Sunday, April 30, 2006

Festival preview

The Spiegeltent is here, the Ladyboys of Bangkok tent once again adorns that bit that's not the Old Steine but isn't as far up as St Peter's Church (what is that road called?) and it's only 6 days until the 40th Brighton Festival, the Festival Fringe and Artists' Open Houses kick off.

I plan to update this blog more regularly during the festival, although I am away for most of the first week of the fest.

Below are a few of the events that I plan to see; going on past years this means that I'll actually see about a third of them. If only work didn't get in the way and money was no object!

Stories In Motion- 2 musicians and 2 cult novelists (Irvine Welsh and Chuck Palahniuk) combine to create stories through words, music and visuals. This could either be wonderful or terrible. Just booked a ticket.

Toumani Diabete's Symmetric Orchestra and Cheikh Lo- would love to see this pairing of two huge world music artists, dependent on if I actually have any money left at the end of the festival though.

Richard E. Grant giving a talk in the Books and Debate section of the festival.

I would love to see Groupe F's 'The Light Players' but won't be around on that day. Sounds amazing though.

Every May there are also dozens of offbeat tours looking at Brighton through past events and specific themes. This one gets marks just for the title: Desperate Fishwives.

There are plenty of art and photo exhibitions all over town. I like the sound of Murmuration at Embassy Court.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Western Road- the Real Patisserie

This place has been open for six months or so, maybe longer. It's only recently that I've started wandering up there on a Saturday morning, and it's a little slice of sophisticated French heaven. (Run by real French people, authenticity always helps).

At the moment they have a window display of Easter treats and little chicks hung on branches from the florist down the road. Everything is freshly baked each day, wonderful savoury and sweet tarts, so reasonably priced compared to the chain bakery two doors down (this place seems to be stealing all their custom and it's not hard to see why!).

They sell Orangina in the proper dimpled glass bottles, freshly filled baguettes, chocolate gateaux which looks to die for. In short, it just has that je ne sais quoi which makes a little place so special.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I haven't had the time or the inclination to update here much lately. I have a couple of posts half written, but I like to check the facts before I post something with a historical basis.

Expect a few posts in the next couple of days.

I'm also planning to make this a Festival blog during the month of May- the odd review, an overview of what's going on, whatever takes my fancy. Festival time is my favourite time of year, and I can't wait.

I also want to give a plug to this blog which is fantastic: Brighton Daily Photo

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

you haven't seen me, right?

I'm currently in Vilnius which is blowing me away. You can read more about my trip at my other blog here:

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Out Of Town edition part 2

Ok, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for this...
I'm off on holiday for a few days.

Friday, February 24, 2006

5 Food Challenges for 2006

I've been tagged by the sassy Ms Y to come up with 5 food challenges for the year. I'm going to try and relate a little to the theme of this blog, so here goes.

1) Eat a proper breakfast. I am so bad at this- I take fruit to eat on the way but I just don't feel like eating at 7am!

2) Go to this farmer's market every month: Farmer's Market

I will write a post on this place one day, because there are some great characters running stalls there, not to mention the variety of freshly made local produce itself!

3) Eat out again more at Terre A Terre
Try out Seven Dials.

4)Make more soups and smoothies.

5) Shop at Taj more often; an incredible,around the world in 800 products bazaar of a place. They don't have a website- I will get some pics up here one day soon!

Trying to find someone to tag who hasn't already done this. I'll tag Kage and Em.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

5Streets- Out of Town edition

We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you a report from the East Sussex countryside. Don't worry, normal service will resume shortly.

Ok, when I said the countryside, I was lying. We will get there by way of the countryside, but this post is actually about a town in Sussex.

I tend to write about places that interest me; often they are places that I love. In the interests of bringing a bit of light and shade, I'm going to post about a place that I don't like. I have tried to like this place, I've looked for quirky corners or cool shops/cafes, but it just hasn't worked. It's really not a winter place, which may explain the way I feel about it right now.

Friday, February 17, 2006

City Books- Western Road

I find it hard to explain exactly what it is I love about City Books. It's just a small neighbourhood bookstore, but it's quirky and charming, and puts on book signings and chances to meet authors who actually have something interesting or sometimes controversial to say. When I bought my boyfriend a hardback copy of 'Himalaya' the Christmas before last, I was very chuffed to see that it was signed by Palin himself, and really disappointed to learn I'd missed his book signing in the store a few days earlier.
It's all crammed together with little stacks of books everywhere and tempting offers to catch your eye. It never feels pressurised or hard-sell in the way that Waterstones or Borders do to me.

