis Rd, and if all this Christmas stuff is feeling a bit too much, you could do far worse. “What better way to start the New Year and beat the January blues than by focusing on your health and wellbeing” said Naomi.
Emma takes up the theme. “Melt away and relax with this soothing and restorative sound journey, designed to reset your nervous system and create inner calm. Our uplifting weekly sound journeys, which will include gongs, Tibetan bowls and soothing percussion instruments will create a sense of stillness, grounding and inner peace. Lay down, relax and allow yourself the opportunity to access a state of deep rest.
“Regular sound journeys are powerful healing tools. They are well-known to support relaxation, ease pain, anxiety and muscle tension, and promote better sleep. Concentration and energy levels may improve as a result of regular relaxation with sound”.
Naomi and Emma are donating 15% of any profits from this sound journey series to the Free Tibet campaign which campaigns to protect the human rights of Tibetans.
If this sounds cool – and if it doesn’t… are you OK? – bear in mind that their previous Solstice event sold out quickly so get in quick and make sure you reserve your spot.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Mistletoe, Bailey’s, Quality Street, presents, the family coming round… Another game of charades…
Except not for everyone. This is Jelly with his puppy Banter, a picture taken by Marc Davenant from his book Outsiders.
“He was telling me how lonely it is trying to exist on the street and how an entire day can go by with nobody even acknowledging that you exist” said Marc.
“It was a really sad discussion, he was wearing two different shoes and seemed completely worn down by it all. He’s a musician fallen on hard times from what I could gather”.
There really are too many people like Jelly, and it might sound sanctimonious to say it – and if it does, I don’t care – but this year maybe give one less present to someone who’s getting loads and give something to someone who isn’t getting any.
Yeah, so where was I? When I moved in here about 11 years ago now there was a gull standing on the fence.”
Which is not unusual in Brighton.
“I suppose it isn’t, but I just threw out a bit of food and from that moment on, he decided he quite liked being here so he brought his partner along, but then another two came along and were a bit jealous about what was going on so they scared off my first two but they came back and… I’m surprised he’s not here actually”.
The Whistler is in a garden near the seafront and we’re with Justin King, prime mover of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network, a group dedicated to helping and rescuing our favourite birds. If life can be split into “Good Guys” and “Not Good Guys”, Justin is about as good a good guy can be.
“If I throw a bit of ham I bet you he’ll arrive. He’s called Brutus he’s also a bit of a celebrity because we’ve got an Instagram page and we’ve got a Facebook page I constantly take pictures of him and his partner and… I’ll tell you what, let me get a bit of ham”. Justin disappears into his kitchen and emerges with a small packet of ham slices. He reaches into the packet, throws his hand in the air and, from nowhere, we’re in a scene from Hitchcock.
“There’s Brutus” he says as a gull that looks disarmingly like a gull swoops down for Justin’s ham. “He’s been a bit of a constant for me, but I have all kinds of birds that come into the garden.” Justin reaches for another handful of ham and throws it over his fence into the neighbouring car park.
The Whistler is admittedly a bit biased, but we think gulls are just lovely and we’re very happy to be in a city where the… whatever the national symbol of a city is called, is a gull. But gulls, like all birds, have had a tough time recently. Avian flu – “flockdown” – has hit hard, which has meant that charities and rescue centres have been reluctant to take injured or needy birds in. And that has meant, what it always means: volunteers need help. In the last year, the Network has raised £170,000 for Bird Aid, which is an extraordinary amount.
Justin rattled off a list of names. “Tony Bloom, owner of Brighton and Hove Albion, got involved in the Bird Aid campaign last year…” Well, he does own The Seagulls… “which was brilliant. But then we’ve got a lot of celebrities on board. Chris Packham. He put a post on Facebook. Ricky Gervais posts on his Twitter. Holly Willoughby. Oh, Woody Cook. Actually it was Woody who… once he started it snowballed. Loads of other naturalism environmentalists got involved.”
Just as we’re talking, Justin’s phone goes. He’s making an arrangement.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Someone’s coming round to pick up the pigeon to take him to a sanctuary”.
Justin takes me round to what looks like a garden shed. Well, OK. It is a garden shed. Carefully he opens the door and there, standing on one foot and looking a bit sorry for himself, a pigeon.
“He’s hurt his foot and can’t put any weight on it and someone brought him round. He’s stayed here for a couple of days and then he’s going to go to the sanctuary to fully recover”.
I love these people. I love the person who found the pigeon and picked him up, I love Justin who has nurtured him, I love the people who have a sanctuary where he can recover.
What is the Brighton gull population? What number are we talking?
“I don’t actually know, but in general the species is in decline. Herring gulls are on the endangered species list, the Red List. Herring gulls. Yep. The ones you just see. They’re all herring gulls. And I know you wouldn’t think so, but it’s true, they’re on the decline. Saying that though, a lot of wildlife is in decline.
“There’s a lot of ignorance and intolerance towards a lot of forms of wildlife. There’s been cases in Woodingdean of people poisoning foxes because they don’t want them coming into the garden and digging up their lawns. Birds being shot, you name it, it’s happened. Yeah, shocking. Yeah. I mean when you think of Sussex, the word that synonymous with the countryside. If you don’t like birds, don’t live by the coast, go and live in Milton Keynes. Sorry, but it really is relentless”.
How many people are there in your group?
“The group has approximately 3,200 members, but the majority of them aren’t really active. Mostly, it’s just a few people. A lot of people have dropped out because times are hard for everyone and not everyone has so much time anymore. The cost of living crisis has made people reprioritise”.
So hardcore volunteers? Let’s put it this way. How many are as committed as you?
“Probably about a dozen. But it’s been difficult and because of avian flu this year, I’ve literally had to throw myself headlong into this. Yeah, the whole campaign. It’s left no time for anything else.
Watching Justin, listening to him, I know there’s nothing he’d prefer to be doing. He has, in every sense, found his calling.
Justin looks up to the skies where the gulls are still circling, a bit distracted. Do you listen to the goals and recognise different calls?
“Yes. That’s the whistling you can hear there, the babies. I always know that sound. But I’m also familiar with my regular gull who comes to visit. He stands on the shed and waits for his food. And when he screeches, I recognise it. It’s just, I mean, they’re all different. Anyway, I recognise the way he does it and the sound that he makes and yeah, so I know when he’s here”.
Justin looks up again.
“I was just thinking I should go and check on the ham I threw over the fence. I want to make sure they all got some”
Check out the Whistler website for details of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network Go Fund Me page or go to their Facebook group page of the same name
Check out the Whistler website for details of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network Go Fund Me page or go to their Facebook group page of the same name
Gilly Smith talks to Sam Linter about life on The Bolney Wine Estate
Baubles and berries, bottles and bubbles, it’s all just one big excuse, this Christmas malarkey, to deck the halls and be very jolly indeed. But we’re not about that consumerist nonsense over at Whistler Towers. We’re all about zero waste and making stuff, eating local produce and supporting the neighbours. So how to feast and have fun without maxing the landfill? Come closer; we have some sparkling ideas.
One of the real treats of living in Brighton is the bounty of great produce on our doorstep, and increasingly, that means some pretty amazing wines too. Ding dong! There’s a couple of Christmas present ideas already. Plus, a wine tour is a great day out for all the rellies, and we’re still only on paragraph two. But wine? Sustainable? How?
Well, climate change may not have a lot going for it, but the warming of our southern vineyards is at least creating a rather vibrant industry, with experts claiming that some of our chalk soil compares favourably to that of the Champagne region of France. And while English wines have been a thing since the Romans, this relatively new industry has attracted some pretty cool people who care about much more than the sound of the cash till.
