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Anything and everything

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.

Awards Time – The Whistles

It’s awards time in Brighton and Hove with Brighton’s Best crowning Bincho Yakatori, Palmito and Burnt Orange as the top three places to eat. 

Meanwhile, Flint House received a Bib Gourmand and the Bravos will announce its kings and queens on April 4th. But what about The Whistles? The what? Well, there’s little more discerning taste buds in Brighton and Hove than those who can pucker up like you lot, and so we tried it out. We called for your top three, and you responded.

 ‘Oooo!’ says Toby Moore. ‘1. Flint House; 2. Mange tout; 3. Fatto Mano.’

Lou Gasparelli, who’s got a bit of a rep in Whistler Towers for spotting a good ‘un, says:

‘Bincho, Burnt Orange, Chilli Pickle’ as her top three. But wait, she has more! ‘And for pizza, Pronto In Tavola & Nanninellas. But I also love Fourth and Church when I’ve got a bit of extra cash.

I really enjoyed Roundhill restaurant (vegan). And for cheapest eats… ‘You can’t go wrong with Pompoko and Goemen Ramen’. 

Alison Vernon-Smith still loves 64 Degrees but ‘for wedding anniversaries only! At the other end of the scale – the Helm Ston Cafe. Stupid name and tiny place, but fab food’.  

Tim Mortimer is serious about his food: ‘The chart hasn’t changed pop-pickers….. Market; Flint House; Plateau (despite eye-watering wine prices)’

Rheanna Davidge-Huxley says ‘Curry leaf cafe for affordable, but super delicious curry. Also if you go a lunchtime you can get thali and dosa’. 

Sara Furse is all over Curry Leaf too, but votes it third after Unithai and Milk, No Sugar. 

But there are clear winners emerging:  Jenny Atherton says ‘Burnt Orange. Palmito. Riddles’.  Amanda Murphy says ‘Burnt Orange, Plateau, Urchin. But then there’s ‘Riddle & Finn, Flint House, Market, Chilli Pickle’.  

Cut Ceri Barnes and she bleeds Flint House. Guess what she says: ‘Flint House; Chilli Pickle; Woolfies.’ Hang on! Is that true, our Ceri?  ‘I nearly said Flint House Flint House Flint House’. (Ed: I’m with Ceri. Can’t beat Flint House. Top notch food and a very fine way with a Negroni)

Jacqui Loton is down at Little Fish Market ‘always’ but adds ‘Bincho, Palmito, Fourth and Church, Wild Flor…Bonsai if you want to go vegan’.  ‘Oooh so hard,’ says Kathy Caton. ‘It depends on the mood – Palmito, Bincho Yakitori … and I still adore the original Gingerman too.’ 

Liz Aggiss never follows the pack: ‘Vel in Kemp Town, Cin Cin Hove, Bankers’ while Karen Rose is backing the clear winners. ‘Bincho, Fourth & Church, Market.’

So… (drumroll)..

The results of the inaugural Whistles are … 

In third place: Riddle and Finn, Plateau and the Chilli Pickle

In second place: Market, Fourth and Church, Burnt Orange and Palmito.

And the loudest Whistles go to… Bincho Yakitori and Flint House.

Gull About Town – April 2023

There’s been so much food news in town recently, it could turn a bird’s head. There’s the latest wins from Gull favourites Bincho Yakitori, Palmito and Burnt Orange scooping the top three at the Brighton’s Best Awards,  and new collaborations all over town. Isaac at Isaac at has teamed up with former head chef at Terre a Terre, Dave Marrow at Embers on Meeting House Lane. Just up the road, the super talented Aaron Dalton who’s been turning his own house into Four Restaurant, has been lending a hand at Furna. And Dan Kenny at The Set has brought Bangkok to Brighton at Kab, without compromising his signature commitment to home grown ingredients.  Even his wasabi comes from Hampshire and Dorset.

For more titbits, the Gull will be cocking her head to listen in to the Brighton Whistler podcast chats with Duncan Ray at The Little Fish Market and Maddy Riches at Dilsk, the new restaurant at Drakes. Beady eyed foodies will have spotted Maddy as front of house manager at Murmur, and with former 64 degrees chef, Tom Stephens, she’ll be sourcing from ethical growers & local producers, in and around East Sussex. A big whistle to them for supporting our free roaming pals across the county. 

And as the weather brightens, your gull has been stretching her wings and heading for the hills to check in on her pasture-fed friends and find the best morcels out of town. The Ram in the unspeakably picture-book pretty village  of Firle is almost on the seagull flight path from the to Seven Sisters, and a popular spot for holidaying birds. Its courtyard dining space is a particular favourite for a weekend lunch of lamb or beef from Place Farm who once grazed in the grounds of next door’s Firle Place. The game on the menu all comes from Firle Estate and most of its fish is from the mighty fine Brighton and Newhaven Fish in Shoreham. 

Next, it’s a straight thermal to The Crabtree in West Sussex, as the crow flies, anyway, with a quick dive into a memory in Prince Albert Street. Great Uncle Gull still tells stories of the hippy birds who perched around Brighton’s trailblazing vegetarian, Food for Friends back in the nineties. Word had reached them that Simon Hope from the properly pioneering Food For Thought in Covent Garden was bringing some of its spirit to Brighton, and cool-hunters that they were, they hung around the bins to catch the first wave. And they were right; as vegetarians swooped in, it wasn’t long before two of its chefs, Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor would cross the road and set up their own groovy veggie, Terre a Terre and crown this fine city (then town) the best vegetarian in the UK.  

