How To Have A Mindful Xmas by Jo Rowkins

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.

Skip Kelly of Montpelier Villa Women Remembers The Important Things

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. 

Are You Still Potty, Dotty?

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

Sam Harrington-Lowe – December 2022

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).

The New New Wave vs The Old New Wave – by Mick Robinson

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. ✌️❤️

Burning The Clocks returns. Nadia Abbas reports

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.

If you would like to find out more, visit

Gull About Town – December 2022

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.

Xmas In The Dials – December 8

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!

What’s on at West Hill Hall

The hall is now open, with a full timetable.  Some classes close over holiday periods, please always check with your teachers directly. 

Please check with the class contact on the Sessions page for more information. 

If you have any enquiries for the Hall please email

We have limited availability for children’s parties (under 12s only) with restrictions in place, and for residents of Seven Dials only. 

The Hall is accessible and it has an accessible WC. There are some steps up to the kitchen area.

Beyond our regular all year round classes listed below, we are excited to continue our collaboration with Evolution Arts         Click the link for details. 
When What Weekly Monthly
Mondays Yoga-Fit with Danielle 10.30am  
  Kundalini Yoga with Euna 7.30pm  
Tuesdays Brydie Rowan Yoga and Movement – Body Medicine 10.00am starts Jan23
  Synergy Creative Community 12.00pm  
  Learn Ukuele with Zac 6.00pm  
  Learn Ukuele with Zac 7.30pm  
  WHCA Quiz 7:30pm last Tues
Wednesdays Exercise to Music 55s+ 10.15am  
  Jollof Cafe – pay as you feel charity run group 12:00- 3.00pm  
  Yoga with Stephanie 6.00pm  
  1595 Club Fencing 8.00pm  
Thursdays Dynamic Pilates with Weights – Helen Douglas 09.30am – paused  
  Katie Sommerville MS Pilates 11.00am  
  Discovering Art with Michael Gale  1:30pm  
  Pilates with Helen Douglas   5.45pm & 7.00pm  
  1595 Club Fencing 8.15pm  
Fridays Yoga with Sarah Williams  09:30am  
  Tai Chi with Simon Robins 11am & 12pm  
  Creative Writing with Anna Burtt
(see below)

14th Oct


  1595 Club Fencing 6:00pm  
  Brighton Shape Note Singing 7.45pm 2nd Fri
  Latin Dance with Carola Degener Perez 7.45pm not 2nd Fri
Saturdays gigs/regular workshops – see FB for info!    
Sundays ad hoc workshops/clubs    

West Hill Hall West Hill Hall

West Hill Hall

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.

Email for more information


“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”.

More info at:

The Brighton Whistler podcast

Andy Lynes and Brighton's best restaurants The Brighton Whistler

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 for more information.
  1. Andy Lynes and Brighton's best restaurants
  2. The Telesterion
  3. Mutations Festival
  4. The Bonsai Plant Kitchen
  5. Simon Price and Late Night Mini Cab FM

Matt Whistler interviews eco clown Artist Dotty about his microscopic art 

What now, Dotty?

“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.”

Bonsai Plant Kitchen

“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.

Bonsai Plant Kitchen

44-45 Baker St, Brighton BN1 4JN. 07514 336086

I don’t want to go to Chelsea

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. 

The very fabric of life

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… “

Adrian Robins Interiors

16 Guildford Rd

Brighton BN1 3LU

01273 329240

Editorial: October 2022

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.   

Gull About Town: October 2022

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

Too late to do nothing

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. 

The Brighton Podcast podcast

Andy Lynes and Brighton's best restaurants The Brighton Whistler

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 for more information.
  1. Andy Lynes and Brighton's best restaurants
  2. The Telesterion
  3. Mutations Festival
  4. The Bonsai Plant Kitchen
  5. Simon Price and Late Night Mini Cab FM

Pride In Pride. Loulou Novick on her first Pride after coming out

As a newly out person in Brighton, what does Pride mean to you?

It means a lot. I’m recently out, but also it’s now I’m a comfortable with it. I was out when I was maybe 16 or 17. I was aware I was bisexual, but I wasn’t proud and it didn’t work out for me. It felt actually quite scary, and I reverted to being straight for a really long time, until I had my first girlfriend last year. And last year I had COVID, so this is my first year feeling proud at Pride. And it just feels quite a big deal because I think I owe it to myself after growing up being so internally homophobic to myself, and just rejecting my entire identity, rejecting myself. I didn’t want to live my life that way. Now I’m so outrageously camp and queer all the time because I was afraid to express myself that way the whole of my life. So I’m excited to experience that feeling with other people and really feel the passion amongst everyone.

What bit of Pride would you feel part of? Would you feel comfortable being seen by the crowds, with the tourists coming to look  at ‘the gays’? Do you want to be there being celebrated by outsiders?

It’s difficult because I’m not very queer presenting. People wouldn’t be able to tell I’m queer just by looking at me which is something I’ve struggled with in terms of finding someone to date. I’m very aware you have to fit into the stereotype to be seen. So like you can tell gay men are gay if they look gay, or butch lesbians, for example, but there’s so many other gay people who don’t fit into the stereotypes and I’m one of them. And I feel it’s difficult for me to feel seen in that sense.

I do want to take part in Pride, but I don’t think I would be able to because I don’t think people would see me. So it’s quite conflicting. But probably just being amongst the atmosphere and so many other proud people will be more than enough for me.

Physically the parade is down the middle of the street with the onlookers on the side. You don’t have to be gay to be in Pride. How do you feel about that? 

I don’t like when people use it as a drunken street party, an excuse to get drunk during the day and wear glitter. OK, it’s nice, but you have to understand that queer people suffer a lot. It’s very, very new that we’ve been accepted, and can find communities with each other and go to gay bars and comfortably be safe, but even in Brighton… my friend who’s a trans woman got attacked and beaten to the ground by a bouncer of a queer bar. So even in Brighton you don’t feel safe all the time. 

We really historically had to fight for acceptance by society and fight to find communities and everything and it’s just… probably straight people don’t see any struggles at all, you probably wouldn’t see those issues. But I see them all the time. But, of course, alliance is a huge contributing factor to being accepted and proud, and for those genuine people who come to cheer for us and support us, I love that!

You live Brighton, you’ve grown up in Brighton but there are plenty of very homophobic places. What does Pride say to the world? 

I think it’s supposed to show solidarity and it’s supposed to show a celebration for being comfortable in who you are. That’s basically what it comes down to. Because most queer people fight with themselves for so long internally. You hide who you are for so long because you’re scared of what other people will think and you’re scared of being rejected by friends, family, society, everything. You fight with yourself for who you are. 

Pride just comes down to being a celebration of people accepting themselves, of being comfortable with who you are and proud of who you are and each other. I’m proud, genuinely I’m proud. And I know that my queer friends, they’re proud and it makes a huge difference. Being in an environment that encourages feeling that sense of pride. Because your whole life you just you haven’t felt that at all. And it makes a difference knowing people care about you being OK with yourself. 

But it’s also a blurred line because the city has made it a money making experience. You pay for tickets. The streets are closed off, the clubs are closed off, the parks are closed off, and it’s ticketed and the performers at the festival are straight. They’re queer icons. They’re loved by the queer community, but they’re straight people. Why wouldn’t you have queer performers?

Maybe but isn’t it about solidarity?

It is about solidarity, of course. But it’s Pride. It’s Gay Pride. Britney Spears performed.Britney’s not gay. She’s a cis straight woman. It’s Pride! Get Elton John, or anyone else who’s queer. So that’s the thing that makes me think it’s just about the money and the tickets and the people coming down. 