Cindy-Marie Harvey is the author of Watercress, Willow and Wine and told me that the English wine industry is setting new standards in sustainable business practice. “I think wine GB has been absolutely brilliant,” she told me on my podcast Cooking the Books. “If you look at a winery at harvest time, the amount of water that you need just to keep everything clean, it’s a phenomenal amount. For one litre of wine, you probably need ten litres of water. There’s a whole host of sustainable criteria that you have to look at before you can actually get the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain badge, but that means that customers can trust what they’re buying.”
Within an hour’s drive or so from Brighton, we have some of the best wines in the south east, many of which are leading the field in sustainability. Ridgeview in Ditchling, the organic Davenports in Rotherfield in the Low Weald, Rathfinney in Alfriston, Bolney, just 20 mins from Brighton, Wiston, Breaky Bottom, the mighty Nyetimber, how spoilt are we? And Plumpton College just down the road is training up the next generation even as I write.
Winemaker Sam Linter has lived almost her whole life at Bolney vineyard after her parents bought up an old pig farm in the 1970s, inspired no doubt by the TV sitcom The Good Life.
“We had goats on site, so mum did the goat’s milk, the goat yoghurts, the cheese she used to sell to local deli’ Sam told me when I interviewed her for the delicious podcast. “She would drive all over to sell them. She grew marrows, tomatoes, courgettes, sweet corn, we had strawberries on site here. And it was fun. It was a great childhood. My brother and I ran wild.”
That Good Life ethos lives on at Bolney since Sam has taken the reins from her parents and built a business that has become a leader in English wines. Its cuvee rose even had a rep from Laurent Perrier recently scratching his head at which was his in a taste off. And with pips and skins used to make gin and other by-products, its wine production creates a virtuous circle. They even have a wine bottle Christmas tree at the entrance to the winery restaurant.
On which… what a find for a posh lunch over the holidays. Its Eighteen Acres Cafe overlooking the vineyard gets our loudest Whistle for quality, service and price with a fabulously instagrammable menu. And it’s even dog-friendly! To celebrate the festive season, Bolney is also running some tastings throughout December. A £12 ticket will buy you a tasting of three wines, paired with festive themed canapé plus a Bolney branded ISO tasting glass to take home. Or to give away as a Christmas present.. And if you prefer a little music with your wine tastings, you can enjoy a charcuterie board and glass of Bolney Bubbly for £30 per person every Friday evening in December.
“So I walked past the shop and it was empty. I’ve always loved this shop, the frontage of number 77 because of the curved windows. It looks like an old apothecary and there aren’t enough of these shops left. When I saw it was empty just after lockdown, I stood at the end of the alley and waited for someone to come out of the building, ‘Who can I call?’
I literally had no business plan, you know, but I had around 40 samples which I sold from, plus several rolls of fabric. I also have close friends who are wonderful artists and designers and having wanted to show their work too for some time, I just went for it.”
The Whistler is with Jane the Dressmith, dress designer, fabric lover and owner of the coolest clothes shop in the Dials.
“I’ve never had a shop, never really wanted to. But I love to this shop. I’ve lived in Vernon Terrace for 22 years, so I’ve been part of the Seven Dials community and seen its rise to… Yeah, that Time Out thing, the top 12 coolest destinations in the country.”
It’s a curious thing, that coolest destinations thing. You know Time Out wasn’t talking about ‘Oh, there’s a really big Co-op’ (he says pointedly). They’re talking about independent shops, individual shops, shops with heart and soul, this is what they’re talking about. They’re talking about Dressmith.
It’s a beautiuful shop full of beautiful clothes and lovely, lovingly chosen fabrics. It’s been here about a year, and slowly but surely she’s making it exactly as she wants. Everything in the shop is carefully curated, carefully positioned. Well, she’s a designer. It’s what they do. And in the same spirit, because she wanted to get things just right, she made me some notes.
“Dressmith. Beautifully British. Handmade in England. Ready to wear and utility clothing. Limited edition. Organic collections and sustainable collections made from overstocked fabrics, surplus to the trade. Luxury brand with ecological consciousness” – which is all very well, but it doesn’t give an indication of the passion. Walking around the beautifully designed, beautifully presented shop you just know that there’s a real love here. Wools, linens, cottons…
And it’s not just hers. There’s art on the walls “they’re by Michael Bishop” – ceramics on the shelves, cards, candlesticks… All made by friends, all part of the same ethos.
So this is your baby, but it’s a hub for your community as well. “Yes. It’s a Dressmith family, basically. Yeah, that’s what I like to think of it as.
“Basically, I want this shop to be for everybody. So I get I’m getting gifty things in candles, socks, berets, room diffusers, soaps, tea towels. I want people to be able to come in and buy a card and a gift”.
I was desperate for Dressmith to be her real name – love a bit of nominative determinism – but “No, my real name is Jane De Lacey” which is maybe even better, especially when you consider that before 2014 when she established the dresSmith label, she designed underwear and lounge wear. “I just thought, you know, my initial concept was when you get home, you should put loungewear on you shouldn’t put an old tracksuit on, you should dress up at home. So I made lounge suits”.
Jane the designer came of age in the mid-1980s and hit the ground running during the heyday of Kensington Market, the New Romantics, Vivienne Westwood, Camden Market, Club For Heroes…
“I dressed bands like Madness, U2, the Stranglers. Do you remember that newspaper print suit Madness wore?” Madness were always seriously stylish, but The Stranglers? “Oh, God. Well, I just used to make normal stuff. You know, Jet Black was rather a hefty chap…”
So a year on, do you enjoy the shop life? “Yes, because I don’t have hundreds of customers, and everyone has been so welcoming. I’m not in the Western Road, I don’t have serious footfall, so I can sit there and get on with designing. My idea has always been I would have a shop that I could work at the back of, and then if somebody comes in then you can help them if they need help. So actually, that’s what I’m doing”.
There’s the Bailey’s. That tub of Quality Street. And the Christmas pud always seems a good idea – until just after you’ve eaten it. How can you avoid that “uurrgghh” when your “Oh, just one more” urge is bigger than your mince pies.
There’s a Christmas song we’ve been practicing recently in The Dulcetones, a fabulous choir I sing in, called “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year.” I’ve been reflecting on those lyrics. But amid the stress and overwhelm of it all, too often the Christmas reality for many is one of over-indulgence, family tension and feeling wiped out come the new year. So how can we make Christmas mean something this year? One word: mindfulness!
Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be a time of gratitude and nourishment, and a wonderful exercise in mindfulness. Nurturing yourself and your loved ones at the end of another year, can be an opportunity for relaxation and renewal. Christmas is the stepping stone from one year to the next, so a very powerful time indeed. So, bearing that in mind, here are 11 Ways To A Mindful Christmas:
1. Pamper yourself and your loved ones. Christmas should feel like it’s everyone’s birthday. Make it special by being truly present as you take yourself through each moment of the day.
2. Eat a protein-rich breakfast. I adore wild smoked salmon, spinach and organic eggs alongside my glass of Christmas breakfast champagne. The protein regulates your appetite and reduces the temptation to eat all the chocs and sugary treats on offer! Balanced blood sugar equals balanced energy levels, allowing you to stay fresh and avoid mood swings.
3. Choose quality over quantity. Luxuriate in the decadence of this time of year. Choose wisely, slow down and enjoy every mouthful! Make your food a sensual delight.