Twenty years on, what should your bird spot, but Simon Hope himself, now lord of The Crabtree near Bolney, tucking into what looks rather than a steak. But relax; this is from Trenchmore Farm where Brighton’s best restaurateurs do their shopping, where the cows are pasture fed and get to snack on the mulch of the apple leftovers from its Silly Moo cider and sleep on straw from home-grown wheat. Vegetarians may prefer the goats cheese with Piccalilli, but your Gull spotted a rather juicy leftover tempura oyster to suck on as she caught the evening thermal back to Brighton. And as the sun set over the West Pier, not for the first time she pondered of what a very lucky Gull she is too.

Brighton Festival – What Not To Miss – Tallulah Gray’s Choice

To be able to stop what you’re doing, just fora moment, and let yourself be transported into another world is a little luxury we can all enjoy”. Nabihah Iqbal, Guest Director

Brighton Festival has officially launched and it’s jam packed with shows you won’t want to miss. From interactive art exhibits to dance, to multicultural, mixed media music performances the almost 80 page brochure has a lot to offer. This is our list of absolute must-see shows.

Galatea as adapted by Emma Frankland is described by Iqbal as the “centerpiece of the festival” in many ways. A modern adaptation of the classic John Lyly text from which many famous Shakespearean plays were adapted, Galatea centers around two young trans people finding love whilst escaping oppression.

Suroor to be presented by Iqbal herself with support from Qazi & Qazi in partnership with the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts is a “shape-shifting, experimental collaboration” that combines music influenced by heritage and society with aspects of, as Iqbal put it, “droney, doom metal”

The Sleeping Tree is an audio immersive experience coming from Invisible Flock studios that surrounds participants with the noises of the jungle that were recorded over a 3-month long stint in the great rainforests of North Sumatra. Guest Director Nabihah Iqbal is also collaborating with this exhibit to create a one-of-a-kind sound performance using extracts from the rainforest recordings and original texts to connect humans and the forest ecosystem.

The Enthusiasts is Victoria Melody’s latest passion project about the passions of others. The Enthusiasts invites onlookers into the extraordinary communities of “pigeon fanciers” and funeral directors by creating two intimate auditory experiences taking place at two secret locations across Brighton.

Kizlar is the world premiere of Ceyda Tanc Dance’s celebration of what it means to be a woman through dances interpreted from traditional male Turkish dancers and an all-female company.

Bakkhai follows a reimagining of the ancient Greek tragedy reframed in a contemporary anti-corporatization context. Performed by the incredible talents of ThirdSpace (formerly Windmill Young Actors) Bakkhai features a cast of over fifty people, aged 8-60 and is in collaboration with Ceyda Tanc Dance and Brighton People’s Theatre.

This barely scratches the surface of the 120 events that are set to take place during the course of the Festival and I’m eager to see the city transform into the hub of arts and culture it so passionately supports during this time.


Got to say, very excited – and I mean very – that A Certain Ratio are playing. I can’t begin to think how many times I’ve seen them since – I think – ’79 in Manchester and each time they’ve got better and better. Can’t wait.

Mick Robinson catches up with Young Fathers at Chalk and Sollus at Shortts

A cold dark dank Monday night in early Feb. The streets are empty and even the spirits of Brighton’s past are staying inside. I turn the corner of Poole Valley, the worst send off spot for coaches round the UK, and there’s a huge queue of shuffling souls in big coats and hats waiting to get into Chalk. “Fuckin’ hell’ we cry as we join the queue. Rock’n’Roll is still big in our city rain or shine and the draw tonight is Edinburgh’s Young Fathers.

It was the launch of their fourth album, but it was only 2022 when they came to my attention, and they feel like a brand new band. It helps that the gig is priced at a ‘realistic’ £12 – and that also helps explain the big turn out on this inhospitable night.

The 500 enthusiasts quickly settle into place, so standing at the back is pretty much the only option, and anyone familiar with standing at the back at Chalk will know the ‘watching the gig between the heads of the two tallest people in the venue syndrome’, as the band hit the stage to blast of white strobe light and Burundi beats.

Energy flies off the stage as the band cast shadowy silhouettes across the audience adding to the mystique of the band and the excitement of the audience.

A unique sound is extremely rare in ‘23, but Young Fathers have found it – tribal drums are mixed with electronica, off the wall vocals and brooding beats combine with a clever use of layered voices & synths. 
Few words are exchanged between songs and in one of those quiet moments a voice shouts “I love you” through the crowd. For a moment the band smile and nearly loose the thread of a serious stage show, but there is that adoration for them in this room. Suddenly it’s the last song and… No encore. Less than an hour and felt like only half way through a set. The idea of “treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen” is all very well, but that was a bit to short.

That did leave enough time to visit the monthly new band night at Shortts Bar  in the war zone-esque strip of St. James St, the bit between Morrisons & the Co-op, hosted by the wonderful up & coming band Zap Euphoria, having promoted gigs and attended many new bands at the start of their careers over the years. A while back everyone was sounding like an Oasis tribute act, then it was the Arctic Monkeys, and it was refreshing tonight to hear bands trying something new. If anything the new sounds were leaning on a near heavy metal in parts, but not too much, just great musicianship and energy rather than long hair, spandex and guitar solo overkill.

I only caught the set of locals Sollus, but what a great band they are, filling the dance floor on a Monday with crazy passionate fans, a clear sign that they do have something special, a treat of rolling bass lines and powerful drum beats, topped with great guitar and a soaring vocal. Lead guitarist mesmerising as he took on the skills of a young guitar hero Rory Gallagher , a mosh pit soon erupted. 

They were immediately booked em again for a Friday night, April 14th!
The Spirit of true rock n roll keeping our city alive.
Next New bands night is Monday March 6th.