For your first Pride, does that matter? 

Yes, it does. I just want it to feel authentic and genuine. I don’t want it to feel like a commercialised business venture. I know people come to Pride and they don’t care about gay rights. They don’t care. I’ve been with people previous years who don’t care about gay rights, straight people who’ve never spoken about gay rights and they go just want to go and get drunk because everyone’s out on the streets and it’s fun. So you don’t know if it’s genuine these days. You don’t. I’m going because I am proud and I want to see other proud people. But it’s bittersweet because you know other people are coming down and they don’t give a fuck. 

An extended version of this interview with Loulou Novick is available on the new Whistler podcast

Does the increasing commercialisation of Pride make it any less meaningful?

Harry Hillery, a veteran of Prides past, on how Pride has changed, how he’s changed and why it’s still powerful

I moved to Brighton in 1988 to setup a small business and decided that setting myself free should also be part of the adventure. In London I’d lurked in the shadows, fearful of what people might think. 

This might sound over the top nowadays, but it was different then. I remember testing the water with a ‘friendly’ boss once, only to be told that if my news went public, any hopes of progression would evaporate if I wasn’t sacked first. So, I came to Brighton to be reborn and vowed to never lie about myself again. 

In 1991 I met Alf in the Black Horse and we soon fell very much in love. Looking back, I owe so much to his gentle nudges and knowledge of all things queer. He introduced me to new ideas, new writers and helped me navigate a new queer reality. My first Brighton Lesbian & Gay Pride with Alf was in May 1992 if memory serves. 

I remember how moved I was by the spectacle and how overjoyed I was to be holding hands with my boyfriend. At the time, Brighton was gripped by the AIDS epidemic and the fallout of Section 28, which made it doubly important to shout our presence and challenge a tsunami of hate and misinformation. 

As we walked along Western Road towards Churchill Square, chanting ‘we’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going shopping’ there was a tangible sense of loathing from the pavements, that sometimes turned into abuse or occasionally a missile. Although I was nervous and a little frightened, I felt a belonging that I’d never had before as a queer man – a kinship with those who’d trailblazed for me – Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Antony Grey, Jackie Foster, Peter Tatchell. Lesbian & Gay Pride had to be loud and angsty to be heard above the din of hatred – we were under attack and our friends were dying. 

I haven’t been to a Pride event for many years now for a number of reasons. Apart from getting older and a general dislike for crowds and mess, for me that sense of kinship and a link to the past has gone. Dropping ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in the title and the rebrand to Brighton Pride made me uneasy. Although queer as I prefer to call it is thankfully less siloed these days, the dropping of these words still felt like a watering down and a betrayal of sorts. A bowing down and compliance that was perhaps necessary to attract corporate sponsorship from banks and other institutions that would not have been welcome (or wanted to be associated with us) in days gone by. 

The event struggled for years due to alleged financial mismanagement and in fighting, so things had to change, but I for one would be happier if the activism backbone was more prominent and given centre stage. I recognise things are better now, but gay marriage and the proliferation of rainbow flags to sell anything and everything, hasn’t made everything OK. 

Our hard-won rights can be taken from us in a heartbeat, and there are many out there who still wish us harm. Queer Pride (or LGBTQ Pride if you prefer) is not just about getting horny and high or listening to Britney Spears, it’s about kinship and remembering how we got here. There’s also still so much more to do – look at all the venom around Trans rights for example – that’s surely what ‘Pride’ still needs to focus on. 

On a final positive note though, it is wonderful that Pride is now so fully embraced by the city. It’s also wonderful that it raises such large amounts of money to help organisations close to my heart like Lunch Positive and Mind Out continue their amazing work. And lastly of course, whatever we call it, it continues to be the best of parties, and a great excuse to be loud and proud.

Editorial: Why Pride is like a shark

There’s a curious thing about sharks. Sharks must always move forward. Their gills – the way they breathe – are designed in such a way that if there’s no forward motion, they don’t work. So they must move forward. The only shark that doesn’t move forward is a dead shark. And who wants to be a dead shark?

Brighton Pride is something to be proud about. It’s one of those things that makes Brighton what it is, one of the reasons we live here. But everything changes, and rather like Glastonbury, the world is divided between those who say “Oh, it’s not like it used to be” and those who, for their own reasons, are happy it’s there. 

Pride began here in 1972, a demonstration by The Sussex Gay Liberation Front… Don’t worry, we’re not going to go into the history of Pride – that’s what Wikipedia’s for – but suffice to say it’s very different now. A weekend wristband to the St James’s Village Party is £27.50, a ticket to “We Are Fabuloso” at Preston Park to see Christina Aguilera is £54.50 – £67.50 if you get the weekend pass. Of course, it’s not like it used to be.    

Politics and commercialism are uneasy mates. They’re often suspicious of each other. Must it be that way? Must money ruin the spirit? At the first Pride here there were 2,000 people. This year there’ll maybe be half a million. Has Pride strayed too far from its roots and become another party on the calendar, next to Fatboy on the Beach and whatever else? 

Should all the acts be gay? I remember how Live Aid was criticised for being too white, for having no African bands. If we were raising money for Africa, the argument went, should we not have been celebrating African music and culture instead of listening to a lot of white chart acts? But a lot of money was raised, a lot of people were helped. So should all the artists be gay? Or are we celebrating togetherness, celebrating being us? 

Nothing is ever the same as it was. Life, like the shark, always moves forward. And Pride, just like Glastonbury and the others, just gets bigger, gets more popular, becomes mainstream, part of a wider culture.

None of this is to say that we should think the battle’s won, that the story is over, that that was then and this is now. The battle’s never really won. It never stops. We only have to look at the resurgence of antisemitism under the last Labour leadership to know how fragile our safety is. We’re safe now, but we should never forget that living in Brighton in 2022 is a privilege, that we’re just lucky enough to be born into a time and place where glitter’s not a crime. 

Maybe we should just enjoy how great is it that half a million people can come and celebrate together, drink together, dance together. How great that the only murder is gonna be is on the dancefloor. And you’d better not kill the groove DJ, gonna burn this goddamn house right down… 

View From The Hill – Nicholas Lezard

How did you spend the Great Heatwave of 2022? I spent it paddling in the sea and running contraband over the Brighton-Hove border. I’ll start with the sea. It’s slightly less traumatic.

The thing is, that although I have been coming here since 1984, in the very week the IRA blew up the Grand (golly, I thought, is Brighton always this interesting?), and living here since 2018, I have never been in the sea here. Well, maybe once. But the memory is confused and dim and I might be imagining it. This time, though, I really did. 

I took off my shoes and socks, rolled my trousers above the knee, and stepped into the surf. It was about half past nine in the evening, and the breeze, such as it was, was coming from the North, that is, from the parched interior of the country. 

There were still plenty of people on the beach, at least one barbecue I could see, and, of course, bongo players. Did you know that the council hands out free bongo drums to everyone who moves here? I’ve yet to claim mine, but I think that’s rather charming.

One of the reasons I have always been reluctant to swim here, apart from the fact that the sea is incredibly cold, is the beach. I have lovely, delicate feet, and their soles are sensitive, so walking barefoot on the shingle is not one of life’s great experiences. 

I had been hoping that in the 38 years since I first came here, the action of the waves might have done something to turn the stones into sand, but it quite simply hasn’t happened yet. I mean, come on.