4. Eat the rainbow. Christmas dinner is the ideal opportunity to load your plate with colourful veg. Cruciferous ones like Brussel’s sprouts, broccoli and red cabbage are packed with indole-3-carbinol to help your liver process the extra booze (and they support your hormones too).
5. Make cooking an act of ritual. Slowing down and being mindful when shopping, prepping and cooking food can make it a sacred act. Notice the colourful vegetables, the smell and the textures. Feel honoured to be able to cook a nourishing meal for yourself and your loved ones, instead of it feeling like a chore.
6. Be mindful of your food intake. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you have to eat until you’re stuffed. Eat mindfully, chew slowly and give each bite the attention it deserves. Notice the tastes, textures and smells.
7. Receiving and giving is an experience of abundance and gratitude. Slow down and appreciate what’s happening. Give from your heart when you give, and truly receive and appreciate the gifts you are given.
8. Watch your ego! Family can churn up old patterns, judgments and behaviours that no longer serve us, or are real. Breathe, connect and observe fully. Sometimes negative reactions are our own, sometimes from another family member. Stay true to yourself without the need to react. Breathe deeply, don’t get sucked into old family dramas (this one is easier said than done…sometimes another Campari is actually what’s needed in these situations!!). Choose happiness over being right!
9. Play and have fun. We’re often feeling stressed and overwhelmed due to society’s pressures. Laughter and silliness are the best medicine. Be silly, tell jokes, wear the Christmas jumper, do jigsaw puzzles, play Charades… it’s a time to let your hair down.
10. Drink mindfully. Be sure to sip water regularly as well as selecting healthier options such as red wine, dry white, and Champagne. Drink your vodka or gin with soda water and a squeeze of fresh lemon instead of sugary mixers.
11. Supplement to support your body. I favour milk thistle and B vitamins to support liver function when drinking excess alcohol, and vitamin C to boost immunity. A quality digestive enzyme is a perfect natural remedy, and you can’t beat mighty magnesium to calm your nerves and help you relax. An Epsom salt bath in the morning will set you up for a relaxing and nurturing Christmas day ahead.
Switching off autopilot is one of the best things you can do. On autopilot you act without thinking, feeling or noticing, and miss all the magic of life happening around you. So, embrace the sensual pleasures and decadence of Christmas day with intention. Being mindful is a great gift to yourself and others and the way to make Christmas mean something this year.
I wish you a wonderfully mindful, nurturing and healthy Christmas, and a fabulous year ahead full of wellness and self-care.
Jo Rowkins, Nutritional Therapist & Lifestyle Coach at Awakening Health.
The coffin was surrounded by dozens of family photos. I featured in only one,a chubby-cheeked youngster decked out in various items of clothing coloured blue and white to show our support for the Waterford hurling team in their quest to win their first All-Ireland Hurling title since 1959. He was born in 1960 and in the obituary I was listed as his son, but I never considered him my father.
There were many facets of our relationship that you’d expect in a father-son relationship. I was the only one listed in the obituary that supported the same football team as him which often meant that our relationship rarely went beyond analysis of the most recent Leeds United result.
“It doesn’t matter that we lost to Cheltenham Town because if we beat Scunthorpe United then we’re only 12 points outside the play-offs with 13 games to go,” I’d declare enthusiastically only to be met with some variation of “I’m still going to have to go to work in the morning.” This humility was something that always irked me.
When I received my Junior Certificate results, I was picked up by him and told that I was expected to work for his gardening business that afternoon. I stared blankly at the road in front of us as I could see my friends plan infinitely more exciting activities than cutting grass. It was the kind of humility that never caused me anger when displayed by Marcelo Bielsa when he famously insisted the Leeds United squad picked up litter for three hours.
I couldn’t help question why there weren’t more photos of me, but also what did I know about this man? I was given the opportunity to confront these questions sooner than I had anticipated with the arrival of early onset dementia.
I knew he was stubborn, once falling off a ladder two stories high and breaking two ribs while painting but climbing up the ladder to finish the job before seeking any kind of treatment.
I knew he enjoyed old western movies and although never expressed out loud did not have an affinity for the slick cowboys with their pistols but rather with the Indians and their measly weapons. I remember his frustration at being given a dream-catcher that “wouldn’t work” because it had the caricature of a chief’s head in the middle. An incredible piece of knowledge for someone to have who left school before gracing the doors of a secondary school but his lack of gratitude had annoyed me. It was the sort of knowledge that didn’t annoy me when inspired by The Last Dance. I read an array of books about Phil Jackson who used his knowledge of Native American culture to inspire his Chicago Bulls team to an incredible run.
Although he enjoyed sports, he somehow knew his life wasn’t dictated by results in Yorkshire. I couldn’t disagree more and it was this perennial unspoken conflict that meant our conversations that were based solely on analysis of results waned and eventually disappeared. I visited him every Christmas when I went home out of a sense of duty.
Although he remembered my name, he forgot how old I was, he forgot I moved, he forgot his siblings names, he forgot snippets of conversation that we just had and he even forgot he supported Leeds United. Hardly surprising considering he had never been to Elland Road and only owned one replica shirt which was a gift for his 40th birthday.
I realised it’s easy to attribute characteristics I admire to the likes of Bielsa and Phil Jackson because it suggests I found them and I don’t have to acknowledge the real source which was much closer to home.
I was told my step-father passed away on a Saturday afternoon. I booked a flight that I could make that didn’t clash with the Bexhill game the following day. I’m still going to have to go to work in the morning.
Dream-catchers don’t actually catch dreams but rather ward off nightmares, specifically from children. I never considered him my father, but that never stopped him from seeing me as his son.
It’s been a personal back patting few weeks. I’ve painted drain pipes gold, exhibited at Naked, the seafront art gallery with a golden spiral staircase and recently commissioned to complete a Tsunami wave on the side of a house, with accompanying Artist Dotty jellyfish. As I sway, splat, and splodge my brush, in preparation for an AD flourish of finality, I often ponder what an interesting green future might be for Brighton ?
Firstly trams on the hills would certainly encourage people to socialise while in transit. Old wooden carriages, San Franciscan style. Bring your bike disco nights, powered by a local park with exercise machines. Reduced mortgage deals for proof of bicycle purchase. Ban of sales of plastic, have a plazzi bag amnesty and tie all the bags together to make tents for the homeless.
Create a piece of art that explores the land mass of every UK food bank and the land mass of every supermarket in the UK (if joined together). Introduce the Brighton pound, which can only be used for green initiatives and works directly with local artists. Build a green cafe warehouse with easy access for the wheelchair community and run a campaign to have the word disabled removed from the Oxford dictionary.
Make bright green the new council colour for seafront railings and use eco friendly paint. These and a million other ideas float through my head as I dangle at an angle contravening every health and safety law to complete my tsunami wave on a hilltop house.
Hold on a minute stream of consciousness kicks in again. And last but by no means least the thought that might get me lynched on the way to the shop. Scrap all cars in Brighton and have really cool sci-fi vehicles that function for different reasons :
Vehicles specially for retail delivery
Transport for Tradesmen … that’s right, no more parking fines, you simply load a carriage up, that stops at your destination.
Vehicles for anyone with mobility issues.
Vehicles for emergency only ( high speed) .
Vehicles for retail shopping, with the option of a two tiered retail experience :
Human interaction or Automation
Given that all the bungeroosh buildings are sinking into the sand, knock them all down and build round eco houses as a flagship project to show off to the world.
