Tag Archives: Brighton

Wish me luck as you Wave me Goodbye

Meena & Vinod Mashru
Meena & Vinod Mashru
Vinod and Meena Mashru, owners of the super convenient store that is at the heart of our community, threw a farewell party in August for Dev Nayak, an assistant who has been working at Bright News for 3 years and who has now returned to India.
Dev Nayak
And it's goodbye from Dev
A crowded West Hill Hall marked his popularity. The many assembled residents drank to his health and were served a delicious, healthy buffet of Indian food by Meena and her trusty helpers. Although a sad occasion, there was much laughter and bonhomie as we wished Dev bon voyage back to his wife and two children. These events are central to the community, giving residents the chance to meet new people and catch up with neighbours with whom we don’t always have time to stop and chat. Helping the hosts to lay on this splendid and cosy party were their children, Vishal, Anish and Karishma and Meena’s family and friends. Dev gave a touching speech, saying how much he had enjoyed his time in Brighton. We really enjoyed knowing him.
Dev's Party People
Dev's Party People

Pizza Girl in a Eurostar Saveloy Party Adventure

A cut-out-and-keep Gossip and Grumble No 32

My Saveloy Party was probably, definitely, the event of the summer. Way beyond just A-list celebs, we had the whole alphabet there.

It started, like all good parties, spontaneously, without planning and pretty unexpectedly. My long-term ‘house guest’ Biggins and I were travelling by Eurostar, returning from a book signing tour in Brussels (we had managed to sign thousands before being politely escorted from the store, but that’s a story for another day.) We decided to come back by train so that we could both do some work on the journey. It was genuine research for a future Whistler wine column feature and absolutely not as if we were just having a lark on expenses. OK, admittedly we may have been a tad ‘exuberant’ but who wouldn’t be when doing a 32 brand Belgian Super Lager tasting ?

To be perfectly honest, we couldn’t have been that loud because only one person complained “Excuse me!” bugled a voice from the other end of the carriage. We looked around from whence the admonishment had been launched and, joy of joys, who should it be? My great buddy Dr Cazzer, or Loukey, as Biggins calls her. Caroline Lucas enviro supremo and all round Green party goer.

How we all laughed. “You are a Drama Green,” Biggins bellowed. “And you’re a Saga Queen” Cazzer retorted ‘ageistly’ in reply. At that exact moment, with the timing of a Giselle and the poise of cartographer, a new voice joined our game.

“If you ask me, you’re all SAGA LOUTS”. The whole carriage erupted in happiness, expressed by laughing. The arch humorist, a row back, stood up and bowed ceremoniously to thunderous applause. Joy of joys, it was my hirsute soul mate and bestest chum ever in all the world and everywhere else, Lord Melvyn Bragg. “Braggers!” Biggins bellowed in recognition of a fellow A-lister. How we laughed. Our now expanded four person ‘research’ team guzzled our way onto Ashford International, then changed onto the Coaster Express to Brighton that stops at all stations, and for some reason at Eastbourne twice. Cazzer was in fine form with her stories of derring-do and her various protest arrests. She can tell a story better than any politician I know. What is she like? They don’t call it the Green PARTY for nothing. With our boisterous boozing banter, our fellow passengers probably thought we were destined for St Leonards, not the bourgeois Brechtian Byzantine of Brighton. They should count themselves lucky that the Hirsute lad (Melly) had fallen asleep mid-paragraph, whilst telling a story about Brasier and Antcliffe’s new article, Evolutionary relationships within the Avalonian Ediacara biota for the Journal of the Geological Society. To be honest, I was probably the only one who understood what he was on about. I should do, I’ve been writing his questions to his guests for his Radio 4 programmes for years.