But then again … it kind of has. Go out at low tide and you’ll find that it actually is a bit sandy on the shore. (Incidentally, it took me half a century to realise that the singer Sandy Shaw’s name was a pun.) So I paddled around a bit; the water was Mediterranean-warm. That was a big surprise. But after a while there’s only so much paddling you can do before getting tired so I went back up the beach and lay down in a damp patch of stones, which was very welcome. 

Isn’t it nice how the beach slopes in such a way as to make a kind of natural divan or sun lounger? I had a smoke and looked at the lights of the Rampion Array blinking on the horizon. 

A dog ran around like crazy, at one point even kicking a couple of stones onto my head but he hadn’t done it on purpose so I took no offence. 

I knew I had a hill to climb when I turned for home, but somehow the knowledge that it was warm enough to sleep on the beach if I wanted made it all better somehow. God, living in this town is a privilege. And my stories of smuggling bongoes into Hove will have to wait for another day. 

Summertime by Amara Baldwin


It’s Summertime, it’s summertime,

It’s time to have ice lollies with lime!

Ice cream , ice creams everywhere,

Melting, dripping, we don’t care! 

Something humid in the air,

People tying back their hair,

Into the sea,

Come on friends, come play with me!

Jump off the paddle board, swimming free! 

We are all as happy as can be!

After school , let’s go and play, 

After a hot, angry, tiresome day,

“Let’s go on the swings!” my friends say,

So how do I reply?


West Hill Writers – The Write Stuff

Just around the corner from the Seven Dials, down a narrow, hidden driveway, West Hill Hall plays host to one of the city’s most successful writing groups. The West Hill Writers have gathered these past few years to nurture voices and narratives and now they’ve gone public.

With much fanfare, they recently published “Brighton & Beyond”, a rich anthology of short stories featuring the city in all its complex glory, from 18 talented local authors. Relatable family and friendship dynamics mingle with dark folklore and fantasy. Queer perspectives and scathing social critiques rub shoulders with comedy, romance, historical fiction and magic realism. Animals play startling roles, and somehow, not one, but three distinctive takes on a circus emerge.

Anna Burtt, director of publishers West Hill Writers, said, “I am really proud of “Brighton & Beyond”. It’s a diverse collection of riveting reads and I’m sure there is something in there to be enjoyed by every avid reader, especially those who love Brighton.”

Authors include Ciar Byrne, Jane Crittenden, Kathleen Ford, Giacomo Gambone, Hilary Howard, Duncan Robert Illing, John Keenan, Pippa Lewis, Kate Marsh, Damian McCarthy, Becs Pearson, Paula Seager, J.E. Seuk, Fran Swaine, Mona Walsh, Maggie Winters, Sue Wood and J.E.C. Young. The very Brighton book cover, features an ice cream cone, and was designed by Patrick Knowles.

The WHW inspire each other through regular sessions with locally-based Anna Burtt who is head of events at Jericho Writers, hosts the Brighton Book Club on Radio Reverb, and is the director of the York Festival Of Writing. They create short stories, flash fiction, creative nonfiction and poems set in Brighton throughout the UK and around the globe, not to mention the past, present and speculative future.

The book launch for Brighton & Beyond was held in the Nightingale Room at the Grand Central Brighton, at the bottom of West Hill, and was a busy affair with books selling fast. Brighton & Beyond can be seen displayed on the shelves of books shops across the city.

They say everyone has a book in them, but here in West Hill, we’re proud to be home to a plethora of really accomplished writers and we wish them all success!

You can order the book direct at:
or from book shops across the UK

There are still places available on the next West Hill Writers course – see

Gull About Town: August

The Gull has been flying too close to the glare of Brighton’s best hot spots this summer, and spotted some shiny new openings. The cackle about the latest Ivy Asia on Ship Street was so loud that your Gull had to swoop down for a better look. She was dazzled by the green onyx floors and lush Chinese fabrics, that wow approach to décor and colours that pop along with the champagne and have become the signature of The Ivy group.  

But regular readers will know that this bird has an eagle eye for any glitter that is not gold, and is very particular about knowing the source of the meat she eats. No self repecting Gull is going to eat anything other than a happy pig or carefree cow. 

She’s asked for the sourcing plicy at this culinary stable – The Ivy, Cote and Bills, as well as the Soho House group which has recently opened its Beach House in Madeira Drive – and despite pecking away for answers, she’s still waiting. And until she knows, she’s keeping her beak shut. 

Perhaps the cackle was actually for Pizza Pilgrims, the latest foodie landing, also in Ship Street. Brothers, Thom and James Elliot’s passion for proper dough had them dropping their careers in advertising and TV back in the 20teens to bring a little Naples to London, planet friendly style.  The Gull was brought up on tales of high flyers, and remembers fondly her nest-time story about Great Uncle Giovanni and the two young men who flew to Naples and drove back to London in a tuk tuk on a pizza pilgrimage to do the right thing for the planet. Their charcuterie comes from Cobble Lane Cured Farm in London where our animal friends have had the best of lives, they minimise waste throughout the food system and grow their basil hydroponically with Harvest London, saving 350,000 food miles a year. They even use wild farmed flour to fix the nitrogen into the soil and produce super tasty, gut and planet friendly flour for their pizza dough.  Their sustainable story has become a favourite among gulls in London, Oxford and now Brighton, where the cool young birds are already gathering to borrow a little eco-Italian style before a night on the tiles.

Kenny Tutt’s another chef who’s doing the right thing by the planet, and you can ensure a properly sourced feed anywhere he pops up. The MasterChef 2018 winner hops about more than your regular gull on a hot tin roof and has just enjoyed an Ox Block residency at the Lord Nelson pub in Trafalgar Street.  If you missed his signature Sussex 40-day aged sirloin steak, you can pop along to Shelter Hall on the beach, and he’ll be at the first Pub in the Park at Preston Park from 16-18 September

There’s a lot of cawing among the gullerati about the new restaurant putting the final touches at Tutto, the latest restaurant from the team behind Burnt Orange, The Salt Room and The Coal Shed. We gulls believe you can never have too many Italian leftovers in Brighton’s bins, and Tutto’s promise of linguine alle vongole and duck ragu has the Gull Massive lining up on top of this airy banking hall which opens on the edge of the North Laine this month.  

Just down the road on Baker Street, a curious aroma of coal-cooked Japanese had your Gull cocking her head for a better sniff. Hitting a thermal, she zoomed along to Bonsai Plant Kitchen for a peck at the small plates and bao burgers, and even had a little groove to the Japanese techno thrilling the cool students in this new quarter of Univille.

But at the end of a balmy evening, why bother with anything other than fish?  As the Gull headed home to West Hill, she couldn’t resist another thermal lift to Church Road in Hove. This is where the more discerning gulls are already forming an orderly queue at the new Catch and Grill where fresh seafood platters and daily catch specials are proper Gull-centric fare.  Sufficiently sated, it was time for a swift half at local favourite, The Farm Tavern. Caw, what a difference! The team behind BRAVO 2022 Best Local winner, The Geese has teamed up with Brighton’s best wine cellar, Butler’s on the drinks menu to bring an excellent night to the Brighton/Hove border.  More news to come!

As your Gull perched on her nest, she looked down over Brighton and Hove and nodded in approval at the rich pickings the city has to offer. Head under wing, she drifted off to the sound of tourism pinging the tills of this plucky little place.

