We Are All Conspiracy Theorists Now

16 Jul

Is it a coincidence that conspiracy theories went viral during a pandemic? Was it by chance that they became politicised during a divisive culture war? Or is that what they want you to think? This video digs into the psychology and politics of conspiracy theories to explore how beliefs take root and what makes them so compelling.

Eavesdropsy #2

20 Sep

Rear Window

When I moved my desk next to my window I started overhearing passing snippets of conversations taking place in the street below. Naturally, I decided to write them down and turn it into a list. I felt a bit like James Stewart in Rear Window except I wasn’t staring at my neighbours through binoculars, I wasn’t living in Greenwich Village, I wasn’t recovering from a leg injury and I had plenty of better things to do. But apart from that I felt just like James Stewart. Except I didn’t help solve a murder or see any dead dogs.

Here’s what I heard:

  • Woman: “Instead of giving me the money, I was charged. It’s insane. None of the systems seems to work.”
    Woman’s friend: “Everything’s insane.”

  • Small child to another: “If you feel bad about something, tell daddy.”

  • “Love’s the greatest thing that we have.” – A man with earphones singing loudly to a Blur song.

  • Sarcastic angry child: “Dad, what is your problem?”

  • Woman talking earnestly to her friend: “I can imagine myself going there for specific reasons, like bowling.”

  • Boyfriend to girlfriend: “Everyone else is so boring.”

  • “You want it all but you can’t have it.” – Another man singing loudly to himself, whilst listening to Faith No More.

  • “Love’s the greatest thing that we have.” The first man again, several weeks later.

  • A very cross lady: “I told you yesterday. I’ve told you goodness knows how many times: don’t say ‘what the hell!’.”

  • Man on the phone to his girlfriend: “If I thought you were messing around I wouldn’t be talking to you. Are you mad? Are you serious?”

  • Builder A: “Fucking hell!”
    Builder B: “What?”
    Builder A: “The scaffold’s moving!”
    Builder B: “Hang on, I’m still on it!”

  • Man on his phone: “The thing is, dude…” (Gets into car.)

  • Drunk girl: “I haven’t taken codeine since I had my eye operation.”

  • Man making up a song whilst riding his bike: “Let’s take some LSD / Then we’ll see everything / In a new way…”
    Woman: “Pretty much.”

  • Woman: “Stop having a go at me for your fucking problems.”
    Man: “Huh?”
    Woman: “Yes, you fucking are.”

  • Woman to friend: “I’ve literally got the biggest hole in my jeans I’ve ever seen.”

  • Excited girl on phone: “They will love that. Absolutely love that. I’m not saying anything. Secret squirrel!”

  • Schoolgirl: “They said they’re having an insect day tomorrow.”
    Mother: “Inset. It’s an inset day.”

If you’re the sort that really enjoys reading someone else’s account of other people’s conversations, there’s some more here.

Letters To My Local Paper #4

19 Sep

This is a letter I wrote to my local newspaper after noticing that every issue was full of pictures of tories. Sometimes it was a picture of Liza McKinney, the leader of the council. And sometimes it was Tim Loughton, the local MP. Often it was both. I wondered what was going on.

Dear Shoreham Herald,
 As an avid reader of the Shoreham Herald, I would like to make a few comments concerning the ongoing photographic competition.
 Firstly, I would like to commend you on your sense of fair play. Since you dropped Liza McKinney’s column, her picture-per-issue ratio has decreased considerably. As many will agree, this regular feature gave her an unfair advantage over her main contender, Tim Loughton, who had consequently fallen severely behind in the ratings.
 Despite Tim’s gallant efforts to get his picture printed by planting shrubs and attending local school events, he could do little to make up for the head-start provided by Liza’s weekly fixture.
I am glad the contest is now evenly weighed. Having kept a personal tally of their respective appearances (which I enter into a database and analyse with the use of pie-charts), it looks like Tim is steadily regaining lost ground.
 He may soon even topple Liza’s supremacy. With this in mind, why not dedicate the inside front-page to a regular competition photo-splash?
 I am sure we would all love to see more pics of Liza and Tim doing their civic duties.
 Even better, how about exclusive snaps of their daily lives: sunbathing on the beach, walking home from the pub, leaving the health centre after getting a nose-job? Whatever you do, keep up the good work – and put a tenner on Tim for me.
 - Name and address supplied.

