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Idly flicking through the TV the other day, I chanced upon “Dad’s Army”. Haven’t seen it for ages, but still it’s so familiar. The  bumbling incompetence, the mind-numbing arrogance, the hubris. The idea they  know what they’re doing, but behind their eyes we can see that even they know they’re absolutely clueless. But then on closer look, I realised they were wearing suits, not fatigues and I was actually watching a Government briefing about the new Covid guidelines.  

Oh well. Strange times. As The Whistler goes to press, we don’t know whether there’ll be a second wave or a second lockdown, whether six people is a group or five is a bubble. As ever, the people who do best are the ones with the  positive attitude, like Mark and Hatt at The Eddy, like Pam and Philippe at The Red Snapper.  That’s what we’re buying into here. The positive. And as long as it’s linen suit and straw hat weather…. it’s all  good. 

Finally, a quick and very large “Thank You” to Joanna Bettles for her time as designer of The Whistler. For Jo, as for the rest of us, new challenges await.

And don’t forget – if you’ve got something to say, drop us a line. Join in. Life’s better that way. XX 

LOCAL HERO, charity fundraiser, pillar of the community and all-round good bloke, Alistair Jackson – known to everyone as Jacko – died August 7, aged 77. 

Born in Southport, Lancs, in 1943, Jacko left home at 16 and joined the RAF. He served in Bahrain, the Persian Gulf and Singapore, where he married in 1965. He moved to Brighton in 1970 and joined the Bright News team in 1993. A top sportsman, he raised money through charity runs, but it was as a community friend that he made his mark. If someone needed help, Jacko was there. A delivery, a hand, a word, a smile… being a top man. Jacko was there. 

What do you do after the jungles of French Guiana and Chicago? Jed Novick finds out

I’m outside the newly revamped Eddy, enjoying an afternoon drink and chat with Mark and Hatt, the new guardians of this particular galaxy. A car comes down the road and stops outside the pub. I don’t even notce, but Mark’s up and over there. Hatt turns, looks, smiles, carries on. Seconds later, a young lad, all muscles and tatts and with a face like a kid who’s been told to clear up his dinner plates, is walking over to the recycling bins carrying a lone bottle. He drops the bottle in the bin and throws us a half-hearted sneer, but Mark’s already back with us and the story is done. “He was just going to leave the bottle on the pavement” says Mark. “This is our community. We live here. We all live here. Have a bit of respect”. 

Hatt – Harriet Eaton – and Mark – Mark Reed – took over The Eddy in January and from there till now, it hasn’t been a straight line. But one look at Hatt and Mark and somehow you know they’re familiar with picaresque journeys. They’ve got stories.

She’s all bangles, tattoos and rings. An artist. Originally from West Sussex, the road to West Hill hasn’t been a straight one. Went to Paris when she was 18, worked in fashion, married a doctor. “He wanted to specialise in the tropical diseases. So we went and lived in South America for three years in French Guiana in a place called Maripasoula, right in the middle of the jungle. It’s like a tiny plane or three days on a boat to get out. So that was interesting. Mostly”. 

As you do when you find yourself in the middle of the jungle days away from anywhere, Hatt set up a textile business “because that’s what I’d done in Paris and that went really well – beach towels and robes” but then life intervened – kids, parents, school, the usual – and the path led back to Brighton working behind the bar in a pub not far from where we’re sitting now. 

Originally from Hastings, Mark also took a few detours before getting the keys to The Eddy. “I had a few pubs and clubs in Hastings, pubs and clubs in Brighton”. Anything I’d know? “Yeah. The old Club Savannah, which is where Club Revenge is now above Harry Ramsden”. How far are we going back here? “This is back in the early to mid-Eighties. Then I moved to America and I worked in the music industry in America, going on tour with bands for a number of years, lived out hotel rooms for about five. I worked for EMI and then I was a writer for a while and then my…  Then the music industry career got parlayed into partnerships in nightclubs and bars and restaurants in Chicago, um, over, uh, over a long period of time. And then alongside that, I also got into the car industry and worked for a major US Volkswagen dealership”. But then Mark’s life intervened…

So Mark came back after 25 years away, and Hatt taught herself how pubs worked and when the landlord of the pub where Hatt worked moved on… Well, opportunity knocks.  

Opportunity knocks and then opportunity pulls the rug away.  In January they got the keys. A couple of months later… the world stopped. Words like “global pandemic” and “lockdown” probably weren’t in the original business plan. What was the conversation like on March 19th, the night before the lights went out?  “We’ve got a lovely little film of the last night before we shut and there was great atmosphere and everybody was wow, this is our last night for a while.

“I think people just thought it was going to be about a month or a couple of weeks, and then we’d be back open again. And I think that we were sort of ignorant of how long it was going to be. But, you know, things happen and it’s just a question of how you look at it. For us, lockdown was fantastic. We just completely embraced it and changed the pub to who we are. Re-painted everything, cleaned everything, changed everything. The cellars, the toilets, everything.  It’s like being in my front room really, you know, we really, really have made it our own.

One sweet thing that came out of lockdown was that the idea of community really kicked in. “When we closed down, John at The Yeoman created a WhatsApp group for the four pubs on the block. We called ourselves The Manor and there’s definitely a sense of care between us, but yeah, it’s very sad that some of these pubs are too small to open. John’s been there for 15 years and his whole business plan has had to change. And it’s really tough”.

What do you want from all this? “The last owner was more…, um, he didn’t really understand the concept of the community, but that’s what we love. We live here. We live above the pub. It’s our home”.

“It’s not what you get with Deliveroo”, Red Snapper’s Pam and Philippe tell Gilly Smith

Panwad (Pam) ManeeTapho and her Belgian husband Philippe Ghenet are sitting at a table as the early autumn sunlight pours into the Red Snapper, until lockdown one of the most popular restaurants in Seven Dials. They’re talking about their plans to expand it into a casual lunch stop, a couple of tables outside and three inside. It’s all suitably distanced, which will add to the transformation of the busy buzzy evening eatery. 

The restaurant, which has always been a celebration of the fresh seafood and herb-flavoured dishes from their eastern Thailand home, has been replaced by a shop where customers can browse through the restaurant’s silver starter plates, the stacks of gluten-free fish sauce and Thai ginger shots stacked on the upcycled shelving. An orange 1977 Honda Novio scooter is the centrepiece, a cool, vintage reminder of where Red Snapper comes from. 