Have a toll to enter Brighton and all the money gets split amongst artists demonstrating a green awareness. Maybe have a recycling bin with the title Further Use on it.
Right that’s it, time to stop waffling. What do you think ?
Artist Dotty is considering running for Prime Minister. Would you vote for a messy, unorganised Artist ?
Artist Dotty is currently exhibiting at Brightons St Augustine’s church art centre
My friend Kath messages me. “I’m coming to your ‘hood later to get things for Stir Up Sunday,” she says. “Let’s meet up.”
Delighted as I am to see my friend, I wonder what the hell Stir Up Sunday is. Am I being invited to a thing? In the olden days, it sounds like the sort of hedonistic event we’d go to once the club shut at 6am, to carry
on dancing and getting wasted. But we’re both in our fifties now. This seems unlikely.
Obviously I can research this myself but it’s still the morning and Kath is happy to advise me. It’s the day when you make the Christmas pudding, or cake or whatever. Or possibly you give it one last stir before cooking it. Who the hell knows? I don’t. And I realise that I don’t know this because I don’t like cake, and I don’t really like Christmas.
I’m not entirely bah humbug about the whole thing. It’s nice to see people I suppose, and I do enjoy the long lunches that happen in December. And I always take time off work, so I like that bit too. And there is cheese. Cheese is possibly the best thing about Christmas.
But the determined and competitive gaiety of Christmas decs, the enforced time spent with people – in groups! With alcohol added! And turkey. The driest, most boring bird on the planet to grace a table. Give me rib of beef, and a quiet day to actually chat to people without the madness. I’ve always preferred Boxing Day. By then everyone has run out of steam, like toddlers on sugar, and it’s a lot nicer. Plus cold meats and pickles.
My dislike of Christmas probably stems from two things. Firstly, from being neurodiverse. A room full of people, all full of beans, wanting conversation and loud Bing Crosby and pulling crackers and OH MY LIVING HELL – charades, is the stuff of nightmares. Also, I had an alcoholic and often argumentative mother, so childhood Christmases were like unexploded bombs. I can still feel that fear sometimes in a large family group, on alert, waiting for the inevitable car crash, the shouting, the tears. It’s hard to let that go.
I’m not alone in this anti-Christmas feeling. Everyone has their own take; my daughter seems genuinely to feel the same way. And I have tried to make it nice for her, I promise. She has always done her best to prevent me from doing anything ‘large’. It’s hard to argue when you don’t want to do it either.
It seems, however, that a bit like choosing not to have children, choosing not to have Christmas is becoming more acceptable, which is excellent. I have friends who hate it too. In the US, Jewish people (for whom Christmas is just another day, in a religious sense) gather in Chinese restaurants for parties, and banter, and the not eating of turkey – the Chinese being similarly uninterested in Christmas. In Japan, the big tradition is to have KFC. I’ve seen mates employing some of these tactics recently and I applaud this.
Anyway, this year my daughter is hosting Christmas in the deepest countryside, at her place, which I am a bit excited about. She’s a sous chef at a wonderful pub, and working over the silly season. “Mum, you can sit up at the bar with Alice (the pug) and drink brandy and yak with the locals, and I’ll feed you,” she said. “And then when you want, you can just go back to the house and chill out.”
Does that sound like the magic of Christmas to you? Because it does to me. Time with the best kid in the whole world, and the dog. And no jobs to do? I’m looking forward to it more this year that possibly ever before. Cheers! And thank you my wonderful daughter.
Happy whatsit to you lot too, however you decide to celebrate (or not).
Four gigs in one week is quite unusual for me these days, but emphasised the plusses and minuses of each act and also highlighted the differences of each band, especially the old and the new.
Here are the gigs in order; Sham 69 Saturday in London. Gemma Rogers Sunday in Brighton Working Men’s Club Tuesday in Brighton Stereolab Wednesday in Brighton
There were several eras covered, and so it was interesting to compare each band and where they’re at either then or now.
Sham 69, fronted by Jimmy Pursey and with the original line up from 1977, are very much a marmite band in the love or loathe stakes. Mainly due to their original followers being skinheads and violence at all their gigs at that time, followed by chart success & Pursey’s larger than life persona, the fans were passionate, but the haters had plenty of ammo to dislike.
I loved the band at the time, but I was a punk rocker and there was trouble with skinheads everywhere and going to a gig of theirs back then… that was a definite no no for me. Back then, the kids were not united.
Fast forward to five years ago, and Jimmy had stayed a lot at Hotel Pelirocco, my place at the time. I got on well with him, something which culminated in him offering Dirt Royal, the Brighton band I managed, a support at The100 Club. They were great. It was a mixed crowd, there was no aggro, just a good rock’n’roll band, and I could finally jump in the mosh pit safely. Jimmy was born to perform and always has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Gemma Rogers penultimate gig on her UK tour for her current album, No Place Like Home, at the lovely Hope And Ruin, a great debut full of clever witty observations of everyday life with a bit of a social comment edge for good measure.
It wasn’t as busy as expected, but perhaps isn’t as well known here as she should be. She had a sore throat, but that was pushed to one side with a stunning vocal and stage performance. Like Jimmy Pursey, she’s born for the stage. She has charm, grace, panache and style in abundance, and was wildly received by her passionate fans.
Working Men’s Club hail from Yorkshire, are signed to ultra cool Heavenly Records and are loved by critics – they get all the plaudits – and are definitely on the rise to the next level of fame. A touch of the New Order indie dance crossover best describes their sound. I first saw them at The Great Escape four years ago playing to 30 people in Photomatic in Gardner Street. It was an epic performance, followed by a bigger, but also epic performance at The Latest Bar a year later, now playing to hundreds instead of 50 or so people. I personally felt the charisma and stage presence of singer Minksy was slightly lost on the bigger crowd as he’s very intense, but watch this space as they move into the next stage like Fontaine’s DC before them.
Finally the unique perfectly crafted lounge Anglo French avant garde electronic pop sound of Sterolab (pictured). They made one of my all time faves – French Disko, an amazing pop song. If you want to check them out, it was perfectly highlighted on a YouTube clip from mid-90s TV show The Word, a clip that still sends a shiver.
They sold out at Concorde 2, quite a feat at any stage of your career, and were eagerly anticipated by a crowd stroking their beards, but actually the gig fell a bit flat and me and my pal Dave, over from Australia, left early.
I like a bit of performance with my gigs no matter how innovative or arty, Jimmy Pursey gave a master class, Gemma has bundles of charisma & presence, WMC need to get back to their roots and the Lab need chairs. ✌️❤️
Brighton’s annual Burning the Clocks event has become a beloved tradition among residents. It’s a magical community event that marks the shortest day of the year. A few nights before Christmas the streets are filled with crowds of people carrying handmade, intricately designed lanterns. They march through town until they reach the seafront. They throw their lanterns into a blazing bonfire and enjoy a spectacular firework display to mark the end of the year.
SameSky is a local charity that organises the Burning the Clocks event. The event will start on New Road at 6:30pm on December 21st and entry will be free. SameSky expects around twenty-thousand people to attend this year. This includes children, families, artists, bands, and community groups. Robert Batson, SameSky Executive Producer, said: “There is so many cool builds that we are excited to bring to Brighton this year.” People can carry their own lanterns that they have made or purchase lantern kits from SameSky. Robert Batson, SameSky Executive Producer, said: “Some lanterns will have names, hopes, or wishes inscribed on them. Something to remember the past year.”