They printed the letter. They also took the opportunity to print two more pictures of Liza and Tim. You can’t win.

Shoreham Herald

Games Workshop’s Forgotten Cinema Classics

25 Jun

There’s always been rumours that Games Workshop were planning to turn their fantasy game settings into a feature film, but so far the only thing that’s made it beyond a trailer was the 2010 animation ‘Ultramarines’ – which somehow looked worse than a cut scene from a 1990s video game. However, recent news has come to light that shows Games Workshop has actually had a long history of near-misses in the movie making business. Here’s a list of some of the GW blockbusters that never quite made it.


Ork Boyz N Da Hood

Ork Boyz N Da Hood

What began as a gritty portrait of life in the ghettos on the Ork homeworld of Kaurava II was soon watered down by nervous studio execs who couldn’t stomach the film’s graphic depiction of street violence and battlewagon joyriding. After lengthy discussions the setting was changed to 1990s Los Angeles, but many who worked on the film felt that its message had been lost as a result. Critics at the time even went so far as to claim the movie was a “thinly-veiled racist slur on Orkish minorities”.


Land Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Indiana Jones And The Land Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Initially conceived as a lowly tank mechanic in the Imperial Guard, Harrison Ford’s character went through many revisions before George Lucas’s script was finally accepted by director Steven Spielberg. (In fact, the ‘Lost Ark’ portion of the title is allegedly derived from a joke Spielberg made about Lucas’ inability to come up with a coherent storyline). Originally hired as combat consultants, Games Workshop were eventually ousted from the production team when it became clear that the vehicles in the movie would no longer be armed with heavy bolters and twin sets of sponson-mounted double lascannons.


There Will Be Blood Angels

There Will Be Blood Angels

Envisioned as an epic family drama depicting the creation of the Blood Angels from the gene-seed of the chapter’s founding primarch Sanguinius after the unification wars in the late 30th millennium, the film’s screenplay was considered by Games Workshop’s producers to be ponderous and overly-long. To avoid any further costs, the whole project was sold off to Paramount who reworked it as an overly-long and ponderous film about a 19th century oil tycoon instead. By that point Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood was contractually obliged to provide the final movie’s soundtrack, despite having only signed up on account of him being a life-long Blood Angels collector.




Six years after the Indiana Jones fiasco, Games Workshop tried once more to pitch a tank-themed story to a Hollywood studio, this time hoping to tie it in with the launch of a new Warhammer 40,000 ruleset. Twentieth Century Fox were initially interested in the idea until a dispute over the colour of the titular tank led them to forestall negotiations. Sadly, GW lost out on the multimillion dollar deal due to their insistence that the Predator must be painted in correct Ultramarine livery.


The Boltguns Of Navarone

The Boltguns Of Navarone

When Games Workshop first approached Gregory Peck and David Niven they were offered the roles of space marines on a mission to destroy an Eldar battle station guarding a galactic thoroughfare – the twist being that they were only armed with standard boltguns. Endless wrangles over props resulted in the script being revised for a WW2 setting with the stars reduced to playing mere naval marines. Curiously, the preproduction of the movie took so long the final release managed to predate the founding of Games Workshop by 14 years.


A Beautiful Hive Mind

A Beautiful Hive Mind

This ambitious arthouse film was privately financed by Russell Crowe who had become fascinated by the concept of an alien hive mind ever since he first played Space Crusade in 1991. Utilising early 3D technology the film was shot from multiple and overlapping viewpoints in an attempt to represent the collective gestalt entity of a living Tyranid hive mind. However, Games Workshop immediately abandoned the movie after the first screening of the show reels. Worried about the box office response to a five hour abstract montage of pulsating biomatter, they threatened Crowe with legal action until he reshot the movie as a biopic about a mentally ill mathematician.


Someone Mentioned A Party!

20 Dec


When I lived in London I used to work for nightclubs giving out flyers. It was a terrible job, but I enjoyed it at the time. It meant I got to go to clubs for free! It also meant I ended up having absurd nights like the one in this story. I guess I hoped writing it down would make it seem less pointless, but I’m not sure how. In any case, it was eventually published in Smoke Magazine.

Someone mentioned a party. What sort of party? It doesn’t matter. Where is it? Right. Wait for me outside. Hang on, what’s your name? Cool. See you later.