“That’s my mum’s” says Pam. The couple plan to use it for deliveries. “Imagine that turning up outside your door”, Philippe smiles. “It’s not what you get with Deliveroo.” 

Red Snapper is a triumph of creativity and lockdown lateral thinking. “We saw it coming” says Philippe who grew up in Italy and heard from relatives there what COVID was already doing to its economy. “It’s the end of the world, right? In a way it was like, come on guys, this is Nostradamus!”

At first, the couple held their heads in their hands, but they quickly realised that lock-down could give them time to think about what they really wanted from their life. “After 16 years of  working in the restaurant, sweeping, cooking, cleaning, it was spinning so fast that sometimes we didn’t have time to stop and think which way we want to channel the business”, says Pam who with her younger sister has worked with her parents in the restaurant since she was 16. “Four months of lockdown made us think, think, think, write down, plan, plan, plan. Which path are we going to take?” For them, it was always about the food. “We know what our customers like and what we can offer,” says Pam.  It’s the quality of the food. The flowery stuff, the service, the music, the smells, the incense, the candles… it all comes after.” 

They decided to offer the best take-away experience they could; while Pam and her father, Turmphan cook downstairs, Philippe chats to their customers upstairs, telling his stories and charming them with his laid-back style. “I like it this way. We’re done by 9pm and I can watch a movie with my son.” 

They first shared a flat when Philippe had just graduated in Media at Brighton University and Pam was studying Art, Design & Fashion at Northbrooke College, and they’ve spent months using their creativity, repurposing items from home for this cool, new look. “That was where we stored our linens,” says Philippe pointing to the beautifully battered vintage suitcase now housing an old set of scales and a pink neon heart light. “We choose to be our own bosses, so we might as well add our identity.”

He sees Red Snapper as a Thai market-style café. “Maybe you’re coming back from town; Churchill Square is closed but you still want to have a coffee”, he says. “We like to be a bit of a community market where you can pop in and get some ginger tea. Or maybe just a take-away.” 

As we sit in the late summer sunshine, nine-year-old Finlay is on his second day back at school and Pam and Philippe are feeling philosophical. As working owners, school is an essential part of the child-care, hence the move to daytime food which will reflect the ethos of the original Snapper; accessible, but made in-house from scratch. 

“We offer passion” says Pam. “This is our career, our life. Before COVID we were too busy, we had too much to lose. We might as well shape the life that we want.” 

David Foot finds hope among the bitter pills and pessimism

SOMETIMES IT’S EASY to sit down and write a piece for the Whistler. Sometimes, it is difficult. Today is the latter. Generally, I have some sort of handle on what is going on in the financial world. Alas, I really have no idea of what may happen, in the next few months. Events have an unerring ability to shock and surprise, and markets react in peculiar ways to events. 

It feels like we’re stumbling towards the edge of a cliff. We’ve certainly been in situations before where, despite things looking gloomy, everything has turned out fine. Maybe I am suffering from too many months of “lock-down misery”, but I feel increasingly worried about the direction the UK is heading. 

The two massive factors influencing the near future of this country are what the long-term effect of the pandemic will be, and what will our trading relationship with the rest of the world be, after the “transition period” ending our relationship with the EU. What effect it will all have on world markets are complete unknowns. 

My short-term pessimism and long-term optimism, tell me that things will be horrible, but all right in the end. I may be wrong, but I fear that despite a mini-boom in house prices, due to the pent-up purchasing power,, there may well be some “bitter pills” to swallow – once the artificial stimuli are gone and things settle down. 

The long-term economic effects of coronavirus may prove to be much worse than we are currently given to believe. The willingness of our Government to flout international law, fills me with woe. How will those, with whom we wish to make trade agreements, look upon our nation, if our leaders cannot obey their own laws? Our future relationship with our biggest trading partners looks increasingly shaky. What happened to “the easiest trade deal in the history of trade deals”? Enough. If I dwell further on the subject, I’ll be in grave danger of making myself bilious.

One of the (few) investment upsides of this horrid virus, is that the price of gold (historically, a hedge against unstable markets) has increased a little more than somewhat. This probably has little effect on most of us, but one interesting aspect has come to my attention. 

One of my clients lost a gold bracelet and as part of the claim procedure had to get a valuation for a replacement item. It wasn’t expensive and was covered by the “unspecified personal possessions” section of their home insurance. Or so they thought. 

Fear not, this is not a horror story. However, it is something that is worth remembering. The replacement value was more than the “single item limit” on the policy, not by much, but the replacement cost was more than twice the original cost. If you have jewellery, particularly items that you wear away from the home, and you want to ensure that it is adequately covered, check the replacement value every so often. 

The insurer paid the claim in full, but insisted that the replacement was specified on the policy, to make sure there would be no problem, in the future. They’re not all monsters! Until next time.

A chance encounter in a shared space. L.O.Hughes meditates on an urban sanctuary

ON THIS JUNE DAY, I attempt to write about the theme of Belonging and Nature. The theme resonates and feels sensitive for me, a British-African. Hoping to unblock my writer self, I take a break in St Ann’s Well and walk over to St Nicholas Quiet Gardens, my sanctuary over 30 years. 

It’s a cool afternoon. As I stroll, I notice light trying to break through the flat, milk sky. Not unlike my own process. Right now, I’m content under this oasis of trees. But a brief encounter stops me in my tracks. 

An unfamiliar pooch, charges while barking loudly. Often I freeze and hold my breath, the ‘owner seeing the situation, swiftly calls on their pet  “He’s harmless” they say,  taking him in tow. We exchange smiles I breathe out. Job done. 

Yet on this June morning the scenario has all the tension and trepidation of a slow-motion film. I’m frozen, the owner, while only an arm’s length away, crawls like a tortoise, towards his barking terrier. More, his hard-shell silence and steely gaze, slice through my pleading eyes. I notice his pursed lip. Is he’s thinking, “Who is this stupid woman, scared of small lovable dog?”. I can’t tell, but as he finally takes control, I hear myself apologising. “I’m just a bit afraid of dogs when…” 

 “Well” he spoke assuredly, “This is a place of many dogs… So not the best place…” He stopped short. The words “for you” hung momentarily unspoken in the air between us, before drifting into the sky. 

