Category Archives: The Arts

Local, national and international arts news

Gentleman Callers

Beryl Webster and Liz Siddall discuss their gentlemen callers in The Pensioner, the Journal of the Brighton & Hove Pensioners’ Forum

Did you know that we old folk are worth a fortune?

We have silver in our hair, gold in our teeth, stones in kidneys, lead in our feet and gas in our stomachs. I have become older since I saw you last and a few changes have come into my life. Frankly, I have become a frivolous old woman. I am seeing at least six gentlemen every day! As soon as I wake up Will Power helps me out of bed, then I go to see Jimmy Riddle and then it’s time to breakfast with Mr Kellog, followed closely by the refreshing company of Mr Tetley or my other friend, who I know by his initials, PG.

Then someone comes I don’t like, Arthur Itis – he knows he’s not welcome, but he insists on being here and, what’s more, he stays for the rest of the day. Even then, he doesn’t like to stay in one place, so he takes me from joint to joint. After such a hectic day I am glad to get to bed, with Johnny Walker – what a hectic life.

Oh yes, I am now flirting with Al Zheimer! The vicar came to call the other day and said that at my age I should be thinking about the here after. So, I told him that I did – all the time. For no matter where I am, the kitchen, the sitting room or the garden; I ask myself, “Now, what am I here after?”

Happy Birthday Asterix


“By Toutatis!” If this invocation of an obscure Celtic God means anything to you, then you’ll also be familiar with the peevish canine Dogmatix, a chieftan called Vitalstatistix and Cacofonix, the bard who can’t hold a tune. If it doesn’t, you could do worse than to acquaint yourself with them and their better-known friend Asterix, the Gaulish warrior and national treasure of French bandes dessinées, who turned 50 this year.

Asterix appeared for the first time in a cartoon magazine called Pilote on 29 October 1959. Goscinny and Uderzo thought up most of the main characters in a 30-minute brain-storming session in a council flat in Paris. Goscinny, also the joint parent of Petit Nicolas and other successful cartoon characters, set out originally to mock, rather than to glorify, French insularity. Charles de Gaulle had just become president of the Republic. France versus the Rest of the World rapidly became one of the themes of the 1960s. Asterix took off.

Obelix & Dogmatix
Obelix & Dogmatix

The world of Asterix and his improbably large sidekick Obelix (dropped in a cauldron of magic potion when he was a baby, and hence invincible) is one of druids, menhirs and endless feasting on the juiciest of wild boars. It is also a visual and verbal feast, with fantastic and often fantastically detailed illustrations by Albert Uderzo and words by René Goscinny. The English versions required all the creative powers of their translators, Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge, to put across the punning spirit of the originals, and the results are rightly acclaimed.

Part of Asterix’s appeal lies in the gentle prodding of European national stereotypes: the fondue-and-cuckoo-clock-obsessed Swiss, the milky-tea-drinking British and the beer-swilling Belgians. But while the parodies are occasionally mischievous, they are also humane. If Goscinny and Uderzo had a message to convey in amongst all the fun, it was that inflated egos deserve to be punctured – hence the hilarious monikers. You may be a Roman centurion, but no one can take you seriously when your name is Crismus Bonus.

Don’t Miss the Bus

Bert Williams
Bert Williams
When you get your 2010 diary, please write a memo to yourself at the beginning of October: “Find out when in October Bert is doing his Black History Month bus tour.” I went on it this year, along with many Brightonians of all colours (and sizes) who filled up the chartered double-decker bus while Bert filled us in with fascinating historical facts about Brighton’s black history. The continuous history of black people in Britain dates from the mid 16th Century and the beginning of the slave trade. Many black people “employed” as slave-servants, musicians, footman, soldiers and sailors visited and worked in Brighton.

Starting off from Brighton library, Bert took us on a magical tour of the places in Brighton associated with black history. We passed Dr Brighton’s baths which stood on the site of the Queen’s Hotel. Sake Dean Mahomed (1759-1851) grew up in India, emigrated to Ireland in 1786, and in 1814 Dean and his Irish wife Jane, moved to Brighton and opened the first shampooing vapour masseur bath in England. Both King George IV and William IV appointed him as their shampooing surgeon in Brighton.

Black History
Black History
As the bus travelled from the seafront into West Street, we passed St Paul’s Church to which Emperor Haile Selassie made a donation in 1947, in appreciation of the five years he spent in exile in Britain between 1936-41; the King’s Head pub (now The Heist) where, in 1651, Charles II stayed on his flight to France, aided and abetted by ‘a tall Black man six feet and two inches high’.