I go down again. The bouncer stops me. I explain. The staff are cleaning the floor. I make my way to the DJ booth. As usual, they are mucking about, playing the odd record, sorting out their gear. There is a small, lingering entourage of girls. I am waiting to be paid. I’ve spent the evening littering the streets of Shoreditch with flyers and these are my wages. This is when my weekend starts: Saturday, 2am. The DJs are preoccupied. Trying to intervene is futile. My kind are at the bottom of the list and we are dealt with last. The girls come first.

To pass the time I idly scour the floor. There are always rich pickings here, at closing time. It’s like a lucky dip, before the staff obliviously brush it away. Among the cracked plastic glasses, the inevitable £5 note: I consider it a tip. Can’t be too obvious, though. The bouncer might notice. The girls might see. Sometimes, you find phone numbers, scribbled on bits of Rizla. I’ve yet to give in to the temptation: Remember me? We met at that club last week, want to meet up? Once, I found some pills inside a screwed-up packet of Benson’s. I gave in that time. Hang on, here’s my chance. Cheers. Yeah, next week, all right? Nice one. See you later.

Back upstairs. Where are they? No one here. Apart from Mauro. He’s sat on the step, waiting for me. Where’d they go? Who? Those people. What people? With the party! Dunno. Mauro is a good mate. Stocky, quiet, Italian. He’s like my bodyguard, a sidekick. What do we do? Where was the party again? Fuck, I can’t remember. London Bridge somewhere. Look, let’s go over there. Mauro follows. He’s drunk.

Dodge a car, cross the road. Another club is spilling out. A rush of noise and heat. Pleated skirts, ankle-length trousers, big boots. Hot dogs. Bouncers. Flyers. Hey, know any parties to go to? Bad move – I am instantly circled by bomber jackets. Minicab? Minicab? Minicab? Minicab? No, I want to go to a party. Where’s the party? I dunno. They walk off and I feel stupid. One remains, offers to drive me around London Bridge until we find it. How much is that gonna cost? Fuck it, let’s get the bus. Where’s Mauro? Mauro? Hey, come on. Let’s get the bus. Someone calls out. No mate, sorry. No, really.

At the bus stop: no bus, one girl. Where’ve you been? I talk, Mauro says nothing. She seems nice. When her bus comes, I jump on too. As does Mauro. Is this the right bus? Inside it’s bright and silent. Inquisitive faces in rows. We sit opposite the girl, at the back on the top floor, but nothing more is said. The conversation killed by the light. A couple of stops later she is gone. Fuck, where are we? We get off. It’s quiet and cold. And lonely. Where is everyone? Where’s the party? I read a road sign. Okay.

We walk a little way towards London Bridge. We see nobody but a dustman. He doesn’t know where the party is either. We stand in the middle of a roundabout, looking, listening. Maybe we can follow our ears? Nothing. No cars. No people. No music. It’s cold. Mauro is still drunk, but placid. Seems not to care where he is, or why we are standing on a roundabout. I start to feel foolish. The fever subsides, and I decide it’s time to go home.

We walk to the bridge. As we try to cross the road we see the first sign of traffic. A bus. Going the right way. We stand by the railings in the centre of the road, waiting for it to pass. Then I make for the bus stop. Nearly there. Shit, where’s Mauro? Look back: there he is. Still stood by the railings. Asleep. Mauro! I delay the bus driver until he stumbles onboard. I buy a ticket and realise it’s the same driver that brought us here. Mauro slumps, I sigh, and we head north.

We pass Shoreditch again and my hopes are renewed. We get off the bus. Go have another look. No luck. The crowds are still there, but slowly drifting off. I’m desperate. Hey, who was that bloke we met the other day? Chris? Yeah, you still got his number? Give him a ring, he’ll know where a party is. He seemed the sort. Chris was a punk, all squats and piercings. All right, Chris? Remember me? We met at that club last week. Sorry to call this late, but… He’s still up. Watching telly. I’m suddenly confused. Huh? What d’ya want? Know any parties to go to? His mate is at a rave in Hackney Wick – we could go there. Yes. Let’s go there.

Another bus stop: no bus, no girl. Can’t wait. Let’s get some food. Mauro agrees. Kebab for him, chips for me. As we leave the shop we see the bus go by. Fuck, we should have waited. I feel greedy. Mauro stumbles, drops his kebab on the kerb. Let’s get the next bus to Hackney and walk it from there.