My equilibrium quickly returns. “I think this is a place for everyone”.

I promptly dismissed the incident in my head. This was a decent enough guy, perhaps, interpreting my fear as dislike of his pet dog, and whose ill- manner, briefly, threw me off balance. 

Later I reflect on our shared gardens. How over 30 years I’ve seen changes in the ways we use these spaces; from strollers, tai chi practitioners and meditators to couples doing exercise, a place of refuge /sleep, to walkers, their dogs and more. Brightonians, while we not perfect, are generally open and accommodating to such diversity. 

Back home and with my writing. My mind has cleared. I reflect on belonging and inclusion during pandemic, front line workers finally recognised as essential, disabled people again fought for their lives, as others who are overlooked. I think about the incident in the park how it speaks to the theme of belonging in nature.  

I allowed myself feel the momentary blow, the impact of the spoken and unspoken atmosphere. The territorial claim over a green space, meant to be shared.  

I think about my childhood growing up in an institution that kept us separate from ordinary life and from nature itself, about how regularly my presence has been subject to question, often unwittingly, and at times blatantly. The impact on mental health, a collective experience for many struggling with the complexities of belonging re disability, class, ethnicity and more. Here there’s a gap in understanding of who can take belonging and inclusion for granted and those who don’t have that privilege.

I notice how my equilibrium more often returns quickly. How, I have found healing in nature itself. Walking the South Downs Way over 30 years gave me a feeling of belonging to the land as well as friendships here. Our parks are part of nature we long to protect. I experience Brighton as one of most open places in the South. During lock down, we saw some of our best qualities.  And like many cities we have our challenges. 

As we face more lock downs and use our communal spaces more, we are challenged to negotiate how we use, share, take care of them and each other. Many are fighting to enable people, animals and earth to breathe more easily, be protected, respected and enjoy belonging together in our precious green city.

West Hill Watch

Jim Gowans looks at heritage pubs and considers the cost of graffiti

IN THE LAST WHISTLER, reference was made to the three pubs included in the five locally listed heritage assets in West Hill conservation area: the Queen’s Head, the Royal Standard and the Grand Central.

The north façade of the Queen’s Head which greets visitors as they leave Brighton Station is not part of the original late 19th century design. The two highly decorative balconies and the elaborate mouldings at second floor level are, in fact, only eight years old. This façade was previously quite plain because when built, it was not exposed, being obscured by buildings which were subsequently demolished to widen the roads during the mid-20th century. 

The Royal Standard, a few yards further down Queen’s Road, is mentioned in street directories as early as 1859, but the current building seems to date from the late 19th century like the Queen’s Head. The Royal Standard owes its inclusion in the local list partly because of its red brick and stone design which is not typical of the area. 

The roofline is particularly interesting with its carved stone pediment flanked (originally) by two copper domed open turrets one of which remains. The single copper dome of the Grand Central pub is much more prominent and is a notably exuberant feature of what was the “baroque” style of the former Railway Hotel re- built in 1925 for Tamplins Brewery. 

The Regency Society’s James Gray collection (see picture and link) shows the hotel in about 1911 before the re-build. This hotel dates from the 1840s when it catered for travellers using the newly built railway terminus opposite.

http://regencysociety-jamesgray.com/volume31/source/jg_31_163.html

As its name implies this was a product of the Railway and it opened in the early 1840’s. The photograph, dating from 1911, shows it in its original form. In 1924 the Terminus Hotel, Queens Road and the Terminus Shades in Surrey Street were demolished, leaving the Railway Hotel in full view from the Station. Probably as a result of this, the Hotel was completely rebuilt, in its present form in 1925.

Clamping down on graffiti

THE BRIGHTON SOCIETY has led a campaign to force the police and the City Council to take a much less casual attitude to the scourge of graffiti and spray paint vandalism. 

In an online meeting hosted by the Brighton Society recently the deputy manager of Waitrose in Western Road revealed that his branch alone has been spending £12,000 per year removing graffiti and despite offering CCTV evidence to the police has yet to secure a prosecution. 

Examples of the police attitude include the case in 2019 of a “tagger” caught and held responsible for over 81 acts of spray paint vandalism. There was an outcry when the 22-year-old was given a caution with the condition he carry out a day’s “unpaid work” for the Council. 

The Council’s attitude is similarly un-reassuring when it allows its own tourism delivery unit “Visit Brighton” to sponsor an organisation whose un-authorised advertising used spray paint to advertise on pavements including those parts designated conservation areas. 

The City Council has published a 16 page “Graffiti Reduction Strategy 2018” and an online reporting system (which is only for graffiti on public property or “offensive” graffiti). Graffiti on private property should be reported directly to the police, preferably with a photo of the damage.

Peter Batten goes misty eyed and remembers his real East End 

MY FATHER’S FAMILY came from the Isle of Dogs, home of Millwal football club and the area of London portrayed in the TV soap, “East Enders”, but how true is that to the true East End? 

I grew up in a house which looked out on a very substantial street market. On the other side of the road there were market stalls and behind them a row of shops. Just at the end of the row was a pub called, The Queen Victoria. My grandmother would meet her friends there most evenings. Just before closing time she would toddle home clutching her nightcap, a small jug of brown ale. On our corner, two houses away, was a fish and chip shop, and  I can almost recapture the smell as I write these words. 

Just a few yards away the market became denser, with stalls on both sides of the road and many different shops. Activity began at about 6am, when some stalls had to be brought out and ended after 6pm. 

The street market I’ve described is typical of those inner London suburbs which grew up post 1850. They were active from Monday to Saturday, then on Sunday huge special markets took over, like the amazing Petticoat Lane (pictured) or the one I often visited just off Walworth Road. One of their special attractions was the sale of animals, which took up one or two side streets.

My memories of our market are based on the years 1938-1958. Each of the smaller local markets had a character of its own, but they all offered a diversity of goods and characters. Our market was known as “The Blue Anchor” after the pub which was at the heart of the market. It was older than the Queen Vic, a late Victorian pub, and an even younger pub, the Colleen Bawn. As a nosey child this name always irritated me. What did it mean? Only in the 1970s did I discover it was the title of a successful Victorian play by the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault. 

