John Deakin: the perfect anti-hero of the tawdry Soho scene

During the various lockdowns I found myself wondering how Iain Sinclair was coping with the restrictions. It seemed unthinkable that this unflinching punisher of pavements could be stuck with 30 minutes round the park. But, as it turns out, sequestering, in a fashion that only the Scots word ‘thrawn’ can do justice to, has resulted in the most archetypal Sinclair book yet. John Deakin is the pariah genius of the title. During the ‘brain-dead hibernation’ of the pandemic, Sinclair got a short-term loan of ‘17 albums of John Deakin’s photographs, fresh prints made from recovered contact sheets; a substantial history of his labours, a flickbook parade of the stunned and

Confessions of a tanorexic

In an interesting piece for Air Mail, Linda Wells writes of ‘The secret lives of tanorexics’, asking: ‘What drives these bronze obsessives – and why won’t they ever learn?’ She questions her sun-baked friends about why they are so intent on doing a thing which they are warned will ruin their complexions and make it more likely that they get cancer – and doesn’t get a satisfactory answer from any of them. Reading it, I realised that I too am a tanorexic. It kind of creeps up on you over the years, like any other bad habit: one minute you’re having a harmless half-hour in a sun-trap pub garden in

The best places to eat in Brighton

I moved down to Sussex over 25 years ago from South London. My family viewed living by the sea as a dream goal. I still remember the day when we packed up and cavalcaded down to Worthing, a charming seaside town in West Sussex. After the amazing experience of winning MasterChef, we opened our first restaurant Pitch in 2019 serving beautiful British inspired food from both the sea and the land. There has been a significant boom of food and café culture all around Sussex, and many areas such as Brighton and Worthing have flourished into destinations for those in search of culinary delights. Our second restaurant Bayside Social has capitalised on

The problem with Brighton’s summer hordes

I expect there are those among you who are pleased to see their home towns returning to something like normality this summer. Well, not me. Brighton and Hove was bliss during lockdown. Without the endless Southward drift of London chaff – pronounce that word anyway you feel works, hard F or soft – my adopted home regained something of the elegance that had led Noel Coward to include it and its seagulls in a list of things that have style. Now, it has become once again the Brighton that Keith Waterhouse said, had the perpetual air that of a town that is helping the police with their inquiries. Brighton does

Appearances are deceptive: Trio, by William Boyd, reviewed

Talbot Kydd, film producer; Anny Viklund, American actress; Elfrida Wing, novelist; these make the trio of the title. Private lives are the issue. Wing’s long-suffering agent tells her if you want to know what’s going on in people’s heads, ‘behind those masks we all wear — then read a novel’. The main setting of Trio is Brighton in revolutionary 1968. The actress says: ‘I’m meant to be a famous film star who’s making a film in Brighton.’ That’s the core of the novel. William Boyd is one of our best contemporary storytellers; remember An Ice-cream War and Restless. He tells this morality tale with sustained humour; remember the Nat Tate

How Brighton’s gangs became increasingly radicalised

Between October 2013 and January 2014, five teenaged boys from Brighton, three of them brothers from a family called Deghayes, travelled to Syria to join Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist militia and one of the main jihadist groups fighting the Syrian army. A dozen more young people from Brighton were also eager to go. Radicalisation had swept through the group like a ‘contagion’, catching parents and police unawares and baffling counter-extremism experts. In his disturbing No Return, Mark Townsend traces the various hidden causes of the Deghayes case, events that he claims ‘transformed the entire approach of the government’s counter-extremism programme, both in policy and ideology’. Townsend, who is home affairs

Cosy, comforting and a bit inconsequential: Here We Are, by Graham Swift, reviewed

There’s something — isn’t there? — of the literary also-ran about Graham Swift. He was on Granta’s first, influential Best of Young British Novelists list in 1983, and he won the Booker Prize in 1996, but he has never attained the public-face status of his contemporaries. That may not be so surprising, given who those publicity-hoovering contemporaries are, Amis, Barnes, McEwan and Rushdie among them. Once in a while, one of his books rises a little higher in the sky — 1983’s Waterland, 1996’s Last Orders, 2018’s Mothering Sunday — but will Here We Are be one of them? It’s comforting and cosy: a bit sad, a bit funny, a