Football: How to get rich quick

In a recent study carried out by Sussex FA and UEFA it was revealed that businesses which sponsor their local grassroots women’s football team could increase their life expectancy by up to 15 years. The study also found that those businesses tended to increase their profits by at least 150% and that business owners often had their life goals realised within six minutes of investing in women’s football. (Ed: Right now, Skip, I’m believing every word you’re telling me) 

 This is, of course, very exciting news for Montpelier Villa WFC who are your local women’s side and take their name from the local streets. The team has until now always relied on players’ fees to pay for the expenses incurred throughout the season including pitch hire, referees, kits and competition entries and insurance, but this naturally creates a barrier for some who can’t afford it, especially in the current climate. 

 However, this recent study is fantastic as previously we had relied on businesses who were socially conscious and wanted to give back to their community and who shared our values of being inclusive, independent and ambitious. Three adjectives that we feel encapsulates the best of Brighton and Hove. Thankfully we no longer have to worry about that nonsense and can focus on selling our product to the highest bidder. 

 “Our next item for sale in the great football auction is MVWFC, a football club that has a track record of fighting sexism, homophobia and transphobia over the past seven years in Brighton. Sussex League Cup champions and recently promoted to step six of the women’s football pyramid and will be competing in the Womens FA Cup once more this season having narrowly missed out on the most illustrious prize in womens football by a meagre 10 wins last season.”

Unfortunately Sussex FA and UEFA have carried out no such study yet, but we’re still in a position to sell ourselves to the highest bidder. With promotion comes increasing costs and considerations such as…”How much can we ask of our players financially?” And “If our players aren’t willing or able to do it then how do we make up that shortfall?” Do we market our players and their experiences on social media knowing full well many of them play football for that reason and that reason alone – to play football. 

 This is clearly a problem that doesn’t just affect the grassroots game. Recently in an attempt to model how our defenders should play I searched for videos of Millie Bright defending. I found out that she was afraid of spiders, her favourite movie is Step-Brothers and that the celebrity she would invite to dinner is Tom Hardy. There was only one video that focused on Millie Bright’s football. The problem faced by Bright and the Lionesses is that big brands are willing to pay for these insights however we have yet to have the same brands knocking on our door but still want to tell our players stories in an attempt to attract local businesses which is far more beneficial to everyone.

It’s been an amazing time to live in Brighton and Hove for those of us involved in women’s football. We had the Euro 2022 roadshow on Hove lawns where you could get up close and personal with the trophy and the inspiring Goal Power exhibition at Brighton museum, which highlighted the attitudes and obstacles that have been overcome by footballers across the globe. Finally, we’ve had the football with England putting on an incredible show by beating Norway 8-0 at the Amex yet it’s hard to ignore the feeling that this papers over the cracks that currently exist in women’s football especially in this city.

The hope is that once the Euros circus packs up its tent and leaves our city that it somehow manages to leave a tangible impact and ultimately, for us, that comes down to what it always does: cold, hard cash, ideally from businesses who are socially conscious that want to give back to their community and share our values of being inclusive, independent and ambitious. 

If this is you then please get in touch with us or message/phone 07464768514 

 Your support would be appreciated, if you are a local business that wants to be associated with a progressive and ambitious women’s football team that also wants to reduce their tax bill then please contact us below.

A huge new Dotty robot hits the streets

Project managing a huge outdoor art commission, the key is to begin with your headache list. My headache list reads as follows: 

– Erecting a huge Artist Dotty robot without public distractions.

– Temporary road closure preventing traffic incidents. 

– Positioning of the robot secured on a stone plinth. 

– Convincing the West Hill and Seven Dials Residents committee that they need a robot at Seven Dials. 

A survey undertaken in West Hill, showed over 10,000 residents voted for a huge robot with beacon lights for overhead air traffic and oncoming vehicles. The issues were eliminated after receiving project investment from local film production company, ‘Mad Cap Productions,’ and a professional project leader was enlisted.

The Seven Dials roundabout was derived from a seven-way junction in London featuring a monument that had six sundials (not sure what happened to the seventh). With a ten strong team, one low loader truck and a stationed crane, ADSD1 took seven hours to safely erect. After a huge applause from onlookers, the public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. The robot is made from reclaimed steel and, in time, will have dotty, street style paint (as performance art on a trampoline) to add a finishing touch. 

It’s one millimetre wider than the Angle of The North, and ADSD 1 has already been coined as, ‘The Robot of The South.’

Why a robot ?

Well, during his art journey, Artist Dotty noticed over the years that friends have become brainwashed by technology descriptions. For example, Dotty might create an all-consuming, heavily meditated piece of digital artwork, and a friend’s response could simply be: ‘nice pic.’ 

There are other observations, for example when signing up to any social media platforms that require you to fill out your profession. After 20 years of phone navigation, Artist Dotty has  noticed that there hasn’t been the option to say that you are an artist or comedian (comedy being the last bastion of free speech). 

Artist Dotty is convinced that, on the one hand whilst creative options are available, we are being moulded into a new way of perceiving art and creativity through diluted internet language. And what better way to get people thinking about this than by plonking a huge 1950s robot on a plinth on a roundabout. Get down there! ADSD1 really glimmers in the sunlight.  

Have you ever wanted to speak French?

Et maintenant, le journalist qui s’appelle Gilly Smith parlez avec Fabrice Camus qui runs “Le Club Pour Le Parlez de French”. Bon.

I’ve wanted to speak French since I was a 17 -year-old au pair in Paris, happy to chat with the kids, but freezing with anyone over the age of 10. I want the easy, shoulder shrugging kind of French off pat, not the ‘il fait beau aujourd’hui’ kind of French that’s never going anywhere. I want the effortless chatter over a glass or three that would transform our adventures en France, the friend-making, options-opening kind of French that’s almost impossible to learn in the country itself.  While everyone in France either sneers at your pathetic grasp of language (Paris) or wants to practice their English themselves, it’s just not going to happen on holiday. 

So I put a shout out on Facebook. ‘I think there’s a guy called Fabrice who does conversation classes’, said West Hill Hall Lou who knows the answer to everything. And she’s right. ‘Yup, Fabrice is your man’ says someone else. ‘He teaches my daughter GCSE’,  someone else pops up. ‘I do his Book Club’ says another.  It seems that the whole of Brighton is speaking French with Fabrice. 

I looked him up. Fabrice Camus, freelance French teacher, clearly an orchestra leader for a choir of English voices wanting to learn, advance or polish up their Francais! Camus? Wait. Surely he’s related by Albert, existentialist, poet, philosopher, footballer and my teen hero when I was a French A’ level student. ‘No relation, malheureusement’, messaged Fabrice. ‘Il ya beaucoup de personnes qui portent le nom de famille ‘Camus’ en France!’ 

£50, he told me, would include a weekly class at my local pub, The Eddy as well as French Book Club on Friday mornings and French Cinema on Saturdays or Sundays, both monthly. It turns out that there’s a Saturday morning breakfast too every week at  Cup of Joe in Kemptown. I was in.

Four months later, I’m chatting if not fluent French, fluently to an ever-changing cast of French Clubbers, also chatting happily, whatever their level, at Cup of Joe. Ceri is an TV animation producer who lives in Brighton and works in Paris one week a month. Hyanna is a young doctor who arrived in Brighton from Brazil and seems to like a challenge. Tony is a retired French teacher at Brighton College, Sian, a historian, Shirley an opera singer agent… The conversation is flowing.

I ask Fabrice how he thinks the magic happens. 

‘Number one is confidence’ he tells me. ‘If people have got the confidence, they can do it.’   And they can. Margaret and Richard moved to Brighton last year and have used the opportunity to polish up their French, aand to meet new friends. ‘I lived in France for 15 years,’ Margaret tells me. ‘My spoken French was good, and reading French is good. My written French is still terrible!  It was very difficult to speak French when I lived there; when you’re shopping it’s ok, and some people are always patient. In Paris not so much. But here, I can relax and practice it easily. It’s very informal.’