We had a small fleapit cinema, the Rialto, a small Woolworth’s, a bank, and a Co-op, built on the road which had been destroyed by bombs. The variety was amazing, with all kinds of goods and foodstuffs on sale. Immediately opposite our house was a greengrocer’s, so it was easy to nip across if we needed extra veg for a meal. Right behind was a German bakery called Griesbach. A little further away was a German pork butcher that sadly  closed in 1940. Among the more unusual offerings was Sarsparella, a red cordial sold by the glass from a barrel. 

As in Ben Jonson’s Elizabethan play, “Volpone” there was usually someone offering some miracle cure for all ailments. Sometimes there would be a crockery stall where you were encouraged to make an offer for plates  or a tea service, An allegedly ex-boxer stood with a set of scales offering to tell your weight. Someone called prince Monoloulou might come by offering to sell you betting tips.

Which reminds me. There is no illegal betting in East Enders. In my childhood it was going on all around me. “Runners” as they were called were quietly taking bets in every pub and every factory. Our elderly neighbour, Mr Westcar, found a handy way to add to his pension by running a small “Book”, as it was called. Just in case the police came calling, my mother explained to me, all his betting slips were pinned to the underside of his large kitchen table.

Such memories – and we still haven’t mentioned jellied eels.

(Pic: Andrew Dunn)  

…and you could be there. Andrew Polmear takes us to windswept, rugged Corbières for a fine glass of cool Castelmaure 

I don’t usually recommend specific bottles of wine, being more interested in writing about the principles behind why we enjoy drinking. And I’m especially interested in relating how a wine tastes to where it comes from, who makes it and what they do to it that makes it special. But there’s a bottle available as I write that illustrates those principles so well that I’m breaking my rule. It’s Les Hauts de Castelmaure 2018, from the Corbières in France and Majestic has it for £11.99. If they’ve sold out, the Scottish wine merchant Exel will post you a case for not much more.

I found out about it because Decanter magazine recently published the results of a tasting of 55 Corbières reds and the Castelmaure came equal top with 95 points out of 100. That’s the sort of score Bordeaux wines selling for over £30 a bottle would be pleased to have. The tasters found it rich and powerful with an aroma of black fruits, fine leather and soft spice. 

The Corbières is that windswept, rugged part of France between Narbonne and the Pyrenees bordering the Mediterranean coast. It’s dotted with ruined castles where the last of the Cathars held out against persecution in the 13th century and they’ve been making wine there since the Romans. The village of Embrès-et-Castelmaure is perched on a hilly plateau just 22 miles in from the sea. That’s the first clue as to why their wine is special. It’s so hot in the Corbières that it’s easy to make bland, blousy wine with grapes that have ripened too quickly. Castelmaure’s altitude in the foothills of the Serre mountain keeps them that bit cooler. 

The second clue is that the vineyards are steep and the soil arid – hopeless conditions for making lots of cheap wine, prefect for
wine of quality. The grapes have to be picked by hand and the
yield is inevitably low. And, to ensure that none of the wine growers aims for quantity rather than quality, the Co-op pays by the size of the vineyard, not by the weight of grapes grown. A low yield means that the flavours are concentrated.

Which brings us to the third clue: all wine made under the Castelmaure label (and there are cheaper Castelmaure wines than this one) comes from the village Co-operative: it’s what the village does. It helps that the actual winemaker, Bernard Pueyo, who has been there since 1983, is passionate about what he does. As he says on the label, the Co-op prefers to make wine with the flavours of the local “garrigue” rather than bother with the flim-flam (the word he uses in French is “falbalas”) of professional experts.

Then there’s the detail of how the wine is made. At least half of the grapes are fermented by carbonic maceration. This means the grapes are not crushed but allowed to break open as they ferment. It gives more flavour to the wine, especially with Carignan; and 20% of the grapes of this wine are Carignan, the rest being Syrah and Grenache. Then the wine is aged for 11 months in small oak barrels (“barriques”) as in Bordeaux. I don’t find that the wine tastes of oak (that’s an unmistakable vanilla flavour) but it’s the oak that permits the development of those flavours of leather and spice. 

Why have I gone into such detail? Because I find that understanding all those points adds hugely to my enjoyment of this gorgeous, rich and complex wine.

The sun’s shining, the birds are singing and OK, life’s still a bit odd but it’s the summer and, no matter what, we look for the positives. We’re going out now, it’s better. We can order in a restaurant and we can talk to the waiters and even if we can hear them we can’t understand what they’re saying because we’re all wearing facemasks – we are all wearing facemasks, aren’t we? But slowly life is getting back on track, and so in the next few weeks, if you find yourself in a pub garden and you see a bloke in a linen suit and straw hat, co-respondent shoes and red socks nursing a vodka and tonic… come up and say Hello.

And don’t forget – if you’ve got something to say, drop us a line. Join in. Life’s better that way. XX

Jed Novick

thewhistler1976@gmail.com

 

Join Alexia Lazou, Mistress of Line, on a gentle 90 minute stroll through Brighton, exploring the buildings and places associated with the early life of Brighton-born artist Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), famous for his innovative and provocative black and white illustrations. 12-20 Sept, various dates and times. Free but booking essential.

https://aubrey-beardsleys-brighton-tour.eventbrite.co.uk or phone 01273 698278

JUST BECAUSE YOU can’t go out doesn’t mean you can’t go out. Brighton Dome is putting on a series of livestreamed events with authors, actors and podcasters. The livestream events will take place from August to November 2020, with tickets on sale from Brighton Dome’s website. Best-selling American author and LGBTQ+ activist, Armistead Maupin appears in a special event with Sir Ian McKellen (Aug 12, pictured), Graham Norton (Sept 27) and Jay Rayner (Sept 4). 

Full event details and tickets from Brighton Dome website https://brightondome.org/whats_on/  

It’s The West Hill Tavern, but not as you know it. This family run independent has had a little freshen up and is now a “Cafe-Bar-Art space” open from 10.30am on weekdays offering a space to work, drink, meet and eat. A home-from-home on the hill, featuring work for sale from local artists and makers, Black Rock coffee, grilled sandwiches, homemade cakes, cocktails, free wifi and of course….beer. 

‘We’ve always had the community at the heart of what we do’ said Heather Pistor. ‘and like everyone, we’ve had to adapt. We’ve looked at the needs of our neighbours; the work-from-homers, the coffee catcher up’ers and those who just need a space during the day to sit and sip, or eat in a relaxed spacious environment. And we thought …we can provide this. 