The event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. As Covid restrictions have been lifted and we are making the transition back into normal life Burning the Clocks returns. This year its theme is ‘wild’. Robert Batson, SameSky Executive Producer, said: “It has a lot to do with the feeling of being unleashed and uncaged after two years.” SameSky artist Jo Coles designed the effigy this year, and she took inspiration from the uninhibited elements of central European cultures like the wilder men.
The event costs over £45,000 to produce, and SameSky does not receive regular funding. They rely on donations from their Crowdfunder, fundraising, and support from local businesses to enable this event to take place. Robert Batson, SameSky Executive Producer, said: “As long as we know the community is behind us and that there is support out there for this, this event is going to continue.”
SameSky works with different schools and organisations in Brighton. Robert Batson, Executive Producer at SameSky, said: “We are working with the Hummingbird Project which is a refugee group based in Sussex who have been doing tremendous work.” SameSky also works with artistic group Pebbles and The Woodcraft Folk, who try to involve families in the artistic practice.
Burning the Clocks has a long history in Brighton. It began in 1993 and its aim was to provide a cathartic and uplifting escape from the heavy commercial focus of the Christmas season. It also became a way to embrace the community as everyone could celebrate this event regardless of faith.
SameSky has created lantern kits for residents to purchase if they want to take part in the event. They are available at HISBE Supermarket, The Booklovers Store, The Book Nook, Seed ‘n’ Sprout, and Paxton+Glew.
The skies are clearing as we head out of the chaos of an autumn that had us gulls wondering about the very future of the city’s rich pickings, and we’re gliding into a crisp midwinter of surprisingly fresh and vibrant food stories. Who’d have thought that we’d be talking new restaurants in a cost of living crisis, but there’s exciting news ahead.
Your gull has been pecking at the windows of what was her favourite nibble, Oki-Nami on New Road to try to spot Brighton’s superstar chef, Dave Mothersill. Furna, his tasting menu only restaurant on the site will be open by the time your Whistler hits the streets and has been met with cries of delight in the scavenger community.
Great uncle Gulbert still tells the chicks nest-time stories of the stubbly-chinned chef who would leave his delicious leftovers at the back of Terre a Terre, The Salt Room, The Coal Shed, The Ginger Pig and The Gingerman for his favourite gull with a smile and a wink. He could spot a bird with good taste. And, shh, but word has it that he’s the most likely chef to get the city’s elusive first Michelin star.
And from that Salt Room stable, Tutto (pictured) has finally opened after a false start back in September. Early pecking has this gull cocking her head, but she’ll be sticking with the veggie leftovers until she can be sure where the meat comes from.
Squawking of new openings, your gull can report that the highly popular Curry Leaf chef, Kanthi Thamma and his pal from his Chilli Pickle days, Diego Ricaurte have settled into their new Latin American meets India restaurant, Palmito. Since picking at the pork chicharron with hominy corn and salsa, she’s even ditched the idea of spreading her wings and heading to Mexico for the winter.
As the nights draw in and the Christmas lights begin to line the streets of Brighton, your gull hits a thermal to look down on the bird life in this pretty city. The chicks are tottering down West Street, pecking at the tacos strewn across the pavements ahead of their big night out. A team of eco-gulls are clearing the beach after an unseasonably warm day has attracted a swarm of tourists. And Great Uncle Gulbert struts out of the back of Bincho Yakitori, stuffed to the gills with his favourite pickings in town. Dave Mothersill was right about him. He does have great taste.
Come join Hi Cacti & our fellow 7 Dials independent businesses for some late night shopping, festivities & share some community cheer
18+ of our local neighbouring shops, cafes, pubs, and businesses are all joining together to bring you festivities & late night shopping!
Kitsch Santa’s grotto Treasure Hunt Christmas Carol Singing Local Pub Crawl for a free drink Christmas lights & window displays
More to be revealed & all are open till 8pm to bring you sales & discounts to help you Christmas shop locally & support your 7 Dials community businesses this Christmas.
During Very Merry 7 Dials your favourite independents will be open 5pm-9pm to bring you vinyls, vintage, houseplants, cakes, fashion, local art, mulled wine, Christmas trees, raffles, mince pies, wreaths, home goods, festive cocktails, local makers, late night shopping & sales, essential oil samples & workshops, coffee, gifts, charitable causes, & more!
You ever fancied chancing your arm at being a writer? Well, as chance would have it… The West Hill Writers Group meet every Friday afternoon to focus their energies under the guidance of Anna Burtt.
Creative Writing Courses
Fridays 3.00pm – 5.00pm- get in touch for latest course details
Anna’s Creative Writing courses have been running since 2018 and have brought together writers from Brighton and beyond to form a supportive and welcoming group of writers. Since joining Anna’s group, members have got agents, finished novels, won competitions and finished poetry and short story collections. If you’d like to start taking time for your writing, to learn a new skill, or to get closer to publication, this is the course for you.
Each course has two free bursary places for underrepresented writers and a reduced price for writers on low-income. Places are limited, so send Anna and email to find out first about the next one.
“I joined the West Hill Writers Group this January, via Zoom sessions”, said group member JE Seuk. “Already they’ve shared insights, motivation, discipline, and community beyond all expectations. I can’t wait for meetings to resume in-person at West Hill Hall at the end of June.”
There’s also a new bursary for underrepresented writers. There’s a group anthology to be published in coming months. Advice about agents and publishing, opportunities for personalised feedback, writing exercises, and more.
If you find yourself itching to join but anxious about fitting in, know that there is no one size fits all West Hill Writer. “The ages range from 20-something to 70-something,” said Seuk. “Some have decades of writing experience, while others write for fun after the kids are tucked off to bed. Some voices are literary, others commercial. We’re all different, but we all love writing”.
This week we’re with Andy Lynes, food writer for The Times, Telegraph and The Independent and one of the people behind Brighton Best which, well, as it says on their website, Brighton’s Best Restaurants awards were set set up in 2016 to celebrate the city’s dynamic restaurant scene”. They’re also behind October Best, the city’s celebration of quality restaurants where you can eat for just £25 a head. The awards come out in April and there’s a big interview with Andy in the next edition of your friendly neighbourhood Whistler about all that. We sent our intrepid reporter, The Whistler’s food editor Gilly Smith to meet him at The Chilli Pickle, The Whistler’s favourite to get his top tips for the Best places to eat in Brighton over the festive season. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
“The Tat Modern is currently suspended for a forthcoming makeover, and the robot on Seven Dials roundabout has gone walkabout, Artist Dotty has gone Diddy Dotty as his new art concept, is the world of Nano Art.”
Dotty has created lots of one millimetre art, to position around various locations in West Hill. Under the microscope they have loads of dots and are positioned on walls, under pub tables, a taxi rank, bus stops, trees, the train station and a wheelie bin.
Dotty even convinced a West Hill resident to let him attach one of his one millimetre art pieces to the bottom of her shoe. She is happy to relocate and hang from a wall, if an international buyer is found. The first person to discover and contact the West Hill Whistler with evidence of discovering a one millimetre piece of art, wins a 50 ft Artist Dotty digital art print of their choosing, as seen on Instagram.
Artist Dotty says, “I’m not paying for the frame though, what do you think I am, made of money?”
Originally Dotty considered replicating the Sistine Chapel on a single strand of hair. There were logistical issues, namely the lack of hair and attention to detail. The one millimetre art involved a science lab and a pin to lift a tiny amount of paint, which is then dropped onto finely laser cut wood, interspersed with shadow lines. This is a very delicate process and Dotty joked that he not had a decent night’s kip since.