Glamming it up

Late on the Friday afternoon of The Great Escape — the annual three-day event for which the London music industry decamps to Brighton to spend three days drinking and trying to get into tiny venues to see new bands — two very young men stood outside a pub, making quite the impression. One, with bleached blond hair, yellow tinted sunglasses and livid red lipstick, wearing a black string vest, clutched a bottle of Mexican lager. The other, made up with huge rouge smears on his cheeks and heavy eyeshadow, wore a beret, a green faux-military tunic, and — naturally — an Elizabethan-styled ruff. You knew they were in a band;

Constable on sea

John Constable was, as we say these days, conflicted about Brighton. On the one hand, as he wrote in a letter, he was revolted by this marine Piccadilly, populated with: ‘ladies dressed & undressed — gentlemen in morning gowns and slippers on, or without them altogether about knee deep in the breakers — footmen — children — nursery maids, dogs, boys, fishermen’, all mixed together ‘in endless and indecent confusion’. On the other, as a brilliantly conceived little exhibition at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery makes clear, the town was one of a small number of locations that were crucial to his art. He went there, however, not because

Diary – 23 February 2017

More than 20 years ago, I left my fast life in London for a rather more relaxed one in Brighton and Hove. I never dreamt I could enjoy it more till all the business with the trains started up a few years back. The chaos at Southern Railway — which has seen commuters lose their livelihoods and property prices all along the London–Brighton line plunge, and culminated last summer in the resignation of the rail minister Claire Perry — has effectively put an end to the one thing I disliked about my seaside city. Namely, that it’s too close to That London. I never minded mates coming down to visit —

Letters | 9 February 2017

No fear Sir: Why does Matthew Parris think I am ‘secretly terrified’ of having voted to leave the EU (‘Brexiteers need ladders to climb down’, 4 February)? Anyone over the age of 50 knew that choosing to vote Leave or Remain was not an easy decision. My own beliefs nudged me just far enough to vote Leave; my partner’s beliefs nudged him just far enough to vote Remain. Mr Parris admits that he can imagine Brexit being a surprising success, and I may have to face the fact that it could be a failure. We are both reasonable people. I was satisfied with the result, but since June I have

Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest, a 30 year old dramatist and poet, has an appeal that’s hard to fathom. Is it all in the elbows? Like most performers raised on hip hop, she recites with her upper limbs flapping and wiggling as if by remote control. For emphasis she uses that impatient downward flicking gesture, beloved of rappers, like a countess at a buffet ridding her fingers of unwanted guacamole. Few would describe the south Londoner’s poetry as ‘moreish’. Less ish, perhaps. She sates the ear too rapidly because her technique has an obvious and easily corrected fault: no variety. Tempo and mood never change, so she can’t create expectation, uncertainty, surprise or

Let’s make assisted dying legal for Brightonians

I am having terrible trouble with my hair at the moment. It is lank, flat and lifeless. There are split ends. Also, it doesn’t smell too good. What’s that appalling stench, my wife asked recently while sitting next to me on the sofa as we watched a rerun of the old racist editions of Midsomer Murders starring the excellent John Nettles. ‘Probably the dog, again,’ I replied — but I knew that was a lie. I knew it was my hair. It smelt like that rotten cheese Italians eat. I don’t know why, because I wash it frequently enough. Maybe, to adapt Orwell’s mordant observation, at the age of 56

Toby Young

Middle-class warriors

Tuesday’s protest against Key Stage 1 Sats was moronic on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. For one thing, it wasn’t a ‘kids’ strike’. Did a national committee of six- and seven-year-olds get together and decide on a day of action? Even in Brighton, the centre of the boycott, that seems a bit far-fetched. The grown-up organisers of the protest clearly believed that was a cute way of packaging it for media consumption, but the thought of such young children engaging in political activism is actually a bit sinister. It’s like something out of a dystopian satire — a cross between Brave New World and