‘We are, and always will be a pub, but in developing our new Pub Hub we’ve created a lovely space to eat, drink, work and play.’

If you’d like to book a table or showcase your own work, please mail: thewestiebn1@gmail.com. 

Follow them @thewesthilltavern

Tucked away in a terraced house perched on the slopes of the West Hill neighbourhood is housed one of Brighton’s – and possibly the UK’s, most impressive collections of reggae music. From top to bottom its walls bulge and strain with vinyl from every era – from ska and rocksteady in the 1960s, through 1970s roots reggae, right up to contemporary dancehall. It is all lovingly archived by John Masouri, who’s mission for over 30 years as one of the world’s foremost reggae music journalists, been to document the constant stream of creativity and musical innovation coming out of Jamaica.

John has been writing about Jamaican music since 1988 but his love for the music goes back to his upbringing in a working class area of Nottingham during the 1960s where he was introduced to ‘shabeens,’ also known as ‘blues parties’ – all  night house parties playing ska and early reggae on huge, neighbourhood-shaking sound systems.

Blues parties were like entering another universe. ‘You’d go in there, into these very small confined spaces, like in one of these two up two down terraced houses. And the music would be very loud, it would be very dark, just the light of the amplifier valves lighting up in the darkness.  The sweat, the condensation on the walls – and also the music.’

At that stage John had no idea the music would take him on an epic journey of a lifetime, it was just a place where the kids who didn’t fit in anywhere else felt at home. ‘I had no intention of playing the music or being involved with it at that time though, it was just purely to be there to soak in the atmosphere. It felt like a safe space, in essence.’

After a period working at the Tate Gallery in the early 1970s, John came down to live in Brighton in 1976 and helped to kickstart the city’s vibrant reggae scene, which still continues to thrive. ‘I loved Brighton ever since I first came down here on a visit. It just felt like this is where I wanted to be. When I moved down here, very quickly I went looking for reggae music and I went to this place called the Alhambra on the seafront, and people said that downstairs in the basement there was reggae music.’

The venue downstairs was known as The In Place and there he met and befriended Brighton’s now legendary first reggae sound system, King Tafari Love. ‘At the same time punk was happening, so there’d be punk upstairs at the Alhambra and reggae downstairs. There was the Top Rank Suite, the place where Dennis Brown and all these people would play, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs. That was a guy called Colin Matthews who worked at Brighton Art College, he was the promoter, he used to bring down a lot of those acts. Aswad, Misty In Roots, these people were always down here.’

In the early 1980s as a DJ John helped to bring the atmosphere of those early Nottingham shabeens he’d attended to Brighton (well Hove, actually) with support from one of the city’s most feared gangsters. ‘In those days I was playing with a sound system called Field Marshall Hi Fi. There were about five or six of us. But playing out was difficult, you needed places to play. And reggae music was never all that popular with proper venues, because of the crowds, because there were too many ganja smokers in the crowds, so that was always a constant factor. But then to our rescue came Nicholas Hoogstraaten who was Brighton’s notorious landlord.

Hoogstraaten would give us these basement flats. He’d say ‘you can play in here and do whatever you like’ and he’d charge us some money like a hire fee and then he’d come and collect it at about three in the morning and he’d sweep in with his big long coat and his ‘assistants’ and they’d take the money.’ Frequent visitors down from London would be visiting MCs over from Jamaica such as Mikey Dread and Barrington Levy.

Talking about those early Shabeens John remembers, ‘we all had young children, so the children would come to the blues parties so we’d put mattresses down in a room upstairs and they’d all pile in there when they got tired and go to sleep. We’d have ‘ital’ (Jamaican for ‘wholesome’) food, jerk chicken and all of that, of course Red Stripe and Heineken to buy there, it was totally illegal of course. We charged about two pounds on the door or something, some token amount on the door an then was selling food and drinks, they were great social occasions. It went on for several years.’

John’s son Felix grew up in that atmosphere, which eventually led him to take up his father’s mantle. ‘He started at the age of four. We would set up the sound system gear and he absolutely loved it, he would chat on the mic in the warm up. I have a cassette with him aged 4 chatting on a mic, all nonsense. But he loved the experience of being around it. I could trust him putting on records, putting on vinyl from a very early age, he had this respect for the whole process. He loved the music, we used to nurse him to sleep to reggae music when he was a baby.’ Now in his 40s, Felix started his own dancehall reggae night at the Volks when he was just 19, playing the latest fresh sounds from Jamaica every week.

He continues to work as a live music promoter with his company Global Beats, who have brought such acts to Brighton as Mykal Rose, Yellowman, Eek-A-Mouse, Horace Andy, Kobaka Pyramid, Jah 9, Morgan Hertiage, Misty In Roots as well as Public Enemy and Roy Ayers. ‘His contribution to the Brighton reggae scene is very much greater than mine because he’s put on so many club nights and he’s put on so many artists,’ says John.

The pair now work together on a radio show on Brighton’s community station 1BTN FM with an emphasis on new sounds coming out of Jamaica. ‘We decided to do a show called Run The Track for 1BTN that showcases contemporary music. We rarely play anything that’s older than a couple of years and most of what we play is just a few months old. Mainly roots and vocal music. But its nice that father son thing. I enjoy doing the shows with him a lot and I learn a lot from him.’

John continues to write about reggae music. Simmer Down is his book about the about the pre-fame early days of Bob Marley and the Wailers in the 1960s published on his own Jook Joint Press. Steppin’ Razor: The Life Of Peter Tosh (Omnibus Press) is the first full length biography of the former Wailer and revolutionary firebrand. Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers (Ominbus) is about the post-Marley Wailers, brilliantly documenting the legal wranglings of his group after Marley’s death. Look out for Felix and John’s shows on 1BTN FM.

John Masouri is now embarking on a series of anthologies curated from over 30 years of writing about Jamaican music entitled Reggae Chronicles, published via his own independent Jook Joint Press imprint. The first of these is Rebel Frequency: Jamaica’s Reggae Revival, which focuses on writings from the previous decade, up to and including 2019. This will be followed later this year with The Marley Files: One Foundation, a look at Bob Marley’s legacy since his death, featuring in-depth interviews with Damien, Stephen and Ziggy Marley. They can be purchased direct from johnmasouri.com

Adam Reeves 

HAVE YOU HEARD of “The Bird”? Charlie Parker, known as “Bird”, was a very great alto saxophonist and the major creative force in the jazz style known as Bebop. During WW2 he became widely admired and then idolised, in the United States, for his fantastic ability as an improviser. When that War ended his fame and the jazz style called Bebop immediately spread around the World. The effects of that explosion are still felt today. Here in Brighton jazz is enjoying a new surge of interest. Although the musicians and their music have a healthy variety, an influence from the Bebop era can be felt everywhere.