Nano Art aka The DottyVerse was inspired by a David Attenborough documentary, exploring how some animals have become masters of disguise through colour and can deceive and trick and create illusion. Some animals use their colours to hide and disappear into the background. By entering a micro world, Dotty wants encourage the public to be mind expansive by using their colour receptors in a different way.
Trying to find art with a nature perspective is an art project to remind us that nature is out there. The art has been created with strong colours and shadow effects to give the feel of looking through an ultra violet camera. You will only be able to enter The DottyVerse with good binoculars, so be prepared.
Artist Dotty gives us his art trail affirmation. “Think big! Enter the world of the small. Don’t get a crick or a cricket in your neck and don’t accidently end up in the rocky hills of Northern India.”
“We want to give the five star service of Michelin star restaurant but without any of the kind of things that we deem unnecessary such as you know, serving from a certain side or all that kind of stuff. We want to deliver amazing food, amazing service in a relaxed setting. We’re a 100% vegan south east Asian restaurant in the heart of Brighton in Baker Street. All small plates. We pride ourselves on high energy and low kinda… poncey-ness…
We’re with Amy Bennett, co founder of Bonsai Plant Kitchen.
“So basically, Bonsai was started by myself and Dom. I’m 22 and he’s 27. So myself and Dom are both college dropouts and both just jumped into the hospitality industry.
“I became a waiter, he became a chef. I had no intention of being a chef, but kind of worked really really hard and the head chef kind of said to me “I’ve seen your work ethic, do you want to come into the kitchen?” So my whole chef career started that way, coming all the way up to a sous chef and then head pastry chef.
“I was always vegan but was working in really meat heavily dominated restaurants. So then I decided that I wanted to move to Brighton to work in a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, moved to working at Food For Friends, met Dom, he was head chef, I was the head pastry chef. And decided that we wanted to open our own thing. He wanted to do something Asian. I wanted to do something vegan, and so we created Bonsai.
Tell us a bit more about the food. What’s your favorite dish? “OK, so we’ve got a tempura cauliflower that’s probably my favorite, because any kind of vegan restaurant that you go to, they offer you some kind of battered cauliflower dish. So when people kind of see it on the menu, they don’t really think much of it. They think ‘Oh, here we go again, another battered cauliflower dish’. But it’s just absolutely phenomenal. People tend to walk away and say that that is their favorite dish.”
A longer version of this interview is featured on The Brighton Whistler podcast, available at all the usual places.
September marks 10 years since I arrived on these shores as a fresh-faced student who was determined to make it to the top. That was the only way to justify my mother’s heartbreak at leaving the homeland and my sisters’ delight at being able to have a room to themselves.
My secondary school yearbook asked where I saw myself in 10 years time and my answer declared I would be leading the Irish national team to the 2022 World Cup or have a weekly column in the Irish Independent. I’m going to tell you why leading Montpelier Villa Women and writing for the West Hill Whistler is better (Quite right: Ed) and why Graham Potter is wrong to go to Chelsea (Also quite right: Ed).
I understand why Potter has gone. I understand that his career has been a series of calculated gambles both on his part and on the clubs that employed him, including his first club Östersund who played in the Swedish fourth tier who took a risk on someone who at the time was just the coach of a university football team. I understand that Potter may feel that this is justification for his seven years in Sweden and traveling to the Women’s World Cup in China in 2007. Not that either of these are something to be endured, but rather this isn’t the conventional route to one of the biggest jobs in English football and it’s hard not to be disappointed by Potter finally choosing the path expected of him.
I won’t be the first to describe Potter as unconventional and most will be aware of him getting his players in Sweden to perform Swan Lake and his influence or rather his reasoning of taking players out of their comfort zone reached Montpelier Villa as our players endured American football, Gaelic football, rugby and netball all to take them out of their comfort zone or in other words – make them uncomfortable.
This September, Montpelier Villa will host the FA Cup for the first time ever and this will be the highlight of the season for many, the ability to say you competed in the same competition as some of the biggest names in the game. It won’t surprise you that my ambition for our team is to play just one match at Wembley Stadium and fortunately we find ourselves in a competition that means we are just ten wins away from that goal.
What I don’t understand is this move being explained as Potter being ambitious. Potter has joined a team with infinitely more resources and expectations, but he has left one of the few clubs that has slowly and sustainably built an infrastructure that can challenge the elite.
At this point, it’s important to rule myself out of the vacant position at Brighton and it’s not for lack of ambition. It’s because I’m too ambitious. Football in my opinion is the greatest leveller and no matter the resources that any club has, no matter the perceived quality of the players on each team, if you are on the same pitch then you are in the best possible position to beat them – whoever they are.
Potter had all the tools available at Brighton to make the city and region a footballing hotbed akin to Barcelona or Amsterdam. I would find it hard to justify walking away from that for the chance to coach in the Champions League for a team that won it as recently as 2021. Potter was on course to bring that competition to Falmer albeit only after six games and I believe the latter would have been a far greater achievement.
I wholeheartedly believe that Montpelier Villa will walk out at Wembley on May 14th next year and I’ve been called enthusiastic, deluded, silly and stupid and I could go on but I know how great our team is, I know some of the sacrifices they make to play for us and the resilience they have, I know this football team has given me a reason to be proud of our little corner of Brighton whilst also paying homage to where I came from (Villa wear the same colours as my childhood team – Railway Athletic)
I know it’s going to be difficult to win the FA Cup, but until we’re knocked out, we can. I don’t blame Potter for moving to Chelsea for any number of reasons but I am disappointed that his ambition could not see the potential in Brighton. As for my own ambition and where I see myself in the year 2032? Coaching Montpelier Villa women and writing for the Whistler? I told you I was ambitious.
Well, you can do rock climbing in the mountains, but generally when you go to the mountains, it’s more… It’s not as technical as rock. You can climb up a mountain, depending on the mountain, but it’s not so technical that you need loads and loads of equipment like you do with rock climbing. With mountains you don’t necessarily need a harness, whereas he’ll be in a harness…”
It wasn’t a conversation I was expecting to have in a fabric and upholstery shop, but then again “And we don’t know what happened, but he ended up in the back of an articulated lorry” isn’t a sentence I expected to write when transcribing the interview tape.
The Whistler is with Denise Robins, wife of Adrian Robins, they of the fabric and upholstery shop of the same name in Guildford Road. We’re surrounded by rolls of beautiful fabrics and textiles and just lovely stuff you just want to touch and cover yourself with.
Adrian’s not here – “Adrian’s off rock climbing in Scotland at the moment” – and Denise is only here because she’s done something unnecessary to her knee. “I won’t climb this year. I think… maybe the winter, late winter. But I think it’s a good six months.”
It’s a nice contrast, isn’t it? The delicacy of the fabric world and the out and about mountaineering and all that.
“We’re passionate about the outdoors, which is quite funny because everybody expects us to be passionate about our home, and you know, we’ve got a nice home, don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a nice home. But it’s just a nice home. I wouldn’t say we were passionate about our home and about everything being just so, that’s not really who we are.
As much as they love fabrics, it’s the white knuckle stuff that’s in their blood. “We did loads of that. We still do. We were away every weekend in various clubs. We met in the Brighton Explorers Club, we were in the Sussex Mountaineering Federation, we were in Hastings Rock Club, the Brighton Excelsior Club. We were doing all that, all the time working, that’s what we did. Yeah. And then when I was 27, I had our first child. So I kind of stopped all the mountaineering and stuff then because I just did stuff with the kids. Adrian carried on I just thought I was way too valuable to hurt myself!”