Western Road

I'm cheating slightly by taking this road, as it's over a mile long, running from the centre of Brighton in the East to the fringes of Hove in the West. It might not seem an obvious choice; not particularly pretty, full of ugly, tatty shops at the town centre end and choked with bus fumes in places. Still, persistance can pay off sometimes...
I'll be doing this road in stages, starting from the Hove end.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brighton revisited

This is an article I wrote back in 2004, for a monthly travel newsletter that used to be produced by some folks from the Women Travellers board on the Thorn Tree forum. Sadly the newletter is no more, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to republish it here.

'Here, on the border between land and sea, in the sea frets and the
summer haze, reality hovered slightly off the ground'
Nigel Richardson, 'Breakfast In Brighton'

One of my first memories of Brighton was coming to visit a friend before I moved here. On the way back from a party, we turned a corner to come across the startling and unexpected sight of what appeared to be an Indian palace laid out before us, its' minarets and cupolas illuminated against the night sky. Bemused by this sudden apparition, the friend revealed that this was the Royal Pavilion, built for the Prince Regent by Henry Holland and John Nash and completed in 1822. George IV, dilettante, bon viveur and general all round eccentric sparked a Brighton tradition of daring to be different that still lights up the town today.
Brighton's origins lay in the fishing village of Brighthelmstone. Fishermen used to dry their nets on the Steine every afternoon, until the unmistakable smell started to offend the delicate sensibilities of the visitors from London who began to appear in the 19th century.
The Lanes best reflect the heritage of this time, with their narrow mazy streets, now home to antique stores, jewellers and even an armoury shop. The area is decidedly more upscale than the neighbouring North Laine, but in a distinctly Brighton way.
The fishing boats have long since been moved out to the Marina on the edge of town, but you can visit the small Fishing Museum on the seafront, where you can buy fresh fish, seafood and hot spicy fish soup with a chunk of bread, perfect for a winter's day. You may even chance across an upturned boat outside the Sailing Club, if you happen to visit on one of those windswept wintry days when the wind whips along the seafront (and renders umbrellas completely useless).
The transformation of Brighton from simple fishing village into fashionable seaside resort was bought about by two factors: the apparent 'cure-all' properties of seawater and the desire for a warmer winter retreat for the aristocrats of the Regency era. The vision of architect Charles Busby can be observed in several places along the seafront of Brighton and Hove.
Brunswick Square and the neighbouring Palmeira Square were designed to echo the Regency architecture of well-to-do London whilst offering what today's real estate agents describe as 'stunning sea views'. Stroll along the seafront from Brighton and, as you pass into Hove, you will be rewarded with a view of one of the most impressive Regency estates in the country. Looking at the sun reflecting off the windows of the buttermilk facades, it's hard to believe that the local council were seriously considering pulling the whole square down in the 1940s.
Brighton is a good place for simply wandering around aimlessly, stopping occasionally for a coffee. One of my favourite places to do this is the Clifton Hill/Seven Dials area. Walking up the hill from the bland commercialism of Western Road, streets filled with ice-cream coloured houses lead up past antique stores, where seemingly business thrives despite the evident lack of customers. Walk further and you will find yourself in the heart of the Clifton Hill Conservation Area, a warren of white stuccoed houses, verandas and unexpected garden squares. Seven Dials is also home to a number of good bars and restaurants, but being slightly removed from the town centre, it retains a real neighbourhood feel.