But Bebop wasn’t the only jazz style to emerge from WW2. Something very different was born, – and much of it was hatched outside the United States. No jazz of any recognisable style began before 1900. Then the early “traditional” style began to be played, most obviously In New Orleans. 

More bands appeared, recording began in earnest and the centre moved from New Orleans to Chicago. By 1927 this early style, based on the interplay of trumpet, clarinet and trombone reached its peak. It then began to disappear back into clubs and bars. Very few young black musicians were interested in this style. They quickly took up their places in the new “Big Bands”. [Do not forget that racism in the USA meant that until well into the 1940s Big Bands were either white or black] 

What happened in WW2 was a surprise. In Holland, France, in the UK, in Eastern Europe, in Australia, amateur jazz bands, often of self-taught musicians, began to attempt to play in what they believed was an early and purer style of jazz, unspoilt by the commercialism which dominated the “Swing” era from 1935. 

In 1943 a pianist, George Webb, living in South-East London decided to relieve the gloom of the Blitz by forming a small jazz band. Its fame soon spread. In Nottinghamshire two enthusiasts who knew a great deal about the early history of jazz, James Asman and Bill Kinnell, had begun publishing a magazine to encourage interest in the origins of the music. They were very encouraged by the success of “George Webb’s Dixielanders” and promoted the band through concerts and commercial recordings. As the number of fans and other bands grew, musicians such as Humphrey Lyttleton and Chris Barber for example  – came on the scene. 

Then something awful happened for two reasons. The first was a lack of decent pianos, or any pianos at all. The second was a shortage of pianists able to play in the traditional style AND fit into a rhythm section which was supposed to swing. The result was the emergence of a very successful band led by Chris Barber without a pianist. The rhythm section was dominated by the banjo of Lonnie Donegan. Through no fault of his, and almost without noticing it, the band began to play with a kind of rhythm which bore little relation to early jazz. It also promoted a strange kind of jerky jazz dance which became very popular. Several other bands were infected. Then, somehow, this aberration became a total disaster. Someone more in touch than me can possibly give a date to it. I think it began in 1957, when Acker Bilk arrived in town and his band started a trend for uniforms which others quickly adopted. Soon there were bands dressed as cowboys, gamblers, waiters, city gents. Somehow this trend embraced the Banjo dominated music to become a monster. British “Trad” was born. There was immediate commercial success. The traditional jazz started by George Webb had become a major part of British popular music. Suddenly it inflated to become this ugly monster with little musical merit and no resemblance to the early jazz by which it claimed to be inspired. 

In 1962 there was a film about it, “That’s Trad, Dad” but, as is often the case, the film was too late. The monster really had no substance and would not have sustained popular interest for very long. It was swept aside by the Beatles and the Stones and a whole new music driven by great energy and imagination. The music begun by George Webb was able to return to the care of semi-professional musicians in the back rooms of local pubs.

Peter Batten

WHERE WERE YOU when Lockdown eased? It’ll be one of those questions that people will ask for years to come, but unlike the moments that stopped in your tracks when Elvis died, when we crossed into a new millennium, when you got your first mobile phone, you’ll probably remember the end of Lockdown as the night you stayed in. Again. 

We went to the pub, the Ram Inn at Firle, a treat of a country pub, far enough away from the madding crowd but full, we hoped, of cheerful locals raising a glass. But what to wear? Patterned cloth mask or Boots’ whitest? Gloves: blue plastic or a pastichey yellow Marigold perhaps?  

By the time you read this, you’ll gasp at the answer. Reader, we were naked.  Well, our faces were anyway. And we weren’t alone. No-one, not our friends who sat opposite us unaware of the aerosol potential of a leaky laugh, or the staff wore anything to hide our wide smiles at the sheer joy of leaving the house. 

But my vision of a delightful feast in the company of fellow foodies, was less of a warm hug and more of a socially distanced ankle rub. There was more room at the Inn than any needy traveller could have dreamed of that night. The 4th of July went out with less of a bang and more of a whimper.

By the time The Whistler hits the streets, we’ll know more about the impact of that lacklustre welcome back to the locals. The wheat will have been sorted from the chaff and the redundancies will be strewn over the pavements like butt ends after a Friday night in the old days. Or maybe not. 

Across Brighton, the gourmet scene was booked solid. Steven Edwards at etch. in Hove (beautiful plate pictured below) was ready to set off the fireworks on July 4th with not one but two openings. His new restaurant, The Bingham Riverhouse in Richmond had only just launched when Lockdown closed its doors in March, but the 2013 winner of  MasterChef: The Professionals reports both restaurants are back and firing on all cylinders. 

Brighton Restaurants have compiled an up to date list of the Brighton restaurants which are bravely marching on. 

Do them a favour and don a mask, wash your hands and head down to your local pub or restaurant, or if you can’t leave home just yet, order a take-away. What would Brighton be without its food scene? What would life be without a pub?

Gilly Smith

http://www.gillysmith.com

SO SLEEP IS BECOMING a bit of an issue at the moment for many people. It is horrible not to be able to fall asleep, because your mind is out of control or waking up again in the early hours and not being able to go to sleep. Stress and anxiety are contributing hugely to this current issue of insomnia. To be able to go to sleep the brain needs to switch to the relaxed alpha state as opposed to being in the busy beta brain state. How do we get into that state? Meditation and relaxation techniques are key to calming ourselves down. We need sleep to function properly as lack of sleep will also compromise our body systems including the immune system. According to the Chinese Medicine body clock, waking up between 3 and 5 am is likely to do with adrenal exhaustion or between 1 and 3 am indicates the liver might be struggling for example. 

There are many reasons why we don’t sleep well so the key is to get to the root cause of the problem. Here are some other tips to get a better night sleep.

Avoid caffeine after 3pm. It is a stimulant and can take a long time to be eliminated from the body.