Do you still cycle and..
“Yeah, yeah, mountain bike. Adrian had a very bad cycle accident 15 years ago and he was told he would never work again.”
Wow, what happened?
“He’s like the bionic man. He was training, he was doing triathlons at the time, and we don’t know what happened, but he ended up in the back of an articulated lorry. He broke his back, very badly punctured his lung, broke lots of ribs, sustained a head injury because his helmet split into and was in intensive care. He had to have surgery on his back, so had bone taken from his hip, put into his back and he’s got big metal rods in his back holding his back together. And slowly, being Adrian and because he’s so fit, he got back to swimming and, and then wanted to work again. So he only actually ended up having less than a year off. And then he was back at work.” And now he’s off rock climbing in Scotland. Crampons and ropes and all that.
Denise is Brighton through and through. “Yeah my lot go back to the 16th century. My great, I think it’s great great great grandfather, was the last map person off the chain pier, the last person off the chain pier before it collapsed. He was head of maintenance or locked it all up or something. But it’s mentioned in a few books, because my maiden name is Fogden in which is an old Sussex name – and “Adrian Robins” the shop has been on Guildford Road since 1983.
“No, no, we didn’t have this one. Adrian rented the shop next door for two years. He’d finished an apprenticeship in town in upholstery, and then he set up on his own, and by time we’d got together this came up for sale, and he desperately wanted his own shop. So we sold my flat and bought this. When we bought it, it had been rented out to students as individual bedsits each room for about 10 years. It was utterly hideous. hideous, you know, it was it was so funny because we, you know, we were so young and people would come along and I just, I’d look at it and they just didn’t know what to say everybody thought we were completely mad. Because we had no money. And we bought this wreck. And, and they just say the word that was said all the time was potential.
1983. That’s a fair while ago. The area must have changed hugely since then. “There were lots of shops which have gone. We always fought to keep the shops because once they’re gone, they’re gone. They never come back”
Do you remember what other shops they were on this stretch?
“There was a restorer. That was a few doors down. There was a TV shop. Right on the corner. There was a basket making. That was a basket making shops and guys sat in there making cat baskets all day, and then at the top on the corner was like a wholesale butchers. Actually, this had been a butcher at some stage before because it had all butchers hooks in the ceiling.”
Or maybe that was just for the students.
Denise, it should be said, is a great interviewee in that she likes talking. And she’s a terrible interviewee – because she likes talking.
“Do you want to know about the shop?”
OK, let’s talk about fabrics. Do you design your own fabrics? “We used to do a lot of that years ago, but I like to advise rather than design. I like to tap into people’s personal taste, and then help them look good.
“There are certain things that we don’t do much, for instance and I don’t have many glitzy books here. They don’t sell in Brighton, I think there’s an understated look they want, people want things to look really nice, but not in a flashy way.
“If I was going to say what’s the best seller, it would be probably plain and natural weaves. Very natural. So cotton linen blends walls, things like that. But sadly, plain, actually.”
And what’s your favourite?
“I love William Morris. I really like William Morris. I like prints. I like bold prints. So yeah, I mean, it’s you know, it’s funny when we were redoing our sofa Adrian said ‘Why don’t we just have plain velvet’ and I was like ‘No. No way’, you know because… we just shouldn’t.”
Do you often find yourself talking to customers and they’ll pick something out and you think to yourself ‘Are you sure about that?’
“Yes, and I would say that because I really want people to be happy with what we’ve done. I’d be mortified if we did some work and then people didn’t like it, they felt that they’ve made a mistake, because it’s a lot of money. I mean, I’ll say to people, it’s not like a dress you bought that you can hide in the wardrobe and pretend you didn’t buy it. It’s a sofa, it’s a bay full of curtains. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
“If you came in here, I would look at how you’re dressed and it would give me an idea of what to pull out. Some people don’t think they’ve got any idea, some people don’t even think they’ve got any taste, but everybody has. I find that quite fascinating.”
Have you noticed over the years, how tastes have changed? “People are far more conscious, environmentally conscious. I’m being asked for things that are natural, all natural fibres. I’ve got some (fabric) books that are made from recycled fabrics and things like that. Also I think the air miles of fabrics, people are more conscious of that, where things are made.”
It’s time to go. You don’t want to take up too much of people’s time so a bit of small talk while I pack up…
Good luck with the physio and I hope you get out and about sooner rather than later.
“It’s OK. I’m not going to get back into it till the end of the year, and until then I’ll do all my water sports.”
I thought you were resting up?
“I’ve bought a paddleboard. And I’m a sea swimmer and try to do lots of sea swimming.”
Clearly we have different ideas about resting up.
“Yeah, I bought a dinghy and I’ve started sailing, so I’m a member of the Brighton Sailing Club as well. And I like to do some surfing if I can kneel OK.”
So there’s mountaineering, cycling, surfing, the dinghy…. Anything boxes not ticked?
“I’ve always been a bit of a thrill seeker. So… I’ve never done any diving and then somebody mentioned to me that where I’m going on holiday there’s a dive school… “
We don’t fly these days. Flying is, well, the planet you know. It’s My Fine Wife’s doing really – she’s more principled than me – but I agree with her, so we just don’t do it. But sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and so a few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in row 5, seat A listening to someone telling me the exits are here, here and here. In Spanish.
I haven’t been in a plane for years, since long before Covid, and I’d been unashamedly excited. We live, objectively speaking of course, in the best place in the UK, but there’s still something exciting and romantic about travel. When I was young, I used to go to Heathrow and just hang around, watching the planes fly off, wondering where they were going, fantasing about the adventures, wondering what it was like the other side of the “Departures” sign.
I’ve been on a few planes since then, but there’s still something curiously glam about flying, still something a bit jet set. It’s kinda like still thinking a sun tan and smoking still look cool. But then again… they do still look cool. They shouldn’t, but they do.
There’s nothing cool about row 5, seat A. I’m not sure Danny Wilde and Lord Brett Sinclair ever travelled Economy, and even if The Terrible Thing did happen I’m not sure I could get to the exits that are aquí, aquí y aquí because, as my new best friend, the guy sitting next to me, said “It’s cosy here, isn’t it”.
It’s quick and it’s cheap and I suppose that’s good in a sense, but really. Think about it. Anything that sells itself on being quick and cheap… it’s probably not going to be a great experience.
“Come and eat at our restaurant – it’s really quick and cheap”. It’s not where you’re going to go on your hot first date. On the other hand, I’ve just described the global fast food industry so maybe that’s not the best example.
The whole flying experience is a bit odd. Before squeezing yourself into row 5, seat A you spend an hour and a half wandering around a faceless soulless shopping mall full of shops selling a variety of men’s clothes, women’s clothes, posh bags, shops that don’t exist anywhere else, shops that are completely empty. I walked into a men’s clothes shop, the t-shirts were all neatly folded into squares and the shirts were hanging up. I said “Hello” to the woman behind the till. She shuffled uncomfortably, like she didn’t quite know what to do.
“It’s quick and it’s cheap” – and as clunky links go, this is up there – made me think about this issue of Your Mighty Whistler. The reason we don’t fly isn’t because the experience is rubbish; it’s because the planet. And if you read “Gull About Town”, Feedback Special and the interview with Philip Lymbery, they’re all also because the planet. Everyone likes quick, everyone likes cheap, but we’re a little bit past that now. We’ve got to really start being a bit more careful and if Philip Lymbery is right and there are only 60 harvests left… quick and cheap won’t cut it anymore. As mother used to say, you get what you pay for. Maybe it’s time to stop doing quick and cheap. Maybe it’s time to take a bit more care, to take a bit more time and if it costs a bit more, well do it less often.