We get to Hackney Central. Now, where the fuck is Hackney Wick? I study a huge illuminated map. Thank you, council. Right, it’s this way, I think. We go under the railway bridge, down an alley, across a car park. By Tesco there’s a man waiting.

He approaches. Got a light? Yeah, here. Wanna buy some weed, mate? No, can I have my lighter back? Spare some change, mate? No, sorry. Can I have my lighter back? Where you going? Where you been? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, give me some money. Sorry mate, I haven’t got any. Look, give me some money. What? Give me your fuckin’ money! I don’t mean trouble, okay, just give me some money. Right? I’m a sound bloke, I’m not gonna do nothing, okay? He turns and waves to another bloke across the street. He doesn’t know him, but pretends he does. They all know me round here, ya know, I’m sound. I see what is happening. Mauro says nothing, unaware. I’m breathing hard. The bloke steps up a gear. He gets closer. Unzips his leather jacket slightly. Hits his chest. I got a weapon, yeah? Suddenly a taxi pulls up. Three or four get out. Middle-aged, they’ve just got back from somewhere. They’re laughing, drunk. They stop, see us, and sense something. What you fuckin’ lookin’ at? They scuttle away. I back off. He swings a kick at me. At my head. Somehow he misses. I run. He follows, shouting. Mauro trundles behind, uninvolved.

I am incredulous. Did you not notice? What was going on? I run through it all in my head. Everything was calculated, timed and executed perfectly. How many times has he done that? The adrenaline dilutes, the self-scrutiny sets in, and we walk home.

Letters To My Local Paper #3

19 Dec

Here’s a letter I wrote to the Argus after a local art gallery erected a fuck-off billboard in the middle of town. Two years later, it’s still there. In that time it has promoted such causes as cars, cider, more cars and Cheryl Cole. It begs the question, why do they only let the space be used for c-words?

Dear Argus,
 You’d think that an art gallery might be a little embarrassed if it had run into difficulties and been forced to rent out its entire façade as an advertising hoarding. Not so the Phoenix Gallery.
 They were so proud of their ‘funding solution’ they even sent out a press release boasting about the size of the advert. They also claim it is a “win-win situation”, thereby cheerfully ignoring the fact that an advert measuring 28 x 10.5 metres might not be quite to everyone’s taste. There is a third party in this, after all.
 For those who have to walk by every day, could it not also be an imposition and an annoyance? And what if other buildings in the area start doing the same thing now that they see council doesn’t mind giant billboards popping up? There’s a reason why people choose not to live near Piccadilly Circus, and no it’s not the house prices.
 In any case, it’s getting harder to dismiss the idea that advertising is today’s primary artform, at least in terms of how much money and thought goes into designing the images. In turning itself into a billboard the Phoenix Gallery seems to have tacitly accepted that any exhibition inside the building has become secondary to the display on the outside.
 On a not-unrelated note, here are some wise words from everyone’s favourite street vandal, Banksy: “The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”
  – Name & Address Supplied

So yeah, the Argus didn’t publish the letter. To their credit it did eventually appear on their website – but with comments tactfully disabled.

I Hate Fast Cars

16 Dec


I once caught the second half of Betty Blue on telly and went to school the next day ranting about how great it was. It turned out most of my mates had got bored as soon the opening sex scene was over. Likewise, I’d been banging on about Ballard to people for some time before I realised his most famous book was basically car porn. Here’s a forty-years-too-late book review…

Last year, I started a book club with my friends Scott and Dion after spending another night in the pub taking turns enthusing about books the other two hadn’t read. I figured conversations would be more interesting if they included more than one person, so I suggested we start with Crash. Scott ordered it right then and there on his phone; I got it out the library a few weeks later. Despite the headstart, I still finished it first. In fact, I think I was the only one who made it to the end. It’s not a long book, but it is hard going.

The opening tour de force of unpleasant imagery seems intentionally repulsive, but the straight-faced descriptions of sexy car accidents soon becomes comical. The curves of a woman’s breast are regularly compared to the dashboard instrument binnacles and we’re frequently presented with the juxtaposition of semen and engine coolant, engine coolant and semen. These kinds of phrases are repeated so often it sometimes feels like the author has run out of ways to make this stuff kinky.

The book has been criticised on this count, but I think the repetition serves a purpose. And it’s connected to the fact the author and protagonist share a name. The very words used in these erotic reveries are part of the fetish; it’s an obsessive compulsive ritual that requires repetition in order to work up a head. After all, it’s not always easy to get jiggy with a wrecked vehicle chassis. The nature of fetishes involves diminishing returns unless the acts themselves are ratcheted-up in severity – which is what drives the drama onwards.

