Category Archives: Brighton Life

Sirena Bergman and more

Brighton Festival Fringe highlights

One of the joys of festivals is just  hanging around and bumping into stuff you had no idea about – a dance troupe from Plotsk or ambient theatre from somewhere you can’t pronounce let alone say where it is. And while that’s lovely… three of The Whistler’s favourite artists are playing the Festival and we’ve seen them a thousand times, but we’re still very very excited. 

They’ve been around since we were all much younger, but Manchester’s finest
A Certain Ratio (May 6, Chalk) are right now better than they’ve ever been. Jah Wobble’s “Metal Box: Rebuilt in Dub” always seemed an odd idea – it was kinda built in dub in the first place, and while we’re not always a big fan of “revisiting” old classics – they’re classics for a reason – you know this will be interesting. Louder, heavier, dubbier. And anything involving Wobble will always be a treat. Talking of dubbier, there’s Aba Shanti-I with legendary producer Dennis Bovell (May 7, Concorde 2). Also on is Brighton Festival director Nabihah Iqbal, playing from her acclaimed debut album of shimmering electronica Weighing Of The Heart on the always cool Ninja Tune label. Staying with music – well, ish – Linton Kwesi Johnson is reading from his new prose selection, Time Come (May 14, Theatre Royal).

You can’t talk about an arts festival without talking about installations and The Sleeping Tree (May 6, 7, The Dome) sounds perfect. “Enter one of the last great rainforests of North Sumatra and follow a family of endangered Siamang Gibbons as they wake, roam across the jungle and return to their sleeping tree, one of six majestic trees that they have used for generations”. You’re there, aren’t you. The installation changes throughout the day and depending on the activity in the rainforest at the time you go there. Just lovely – and important.

An “unapologetically queer” tale that was first performed in front of Queen Elizabeth 1 more than 400 years ago, Galatea, is “set in a world where gods walk among mortals, two young trans people escape oppression and a shipwrecked migrant searches for his family”. Not sure about the gods walking among the mortals bit – though we do try to keep an open mind – but it doesn’t sound 400 years old. (May 6-21, Adur Recreation Ground, Shoreham).

Thirty years after it was released, Derek Jarman’s last film, Blue, has been given a makeover by director Neil Bartlett, (May 7, Theatre Royal). Blue Now sees Russell Tovey, Travis Alabanza, Joelle Taylor and Jay Bernard delivering Jarman’s words live on stage, accompanied by a new live score by the film’s composer, Simon Fisher Turner.

Daring To Be Frida is a photography and fashion exhibition inspired by the life and work of Frida Kahlo opens on May 1, and will be on at 114 Church St for the rest of May. 

You want a bit of comedy? What’s wrong with comedy? You don’t like comedy etc etc. The Fringe isn’t  the Fringe without a bit of stand-up comedy and In How To Be Jewish Gillian Fischer (pictured) wants to be Jewish. Actually she already is, but somewhere she’s forgotten this. Now she’s a mother…  (May 16-18, Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant) 

And that picture at the top of the page? “Expect a wild and vivid night filled with happy hedonism, fabulous fashion, go-go performers, and non-stop dancing to a banquet of bangers, including pop, disco, house and techno”. You’re there already, aren’t you. Our Roots is a celebration of queer chaos at the Dome (May 27) 

“Think ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ meets David Lynch”. Love it. It’s got Fringe written all over it. Degenerate is “a hellscape stand-up comedy fever dream” that descends into a full frontal face-off with the concept of ageing”. Ageing? No, no idea. None at all. May 31, June 1 The Rotunda Theatre: Squeak. 

For more info:

And for news and Festival podcasts 

Don’t stress about losing weight

When we think about ways to lose weight, often the focus is on calories, macros and portion control. Even though what you eat plays a significant role in your body’s ability to burn fat and maintain a healthy weight, it’s not the only factor. Keeping stress levels in check is crucial if you want to avoid stubborn weight gain.

We’ve been hard-wired to cope with what comes our way, to keep us safe and ensure we could run from tigers, lions or bears. Our modern stresses can be relentless: work deadlines, financial worries, traffic jams, pollution, lack of quality relaxation etc. The lions and tigers might have gone but the stress remains. 

Being chronically stressed means we produce more cortisol – the stress hormone. This plays havoc with our ability to keep blood sugar levels balanced, and slows our metabolic rate and therefore our ability to effectively utilise energy from food.

Stress And Insulin

Cortisol works alongside insulin – the fat storing hormone that keeps fat locked away –  to keep blood sugar levels in check. Lowering insulin is the key to unlocking stored fat. High stress results in higher levels of insulin.

