October 2008

Facebook campaign to save independent festival.

A Facebook group set up to ‘Save GuilFest’ is celebrating victory after a rival promoter’s plans to take over the outdoor venue were shelved. 

The group sprang up on the internet at the end of September when news broke that Guildford Borough Council was speaking to a global consortium, including AEG Europe, about a new music festival on Stoke Park, the same site as GuilFest. 

Numbers on the Facebook site swelled from two hundred to almost two thousand in a week. The administrator of the group, Ade Goldsmith, said: “That is pretty significant when you consider it’s nearly ten per cent of the number of visitors to the festival each year.  It shows that people in the town really care about their local festival.”   

Any decision by the council to stage an alternative event in the same location would have pushed out the independent festival that was founded 17 years ago by organiser Tony Scott.

“I was shocked to hear that Guildford Borough Council was talking to another party.  GuilFest has been built up by local people and has a very local feel.  A lot of people were upset when they realised they might lose the home-grown aspect of the festival,” said Scott.

Jim Miles, Strategic Director at the council, said: “Only one festival of this type would be allowed on the park per year to minimise the impact on local residents.”  He pointed out the council had a legal obligation to try and receive best value.

People posted messages on Facebook encouraging members to contact the council and Scott’s worries were over when the AEG bid was withdrawn in the face of overwhelming public protest. 

David Campbell, Chief Executive of AEG Europe, said: “We are saddened to confirm that as a result of petitions being organised against our company, we have decided to withdraw from any further discussions with the council. We are not going to engage in a public slanging match.”  He said it was important that concert-goers, artists and the local taxpayer got the very best outcome.

Scott said: “I am really pleased and relieved that we can now get on with the job of organising next year’s festival.” 

GuilFest 2009 will go ahead on the 10th, 11th and 12th July.  Tickets go on sale early next year.


New Emmaus shop now open in Portslade.

Planters and bird boxes made from old furniture and jewellery crafted from pieces of card are among items for sale at a charity recycling shop now open in Portslade.

The Goodwill co-op, based at homelessness charity Emmaus, stocks an eclectic mix of products, from clothing to collectibles, paintings to pottery, all made by Brighton and Hove residents.  Everything in the shop is donated or recycled from unusable items donated to the Emmaus second-hand shop, which would otherwise have to go to landfill.  Each item is labelled so that shoppers know who has made it.  


Hand painted tea light holders made from old jam jars.

Hand painted tea light holders made from old jam jars.


Business Manager Joel Lewis said: “I thought to myself that there must be a lot of people around here that live on their own and feel isolated from the community, and that a lot of these people must have some artistic talent or craft skills.  Then it occurred to me that we receive a lot of donations of things that can’t be sold and that Emmaus can’t find a use for, and why not bring those two things together.”

Emmaus Brighton and Hove has been operating in Drove Road, Portslade, on the site of a former convent, for 11 years and houses 40 ex-homeless men and women in its residential community.  It is the largest Emmaus community in the country.  They currently run a café, a second-hand shop for necessary items such as furniture and bric-a-brac and a chapel shop selling clothing and higher end collectibles. 

Billing itself as ‘the homeless charity that works’, the idea is that people live there in exchange for working within the community to the best of their ability.  Lewis believes this project is in line with that philosophy:  “We are inviting people to share their time and creativity with the community to produce quality items to sell, rather than going out with a begging bowl.”

The Goodwill co-op was set up in May and now has 60 people signed up.  They hold coffee mornings every Tuesday to discuss their projects, collaborate and share and develop their skills.  Lewis is overwhelmed by the success of the project so far and said: “It is eco-friendly, people friendly and people are producing things crafted with skill and passion.  It really does tick every box.”

A selection of hand crafted cushions

A selection of hand crafted cushions

Photo: James Pike

Photo: James Pike

 Long distance runner reveals the unusual secret of his success.


The successful formula for the winner of Sunday’s London to Brighton ‘ultra’ race is Coca-cola and Jaffa Cakes.


Stuart Mills, 45, from East Hoathly, finished the 56 mile race in less than eight hours, one hour and 41 minutes ahead of the runner up and first woman to finish, Annabel Stearns.