Brighton for free

Brighton is one of those places where there are limitless possibilities for free entertainment if you open your eyes a little. These are only a few suggestions, but the pleasure is always in chancing across your own entertainment.
Undoubtedly the best time to be entertained for free, or at least very little, is during the Brighton Festival. Second only to the Edinburgh Festival, this month long event in May kicks off with the Children's Parade, encompasses an excellent street theatre weekend, 'Streets of Brighton', and gives access to over a hundred artists' work for free in the Open House weekends. The Festival, Festival Fringe and separate Brighton Fringe Festival are packed with music, theatre and spoken word events, bringing many world-renowned names to our small city for one exhilarating month. A lot of it is free, especially in the Fringe, which appeals to students and locals alike!
Nestled between the South Downs and the sea, a short ride on an open-topped bus in summer will take you away from the crowds which engulf the town in high season to Devil's Dyke. Legend has it that the Devil, angered by the number of churches in the surrounding countryside, vowed to hack his way through the downland to the sea and so flood the villages in one night. However, he failed to complete his task before dawn, and so was banished from the area forever.
In Victorian times it was home to a small amusement fair and even a cable car. Catch the bus up there early on a Sunday morning and, if the wind is right, you can watch as the paragliders prepare to launch themselves onto the thermals. The surrounding countryside is under National Trust management and, whilst on the weekend you won't be alone, it's a great place to wander and appreciate the gentle beauty of the English countryside. (For those of you who appreciate some food or drink after a leisurely stroll, there is a pub there, or you can walk down the hill to one of the surrounding villages ;)
Dusky summer's evenings spent on the beach, watching the sun set over the decaying yet still oddly beautiful West Pier.

Illegal bonfires burning brightly through the night as people gather outside the bars on the beach, drinking, socialising, passing on news of the weekend's free party at Ditchling Beacon or venues as yet unnamed.

An unspoken frisson in the air that hides the feeling that this town, for all its' faults and failings has something special. This is not 'London By The Sea', strictly a summer playground for day trippers and pleasure seekers. This is Brighton; eccentric, unpredictable yet rarely dull. I wasn't born here, but for me, this is home.

Interesting (random) facts about Brighton

- In 1900 a film studio was built for G A Smith in St Ann's Well Gardens, now a local park. Smith patented a number of film devices including double exposure. It is claimed that the first example of film editing appeared in Smith's 1900 short, 'Attack On A China Mission'.

- Brighton features in a number of feature films, including 'Brighton Rock', 'Quadrophenia' and 'Oh! What A Lovely War'. Sir Richard Attenborough has a long-standing association with the town and is Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex. (He also handed me my degree certificate!)

- The Reverend Charles Dodgson was a resident of Sussex Square in the 1880s. He is perhaps better known as the author of 'Alice In Wonderland', Lewis Carroll. Local legend has it that the inspiration for the rabbit hole down which Alice fell was a secret tunnel which linked the gardens with the sea.

-At one point in the 19th century, Brighton had three piers; the Chain Pier, the Palace Pier and the West Pier. Of these only the Palace Pier (now Brighton Pier) still exists for public use. The West Pier has been ravaged by two recent fires which mean that only its' metal framework remains.

Useful links -extremely well put together local history site, stacked with photos and interesting facts. -listings galore

© 2004

Monday, January 30, 2006

St John's Place

The area where I live has a number of small mews
roads. Mews in this case are tiny roads, usually cobbled, squeezed between two buildings. Some of them are straight out of 'Minder', slightly shady looking geezers taking cars of unknown provenance to be fixed up in backstreet garages. These tiny mews streets are also becoming popular as haunts for artists' studios; quiet and tucked away from the world, they offer an ideal place to work.

St John's Place hides one of these studios, yet I had no idea until I happened to see it listed as one of the 'Open Studios' in last year's 'Open House' month.(For more on the Open Houses click here )

Inspired Mosaics is the name of this little gem; I love mosaic but the work at this place took my breath away. It was like discovering a little hive of creativity right under your nose. Been there the whole time, yet never noticed it before it opened it's doors up to the public for one weekend.
I'd love to take one of their mosaic courses one day. Until then I'll just have to visit them during the next Open House month, coming up this May.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

5Streets Brighton and Hove

This blog is inspired by the 5Streets idea created by Julia, on the other side of the world to me in Sydney. You can read her original 5Streets blog here

I live in what is officially known as 'Brighton and Hove'. That's right, it's basically two towns with wildly different personalities shoehorned into one joint entity a few years back, for various local political reasons which we won't go into here.
I'm located near the 'border', such as it is, between the two (actually you'll find that they run smack into each other).

I love the idea of finding out more about the streets around me. I volunteer for a local history website here and love hearing the stories behind the places I pass everyday and the way in which this town, city, call it what you will, is constantly evolving. I hope to share a few of those everyday stories here.

No digital camera as yet (I'm quite fond of the idea of real photos that I can look at without the aid of a computer), but I'll try and scan a few to put online here.