Stress And Hormones

Stress can negatively affect other hormones too, like those responsible for hunger and satiation – ghrelin and leptin respectively. When stressed, our ability to control hunger takes a nosedive, meaning we eat more and get hungrier more often.

Stress And Fat Around The Middle

Fat around the middle is the type of
fat that’s easily accessible in times of stress. Being chronically stressed leads to fat
being stored in this area as a survival mechanism. The problem is the
stress doesn’t stop and the body never
gets the chance to access the stored “emergency fat”.

The Blood Sugar Rollercoaster

When we’re stressed blood sugar levels can wildly fluctuate. Cravings kick-in
and we start looking for quick-fixes like sugar, stimulants and alcohol. When we eat this way, we experience sugar highs followed by sugar lows and the cycle continues. Like a real rollercoaster in the fairground, once on it, you can’t get off!

Comfort Eating

When stressed we are more likely to eat, reaching for quick-fixes, and less likely to eat healthy foods because we start relying on food as an emotional crutch. The more quick-fix foods we eat, the more dysregulated our blood sugar levels become, and we end up a slave to our biochemistry, experiencing the highs and lows of the blood sugar rollercoaster, craving more quick-fix unhealthy foods and staying stuck in fat storing mode as insulin levels soar.

Getting Unstuck

Your body is either in fight or flight mode or rest and digest mode. It cannot be in both at the same time. Most of us are stuck in fight or flight mode, which affects our delicate hormonal balance. 

When you lower stress and switch to the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, you also help your blood sugar levels come into balance. When that happens, insulin drops, the body’s fat stores get unlocked and hunger decreases. The body can then access the stored fat and use it as fuel. Increasing self-care practices and lowering stress are crucial if you want to lose weight. 

Make The Switch

When you breathe deeply it immediately switches your nervous system over to the rest and digest mode (parasympathetic), bringing your body out of stress response. This is where all the magic happens in your body for healing, rejuvenation and fat burning. Find moments in your day as often as possible to breathe deeply, such as whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, whilst on the loo, driving or washing up. 

It’s All In The Balance

As you can see, maintaining a healthy weight is less to do with ‘calories in, calories out’, and more to do with hormonals and the role stress plays in the bigger picture. It’s all about a delicate balance. Making time for relaxing selfcare practices like Epsom salt baths, yoga and meditation, as well as enjoying fun and laughter, will help you feel less stressed, whilst creating a lovely bedtime routine will pay dividends for your waistline. Lack of quality sleep has been proven to increase cortisol output and play havoc with blood sugar regulation the following day. 

Get The Support You Need

Reaching out to a health professional to address your own stress and to find out what your body personally needs, is a great step in feeling supported, motivated and accountable on your health journey. A nutritional therapist can help you with lifestyle and stress-relieving practices alongside deep nutrition for your body, so that you can find your balance.

Jo Rowkins, Nutritional Therapist & Lifestyle Coach at Awakening Health.

Matt Whistler talks Dotty’s Ditties

“I’ve got an exhibition coming up in a coffee record coffee shop just round the corner, dressed as Sir Dot A lot. 

I will be reciting Dotty Ditties, with coffee froth on the end of my nose. Recently I exhibited at the Brighton and Hove Engineerium housed in the Goldstone pump station. The big art extravaganza was to celebrate International Happiness Day and to launch a new well being centre. 

“The Professor of Happiness was there. I had a thoroughly miserable experience. Only jesting, it was clowntastic. In-between art shows I head to Montpelier Crescent, to backspin a hula hoop, to then run alongside with the challenge of diving through the hoop without touching it. 

“My latest two creations are Fender BOT, a Dotty mannequin with a silver fender guitar for a head. Fender Bot can be seen in Brighton’s new Bits On Wall Gallery at 50 Grand Parade. Then there’s Sozzled Bot, which is an upturned Star Wars at Walker, on a Dotty canvass with a gilded frame painted in a metallic blue. Exhibiting destination as yet unknown. 

“I’ve been going to launderettes to do book signings of second hand books, with my Dotty art on the front, this is the best way to not ever have to write a book. My wearable Dotty art is going to be featured at Brighton’s funky retail outlet Popstacular among 20 other great fashion designers. Madonna will be present”. 

Dotty continued to tell me about his DottyVerse and all the other incarnations he has created over the years, some of which include Jah Scooterman, AKA Whistles, Totally Absurd Man, Ro-Bot and Kaptin Avatar. 