Husband, Richard works in Lyon but spent Lockdown in the UK and quickly found that the quality of his French was deteriorating. He went back to basics with Fabrice, concentrating on grammar through exercises in class and through homework. ‘The sessions with Fabrice are very efficient,’ he tells me as he tucks into his croissant.

Lesley is retired and moved to Brighton last year. ‘I’ve met so many people with common interests.  I love the breakfast most, but also we have the weekly class over a cup of coffee. We do have conversations but we also we go through the homework we’ve had during the week so that’s very useful.’   It’s more than 50 years since Jill was a student in France and is quietly loving the hubbub of spoken French. ‘I lived in Paris when I was young,’ she tells me, dreamily.

I notice the almost fluent French booming from the end of the table, albeit in a rather cute New Zealand accent. ‘When I came overseas,’ James tells me, ‘I realised that a lot of Europeans spoke their own language as well as English pretty well. So, I tried to use some of my high school French, and I struggled even to order a coffee in a cafe. And that really annoyed me. I got frustrated with the fact that I could only really speak one language. I had expected everyone to speak my language, to accommodate me in their country!’ He moved to Brighton, spotted a poster in a pub window for Fabrice’s informal French classes, and decided to give it a go. ‘I kind of just fell in love with it. It’s just a nice challenge. I enjoy learning another language and discovering a whole new world through the language and the culture.’  

l To join Fabrice’s Rendezvous French Club at a variety of pubs and cafes around Brighton, call 07704 188055.

Editorial: Paws For Thought

Let’s take the summer off. Not do anything, have a bit of time for ourselves”. 

“Yes, let’s go away for a month or so, just drive round France, stopping here and there. We won’t have to worry about getting back or who’s going to look after…” 

It was, in truth, a bit of a half-hearted conversation. Not that there’s anything wrong with driving round France for a month or so – I’m sure it’d be very nice – but it wasn’t going to happen. That coming weekend, we both knew, we’d be back at Shoreham Dog Rescue. 

It’s been a bit of an emotional time, here at Whistler Towers. I’m looking around and where there should be someone, there’s no one. I’m listening out, and where there should be noise, there’s no noise. For the first time in our famly life, we’re dog-less. And it’s just not right.

Our family has always had dogs. When the kids were little we had Maxwell and Lexa. When the kids were older we had Poppy and Molly and Moby. For a while we had Lily who actually lived next door, but preferred it at ours. And for a different while we had Pluto, who we brought back from Greece. Mostly we also had Rosie The Pussycat, and Princey, who was her baby. We haven’t even mentioned Tracy the Hamster (after Tracy Beaker, obvs), Fluffy the lop-eared lionhead bunny rabbit, Luna, Fluffy’s girlfriend and, as night follows day, their kids. There was a tank of goldfish all, for reasons lost in time, called Peter. 

There’s always been noise and paws. And now there’s not. It’s life’s deal, I know. You can have the love but you also have the grief. It’s not a new story, but it doesn’t get easier.

Nothing and no one could replace Maxwell. He was the Godfather – the Dogfather – the one who made it all happen. I took Maxwell to puppy training classees, but Maxwell trained me first. All single men should get a dog. Single men are, you know, single. A dog will train a single man to be a useful member of society. You have to be home for the dog. To feed the dog, to walk him, to let him out. But if something should stop you getting home when you said you’d be home – and this happens to all single men – the dog will still love you. When Maxwell went for his final walk… No, can’t talk about that. 

Poppy was a sweet. The rescue centre said she’d probably been stolen, taken to a puppy farm and put to work making babies. Then she was hurled out, found on a roadside, broken, still lactating. She needed some puppies, so we went back to the RSPCA and found the pups. Both of them fitted inside my hat. That was 14 years ago, nearly 15 now. 

Molly was the last. She stayed two weeks after Moby woofed his last woof and, as is so often the way with married couples and partners, she knew one without the other wasn’t right. 

The next day was the first day ever we woke up and didn’t go for a walk. That’s just not right, is it? A life without paws is… it’s a bit half-hearted, and leaves you empty hearted.

France is lovely. Driving around in the sunshine, stopping off pour un croissant et un cafe.. It would be lovely. But we both know that by the time you read this, there’ll be paws. And don’t even ask who’s on the cover of the next Whistler. 

Tom Waits Night at The Catalyst Club

Tom Waits at The Catalyst Club. It was always going to happen. Word has it that Tom was on his way and then… Covid. You know the rest.

Anyway. Alex Harvey – no, not that one – has written a book called “Song Noir” that explores the formative first decade of Tom Waits’ career, when he lived, wrote and recorded nine albums in Los Angeles; from the extraordinary debut, Closing Time where he introduced his storytelling barfly persona to the even more extraordinary surreal Swordfishtrombones.

Waits mined a rich seam of the city’s low-life locations and characters, letting the place feed his dark imagination. Mixing the domestic with the mythic, he turned quotidian, autobiographical details into something more disturbing and emblematic; a vision of la as the warped, narcotic heart of his nocturnal explorations.

Using music, images and stories, Harvey will show how Waits absorbed LA’s wealth of cultural influences to combine the spoken idioms of writers like Kerouac and Bukowski with jazz-blues rhythms, and explored the city’s literary and film noir traditions to create hallucinatory dreamscapes.

Alex Harvey is a producer and director of programmes including Panorama and The Late Show for the BBC. His later films include The Lives of Animals (2002) and Enter the Jungle (2014). Based in Los Angeles, he regularly writes on literature, film and music for London Review of Books and LA Review of Books.

The Latest Bar, Manchester Street

Wednesday August 3, 8pm

Tickets £8/5

Montpelier Villa Women by Skip Kelly

Pep Guardiola became friends with chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov while taking a sabbatical from football in New York. It may seem an unlikely friendship until you realise both are masters in a field where you need to anticipate an opponent’s moves and counter them accordingly. Both are masters of assessing their own weakness and dealing with them before their opponents are aware of them. 

 Hubris is not a crime, but in making any link between myself and Guardiola or Kasparov, I am certainly guilty of it however every time Montpelier Villa Women score, concede or just play and even when they don’t play, I can’t help but think of Kasparov, Guardiola and ultimately what does the opposition know about us that we don’t already know about ourselves. 

I’m Skip Kelly and I coach Montpelier Villa Women. Because of this I live in a constant state of paranoia. Melodrama isn’t a crime either. This season has been defined by our games against Pagham. We beat them 5-3 in the second game of the season, this was to be their only loss in the league as they went on an incredible winning streak including a heart-breaking 92nd minute winner in the return fixture. Results elsewhere meant Pagham finished the season as league champions however the cup semi-final presented us with the opportunity for revenge. 

Despite the distance between the teams, there is a lot of mutual respect and admiration between the teams. Pagham began their women’s team the same year as us and have navigated the murky depths of sexism and discrimination that is grassroots womens football since. As more and more established mens sides begin to address decades of inequality by investing in the women’s game, many of our rivals are in a position to offer incentives to play. Neither Pagham or Montpelier Villa are in a position to do this. Both teams don’t just play for the love of the game, they pay for the privilege. All the more reason to win. 

The Eurovision Song Contest and the Mens FA Cup Final were the scheduled curtain-raisers with the former being more fitting for the explosive chess match that awaited. Our plan was to use our strength on the flanks to overpower them, forcing their resources out wide leaving their king and queen exposed. Their plan was to score two goals in the opening 25 minutes. Unfortunately their plan was simple, effective and ultimately did not attempt to mix sporting metaphors and as a result after 25 minutes, we were two goals down. 

