Archive for the ‘Brighton Life’ Category

We end our series where we ask the owners of local businesses what they think about being part of the community in the Seven Dials / West Hill area. Unsurprisingly, most of them yearn for an improvement in the parking situation and an overwhelming percentage think that business rates could be much fairer. Every one of the businesses love the community in which they are based.

Please write to The Whistler and let us know what you like most about living in this area and your improvement suggestions.

Yvonne Parks Hair Stylist has been a West Hill fixture since 1961. Yvonne Harman and second-in-command Susan Gail have been gently perming and cutting in Gloucester Road for a generation and more. Yvonne was first attracted to the area because she “liked the village feel about it. Whole families became our clients, and our friends.” West Hill is a “gateway to so many places, near to the railway station and the buses.” (more…)

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Ayla Lepine

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We’re always pleased to receive contributions for The Whistler. We’d like to be able to thank the person who sent in these three vignettes, but they were too shy to leave a name with their hand-written note. So, for the moment we will just call them A. Resident.


No, not new glasses for all! The Council has bought new, large, black rubbish bins in Compton Avenue and the Powis Square area. Have you seen them yet? This throws up a problem, which can they answer, even with advice on the outside, how are they going to monitor who puts what in the bins? I have witnessed (and reported) one of the collection crew throw bottles into an incorrect black bin. And how is the Council going to recycle the old, replaced bins? In the recycling bins? Now, there’s a thought! (more…)

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Like many Brighton residents we have enjoyed the Artists’ Open Houses in previous Brighton Festivals: meeting artists, admiring and, sometimes, loving their art, and – I will be honest – indulging our nosiness to see inside other people’s homes. But this year, for the first time, it was our home that others visited. We were an ‘Artist’s Open House’, or, more accurately, an Artist’s Open Third Floor Flat, for our daughter to show her paintings. We had little idea quite what an experience it would turn out to be . . . (more…)

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It is some months since long-term resident of Guildford Road,  June McCullough, died and we could not let her passing go unmarked in the pages of The Whistler. These memories of June were originally written in 2003 by another West Hill stalwart, Pam Bean.  

June grew up in Southsea and always knew that she wanted to work with dogs, helping out at a dogs’ beauty parlour while she was still at school. The business was bombed so the owners moved to Hove. June joined them when she left school. Just before she was 18, June went to the Oddfellows Hall in Queens Road, Brighton, to volunteer to join the RAF, but only if she could be a driver. The recruiting officer said she was too short, and she should come back in 2 years (having grown taller?). However, June’s persistence and enthusiasm persuaded the officer that she had grown three and a half inches, and the next week she as a WAF. (more…)

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A BIG thank you to everyone who came to our recent talk ‘Herstories: Women, Popular Culture and History’ given by Dr Louise Fitzgerald from Brighton University. We hope that you found the talk interesting; indeed, unbelievable in parts, as to how the contribution of women filmmakers, particularly in the early part of the 20th century, has been virtually erased from cinematographic history.

Our next talk is on Tuesday 10 October with Sarah Tobias, an entertaining lecturer in cultural, local and social history. She will be presenting ‘Hidden history of Brighton’s parks and gardens – the history of pleasure grounds and green spaces C18th-20th.’

Doors open at 7pm for 7.30pm start – the talk is scheduled to last for approximately one hour. £4 entrance fee and refreshments are available.

We look forward to welcoming you to West Hill Hall.


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Sally May

Sally May, 25 March 1950 – 5 February 2017

A quarter of a century ago, in a Brighton that now seems gone from us forever, an intrepid soul, Sally May (pictured) opened a second hand bookshop at Seven Dials, not a particularly fashionable area of town in those days. To the right of her shop on Dyke Road was a grubby International Stores where the best-selling line seemed to be breakfast in a tin. To the left was a traditional fish and chip shop. Toilet facilities were provided in a brick hut down an alleyway overwhelmed with vegetation that Sally quickly christened Ivy Cottage.

I was delighted to have a bookshop on my doorstep and soon my day was incomplete without calling in at The Bookmark. With her typically impulsive kindness Sally soon promoted me from the status of customer to friend.

Any quick and simple errand around the Dials to get fags or a pint of milk was now impossible. Somehow or other I’d find myself three hours later crouched with Sally over an antique oil radiator at the back of the shop, happily absorbed in The Guardian cryptic crossword.

From time to time we’d be interrupted by one of the regular customers, many of them baptised with fond or not-so-fond nicknames.

Boring Reg would drop in with his trolley. He was rumoured to have a mail-order bride at home but we never saw her. Then Slightly-Less-Boring Reg (no relation) might pass by. Day after day Muddled Marge would put her head around the door to ask, “Do you sell postage stamps?”

Another challenging customer was Steve, the Rock-n-Roll Vole. Dressed head to foot in black, he would stand and mutter at his suede shoes. We could never quite piece together what fascinating observations he might have been communicating.

An aged spiritualist was named Mrs Moth for her habit of appearing suddenly at the window late on winter afternoons, peering into the lighted shop from the twilight outside, her pale raincoat flapping.

A tiny man with a halo of candyfloss hair and a similarly wispy little dog tucked under his arm came in to ask for anything by Catherine Cookson. He was known ever after as Mister Fluff. We liked to imagine that he had been a chorus boy although he can never have been tall enough for that role.

Best of all was the man who came in one day and said very slowly, all in one breath,
Do-You-Have-Any-Books-About-Boats-That-Sank-To-The-Bottom-Of-The-Sea? Disappointed, he turned away and, sadly, was never seen again.

All good things come to an end and so it was at The Bookmark. At the turn of the century the clip-clip of the shiny shoes of estate agents was heard up and down the street. The newsagent, the cobbler, the ironmonger disappeared one by one. The Coma Café, where grey men had slumped over the Racing Post became, apparently overnight, a sushi restaurant.

In 2003 Sally, recognising the spores of gentrification in the air, sold the shop to a property developer, and Seven Dials died a little death.

But for me that small stretch of Dyke Road will forever belong to Sally and will always be haunted by her wheezing exuberant laugh.

Tom Sargant


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