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Aladdin sane

Aladdin pantomime comes to the Brighton Centre this Christmas season. By Nadia Abbas

The magical world of Aladdin with its golden sand dunes, genies, and flying carpets has been a fan favourite since the Disney films release in 1993. Fans now have a chance to experience their very own Arabian night as the Aladdin pantomime is coming to the Brighton Centre this December. The pantomime promises to reunite the audience with the beloved love story of Princess Jasmine and the charming thief Aladdin. There will also be unexpected twists and turns in the story that will leave the audience laughing all night long.

Brighton production company E3 is bringing the Aladdin pantomime to the Brighton Centre. Aladdin will be running from Thursday 22nd to Tuesday 27th December (excluding Christmas Day). The pantomime features a talented and diverse West End cast. This includes Anita Dobson who has starred in Eastenders, Mark Inscoe who was in Sweeney Todd, and BBC Radio Sussex presenter Allison Ferns. Mark Inscoe plays the character of Widow Twankey who is Aladdin’s mother in this production. Mark Inscoe, said: “With pantomime it’s such a family experience that it’s going to be wonderful for people to get out and bring the whole family.”

This Aladdin production will differ from the original Aladdin story. It will be set in Old Peking in China instead of the mythical land of Agrabah like in the Disney film. Some of the character names are also different in this Aladdin pantomime. It does not have the villain Jafar, but instead they have a villain called Abanazar who is played by Anita Dobson. Mark Inscoe, said:” Widow Twankey that I’m playing does not exist in the original story, but she’s one of the most famous pantomime dames.” Aladdin’s brother’s character Wishee Washee is also not in the original story but is a new addition in this unique spin on the tale of Aladdin.

This pantomime was supposed to take place in 2021, but it was postponed due to concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19. This affected the suppliers, the costume makers, stage management, and set staff. Mark Inscoe, said: “Two days before we were due to start rehearsals everything just came to a close.” Fortunately, most of the company that were supposed to take part last year, are back to do it this year. Mark Inscoe, said: “People are now much more comfortable about going into a confined space and going back to the theatre again.”

E3 production company will support nine charities across the Sussex area. Each performance of this Aladdin pantomime will support a different charity. The audience will be encouraged to make donations to these charities at each showing. Some of the charities include The Sussex Beacon, Chestnut Tree House, and The Starr Trust. The first performance on Thursday the 22nd of December will be supporting The Focus Foundation.

Ticket prices for this pantomime range between £15- £35 and they can be purchased from the Brighton Centre’s website.

To find out more visit https://brightoncentre.co.uk/whats-on/2022/aladdin/.

Get it on, bang a gong…

Christmas. You love Christmas. Family you haven’t seen since… oh, blimey, do you remember that time? It’s fine. It’ll be different this year. It’s cool. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’ll be lovely. Probably. Or it could be like the script EastEnders rejected because it was too scary. Do you remember that time?? Blimey. Who’s coming round? So… he’s vegan and she eats anything as long as it’s high welfare? Are you sure it’s that way round?

Forget all that for a minute. De-stress. Relax. Have you ever had a sound bath?

A sound bath is – and I found this quote on the internet so it must be true – a way of managing anxiety, soothing the nervous system, and blocking all the ideas and thoughts out of your consciousness as you connect with your body. Actually, I’ve had one before and it’s blimmin lovely.

Actually it really is lovely. And if you’re struggling to think of what to get your loved one as a present… read on.

Naomi Potter and Emma Thomas run sound baths in St Michael & All Angels Church in Powis Rd, and if all this Christmas stuff is feeling a bit too much, you could do far worse. “What better way to start the New Year and beat the January blues than by focusing on your health and wellbeing” said Naomi.


Emma takes up the theme. “Melt away and relax with this soothing and restorative sound journey, designed to reset your nervous system and create inner calm. Our uplifting weekly sound journeys, which will include gongs, Tibetan bowls and soothing percussion instruments will create a sense of stillness, grounding and inner peace. Lay down, relax and allow yourself the opportunity to access a state of deep rest.


“Regular sound journeys are powerful healing tools. They are well-known to support relaxation, ease pain, anxiety and muscle tension, and promote better sleep. Concentration and energy levels may improve as a result of regular relaxation with sound”.

Naomi and Emma are donating 15% of any profits from this sound journey series to the Free Tibet campaign which campaigns to protect the human rights of Tibetans.

If this sounds cool – and if it doesn’t… are you OK? – bear in mind that their previous Solstice event sold out quickly so get in quick and make sure you reserve your spot.

Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soothing-and-restorative-sound-journeys-in-seven-dials-brighton-tickets-471511622957?aff=erelpanelorg

Also, next year on January 14th, there’s a harp special with a guest harpist, and that sounds kinda nice too.

A time to think of others

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Mistletoe, Bailey’s, Quality Street, presents, the family coming round… Another game of charades…

Except not for everyone. This is Jelly with his puppy Banter, a picture taken by Marc Davenant from his book Outsiders.