Half-time provided a welcome opportunity to assess our own weaknesses and attempt to address those weaknesses before the opposition found out about them. 

However we were in the unfortunate position that the opponent was not only aware of our biggest weakness but had inflicted it, leaving one of their knights staring at our king in the form of a two-goal deficit. The twenty minutes that had passed since their second goal had enabled us to implement our plan which gave the players a tremendous boost. I then loudly declared that we still have all our pieces to many bemused faces which was when I realised this was the first time I had externalized the chess metaphor. 

When Kasparov defeated a team made up of all willing participants in the world in 1999, he declared, “it was the greatest game in the history of chess.” Kasparov can have his opinions about chess but if he was in Pagham when we scored two goals in two minutes to equalise then he would have thought this game might just rival chess. If he was in Pagham when we scored an 87th minute winner to secure our place in a cup-final against our main rivals, he would have said this is the greatest game in history.  Hyperbole isn’t a crime either. 

 Your support would be appreciated, if you are a local business that wants to be associated with a progressive and ambitious womens football team that also wants to reduce their tax bill then please contact us below.


Madonna, what’s going on? asks Sam Harrington-Lowe

I wanted Madonna to smash ageism like she’s smashed everything else…

It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I think things are over between me and M. I’ve been in love with her since I was 16, but as the kids say, I just can’t with her any more.

Why? Is it the weird bum? The filters? The fact that she looks like every other influencer on Instagram? Well, sort of. But it’s more fundamental than that.

Madonna was the ultimate rule-breaker. The girl you knew would get you into trouble, who’d be the first one to challenge something. She seemed indestructible, and I loved her for her devil-may-care attitude. She trampled across the world, smashing taboos and upsetting everyone from the Catholic Church to the men who wanted to tame her. She famously said she wanted to ‘rule the world’. She kinda came close.

I loved watching her change, and grow, and metamorphosize. I particularly loved watching her make a comeback in the nineties, and kick up dust and disco in her 40s and 50s. And yeah, I know she’d had work done by then, but she still looked, you know, like Madonna. I thought she was ageing well. Go girl. Show us how it’s done.

But no…

So, I realise that this is about me and my expectations, which isn’t fair. But I wanted Madonna to break the ultimate taboo and blaze a trail for the future. I wanted her to age defiantly, and stick two fingers up by being different, and not fall into the trap of desperately trying to stay young. I envisaged her ageing like a Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn type, all pithy and without any fucks given. And instead, what do we have?

Reader, you know what we have. I’m not going to slate her; it’s ageist in itself to rip her to shreds for her choices, and she’s getting enough of that shit already. We all know what the deal is. I watched a live performance she gave with Maluma recently and found myself looking through my fingers like it was a horror film. It was a car crash in slow motion. Suffice to say that the Madonna we see on Instagram is completely different to the one we see live on stage, or in pap photos without filters. 

Her live appearance is SO different, in fact, that I’m surprised she still does it. I could imagine her going on from here, disappearing into a digital-only world, going full Norma Desmond, luring younger and younger men to her lair.

It’s a shame, because she had the power and the reach to really make a massive difference. To bust a cap in the naturally saggy ass of ageism. And I’m gutted, although it’s obviously her choice to take the road more travelled. I feel sorry for her really. In 2016 – literally a few years and a thousand procedures ago – she said in her acceptance speech for Billboard’s Woman of the Year award: “The most controversial thing I’ve done is stick around.” I think if she’d wanted to be REALLY controversial, she could have ‘got older’. But in showbiz that’s a lot to ask.

One of the best things about Madonna was her face – it wasn’t traditionally beautiful, but it was a face with impact and character. Now, not so much. I don’t honestly know if I’d be able to pick her out of a line-up of influencers, with the plumped lips, the filters, the alien face shape. I mean, you do you, girl. But what happened to swimming against the tide?

At a time when it was controversial, she stood up as an activist, voice, and massive fundraiser for the gay community, ripped apart by HIV and AIDS. There’s been Raising Malawi, and the Ray of Light Foundation, as well as over thirty other causes she supports. In an interview with People Magazine, she famously said, “Helping people is like tattoos. Once you get a tattoo, you keep getting them. It’s addicting. You see the difference you’re making in one person’s life, so what’s the big deal if I help one more person, and one more person?”

So how about making some inroads into smashing through the ageism wall kiddo? Let’s really break some rules. Perhaps the most taboo of them all.

Sam is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Silver Magazine – for the mature maverick

Pic: Ronald S Woan

Faces & Places: Leo from Flint House

In the first of our chats with the ace faces of our city, we meet Leo, front of house at The Flint House. Gilly Smith asked him how it felt after coming fourth in Brighton’s Best Restaurants Awards 

Gilly: Flint House has done so well. When the sun shines and the outside area is bathed in sunshine and you’ve got a cocktail in your hand, there’s no finer place to be – and now you came fourth in the Awards. It must be fantastic to be recognised like this.

Leo: It was so exciting. I was kinda hoping for top 10 and then it was down to the top 5, and I thought “Right! We make it into the top 5 or we don’t make it at all!” But yeah, it felt amazing. It was very overwhelming for us. Very emotional.

Gilly: What do you think that they’re looking for in a Brighton Best Restaurant?

Leo: ‘Character’ I suppose is a nice word to use there; on the food, on the service, on how we display the food, the plating. I think a bit of character helps on everything, doesn’t it?

Gilly: Well, it is part of the Gingerman Group, and The Gingerman was one of the very first top restaurants in Brighton. When I came here 24 years ago, the Gingerman was just opening around that time. And it was fantastic because you knew that you would be able to get consistently great food. And that’s what you want from a top notch restaurant. The Flint House has a little bit more character about it, doesn’t it?

Leo: We call it the Gingerman’s wicked little sister.

Gilly: Absolutely. Is that what (chef-owners) Ben and Pamella McKellar wanted to do with it?

Leo: Yes, that was the whole plan. We are casual fine dining. The Gingerman standards are there, and maybe it’s a bit hidden sometimes, but it’s the way we do the service. We need to have a personality because it’s part of the whole experience.

Gilly:  And as we’re talking about personality, tell us a little bit about you.  You’re Brazilian. How long have you been here and why did you come to Brighton?

Leo:  I left Brazil 11 years ago. I was in Ireland a little bit, and then I came to Brighton as a tourist in about 2013. I didn’t know much about it but I of course loved it! And then I was living with my husband in the Gatwick area, and as life goes, we separated in 2015 and I thought, ‘right I know where I’m heading to.’ I wanted a bit more fun. So, I came to Brighton and realised what an amazing culture of restaurants and people and everything else there was here.  

Gilly: Were you in restaurants before? 

Leo: I started at The Hilton at Gatwick and learnt from the madness there of suddenly having to feed two hungry people because their flight was cancelled, and you have to reset everything. Then I came down to Brighton and worked at Wagamama, and then helped to open Gails Bakery next door. And then from there to Flint House and I’ve been there since October 2019.

Gilly: You’re front of house front of house there and that’s a really important job. It’s like a theatre, isn’t it? 

Leo: it is! It’s like a huge theatre. I do say that to the guys: ‘Right guys, let’s get the show on!’  That’s what we’re here to do. It is a theatre but people are literally right in front of you. There is no separation there, so things can get quite personal. But it is a performance pretty much every day.