In the battle between Brighton’s snobs and plebs, I know what side I’m on

Many people have described what it’s like to find themselves the target of an internet lynch mob. Perhaps more unusually, the other week I woke up to find myself at the head of one. It wasn’t my intention to bring the wrath of a whole city down upon Julian Caddy, the managing director of arts festival Brighton Fringe; I merely wanted to vent my own anger. In truth, he brought it on himself by authoring an odious and spectacularly ill-judged piece in the local paper, the Argus. Ostensibly, he was writing about Brighton & Hove’s Palace Pier. But his real subject was the people of Brighton. The pier, he wrote, represented all that was ‘cheap’ and ‘tacky’ about Brighton, luring

Blazers of glory

Most mornings on the way to work I pass students flowing out of Fulham Broadway tube station en route to the London Oratory School. They are an assorted bunch. Some seem more confident than others. One or two of the boys look immaculate, while others have clearly stirred their cornflakes with their ties. Some of the girls appear remarkably grown- up for their age — but presumably that’s my ‘how-come-policemen-are-getting-younger’ syndrome. What they share apart, obviously, from wishing they were still tucked up in bed, is a uniform chosen for them by the school, which they have adapted with varying success to their own personalities or moods on any given

Letters | 25 February 2016

In defence of the heads Sir: It is fair for Ysenda Maxtone Graham to criticise heads who garner publicity but neglect the core business of good teaching, if such people exist (‘Big heads’, 20 February). However, targeting Anthony Seldon and Richard Cairns was a mistake. Although both may be what my wife calls ‘media tarts’, Seldon saved two schools which were in great financial difficulties by hugely increasing the number of applicants and Brighton College under Cairns has maintained its trajectory to the upper reaches of the league tables, becoming one of the largest independent schools in the country in the process. Both heads have been outstandingly successful, creating secure and dynamic

Big heads

The term ‘superhead’ was first used during the Blair government in 1998: an eye-catching word for a new breed of Superman-style headmasters or headmistresses, fast-tracked star teachers who would be parachuted into failing inner-city state schools and paid six-figure salaries to ‘turn them around’. It reaped rewards and can generally be considered a Good Thing. Sir Michael Wilshaw, for example, now chief inspector of schools, became known as ‘the hero of Hackney’ for transforming the academic record of Mossbourne Community Academy, built on the site of the totally-failed Hackney Downs School. Sometimes power went to the superheads’ heads and they were caught siphoning off funds to pay for their holidays.

The Spectator Podcast: Cameron’s ‘Project Fear’, David Bowie’s politics and Brighton’s Brideshead set

In this week’s issue, James Forsyth reveals the strategy that David Cameron will use to campaign for Britain to stay in the EU. He’ll campaign not just on the economics, but on security – arguing that Britain is safer as part of the EU collective: safer from the Russians, safer from terrorism. Isabel Hardman, the new presenter of the Spectator podcast, is joined by James and Fraser Nelson to discuss the implications of such a strategy. Much of the week’s news has been overshadowed by the death of David Bowie. But what exactly made Bowie such an important figure? In his column this week, Rod Liddle argues that it’s simply because he was a terrific

Julie Burchill

Brighton’s gone Brideshead

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Julie Burchill and Tim Stanley discuss Brighton’s Brideshead set” startat=1352] Listen [/audioplayer]My adopted hometown of Brighton and Hove has always had a somewhat well-to-do image, it’s fair to say. Though we have pockets of poverty, I was surprised by the size of the houses and gardens — room for a pony! — when I started going to house parties on the notorious Whitehawk estate. The old Cockney phrase ‘You think your aunt’s come up from Brighton!’ to denote a person who is free and easy with their money pays tribute to this agreeable state of affairs. But although B&H may appear affluent, it hasn’t really been posh since