We got off the bus and went into St Nicholas Church, the oldest church in Brighton, which is packed full of associations with black history – including the resting place of Dean Mahomed; the home to a set of wooden carvings of the stations of the cross depicting African figures, donated by Dame Flora Robson; the wedding venue of Sarah Forbes Bonneta, a West African of royal lineage who was married there in 1862 in a ceremony sanctioned by Queen Victoria. So little room here, so much history to learn – don’t miss the bus in 2010.

For more information, visit the Black History website

Artichoke Arts

The Artichoke Artgroup is running a children’s physical theatre weekly workshop in the West Hill Hall.

Physical space is a workshop that focuses on a return to the basics of theatre, without the use of make up and with neutral costume. It is based on a return to the origin, the empty space, and in evaluating our body as the first tool of creation in empty space.
We explore impulses and directions, physical gestures and their meaning. We develop the use of movement as a synthesis and as means of expression to recreate characters, situations and spaces. The company explores the environment (materials, colours, elements, sounds) and creates narratives through play where the theatrical text is created from the action.
The group is directed by the actress and teacher Florence Leon. James de Malplaquet is the sound design teacher and Solange Leon is the voice teacher.

Here’s what was said about the Artichoke Arts show Show off, first performed at West Hill Hall in July of this year.

“The performances by the children of the Artichoke Arts Group were just inspirational. They delivered their own short plays and mimes, which were dazzlingly complex, fast-paced and breathtakingly executed. The young artists’ energy, creativity and overwhelming sense of fun were evident in everything they did. How this was channelled so successfully into such a professional performance from very young people is a mystery! How do you do it, Artichoke?” Bruce Dickinson, Education Director BIMM – Brighton & Bristol Institutes of Modern Music.

“A terrific night! The kids were brilliant. It was lovely to see such confidence and commitment in them – and their execution of their devised material was amazing! Creative, funny, clever! The grown-up stuff was a gas too! I had a fun time! Bundles of charm in the event! Congratulations for a sterling job.” David Scinto, Writer & Award Winner of the British Independent Film Award & Golden Satellite Award for ‘Sexy Beast’.
For more info please visit

West Hill Hall Events

ITCHY SCRATCHY A fundraiser for The Permanent Gallery Saturday 31 October
A musical event to accompany the October exhibition at the Permanent Gallery, Itchy Scratchy, a show which invites photographers to donate a photo as a digital file, which will then be printed and exhibited at the gallery. Itchy Scratchy is a term coined by writer Charlotte Cotton to describe a troubling photo in a photographer’s practice that doesn’t quite fit but precipitates a new way of working. The event at the Hall will be about inviting a group of musicians to respond to this notion in musical terms, either with a piece they wrote which changed their musical direction or to play in public a current unresolved direction. For more info please visit

CHRIS T-T plus support Saturday 21 November 7.30pm – 10.30pm
Chris T-T is an English songwriter. So far he’s made five albums. His current release is ‘Capital’ which came out in March 2008 on Xtra Mile Recordings. Chris says “It’ll be a solo set on piano, acoustic and maybe electric guitar. I’ll be playing my new record ‘Love Is Not Rescue’ which is much quieter than the last album and has a miserable, personal vibe to it. The West Hill Hall show will be the last night of my UK tour.”

ODDFELLOWS CASINO plus support Saturday 28 November 7.30pm – 10.30pm
“A hidden treasure of the English music scene”, Oddfellows Casino has been quietly releasing albums over the past five years, to great critical acclaim. They hail from the mountains of Sussex and are an ensemble whose music and live performances centre around forgotten corners of England, birds, landscapes, death, hauntings and an old Victorian freak show from which they take their name. At the centre of the group is singer-songwriter David Bramwell (“an English Sufjan Stevens” Plan B) who is also known locally as being the co-author of the Cheeky Guide to Brighton and creator of the Catalyst Club.

Oddfellows Casino have recently completed their third album, Raven’s Empire, produced by award-winning composer and producer Andrew Phillips (Grasscut). Their most ambitious project to date, this album sees the group plunging into darker waters with the music veering from pounding hypnotic orchestral arrangements and plaintive piano tracks to Stooges-style guitars; all held within Oddfellows distinctive English sound. In 2008 they were commissioned by Brighton Live and the Arts Council to perform with the Brighton and Hove Concert band, culminating in a concert at St George’s Church with over 50 musicians on stage. The gig in November at the West Hill may be more stripped down in comparison but promises to be a treat, this is the band’s first performance in over a year, and will be a showcase for lots of new tunes with Bramwell at the piano and a small band comprising of horns, percussion, bass, electronica, harmonium and flute.