Gilly: And of course Flint House is in The Lanes. It’s not tucked away in the North Laine, in Localville. This is Tourist Central. So you’re going to get a lot of people coming down who might not be so ‘Brighton’ as the rest of us, perhaps. Give us your top tips for dealing with sulky Trip Advisor types.

Leo: I’m gonna try not to be too sassy here, because I ‘m well-known as being the sassy one at The Flint House! We kind of need to know how to read the room because we need the customers in front of us. Adapting to the customer is very important, but I think at Flint House we have a bit of character for sure on the service. And it’s very rare that you’re gonna get the TripAdvisor people.

Gilly: I was sitting next to some last time I was there and they were pretty sullen. Who’s that lovely girl who served us with the pink hair? 

Leo: That’s Hannah.

Gilly: Yeah, Hannah was absolutely fantastic. I’m not sure that they appreciated her humour or her sassiness though. And I just thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s brilliant.’ She didn’t apologise for herself in any way. They just didn’t get her. 

Leo: As long as we are not rude to the customer, we do what we’re supposed to do, and we won’t apologise for ourselves. We keep the character. I think that since Covid, people have either got twice as grumpy or twice as nice. No one is the same. Normally I would take it very personally and think ‘Why aren’t they having a good experience?’  Now after a few years, I’ve learned that there is much more going on than in that two hour slot. You never know what else is going in in people’s lives. 

So it’s about trying not to make it personal. You try to make the customer understand that you get them. As long as I’m not scored minus one, it’s ok. I don’t need to be plus 10 with you right now because I know that’s not going to happen. As far as we leave on zero, we can maybe redo it again. And then we can see what the next score is going to be. And that’s pretty much how I personally approach things when I’m dealing with the TripAdvisor people.

Gilly: Good attitude. Finally, Brazil or Brighton?

Leo: Brighton for sure… Brighton allows me to be myself. I wouldn’t ever be able to be the loud Leo that I am at Flint House. But also in Brazil those TripAdvisor people you mention, they are everyone. They will be judging the characters, and you have to be apologetic about yourself. And I’m not. 

So definitely Brighton. Yeah, I love a bit of Brightoness.

Choirs Special: Gilly Smith talks to The Dulcetones 

Sarah:  I run an A Cappella choir called The Dulcetones, we sing vintage-inspired classic tunes and unusual treats covering lots of different styles and eras from ‘60s girl groups to 90s rave. I am affectionately entitled ‘the twisted choir starter’. There’s no choir mistress round here!

It was originally a Middle Street primary school PTA friendship-building experiment with arrangements of groovy songs. We did that for a year or two until the funding ran out, as so often happens with brilliant things in education, so I decided to take it on as my own baby, cover it in leopard print and rebrand as The Ducletones. We’ve been having musical adventures together ever since. 

My mum insists that I was singing before I could talk, and I believe her. I’m a session singer, I teach vocals and I’ve toured with various bands including one called Derriere, but Dulcetonia is where I live. Choir has definitely got me through some tough times, and that’s a pretty common theme… Thursday evenings are magic.  It’s that protected time. So many of us are just completely overwhelmed with work and responsibilities and commitments and so on, and carving out time that is for you when you get to connect with your choir fam is  one of the most meaningful things you can do. No matter what else is going on in your life, you know that you can come to choir – prepared or otherwise – and blast off your life cobwebs. It’s well documented that the act of singing is brilliant for your mental and physical health, but it really takes it to another level when you’re doing it with a group of other people.  You’re literally physically vibrating at beautiful harmonic frequencies and there’s nothing quite like it on the world. 

Amanda: Six years ago, almost to the day, I had just had a little bit of a nervous breakdown. I was in a very, very dark place at the time, but my daughter heard about the choir and persuaded me to join. I felt like I had become a part of a new family, and it really did restore my confidence. Sarah made me feel super welcome, and everybody was amazing. It was really hard to actually walk in here at that time because I was in such a bad place, but I’ve now made friends for life. I’ve been part of choirs before and music was always a massive part of my life, and I knew that it was something that I needed to kind of revisit. I’d been meaning to do it for a long time, but Sarah takes you as you are and I didn’t need to perform in anyway. I didn’t need to be something that I wasn’t. I could turn up and just feel really welcome and yeah, just be me. Sometimes you cry with them afterwards, and just…  Yeah, it’s just amazing.

Sally: Thursdays are my favourite day of the week I’ve never been happier since joining this choir 12 years ago.  Sarah is an ultimate legend; basically you get two for the price of one with her – you get a stand-up comedian and you get the choir.  You make new friends and you get to put yourself out of your comfort zone doing shows. It’s just the best decision I ever made. 

I had only ever sung in the car or the shower before. I never knew what to do with my voice, even though I knew I could sing. It’s not amazing, but I can sing.  I have a voice, and this has enabled me to finally use it. I was 32 before I found my hobby, so yeah it was a long time coming! 

Sara: Choir really has changed my life. I’m 65 now, so I feel like one of the oldest ones here but I’ve always loved singing.  I sang in another choir before but this is just something else. Sarah‘s energy is incredible and she’s such a brilliant singer, and the people here are just wonderful; they even sang at my 60th birthday.  One of my favourite moments in the nine years I’ve been coming was performing David Bowie songs at the Spiegeltent. I love a bit of David Bowie.

Deborah: What’s really changed my life is the community feeling. When you’ve had a really hard week and you feel you can’t do anything or you don’t want to be with anybody, you just feel welcome. The lovely chemicals that are in my body and the joy is incredible.  I don’t even have to sing very well because when you do it amongst people it’s just joyful.  That moment of pause in a really busy life is wonderful. It’s just mine. 

“An Evening With The Ducletones” is on Thursday 21st July at Wagner Hall.  

Follow The Dulcetones on Facebook or check

Choirs Special: Sam Oliver on the Brighton Gay Male Chorus

Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… Billie Eilish…

Going along to my first rehearsal with Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus (GMC) in January, it’s fair to say I was a little nervous. I had been in a relaxed community choir before, but this felt like a different league.  

Two-and-a-half hour rehearsals on a Tuesday night? Tick. 100+ other members? Tick. Christmas shows at the Brighton Dome? Tick.  

It’s a big choir with a big reputation and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this particular jelly. I also had some reservations about the musical repertoire. Like a fair few queer people, I enjoy the odd lip-sync-along to a Madonna classic, but overall my music taste tends to veer more towards the alternative aisle. More Garbage than Gaga. My impression of GMC was wall-to-wall razzle-dazzle gay anthems and that is not my musical bread and butter.  

Pssst…don’t tell anyone, but I’m not actually a big Kylie fan. 

Walking in to the beautiful, ornate church where rehearsals happen, I tried to put my reservations to the side. Within minutes, I got chatting to another friendly newbie and felt reassured that I wasn’t the only nervy one. I was then introduced to my ‘buddies’ for the evening, a delightful Baritone couple who put me at ease and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me. By the time we started our vocal warm-up, I was already feeling, well, warmed up. 

Four months and many hours of rehearsals later, it’s time for our ‘Diva’-themed shows in the Brighton Fringe festival. I’m in our sweaty dressing room in the interval, surrounded by half-naked chorus members frantically getting into their diva outfits for the second half. Mine is relatively low-maintenance but maximum colour impact: 

Neon-green joggers? Tick. Neon-green tie-dye baggy hoody? Tick. Neon green hair extensions attached to a blue wig? Tick.  

Tonight, I’m flying the alternative diva flag and I’m bringing some Billie Eilish green realness.  

Singing, socialising and support. These three S’s are what the chorus, a registered charity, aims to provide members and the wider community. In the months since I joined, I have been surprised by how much I’ve benefited on all three fronts. Sure, at times the singing part has been challenging, with loads of songs to learn at a pretty galloping pace. 