Artist Dotty looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and the most incredible realisation hit me, that I have been interviewing a modern day version of Charlie Chaplin, minus the kid, the dogs, the funny walk, the stick, jacket and hat. I genuinely thought during that one moment of eye contact, that Artist Dotty is one of the clown greats, but not in the poodle balloon sense, more in a art imitating life sense. I suddenly realised how utterly honoured I have been to follow Artist Dotty’s steps over the last few months and that Dotty has phenomenal potential to become a rising star and bag the Netflix series prior to death. 

What I like about Dotty, is his ability to tell you about his art capers and yet be a humble modest guy with total humility. You can tell he’s just about able to discuss his achievements with confidence and isn’t one of those all-singing all-dancing stars and flagrant self publicists who perpetually bangs his own drum.

I wandered over to Artist Dotty and offered to buy him a crate of Prosecco and a jar of expensive Olives, with a free packet of pretzels. He gladly accepted, mounted the Prosecco on his electric scooter then sped over the middle of 7 Dials roundabout. 

What a great guy I thought. He really is an incredible dude. He’s got razzmatazz. I almost felt my kitchen needed an Artist Dotty calendar. I watched him slowly disappear down Montpelier Rd and was just about to head off when he took a u-turn and began to head back towards me. With a rattling crate of Prosecco tied to the foot stand, Dotty once again scootered straight over the middle of the roundabout, to finally stop outside the Small Batch coffee shop. He pulled up his vizor and slowly turned to look at me. What was Dotty going to say, could this be a scoop for a Dotty story ? 

I could barely contain my excitement. In a loud Northern Burnley excitement, Dotty said. 

“You did pay for the coffee didn’t you?” 

Dotty sped off down a different road and I was left thinking. What a guy. 

Matthew Marke’s West Hill Cautionary Tales – February 2023

Leah knew, before she had been in Brighton three months, that they meant to murder her.

With the pandemic and the introduction of working from home, the door to her office job in London had been thrown open and she had bolted south. For years she had dreamed of living in Brighton and kept a lazy eye on house prices. So when she was unchained from her desk, she ran.

She had found and bought a house quickly and moved in the first release from lockdown. Wandering her new neighbourhood, still marvelling at the diversity of shops and small bespoke businesses, she had one day bumped into Rose coming out of a grocer that sold the most wonderful bread. Leah had been in two minds whether to enter the shop next door but seeing this woman struggling with her shopping, she decided to leave it for another time and offered to help her.

‘May I?’ she had asked.

‘Darling, that’s so kind.’

On their way back up the hill, Rose had invited Leah for a drink in the pub. 

And that was that.

The two neighbours – Rose lived around the corner from Leah in Alexandra Villas – had become fast friends. Within days Leah felt as if Rose were a familiar. Within weeks Leah found it almost eerie how quickly and intensely they had become so close. 

Within months, Leah would be dead.


ose Hill lived a full life and also had her husband Fredrick, but she had made space for her new bestie. They met for drinks in each other’s homes, did yoga classes together and visited gardens in Sussex. It was as if they had known one another since primary school.

The garden of Leah’s ground floor flat on Albert Road, if it could really be called a garden, was small and paved with red brick and overlooked on all sides. There was one thin raised bed with a couple of dying ferns and a few plants in pots, one of which Rose had given her as a housewarming gift.

Rose’s garden seemed regal by contrast. Apart from a large ugly water tank in the corner, it was competition standard. It was so bursting with life and beauty that Leah had been taken aback the first time she’d seen it. The only plants, unsurprisingly, were roses. A show stopping array of colours, sizes and shapes, and indeed Rose had won prizes for them. 

‘How do you do it?’ Leah had asked.

‘Fish, blood and bone fertiliser is the secret,’ Rose had replied. ‘But it’s Fredrick’s doing really.’

Fredrick was a strange man and the only thing that gave Leah any pause in her friendship with Rose. He was nice enough – amiable, but a little reserved; and a foodie, – he had been a pioneer of locally sourced ingredients. He ran a shop in the North Laine, selling artisanal sausages and pork pies, for which he too had won prizes. What was odd about him, she couldn’t quite put her finger on. But it was unimportant. She was Rose’s friend, not his.

Rose was large, had short spikey hair and used a quantity of makeup that on anyone else would have looked gaudy. She wore long flowing dresses with big pockets that she dug her fists into. She would gesticulate from them, seeming as if she was trying to break out of bondage.


he moment Leah had understood what they were doing, what they intended for her, came just after she saw a drip from the water tank. They were in the garden one mild February afternoon, enjoying Negroni Sbagliatos.

Fredrick had come out with a wrench to fix the tank. He was telling Leah how he had rigged it up to not only catch the rainwater, but for the water to mix with his own secret recipe fertiliser and then irrigate the roses automatically.