As we head into an autumn of change, the double whammy of cost of living and climate crises means fewer take away pizza boxes strewn across the city streets (Ed: you wish) and less in the bins behind the back of our favourite restaurants as they pare back their waste. And that is not a good look for the birds of Brighton.
But ‘eat less, but better’, is what Great Uncle Gull has always told us, reminding us what happened to our favourite childhood treat, the earthworm, when animals were put in cages in vast factory farms. So, your gull has taken flight to check out the latest plant-based kitchens and chefs who care about where their meat, fish and dairy comes from.
This Gull loves little more than good pub food, and particularly when it’s a pop up like Kokedama at the Roundhill with glamorous plant-based small plates.
A peck at the leftover Gochujang Panko Cauliflower Wing and the skin-on Fries topped with Apple & Fennel Kimchi, Spring Onions, Gochujang Drizzle, Cashew Parmesan, Wasabi Mayo and Furikake sent your bird’s spirit soaring onto a passing thermal to check out its other locations in East Street and Lewes. But not before clocking that Sunday lunch roast is a feather light £15.
Portland Road may seem a long old flight for a hungry bird, but the word on the wing is that Ciaran’s is a properly sourced treat for a Sunday lunch. Its crispy belly of pork with sage stuffing, roasted duck fat potatoes, glazed carrots, sautéed cabbage and apple cider gravy all comes from within a 40-mile radius.
The pigs come from Calcot Farm in West Sussex where this bird has witnessed them larking in fields, playing with their siblings and pals until their time comes. She’s also spotted the Ciaran-mobile buying fish from Brighton and Newhaven Fish Supplies, the preferred fishmonger of the most responsible of Brighton eateries.
His dairy is delivered from Bristol’s Estate Dairy which Cousin Gus from Southville, Bristol’s grooviest neighbourhood, says is the work of a collective of young passionate individuals dedicated to producing and bottling the highest quality milk and cream from the Chew Valley. He’s been very picky about tahe ethics behind his dairy since he developed a taste for ice cream on a brief visit to Brighton as a chick.
It was Cousin Gus who spotted a cool young eco-warrior at Veg Fest back in 2013, feeding a Bristol crowd vegan sushi burrito and environmental activism like they were baby birds. Anna told them that they couldn’t love the ocean if they ate fish, and well, you can imagine how that’s gone down in the gull world.
But when Anna moved to Brighton, set up Happy Maki in Pool Valley, the gulls were all over it, as were festival goers throughout the country as word got out about the fake fish that tastes so delicious.
Let them eat fake if it helps them give up junk food. As the tractors harvest the fields of Sussex, this gull is up, up and away to pick at the worms coming back to the cow-mown farms, and breathe in the beauty of animals on the land.
For more information, see Gilly Smith’s feature with Philip Lymbery
Philip Lymbery, global CEO of Compassion in World Farming is busy on his laptop as I gaze out of the Eurostar window at the blur of green farmland between Calais and Brussels. “Where are the cows?” I ask idly. “I haven’t seen any cows for hours.”
It’s 2017 and Philip and I are on the way to the European Parliament where he’ll host a conference about the impact of factory farming on the planet, which I’ll record for an episode of his podcast that I produce called Stop the Machine. Philip sighs and tells me a story of where the cows have gone, about the gradual and largely hidden industrialisation of some of Europe’s most famous foods including Parmegiano Reggiano and Grana Padana which is produced by cows who never see the light of day.
Five years later, we’re chatting again about his new book, Sixty Harvests Left “a warning from the United Nations”, a clarion call to get animals back on the land before it’s too late. I ask him about the outcome of the report, Hard Cheese that Compassion in World Farming published about that trip of his through the Po Valley to investigate the real story behind our most popular cheeses.
“It was about raising the issue that cows belong in fields rather than spending a lifetime in barns, sometimes even tethered”, he told me. “Some of them can’t even walk around the barns. We have started a dialogue with the producers in the consortium behind Parmesan and Grana Padana cheeses, but progress is slow. We need to keep up the pressure.”
It’s more than just the massively important welfare issue; “I believe they’re misleading consumers who believe that the cows are living more bucolic lives. But it’s also that this intensification of farming practice is causing wider harms to the countryside. So things need to change.”
Philip has painted an apocalyptic vision of the impact of food production on the planet in his books Farmageddon and Dead Zone: Where The Wild Things Were. In Sixty Harvests Left, he picks up the soil where farmed animals once grazed, naturally fertilising the land and providing rich pickings for the bugs and worms, and shows us what our junk food culture has done to it.
“Our soil has been disappearing at such a rate that the UN has warned if we carry on like we are, then we have just 60 years left before our soils are gone,” Philip tells me for my podcast Cooking the Books with Gilly Smith. “No soil, no food. Game over.’
Philip is one of the most important campaigners against factory farming. He and I have worked together on his podcasts Stop the Machine and The Big Table, and he’s appeared with me on the delicious. podcast and Right2Food, the voice of the Food Foundation in a bid to change the food system. He’s clear about the relationship between buying supermarket BOGOF chicken in shrink wrapped trays, burgers from junk food outlets that contribute to the destruction of rain forests, the lungs of the earth as Philip calls them, to grow grain to feed cattle that should be naturally fertilising our soils.
“It’s all inherently connected and not in a good way through factory farming. Animals like pigs, chickens and hens have been taken out of pastures and woodlands and kept in cages. And that industrial production of animals is usually accompanied by the industrial production of crops using chemical pesticides and fertilisers and monocultures of cereals and soya and similar crops.
And in that transaction, what happens is that intensive production drives out biodiversity. It means that the bees that are needed for the pollination of our crops see their numbers plummet. It means that while birds and other animals disappear, the forests are wiped away. And as soils go into decline, so does the future of our food system.’
But Philip’s book is hopeful; if we change the way we eat and stop buying factory farmed meat, get the animals back on the land to naturally fertilise the soil, nature will do the rest, bringing the bugs and insects, the worms that aerate it and bring the life back.
“I do think that there is a portfolio of solutions. Eating more plants, eating less but better meat, milk and eggs making sure by better making sure it comes from pasture fed free range organic. So broadly speaking, regenerative food sources, I think that’s really important.”
Buying better sourced food, eating 30% less meat or going vegan or vegetarian – there will be enough meat eaters to support the high welfare farmers – is a no-brainer and reduces the weekly food bill. But it’s not enough; we need to be asking every restaurant waiter or chef where they source their meat, fish and dairy. At a particularly sparkly launch this summer, I asked the chefs where their ingredients came from. They hadn’t a clue. I wrote to the PR company. No reply.
We’re blessed with great restaurants in Brighton, and most of them shout loud on their menus and their social about their ethical sourcing.
This week we’re with Andy Lynes, food writer for The Times, Telegraph and The Independent and one of the people behind Brighton Best which, well, as it says on their website, Brighton’s Best Restaurants awards were set set up in 2016 to celebrate the city’s dynamic restaurant scene”. They’re also behind October Best, the city’s celebration of quality restaurants where you can eat for just £25 a head. The awards come out in April and there’s a big interview with Andy in the next edition of your friendly neighbourhood Whistler about all that. We sent our intrepid reporter, The Whistler’s food editor Gilly Smith to meet him at The Chilli Pickle, The Whistler’s favourite to get his top tips for the Best places to eat in Brighton over the festive season. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.