Last Friday I spoke as part of the Two Knocks performance at St Andrew’s Church in Hove. I’d been involved in some early discussion and it sounded so ambitious that, when I was invited to participate I had to say yes.
I gave a talk about ‘The Folklore of Death and Water’. It was a deliberately bland title, playing with some of my obsessions while feeding into other aspects of the event. I was a little nervous as the night approached, particularly as the audience hit 100, but I was fairly happy with my performance.
The venue was probably the most atmospheric place I’ve ever performed. It was incredible speaking from the pulpit, the audience dimly lit in front of me. The building was sufficiently spooky to freak me out completely during rehearsals. I was talking while Curtis listened, Emily ran tech and Simon checked his kit. We had the doors locked so that we weren’t disturbed. From where I was I could see through the doorway into the church’s entrance corridor. As I described a haunting, I saw a shape move past the doorway. The rehearsal fell apart as I started laughing nervously. I’m not the sort of person who imagines seeing things.
As I said in the talk, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in hauntings. Even during daytime rehearsals, the effect of the performance and venue was spooky. I hope there are more of these in the future. Future events will be announced via the Two Knocks mailing list and the soundtrack is online.
I missed the fuss about the recent petition against a new Burger King in Brighton’s Lanes – the only post I saw on facebook simply questioned the petition’s reference to the ‘South Lanes’ (now corrected). But it looks as if there is a planning request for “Installation of 3no. air conditioning units, 2no. chiller and freezer condenser units and other associated alterations.” at Clarendon Mansions, evidently for a new Burger King.
I’m not a fan of burger restaurants that aren’t Grubbs, and haven’t set foot in a Burger King for about a decade. Even so, this petition made me uncomfortable. And that’s not just snark about the misnaming of the Lanes (although, as one signer suggested, “if we’re concerned with the history of the area let’s get its name right”).
- Why did the petition only go up just before the deadline? The petition’s creator implies that the annoucement was delayed to prevent protest. Is this the case? I assume there is some sort of standard consulation period. Was this really not followed?
- Are the “independent Burger provisioners … already resident around the street serving up far better nom noms?” really competing with a Burger King? Maybe people who don’t use words like nom-noms have different requirements? Some people genuinely prefer visiting a chain they are familiar with.
- “the move to open more chain shops on East Street signals the beginning of the end on a irreparable slope of genericism, that sees our local elected council try ever so hard to turn our city centre into a carbon copy of every other British city” – Any evidence for this?
- The petition refers to “proven fake evidence supplied by the police” against the Northern Lights bar. The petition owner needs to publish this proof. And, while there have been some bitter arguments over licensing recently, there have also been some venue owners distorting the facts significantly.
- Whitbread, who own the lease on the building have left it empty for three years. Is an empty pub really better than an open restaurant?
- “The council have decided, Brighton’s lovely vibe now needs more corporate sponsors”. Is there any evidence for this claim, given that the planning request was from a private individual?
- 10,000 signers in 24 hours is impressive. What are the signatories doing about other things that are far bigger problems in our city, like the housing crisis, lack of mental health provision, collapsing seafront infrastructure, parking problems and poor public transport? (And where were they when the petition for a life-size replica of the West Pier was published? Why weren’t there this many objections to the strip club just down the road?)
- The planing applicant was previously a franchisee of the Aquarium redevelopment, one of the few business to survive there. No question here, just wanted to point out how awkward that area would have looked without a Burger King.
As the Argus points out “The petitioners [sic] concerns may not be considered valid planning objections because the building already has permission to be used as a pub and will not need permission to become a restaurant…”
A lot of the objections are based around the idea that a Burger King would be the ‘wrong sort of development’. For whom? This idea of Brighton as a utopia of independent businesses is one that I love, but it needs a lot more thought than simply rejecting businesses people don’t like – particularly when the same street has a number of chains on it. We need a stronger vision of Brighton than snobbery.
I’m not saying that this restaurant is a good thing, but I am sick of these knee-jerk petitions (particularly ones with this many typos); and I am tired of ill-thought outrage about planning, when there is often a little more to these stories than the things announced on social media.
This post has been sitting around in my drafts folder for months without being published. But I like these season-notes and want to keep them going. So, catching up very quickly on April to June:
I finished my long post-Crunch holiday with a trip to Morocco and, at the end of April, I started a new contract close to Brighton station. The election was a great storyline but a disappointing result. I saw Nick Cave play in London. I discovered that my Dad had met Grace Hopper (I’ve no idea why he didn’t mention that before now).
Birthday celebrations were fun. I saw Eddie Argos doing his spoken word tour; and Lou-Ice and Sara visited for the launch of Swenglish. The Glastonbury Festival was the best yet, with Sarah, MJP, Rosy, Robin, James and Dina all being awesome. Kanye was ambitious but missed; Patti Smith played an incredible set where the Dalai Lama’s appearance halfway through was not the highlight.
I had a few performances. I did a piece at Hammer and Tongue, featuring Chris Parkinson on video. I asked him to be Flava to my Chuck D and he killed it. I spoke at the Catalyst Club on ‘Not Walking Around the World’; I gave a talk as part of Brighton Fringe on Sussex Death Folklore, which I loved researching and was delighted by how warmly people responded. I was part of the Nocturnal event at the Towner Gallery.
I wrote about the Cheeky Walks for Brighton-A-Budget and did a piece on meetups for the Crunch blog. I also published my first collection of stories, and tiny booklet of 6 stories in 600 words (review here):