Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Friday 22 June 2018

In The City: Highlife & Back-Alleys Of Brighton Exposed

The flamboyant world of Brighton in the 1880s and back-street life of the 1930s and 50s are the focus of two new books from community publisher QueenSpark Books.

First published in 1881, original author Chas H Ross described his book, Brighton As It Was & As it Is as 'not quite a guide or a history but a bit of both'. 

Concern about "royalty abandoning the Pavilion" run alongside descriptions of how the arrival of the railway turned "a shabby straggling town into a City of Palaces by the sea", as the author claims.  

With its tales of "beauties" and "eccentrics" mixed with practical instructions on how to dance, Brighton As It Was & As it Is is a "wondrous collection of amusing diversions, anecdotes and characters".

Backyard - Back Street Brighton is the re-publication, under one cover, of two books that have long been out of print.  

They used photos from the council's Environmental Health Department to capture images of homes that, despite fumigation, were "live" with bugs and rats. 

Already crowded homes doubled as boot repair shops. Some homes were fire traps with factories built up against the back doors. 

John Riches, QueenSpark Books' Development Director said: "These two books highlight contrasting aspects of Brighton's past lives. They put a spotlight on Brighton as it was and help understand how it is now."

The photographs were matched with interviews and contributions from people who lived there at the time - teenagers who did jobs for neighbours so they could go to the public baths on Saturday; children who skipped in the street with scaffold ropes; the lamp lighter, with a long pole, who fired up the street lights without stopping or falling off his bike - Brighton's "very own Don Quixote", according to one of the contributors.

The charity has also been awarded a £98,200 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its new project Archives Alive. 

The project will create new books and harness new technology in order to allow residents from all areas of the city, and visitors, to contribute to the telling of Brighton's past.

Melita Dennett, QueenSpark Books'  Chair said: "We want to bring the past alive, and we thank the National Lottery Players in enabling us to do so."

Brighton As it Was & As it Is by Chas H Ross £10.99 and Back yard – Back Street Brighton £12.99 are published by QueenSpark Books. Available from independent bookshops, and online via www.queensparkbooks.org.uk, Amazon and Google Books.

by: Mike Cobley



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