Our ‘research laboratory’ slowly pulled into St Leonards-on-Sea. I know everyone in St Leonards, especially since half of Hackney and half of Brighton have moved down there. The train doors unfolded like curtains on a stage to reveal Mr St Leonards himself, Mr Saturday Night, the vamper camper, Mr Graham Norton. “Well Hellllllloo Brighton train” he exalted to all and sundry. Naughty Norton immediately spotted me, then our quadrangle. Biggins and Norton greeted each other with a Stanislavski physicality, a probing, frisk assessment of a scrummage, itself worthy of an Ivor Novello or at least an Eminemmy award. Saggy Braggy had woken up and proceeded to decline a passed glug of Belgian Strawberry Champagne ‘As Favoured by Monks’. Instead, he opted to share Cazzer’s ‘Wheat Grass Milk Shake’. Thank God Melvyn had put his dental plate back in, although it would have been better if it had been the right way up. Melly had us in stitches with his stories, first about the notice he’d seen in a Dials shop saying ‘Only two MPs in the store at a time please’ and then the story of when he had stolen Sally Taylor’s saveloy. It takes the simplest thing, but that is the moment when together, as if one, in unison, we jointly all cried out “Let’s have a Saveloy Party!” Call it symbiosis or just mad, but we all had the same idea at once, spooky or what?

Our train eventually ‘steamed’ into Brighton station. Cazz and Graham collected the bottles and cans, each loading up a full trolley and continuing in search of the recycling bins. Cazzer has an upcoming election to be the West Hill rep at Parliament and the first Green MP in the British world, so naturally she was concerned to not just leave detritus as the security camera footage might be sold on to Dials-based Ricochet TV. We all have our public image to protect from scandal after all. The rest of us, queued at Sing Li’s Chippy in Guildford Road. We each ordered several of the red-skinned pig brained beauties. I ordered cods roe in batter for Casser knowing she is vegan. Slowly, or to be exact, virtually in a sound byte our creative cluster was causing tongues to wag. The inevitable enthusiastic throng of onlookers began to gather and onlook.

By the time the eco-warriors had joined us we were being i-photoed, blogged, and tubed-abused by the excited and enthralled ensemble of West Hilliers. In moments we had probably emptied both the Grand Central, The Trafalgar and The Yeoman. So many fans caused difficulty leaving Sing Li’s. Our captors cleverly became our rescuers as one by one we were ‘mosh pitted’ on high above their heads. With frisk assessing hands they carried us aloft upward and onward thither this way and that to Kenny Livingstone’s house. (I have had his keys for years and feed his budgies every Thursday. The regular ‘soirees’ there are my little secret.) We were certainly the flashiest mob in town, quite a sight, each 6ft off the ground, jostled a-top a seething swarm of buzzing people, all with our saveloys in hand. Then, to top it all we were ceremoniously joined by a team of 35 critical mass naked bike riders. At their helm, a triumphant waving Vinod from Buckingham Road’s Bright News. What a sight we were. Only in Brighton, B Right On! Yes, we all knew this was going to be the West Hill event of the summer so far and, dearest Whistlers, it was, believe me it certainly was….

Pizza Girl

Shakespeare 2012

ShakespeareThe Brighton & Sussex Branch of the Actors’ Union Equity recently welcomed actor, Ian Flintoff, to their regular monthly meeting where he brought members up-to-date with the plans for a national celebration of Shakespeare, planned before the Olympic bid was won, and now set to co-incide with the 2012 Olympics. Members were inspired by Ian’s boundless enthusiasm for his subject. Clearly, he’s a man who cares deeply about creating something extraordinary, something that could change the way the public thinks about theatre, but he’s also determined to do it in a way that means it is not just a vehicle for a few stars and some high profile companies. It would be relatively easy to focus on a few big theatres and some big stars, but Ian wants to do it the hard way – in schools and local communities – all over the nation.

“I am very excited by this project,” said Johnny Worthy, the branch’s chair. Ian Flintoff seems to have spoken to half the nation about this project already. Ask him a question about what he wants to achieve and he’ll reel you off a list of interested parties, chance encounters and potential targets. And it is not just the great and the good – although he can casually pull from his briefcase letters of support from Prince Charles or 10 Downing Street – the things that get him really excited are the anecdotes about working in schools or persuading a group of young Muslim girls to perform Gertrude’s speech from Hamlet or blagging his way into a Council office to try and persuade arts officers in Preston that their town’s (perhaps tenuous) link with the Bard means they have a duty to get involved in Shakespeare 2012.