Mills discovered his winning formula six weeks earlier in another ‘ultra’ race – an ‘ultra’ is any run longer than a marathon – and it certainly did the trick on Sunday.


At the last race he had been using what he describes as “scientifically proven bars and isotonic drinks that cost lots of money,” which a friend delivered to him at each drink station. At one of the stations about halfway round the course there was no sign of his friend, so Mills had to make do with what was there, namely Coca-cola and Jaffa Cakes.


“I just went ‘zing!’” said Mills, and decided, “Stuff the expensive ones.” Apparently he likes the texture and size of the popular ‘cakes’ and says that the carbohydrate and caffeine contained in cola drinks can help the body keep going in endurance events, although he would only recommend it as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime, of course.


Although 207 people registered to take part in the race, thanks to the miserable weather conditions only about 125 showed up, with 81 dogged runners completing the punishing course.


The weather on the day affected all the runners. “It slowed everyone down,” said organiser Denis Rice. “People were up to their knees in mud at places and paths have been turned to rivers.”


He admitted that the rain had affected numbers, but said: “Despite the weather it has been fantastic. These runners are absolutely incredible people.”


Rice pointed out that the course, run across the North and South Downs and the Wield, is significantly harder than the London to Brighton road race that has taken place in previous years.


It is the first time that the race has been run cross-country and the first year that Rice has been in charge of the event, although he has taken part in the old road race as a runner. When asked whether he prefers running or organising, Rice, who got up at 2am on the day of the race, said: “Definitely running. It’s easier and much less stressful.”


Mills certainly took it all in his stride. He described his time for the London to Brighton run as “slower than expected.” Mills is fighting fit and has been running 45 miles a week for the past 20 weeks. He had run this course before, albeit broken up into 3 smaller sections, and had been aiming for under seven and a half hours, but given the conditions said that he was happy with less than eight.


After a recovery massage from Box Genesis, he joked: “I feel like I could do it all again.” 

Many Hove residents feel that their ‘marriage’ with Brighton is a happy one.

The trouble with living in Hove is that one is asked on a regular basis a question to which one must reply in the negative: “So, do you come from Brighton?”

“No, I’m from ‘Hove Actually’,” you reply with an embarrassed giggle.  (Air apostrophes optional.)

At least I do.  If, however, you routinely say this sentence without a trace of irony, then it is unlikely that we will see eye to eye on this one.  The thing is, Hove wants a divorce apparently.  (Could Hove really divorce Brighton? The Argus, 27th September 2008.)  Which, despite the fact that I am a resident of Hove – and a homeowner at that – is news to me, I must say. 

It’s the usual story, in that a vocal minority have captured the headlines by huffing and puffing about anti-social behaviour and harping on about the ‘good old days’, in this case of Hove Borough Council.  And once again, I find myself having to apologise for the snobbishness by which, rightly or wrongly, Hove has become characterised.

Brighton and Hove Borough Councils jumped into bed together in 1997 and took over county responsibilities to become a unitary authority, much to the chagrin of some members of the community (or should that be communities?)  It seems that, over a decade later, some of them are angrier than ever.

The trouble with these ‘career complainers’ is that they will always try and blame a whole host of society’s ills on one aspect of government, in this case the fact that issues affecting Hove’s interests are decided ‘centrally’.  (It’s only down the road!) 

They will argue that the forming of a unitary authority is responsible for ‘the Brighton creep’ – the overspill of late-night bars and general grubbiness from Hove’s younger, livelier and slightly more unseemly neighbours – without taking into account national trends, new laws, geographical proximity, the housing market or any of the other numerous variables that can contribute to the application of licencing laws and social mobility.

Hove remains a lovely place to live, and most residents I know are not at all snobbish about Brighton.  In fact, most of us enjoy taking advantage of all the delights that a vibrant cosmopolitan city has to offer, while still being able to skulk away to the suburbs whenever we feel like it.  It really is the best of both worlds. 

I’m just fed up with having to apologise for the intolerant attitudes with which Hove is too often associated, and continually having to reassure my Brighton friends that I do love them really.