Besides all that, the thing I love about this writer is the eerie abstractedness of his stories. Rarely do you get any handle on when or where they take place, other than the generic setting of London. Is Crash science fiction? The landscape of airport terminals and endless motorways suggests a near future, but nothing in the story pins it down. Much of England is already that dreary. Perhaps if I knew more about cars some of the detail would have placed it, but for me it was a shock to learn it was published as long ago as 1973.

Though it’s a stretch to read Crash as a kind of cautionary tale, the true horror of the book lies beyond the sicko sex – it’s in the background detail, the implied meaningless of the characters’ lives and the bleak backdrop of a city dominated by the needs of transport. It makes the weary tropes of freedom and status that are still used to advertise cars seem all the more absurd.

The world Crash depicts is seemingly built entirely around the automobile and it’s this that gives the book its weird sense of dystopia. Similarly, that a fetish for accidents might be the logical extension of car culture is what makes it feel like a sci-fi story, even when the characters are driving round in 1970s Volvos.

Suffice to say, the book club never took off.

Book Review: Njal’s Saga

15 Dec

Njal's Saga

There’s an old Laurel and Hardy film called Big Business in which the pair get into a fight with man over a Christmas tree. The man cuts the tree in half so Stan vandalises his front door. The man breaks Ollie’s pocket watch so Ollie rips out his doorbell. The spat escalates into ten minutes of turn-based combat – until the man’s house is trashed and the duo’s car is comically flattened. Njal’s Saga, considered by many to be the pinnacle of Icelandic medieval literature, has the same plot.

Once upon a time in Iceland there lived two friends called Gunnarr and Njal. Gunnarr was a fine warrior; while Njal was a wise and kindly sage. Both had bitchy wives who started a petty feud which caused generations of bloodshed.

First a member of Gunnarr’s house is killed, so a member of Njal’s house is killed and so on for 350 pages. After each killing the two friends try to make amends, but are egged on by their wives to seek retribution. Apparently, even the closest of friendships cannot compete with one’s manhood being called into question – especially when it involves beards, or lack of.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the battle scenes didn’t feature almost exactly the same sequence of events in the same order. Swords clash, a shield is cracked and someone’s head gets cut off. Then repeat. Eventually the feud turns into a minor civil war and Gunnarr is killed – but it doesn’t stop there (although I did).

I later met an Icelandic girl who seemed very proud of Njal’s Saga. I didn’t have the heart to mention that I considered The Beastmaster a superior work.

If you don’t want to bother reading the book, watch this instead:

Watch Your Language, Lady

14 Dec

There was a girl at a party in Bevendean. She was beautiful. I noticed her talking to some people on the other side of the room. After an hour or so of preparation I made my move. Assuming the guise of a normal person I casually strolled past, pausing at the sink. Then, whilst casually staring at a nearby kitchen utensil, I pricked up my ears. The purpose of my plan was to merely hear her speak. I was curious to hear what she sounded like. I was hoping, perhaps, to overhear the tail-end of some charming anecdote – or at least catch a snippet of whatever mellifluous sounds were blossoming from her perfect little mouth.

“When I’m in Primark I literally go insane.”

A second later I had run away. She had blurted it out with a kind of giggling gusto that appalled me. It sounded like a punchline to a joke, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. I tried for a while to think of what build-up such a joke would require, but I was stumped. Something about a massacre in a mall perhaps? I realised it wasn’t a joke, just a banal comment about shopping. The inanity of it depressed me threefold. Not only does this beautiful creature shop at Primark, she feels the need to talk about it at parties – and also gets so excited by said department store that she actually has a psychotic episode.

But, of course, she didn’t mean it. Not literally. Presumably she meant: “When I’m in Primark I get somewhat enthusiastic about the prospect of purchasing clothes”. Phrasing it like that, however, would have merely compounded the utter naffness of what she was saying. So instead, this milky-skinned princess decided to pep it up a little by comparing her Primark-induced experiences with the onset of mental illness.