The plan was to have the first ever historic Shakespeare celebration – a stand-alone event which was then called Shakespeare 2010. They sent the suggestion to Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, at Number 10. The response was positive and the idea was passed on to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who discussed it and liked it very much. Linking it to the Olympic bid seemed like a good idea. The official bid document submitted by London included a pledge that there would be an international Shakespeare festival as part of the Olympics. There has been support in Parliament, including an Early Day Motion put forward by Susan Kramer MP:

“…this House applauds and supports continuing plans within the arts community first put forward by Equity to instigate a nationwide Great British Shakespeare Event to coincide with the Olympics in 2012; acknowledges the proud tradition of the Olympic Games in ancient Athens to combine sport with the great dramas of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus; recognises the unprecedented cultural opportunity of reviving and honouring that tradition in Britain across all ages, faiths, cultures and social groups by celebrating the works of the man widely acknowledged to be our greatest playwright; recognises the tremendous boost this would give not only to the arts community but also to tourism; and calls on the Government to support, encourage and promote grass-roots plans to take forward this celebration.”

Consequently, the Royal Shakespeare Company is in the early stages of planning their ‘World Shakespeare Festival’ which will encompass London, Stratford and Newcastle and there are plans for the Globe to hold events. Ian’s ambitions for Shakespeare 2012 include a grassroots network that is spread across the whole country. “What we’d like to happen is the first really big national jamboree of Shakespeare, something that’s such fun that it takes that feeling of elitism and the idea that it’s just a school subject away from the plays,” Ian said. “We’d like to think that Equity will play a prominent role – we’ve got so many members and a big network across the country – in tapping into local theatres and trying to persuade them to do, say, three professional plays – a comedy, a tragedy and a history – in 2012. We must talk to councils and local arts and educations officers and bring Shakespeare to cities, towns and villages.”

Shakespeare by  John-Paul Flintoff
Shakespeare by John-Paul Flintoff

He is asking Equity branches and regional committees to establish Shakespeare 2012 networks – bringing together all those interested in promoting the event – and to appoint ‘Shakespeare 2012 Champions’ who will promote the campaign to local theatres, local authorities, schools and the press and act as a link with other efforts around the country. Equity has set up a coordinating committee to develop that national grid of volunteers.

“If at the end of the year we had a network of Shakespeare Champions – the idea is that we have someone in Warrington, Leicester, Bodmin – an Equity member who is really keen on this idea who can talk to the theatres and the schools and the press – a network across the UK and Champions in every part of the country, then of course we’ll be looking for the support of the profession’s best known faces and approaching industry for money, but first we need to build the foundation. When we’ve proved we can organise right across the country and we have enthusiastic networks in towns and cities, then we can start talking about the endorsement of stars and business and getting the money.

“With sufficient imagination and sufficient courage we could give people back the sense of intensity that only comes from live performance,” Ian said. “To make people, especially young people, feel that Shakespeare and all good drama isn’t for other people, it’s for everyone, I think that would be a legacy to go on for a century. We won’t have built a lot of new theatres but we might catch the imagination of the public and bring them back to theatres and show them how good it can be. I think that’s worth chasing. It would be a precedent – if we can do it with Shakespeare it would be easier for others to follow our lead.”

If you would like to join Brighton Shakespeare 2012 Champions, Sylvia Alexander-Vine and Robert Cohen and have ideas about what your school, community or local organisation can contribute, email Sylvia at whwhistler@aol.com or bobbycoco@gmail.com.

The Whistler – June 2009

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a song bird will come - Chinese proverb
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a song bird will come” Chinese proverb

WILD LIFE GARDEN

The Wild Life garden at the West Hill Hall continues to create work and enjoyment for those volunteer gardeners who are involved and to improve the environs for the benefit of our visitors – feathered and two-legged. Thanks to Tinkers and Blenio Bistro for their generous donations of nuts and herbs. All donations are welcome.

Sue Williams, one of the volunteers, wrote to us recently with a tale describing an example of devotion beyond the call of duty by another volunteer, Jo Martin.

“A big vote of thanks – if not a medal – should be awarded to our wild life gardener Jo, who was found on a miserable morning, kneeling on the ground, with her bare arm, up to the shoulder, down the blocked drain in front of the Hall. She spent the best part of an hour scooping out a filthy mix of mud, gravel and roots, gouging a chunk out of her hand in the process, which bled profusely. I stood by offering encouragement, hoping she wouldn’t say “Your turn now – you have a go!”  But she says she’s not afraid of drains and carried on digging until it was clear, determined to save the Hall the expense of calling out Dyno-Rod.  And they say community spirit is dead….Well done that woman!”

Well done, indeed.