I see challenge as a good thing though, and I’ve developed greater strength and confidence in my singing as a result. It’s the social part, though, where I’ve gained even more. I’ve made several new friends and even gone on an impromptu trip to Belgium with one of them.  

Most of all, I feel a sense of belonging to a bigger queer community. Sometimes people assume that if you’re LGBTQ+ and you live in Brighton, as I’ve done for the past nine years, you’re automatically part of a big queer gang. That’s not been my experience and it’s taken me a while to really find my niche. The chorus is now somewhere I can call ‘home’ and that means a lot.  

As does discovering my own alternative brand of diva-ness, Billie-style. 

Check out:

The Alternative Great Escape

There’s nothing quite like Brighton in May. You can’t move for festivals and anyone who’s anyone has a wristband of some sort. But just like the success of Brighton Festival led to the Fringe, so the success of The Great Escape opened the door to something a little less corporate. Mick Robinson reports

The Great Escape has cemented itself as one of the UK’s leading music festivals, and alongside The Camden Crawl, is a hotbed for the discovery of new talent. Attracting visitors from around the globe, you get your wristband and from there, well, nothing’s stopping you. Take your pick of the pubs and regular venues, but also the pool halls and carparks and… just about anywhere you go, there’s music, and it all  adds to the unique feel of this event.

There’s music from all over the UK – there was a sparkling Scottish showcase at the One Church – and it’s easy to feel that it’s a big music industry showcase. You can drown in bands from London. 

But for me the best thing is the local talent. Down here words like “corporate”, “big record label” and “industry” are considered dirty words, and the ‘Alternative Great Escape’ was born to showcase local unsigned bands and to open up the venues to people without wristbands.

This in mind Shortts Bar hosted three days of music, two hosted by local promoters and the last by the bar itself. Based in Kemptown, some folks tend to shy away from this side of town as it used to  have a reputation for being a bit like a George A Romero film, something like   The Night of The Living Dead, but things are changing and now there’s a more old school Shoreditch rough’n’ready vibe.

As for some of the bands we’ve featured, I’ll try and avoid the tired “the band sound like the Bunnymen meets the Clash” comparisons, as that’s all a bit meaningless. Be honest, you could probably say that about any band playing nowadays and you’d still be none the wiser. Most  kids have grown up on that rich tapestry of UK/USA punk, indie, electronic etc, music that’s been passed on through the culture and their parents as always happens in this country of music obsessed folk.

On that note, some full disclosure here. Each band featured here has a son or daughter from friends of mine or my daughter’s friends who’ve I’ve known for years or gone to gigs with for years. It’s not nepotism, it’s just there’s a hell of a lot of talented off spring out there.  

NOVA, a Brighton four piece band, all 18, full of post punk enthusiasm and the willingness to pull in the experimental funked up bass line and scratchy guitar of that era and give it a fresh sound with catchy hooks. They’ve got a strong  individual look too, and as a band starting out they have a bright future ahead.

ZAP EUPHORIA are already playing to a loyal, crazy fan base who follow them to every gig. The band have great charisma and are already working audiences up into a frenzy. Grunge funk distorted to the max with a message in the music that takes no prisoners. You can’t take your eyes off the band, they’re that hypnotic.

Crawley based SHAMEFACED, more of a wrong side of the tracks look and sound, again wonderfully  structured and dramatic songs, full of driving bass, drums and intricate then power chords guitar, perfectly highlighted in the clever lyric and vocal delivery of their classic “Blue Subaru”.

Check them all out, the energy,  belief, charisma, stage and song  writing craft and style of these bands will potentially propel them onto bigger stages, audiences and who knows a bit of Radio 6. Remember – you read it here first.

Pilates at West Hill Hall

To mark the start of the summer holidays HD Pilates brings you 2 special workshops at West Hill Hall:

Thursday 7th July 

Pilates with the band with Keri Lummis:

6pm Beginners-Improvers

7pm Intermediate

Join Keri for a pilates flow class using the theraband. The band csn be useful for assisting many pilates movements as well as providing resistance for some exercises. Strengthen and lengthen your body!

Thursday 14th July

Pilates with the Ball with Helen Douglas

6pm Beginners-Improvers

7pm Intermediate 

Join Helen for this flowing class using the overball. We use the ball in the class to increase range of movements, support our bodies, and increase the understanding of the exercises. This is a feel good, dynamic workout.

Workshops £10 per class

Please contact Helen on to book your place. 


HD Pilates

Soho House comes to Brighton

It’s Friday afternoon and your editor is standing on the sun soaked deck of the newly refurbished Art Deco building just behind the Sea Life Centre by the pier. All around me are beautiful people who’ve look like they’ve been sent here by Central Casting. A young waiter comes up and smiles before handing me another free vodka and tonic. I didn’t have to tell him to hold the slice because  he’d remembered. Obviously. 

The Mighty Whistler is at the launch of Brighton Beach House, the latest branch of the Soho House chain. And it’s jumping. It’s busy, curiously so for a private club that isn’t actually open. It turns out London members were offered a day out by the seaside. Why not? Gives the place a bit of a vibe. And it does. The music’s playing, the sun’s blasting and these nice people keep coming round with trays of food and drink. Who said money doesn’t buy you the good things?  

It’s really very nice. It’s Grade 2 listed Art Deco very nice. There’s bars, rooms, a banana shaped pool. Art from the Local Collection – made up of work from local artists – and the Brighton Beacon Collection – work from LGBTQ+ artists “and is a love letter to Brighton as a historical beacon city for the queer community”.

I would say you should pop in for a drink, but to do that you have to be a member and to be a member… Well, that’s £1200 a year plus a £500 registration fee (because obviously it costs a lot to registrate). 

That might seem a lot just to go to a nice bar with posh sofas, but it’s not really that, is it. It’s £1700 to be able to – to misquote Groucho Marx – be a member of somewhere that wouldn’t have people like you as a member. (I know what Groucho really said, but this is probably more what members mean).  

I’m trying to get to the – free, obvs – fish’n’chip stall, but there’s a bloke singing  and there’s quite the crowd. Turns out it’s Sam who almost won Eurovision. It’s that kind of day. 

I’m with The Mighty Whistler’s Food Editor and she asks – as she does – where the fish comes from. “No one’s asked me that before” says the chap serving. I’m guessing no one will again. Not today anyway. It’s free.

I bump into a few people I know. 

“Are you a member here?”

“Yes, I joined. There are few places to go in Brighton where you can have a meeting, a decent cocktail and see nice people and each time of gone I’ve bumped into those”. Then she said “Also I like the fact that the interiors are all snuggly and like my mum’s house”. I wonder if you have to registrate at her mum’s house.  

If you want to have somewhere to go in the centre of town that’s smart and stylish, look no more. If you want to have somewhere to go to have meetings that tell your client “Yes, I’m successful”, it’s undeniably that place too. It’s not cheap – £17 for a  burger, £16 for a pizza –  but I guess that’s the point. 

It’s undeniably very nice – chic and stylish – and I really do love a posh sofa, but I’ve never been too sure about the whole member’s club schtick. I’m not I want that enforced exclusivity, not sure I want to pay the best part of two grand to keep people out. Maybe that makes me one of the people some people pay the best part of two grand to keep out. Who knows? 

It’ll be interesting to see whether it flies here, interesting to see whether Brighton’s now a Soho House kinda place. 

By the way, members can  take three guests – and should you join and should you need someone for that onerous task… for more details