Alcohol, even though it can make us feel sleepy it tends to wake us up again in a couple of hours and it is difficult to go to back to sleep again.

Large meals in the evening should be avoided as they might promote a high insulin release which might lead to low blood sugar which then releases adrenaline into the blood stream and that would often wake us up and we might struggle to fall asleep again. 

Add more tryptophan foods into your diet. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin (the happy hormone which also helps us sleep). Include fish, legumes, avocado, bananas in your diet. A little bit of banana or an oat cake with a little avocado before bed could be beneficial.

Make sure your diet contains enough Magnesium as it is the nature’s tranquilliser, and finding a good Magnesium supplement might also help.

Aim to go to bed earlier 22.30 -23.00 and try not to use phones or computers two hours before bedtime.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by
the pineal gland in the brain which
regulates our sleep wake cycle. To help
our body to make more melatonin
naturally, get out in the sunshine
during the day and at night sleep in a dark room. Bright lights inhibit the release of melatonin.  

Exercise regularly as this can often improve sleep patterns, but do not exercise too late as this could be stimulating for the body.

Reducing stress levels is key – meditation and yoga are great tools to help achieve this.

Helena Taylor

Book a free 20-minute call to discuss stress, female health and hormonal balance and how I might support you on your journey to optimal health.
Email: helena@nutritiouspantry.co.uk, http://www.nutritiouspantry.co.uk.

Undoubtedly, one thing we will always associate with the year 2020 is the frequent use of certain words within our vocabulary: Lockdown, frontline, pandemic, social distancing. All as a result of the emergence of the Coronavirus. However, these are certainly not exclusive to this period.

As an aged former chorus girl, “The Frontline” holds a particular significance for me, and surely this was never better illustrated than in the Drury Lane production of Marvin Hamlisch’s memorable musical “Chorus Line.”

As the story of each potential member of the cast is revealed, from the initial audition period, the audience is invited to peep backstage to learn of the hardships that every aspiring dancer faces, in his or her quest to become part of the chorus line. The arduous training, the constant physical demands, the competition, the disappointments, the sacrifices, the crushed egos. And then, the terrifying auditions and the endless rehearsals.

No wonder the show was such a success. Throughout time the romance of the life behind the scenes has fascinated theatregoers all over the World. There’s the story of “The love of the Seven Dolls”, “Applause Applause”.  The songs: “Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage Mrs Worthington”, “Life Upon the Wicked Stage”, “Broadway Baby.” The list is endless. And who is not moved by the tragedians: Judy Garland, Dusty Springfield, Norma Desmond?

And yet… would we performers have it any other way? No… For we worship at the feet of the God Dionysus. We are driven like addicts. We are unstoppable.

Great riches for us are not to be found in financial wealth. We often work for no money, and we accept periods of unemployment. Of course, the adulation of an adoring public is paramount, and we need to be rewarded for our work, but even without it, we continue until we drop. Let’s face it… even when the heat in the kitchen is overwhelming, we sweat it out.

Moreover, though you may not believe it, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. The camaraderie within the world of make believe is surely not found in any other profession.  I have often thought, that just as we undress physically to provide the blank canvas we need to don the garments necessary for our new character, so is the baring we must do in the rehearsal room from day one, in order to seek out and inhabit our new identity. And perhaps that is what bonds us. The former is easy rather like the icing on the cake. The latter is far more demanding. Exposing the self, to make mistakes and wrong decisions again and again in front of other performers, takes great courage. Such vulnerability inevitably gives rise to a myriad of moods such as fear, anger, loss of confidence, and all those emotions we do not readily share, other than with our family and close friends.

There is a saying in the theatre that “what goes on tour, stays on tour.” Of course, this refers to naughty liaisons, but perhaps we should add, “what goes on in the rehearsal room stays in the rehearsal room.” (meaning the revealing of self under stress!).

But come… enough of this serious talk. Where is the laughter, (on stage known as corpsing), when things do not go according to plan?

A few examples.

In the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, members of the chorus joined and left, at different times throughout the year, and rehearsals for newcomers were both chaotic and inadequate. It was terrifying. So much so, that my best friend, on her first performance in ‘The Mikado’, on a superb newly designed set, threw up all over it with nerves. Not funny of course, but it was in the same production that I did witness the best ever corpse.

In Act 2, all the ladies in the company had to kneel with their backs to the audience in homage to the grand entrance of the Mikado himself, moving aside at the end of his aria. It was on one such performance that, as we all rose, one girl stood up, leaving an egg in her place as if she had just laid it. That in itself was funny, but it then rolled back and forth across the stage. Hilarious, and of course, it was impossible to keep a straight face. She was only able to do this as she was leaving the company the following week. She would otherwise have been sacked instantly. But what a way to go!

Another memorable occasion, was during a performance of the play “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”.

The penultimate scene was a sword fight, in which the leading actor was slain. The RSC set for this play was simple, and effective, consisting, amongst other things, of a 30 foot dresser, from which miles of white muslin drapes cascaded to the floor and out to the boxes at either side of the stage. And, because it was lit by real candles, it was necessary to have a fireman backstage throughout. As I, and the other two female actresses, waited for our entrance, the audience began to laugh. We could not see onto the set, but the laughter continued. It was only after our entrance that we learnt the reason why. Apparently, the drapes had caught fire. The fireman had fallen asleep in the wings, and so the dead protagonist was forced into a swift reincarnation to extinguish the flames with his sword.

And one more: Willy Russell’s wonderful musical “Blood Brothers.” This is the tragic story of twins who are separated at birth. One lives with his middle-class mother, the other on a nearby council estate. They meet, and at the end of the play, tragically die simultaneously.  One shooting his twin, at the very moment that the police arrive to shoot the other. The Police would storm through the auditorium with their guns, and as the two boys lay dead on the stage, the rest of the cast would enter for the finale. Hardly a dry eye in the house at this point. However, on two consecutive nights, just as we heard the gunshots, the audience broke out into laughter. On the first occasion, we learnt, after the performance, that as the policemen had made their entrance, two members of the audience, thinking that that was a raid, immediately grabbed their coats and belongings and rose to leave. Even funnier apparently, was when they recognised that it was part of the play, and so had to sit down again.