‘That’s clever,’ Leah had offered, knowing that some sort of admiring response was required. ‘Rose said that you use fish, blood and bone. My father used to use the same stuff.’

‘I doubt that,’ he had replied, struggling with the tap. ‘And Rose wasn’t being entirely truthful. I don’t use fish.’

At that moment, the wrench slipped, and the tap came clean away. A foul, coagulated stream began to glug thick clots from the hole. Its colour, dark and evil was unlike any Leah had seen before. An appalling stench filled the air. 

Leah put her elbow over her nose and mouth and turned away. A clunk and a hollow gurgle from the tank made her turn back. A long white stick the length of her forearm protruded from the hole, stemming the discharge. A mucilaginous gob seeped out, dripped onto the grass and pooled in a vile little puddle. She stared at the stick. Then, realising what it actually was, she vomited on the grass.

Wiping her mouth, she looked up at Fredrick in horror. 

He grinned in return. 

She turned to Rose who smiled sweetly, before sighing and looking away. 

Frederick moved towards Leah with the wrench.

Moral – enter the shop next door.

Matthew Marke’s West Hill Cautionary Tales – April 2023

The doorbell sounds at the front of the house. 

I am ready. 

My heart is beating loud and I wonder if they will notice when they come in. 

Down the hall, I hear my mother come out of the kitchen, closing the door on my father. She always shuts it after herself. I can taste the silence in the kitchen. It is bitter and has the flavour of a squashed slug. 

I hear her open the front door and exclaim a too loud hello. There is a muffled silence for a moment and then I hear them coming towards the room where I am waiting. Ready.

Just as they are reaching the door, I see the key on the drinks table. I have forgotten to put it back. If my mummy sees it, she might wonder. Then she might ask daddy. And he would definitely check. And then my plan would be ruined.

I’m about to spring for it, but the door handle turns and it’s too late. Mummy comes in followed by my piano teacher. My stomach turns. The way it always does when I see him. My head goes funny too. It’s like it’s full of cotton wool and won’t let anything in. No music can live there. 

Mummy can’t understand why I am not learning. I’ve begged her. Not him. A different teacher. Anyone but him. But she won’t change.

It’s useless and I know why. And that is the reason the key is sitting on the table.

Mummy forces me to say hello as usual and I do. But I don’t want to. I don’t want anything to do with this man. I want to disappear but I can’t. I have a job to do. For mummy and daddy.

Mr Price says something and mummy laughs in that way that she does when he is around. I don’t see her laugh like that with anyone else. And that, more than anything, is why I know what they do. And now what I must do.

Colour comes into my mummy’s face. She is shining, like the petals of her roses. Reds, yellows, white. She looks like a sunset. She is so beautiful. Then I see myself in her face, my nose, my eyes. It makes me happy and sad at the same time and then it just makes me angry and I clench my fist and I want her to be gone. I want her out of this room. To go back to daddy in the kitchen. Get out. 

Get out. Get out. GET OUT.

But she doesn’t. She is still here. Smiling and laughing. At the stupid jokes he is making and thanking him for his compliments about me and my playing. Which is a lie and all of us know it. Me, my mother and the stupid, ugly, horrid man.

I want to scream. But I don’t. I clench my fists harder and wait. I am staring at the key on the table now as if it is a friend. And I know that they will not notice. 

My concentration on the key does it. Finally she is leaving. She is at the door and then through it, closing it. It makes only the tiniest click but it cracks like a gunshot in my head and I remember the first time I heard it. But now I smile. I know it will be the last time I hear it.

‘Well, shall we start?’ he says, his voice making that horrible gargling, gurgling, phlegmy sound. 

I am breathing fast, nearly panting. I hear my heart pounding inside my chest again but the cotton wool is gone. My heart is in my head now. 

Babam. Babam. Babam. Can you hear it? I don’t care. It doesn’t matter.

I hear someone, a child, say ‘wait’. It takes me until I am halfway across the room before I realise that it is my voice. He is saying something behind me, but I can’t make it out. Everything is too loud. The ticking of the ancient grandfather clock is like a giant scythe clearing a path. I reach it as if it is an old friend waiting for my return. I pick up the shotgun that leans against it. It is heavy. I turn and point the barrels at him. The safety is off. I know I should never leave a gun like that. But this is special. And I’ll never do it again. Never have to.

His face is a picture when he sees what I am doing. I smile. Maybe the smile he and mummy are always asking for.

I watch as his yellow teeth, his thin pale lips, his blotchy red nose suddenly disappear and rearrange themselves across the bookcase behind him. I don’t even hear the bang. 

I sit down to practice my scales.