“He was telling me how lonely it is trying to exist on the street and how an entire day can go by with nobody even acknowledging that you exist” said Marc.

“It was a really sad discussion, he was wearing two different shoes and seemed completely worn down by it all. He’s a musician fallen on hard times from what I could gather”.

There really are too many people like Jelly, and it might sound sanctimonious to say it – and if it does, I don’t care – but this year maybe give one less present to someone who’s getting loads and give something to someone who isn’t getting any.

Check out Marc’s book https://bluecoatpress.co.uk/product/outsiders/

Life with Justin King of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network

Yeah, so where was I? When I moved in here about 11 years ago now there was a gull standing on the fence.”

Which is not unusual in Brighton. 

“I suppose it isn’t, but I just threw out a bit of food and from that moment on, he decided he quite liked being here so he brought his partner along, but then another two came along and were a bit jealous about what was going on so they scared off my first two but they came back and… I’m surprised he’s not here actually”. 

The Whistler is in a garden near the seafront and we’re with Justin King, prime mover of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network, a group dedicated to helping and rescuing our favourite birds. If life can be split into “Good Guys” and “Not Good Guys”, Justin is about as good a good guy can be. 

“If I throw a bit of ham I bet you he’ll arrive. He’s called Brutus he’s also a bit of a celebrity because we’ve got an Instagram page and we’ve got a Facebook page I constantly take pictures of him and his partner and… I’ll tell you what, let me get a bit of ham”. Justin disappears into his kitchen and emerges with a small packet of ham slices. He reaches into the packet, throws his hand in the air and, from nowhere, we’re in a scene from Hitchcock. 

“There’s Brutus” he says as a gull that looks disarmingly like a gull swoops down for Justin’s ham. “He’s been a bit of a constant for me, but I have all kinds of birds that come into the garden.” Justin reaches for another handful of ham and throws it over his fence into the neighbouring car park.

The Whistler is admittedly a bit biased, but we think gulls are just lovely and we’re very happy to be in a city where the… whatever the national symbol of a city is called, is a gull. But gulls, like all birds, have had a tough time recently. Avian flu – “flockdown” – has hit hard, which has meant that charities and rescue centres have been reluctant to take injured or needy birds in. And that has meant, what it always means: volunteers need help. In the last year, the Network has raised £170,000 for Bird Aid, which is an extraordinary amount. 

Justin rattled off a list of names. “Tony Bloom, owner of Brighton and Hove Albion, got involved in the Bird Aid campaign last year…” Well, he does own The Seagulls… “which was brilliant. But then we’ve got a lot of celebrities on board. Chris Packham. He put a post on Facebook. Ricky Gervais posts on his Twitter. Holly Willoughby. Oh, Woody Cook. Actually it was Woody who… once he started it snowballed. Loads of other naturalism environmentalists got involved.” 

Just as we’re talking, Justin’s phone goes. He’s making an arrangement. 

“What’s that?” I ask. 

“Someone’s coming round to pick up the pigeon to take him to a sanctuary”. 

“What pigeon?”

Justin takes me round to what looks like a garden shed. Well, OK. It is a garden shed. Carefully he opens the door and there, standing on one foot and looking a bit sorry for himself, a pigeon. 

“He’s hurt his foot and can’t put any weight on it and someone brought him round. He’s stayed here for a couple of days and then he’s going to go to the sanctuary to fully recover”. 

I love these people. I love the person who found the pigeon and picked him up, I love Justin who has nurtured him, I love the people who have a sanctuary where he can recover.   

What is the Brighton gull population? What number are we talking? 

“I don’t actually know, but in general the species is in decline. Herring gulls are on the endangered species list, the Red List. Herring gulls. Yep. The ones you just see. They’re all herring gulls. And I know you wouldn’t think so, but it’s true, they’re on the decline. Saying that though, a lot of wildlife is in decline.

“There’s a lot of ignorance and intolerance towards a lot of forms of wildlife. There’s been cases in Woodingdean of people poisoning foxes because they don’t want them coming into the garden and digging up their lawns. Birds being shot, you name it, it’s happened. Yeah, shocking. Yeah. I mean when you think of Sussex, the word that synonymous with the countryside. If you don’t like birds, don’t live by the coast, go and live in Milton Keynes. Sorry, but it really is relentless”.

How many people are there in your group?

“The group has approximately 3,200 members, but the majority of them aren’t really active. Mostly, it’s just a few people. A lot of people have dropped out because times are hard for everyone and not everyone has so much time anymore. The cost of living crisis has made people reprioritise”.

So hardcore volunteers? Let’s put it this way. How many are as committed as you?

“Probably about a dozen. But it’s been difficult and because of avian flu this year, I’ve literally had to throw myself headlong into this. Yeah, the whole campaign. It’s left no time for anything else.

Watching Justin, listening to him, I know there’s nothing he’d prefer to be doing. He has, in every sense, found his calling. 