The next evening, at exactly the same point, the audience broke into laughter once more. This time, as we made our way onto the stage, we noticed that lying between the two dead brothers was a third body. Obviously, a member of the audience. Somehow, we managed to complete the show without breaking down completely. However, as the two boys stood up to take their bows, the imposter stayed prostate on the ground. Eventually, the company manager had to come on stage to remove him. Why was he there? He told us that he was so overwhelmed by the story, that he felt compelled to jump onstage to die alongside them.

There are endless anecdotes like this, some funny, some dreadful… But that’s another story!

Kate Dyson

 

 

ALTHOUGH DELAYED BY the Covid crisis, Brighton and Hove City Council are planning to conduct a review of the Local List of Heritage Assets – a list of local buildings, monuments, and other sites such as parks which may not be of sufficient national importance to warrant their inclusion in the Statutory List which is maintained by Historic England (formerly English Heritage), but may nevertheless be valued for their contribution to the character of the local area or for their local historical associations. 

The last review in 2015 resulted in five buildings or structures within the West Hill Conservation Area being included in this Local List. The five comprise (rather remarkably) three pubs, one chapel and one set of petrol pumps! The pubs are the Royal Standard, the Queen’s Head and the Grand Central (more of which in a later article) and the chapel is the Providence chapel in West Hill Road (pictured below). The petrol pumps are outside 19A Bath Street and date from the early 1950s. These pumps, which are unfortunately lacking their original advertising “Shellmex” globes, are of historic interest as part of one of the first (if not the first) petrol stations in Brighton. 

The host building is a 19th century residential property which was greatly altered in the 20th century to allow the ground floor to be used as a petrol station and garage. The chapel in West Hill road was built in 1894-6 by architect Charles Hewitt as the Nathaniel Episcopal Reformed Church. Acquired by a Strict Baptist congregation in 1965, it was renamed Providence Chapel before being re-opened in 2013 as the West Hill Baptist Chapel. 

Its architectural style and red brick are a pleasing contrast with the (mostly) white painted rendered facades of the surrounding streets, whilst its sympathetic scale and unpretentious design all contribute to its being a valuable local heritage asset. 

If any readers of the Whistler wish to suggest additions to the local list, please send them to the editor. Do bear in mind that a number of buildings and structures in the West Hill area are already nationally listed, the most notable being Brighton Station which is Grade II.  

We in Australia are watching the UK’s economic reopening with interest as it mirrors the one here, especially as pubs and second waves are concerned.

So while Leicester is once again isolated, Melbourne has locked down nine vertical cruise liners, sorry – tower blocks – to try and staunch yet another community outbreak; but this time to much criticism from opposition politicians and the fury of residents who had two hours notice of their five-day quarantine, regardless of whether they have a job or not…

And soon the border between Victoria and New South Wales will be closed for the first time in a hundred years to try and eradicate this stubborn virusy thing – but we already know that humanity has a short fuse when it comes to personal freedoms (hello Texans!) and corona virus is not going to disappear by magic (hello Donald!), so that many more Bournemouth beach incidents might occur over the next few months while scientists try and create then manufacture a vaccine.

Meantime, so many publicist demagogues (Donald again; Vladimir, Jair, Xi, Boris, Recep for starters) are unashamedly willing our economic resurgence even in the teeth of increasing infections…no matter that this is precisely the time to stay at home and let our governments become socialist missionaries as they subsidise all of us recently unemployed until we get out the other side, ready to restore our capitalist economies.

With the cost of borrowing just a tad over zero percent for governments, our currently vast national debts will be relatively easily paid off from even modest growth, once it resumes.

Albeit in a world significantly different to our pre-Covid version, with social distancing, track n trace, frequent lockdowns n quarantines – not to mention fewer international students and flights, ocean cruises, tourism generally, hugging n kissing and even mass gatherings… except maybe at the local, where the UK police aver social distancing and excess alcohol are mutually exclusive: even I coulda told ‘em that!!!

Justin Simpson 

IT SEEMS ONLY MOMENTS after concluding my last article, and entreating our erstwhile readers to enjoy the sun, that the settled spell of quasi-Mediterranean weather turned considerably more like Scandinavia, than Cote d’Azur. Maybe I’ll keep off the weather, and stick to matters monetary, for a while. I last wrote of our not really knowing what was going on, and how the future would pan out. I would like to think that we have a little more of an idea now, although things are far from over, in your writer’s humble opinion.

It is fair to say that we have made great progress in the fight against Covid-19 and things are starting to look considerably more positive than a couple of months ago. That said, by the time your noble Whistler hits your letterbox, we could easily have experienced an increase of cases, as Leicester has, as the reopening of pubs and other social areas have brought people together (and the odd bits of sunshine, have brought crowds to the beaches).

Economically, we still have a long way to go. I fear that there will be plenty of pain for us to endure, over the forthcoming year or so, even if things go well. It is looking increasingly like there will be a No Deal Brexit, with all the ramifications that may come with that scenario, and the fallout from the pandemic, may be with us for a long time after the virus itself has been consigned to history.

I said last time, that I thought some companies and markets had been oversold, and that seems to have been true. By way of an example, at the time of writing, Halfords share price has risen by 31% since the battering it received in mid-March and the FTSE100 index is up by some 20% over roughly the same time.

The price of gold has gone up since the troubles hit, as it has long been used as a hedge against uncertain financial conditions, with iShares Gold Producers ETF up by some 60% in the same period. But volatility has returned with a vengeance as the markets try to come to grips with the potential outcomes of the virus, economically, socially and geographically. To use the Halfords example again, at one point during the last four months, the share price had nearly quadrupled after having fallen by over 75% in the preceding months, but has dropped by some 20% in the last week or so.

I’ve recently spent time advising friends and clients as to what they can do, to help them to get through these difficult times. Clearly, there are some that will have been unaffected by the virus both medically and financially, but many people have suffered. Consider the Self Employed Income Support Scheme if you haven’t already, and there is a second tranche due.

Small businesses can access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, where the Government will support a loan from a panel of lenders, from £2,000 up to 25% of the business turnover (or £50,000 whichever is less) over 6 years, with no repayments due in the first 12 months. The interest rate is only 2.5% p.a. As an individual, you could consider using a mortgage payment holiday to enable you to repay more expensive borrowing, like credit cards or overdrafts (remember that overdraft interest rates, are due to soar). Individual circumstances will dictate what is suitable, however, as one size does not fit all.

Stay safe, stay well and keep your fingers crossed for no second spike.

David Foot