Justin looks up to the skies where the gulls are still circling, a bit distracted. Do you listen to the goals and recognise different calls?

“Yes. That’s the whistling you can hear there, the babies. I always know that sound. But I’m also familiar with my regular gull who comes to visit. He stands on the shed and waits for his food. And when he screeches, I recognise it. It’s just, I mean, they’re all different. Anyway, I recognise the way he does it and the sound that he makes and yeah, so I know when he’s here”.

Justin looks up again. 

“I was just thinking I should go and check on the ham I threw over the fence. I want to make sure they all got some” 

Check out the Whistler website for details of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network Go Fund Me page or go to their Facebook group page of the same name

Check out the Whistler website for details of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network Go Fund Me page or go to their Facebook group page of the same name

https://gofund.me/58fadb2f

https://www.facebook.com/groups/385523575455222/?ref=share_group_link

Christmas at Bolney Wine Estate

Gilly Smith talks to Sam Linter about life on The Bolney Wine Estate

Baubles and berries, bottles and bubbles, it’s all just one big excuse, this Christmas malarkey, to deck the halls and be very jolly indeed. But we’re not about that consumerist nonsense over at Whistler Towers. We’re all about zero waste and making stuff, eating local produce and supporting the neighbours. So how to feast and have fun without maxing the landfill? Come closer; we have some sparkling ideas.

One of the real treats of living in Brighton is the bounty of great produce on our doorstep, and increasingly, that means some pretty amazing wines too. Ding dong! There’s a couple of Christmas present ideas already. Plus, a wine tour is a great day out for all the rellies, and we’re still only on paragraph two. But wine? Sustainable? How? 

Well, climate change may not have a lot going for it, but the warming of our southern vineyards is at least creating a rather vibrant industry, with experts claiming that some of our chalk soil compares favourably to that of the Champagne region of France. And while English wines have been a thing since the Romans, this relatively new industry has attracted some pretty cool people who care about much more than the sound of the cash till. 

Cindy-Marie Harvey is the author of Watercress, Willow and Wine and told me that the English wine industry is setting new standards in sustainable business practice. “I think wine GB has been absolutely brilliant,” she told me on my podcast Cooking the Books. “If you look at a winery at harvest time, the amount of water that you need just to keep everything clean, it’s a phenomenal amount. For one litre of wine, you probably need ten litres of water. There’s a whole host of sustainable criteria that you have to look at before you can actually get the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain badge, but that means that customers can trust what they’re buying.” 

Within an hour’s drive or so from Brighton, we have some of the best wines in the south east, many of which are leading the field in sustainability. Ridgeview in Ditchling, the organic Davenports in Rotherfield in the Low Weald, Rathfinney in Alfriston, Bolney, just 20 mins from Brighton, Wiston, Breaky Bottom, the mighty Nyetimber, how spoilt are we? And Plumpton College just down the road is training up the next generation even as I write. 

Winemaker Sam Linter has lived almost her whole life at Bolney vineyard after her parents bought up an old pig farm in the 1970s, inspired no doubt by the TV sitcom The Good Life

“We had goats on site, so mum did the goat’s milk, the goat yoghurts, the cheese she used to sell to local deli’ Sam told me when I interviewed her for the delicious podcast. “She would drive all over to sell them. She grew marrows, tomatoes, courgettes, sweet corn, we had strawberries on site here. And it was fun. It was a great childhood. My brother and I ran wild.”

That Good Life ethos lives on at Bolney since Sam has taken the reins from her parents and built a business that has become a leader in English wines. Its cuvee rose even had a rep from Laurent Perrier recently scratching his head at which was his in a taste off. And with pips and skins used to make gin and other by-products, its wine production creates a virtuous circle. They even have a wine bottle Christmas tree at the entrance to the winery restaurant.

On which… what a find for a posh lunch over the holidays. Its Eighteen Acres Cafe overlooking the vineyard gets our loudest Whistle for quality, service and price with a fabulously instagrammable menu. And it’s even dog-friendly! To celebrate the festive season, Bolney is also running some tastings throughout December. A £12 ticket will buy you a tasting of three wines, paired with festive themed canapé plus a Bolney branded ISO tasting glass to take home. Or to give away as a Christmas present..  And if you prefer a little music with your wine tastings, you can enjoy a charcuterie board and glass of Bolney Bubbly for £30 per person every Friday evening in December. 

Listen to Gilly’s podcast with Cindy-Marie fromher podcast show “Cooking The Books with Gilly Smith https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/cindy-marie-harvey-watercress-willow-and-wine/id1499255116?i=1000590240914

And also Gilly’s interview with Sam for the delicious podcast from June 2019

https://shows.acast.com/deliciousdish/episodes/thejuneepisode-englishwine-ginandfishplusbakeoffsbenoitblinand

Bolney Wine Estate Foxhole Ln, Bolney, Haywards Heath RH17 5NB

More details at https://bolneywineestate.com/whats-on