Fair enough, compare high-street shopping with madness if you must – perhaps there’s a kind of political subtext lurking in there. But it was the word ‘literally’ that bugged me most. She could have settled for ‘virtually’ or even ‘almost’, but no, she had to insist on going all the way with ‘literally’. This golden-haired goddess thus overstepped the mark, and, in addition to labelling herself a shopoholic nutter, had succeeded with a mere eight words to say something equally inane, untrue AND naff. Needless to say, I lost interest at that point.

I only care because using words inappropriately means you’ll run out of decent ones when you really need them. If you call your mate a cunt for eating your Frazzles, what are you gonna call him when he fucks your girlfriend? It’s akin to the way horror films need to be more gory than the last to elicit any response from our cynical psyches – like notching up the voltage up on an EST machine.

But horror films are nothing compared to nightmares. All the stuff that frightens you in real life is in there, all mixed up, which makes it even more fucking scary. Like just when you’re being chased by a manic killer, suddenly there’s your mother being shafted by an alien with an elderly, diseased version of your own face. With that in mind, would you care to rephrase your anecdote about not being able to find somewhere to park?

“It was a total nightmare!”

Was it? Is the fact you missed the train to London really comparable to the terrifying twisted imagery of a subconscious mind that is able to shit you up precisely because it KNOWS YOUR EVERY FEAR?

At least rappers and chavs have the audacity to make up words when they need them. It seems to work quite well up until the point where everyone else catches on and starts trying to sound ironically cool. However, not only do they supply the rest of us with a fresh stream of words, they also serve to resuscitate old ones (like bad, wicked, sick, etc). This is a fascinating but little-known scientific law. When enough rappers invert the meaning of a word for long enough, it is pushed in the opposite direction, undoing the effects of its prior exaggeration, thus leaving it fit for use once more. At which point the rapper will move on to something else, having performed his civic duty.

But it’s not enough. Language shouldn’t be bastardised in the first place, let alone de-bastardised. To rectify this problem I have taken it upon myself to devise a meritocratic system of language redistribution, which works as follows.

Every few years the Post Office will issue everyone on the electoral roll with a ‘permit to speak’. Those who have suffered genuinely traumatic experiences will be allocated a certain quota of suitably extreme words which can be used at their discretion – like high-scoring Scrabble letters. And vice versa. Thus someone who had lost their family in a shipping accident and been stranded on a barren island for a decade would be awarded 800 uses of ‘terrible’, ‘drowning’, ‘crazed despair’ and ‘aching loneliness’. Conversely, someone who mislaid their car keys for half an hour would get two ‘peeved’ and one ‘mild frustration’.

In addition, to ensure the permits were not abused, a small fine would be incurred if the survivor of the shipwreck ever spoke of their ‘crazed despair’ upon realising they had been overcharged for a carton of soup or that they’d left their scarf at the dentist. There are other foreseeable problems, of course, such as the likelihood that some of the more potent adjectives would find their way onto the black market. But even a semi-corrupt quasi-fascistic system of linguistic repression is preferable to overhearing pretty girls talking crap about Primarks.

Brighton Boozers

5 Jun

Brighton Boozers

Once known as the ‘queen of watering places’, Brighton has long had a reputation for being a boozy seaside resort. However, much as the local paper likes to bemoan the city’s lively drinking culture, there are less pubs in Brighton now than there has been for 150 years. In 1900 there were 700. In 2008, the last time anyone was sober enough to count them, it had 278.

Here’s a list of notable events in the illustrious history of Brighton boozing.

  • Brighton’s oldest Brewery, The Black Lion, was founded in 1545 by a Flemish bloke called Deryck Carver. Ten years later the people of Lewes burned him at the stake inside a beer barrel.
  • By 1860 Brighton had more pubs than shops. Many of them were concentrated around Edward Street – an area which is reported to have also housed 100 brothels and 600 prostitutes. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this road is now the site of Brighton’s police station, law courts and job centre.
  • An almighty seaside piss-up took place on Brighton beach when over 300 gallons of booze were washed ashore in 1884. Thanks to a ship which foundered near the Isle of Wight, the casks of wine and ale turned up at Black Rock and were promptly seized upon by locals. “An extraordinary scene of drunkenness followed,” reported The Times. “Numbers of men and boys lying about helplessly intoxicated, many of them insensible… the stomach pump being brought into requisition.”
  • The 1920s saw the formation of a Brighton branch of the ‘The Ancient Order of Froth Blowers’, a strange organisation dedicated to blowing, drinking and cufflink etiquette. It was followed by a female version of the club called, ‘The Angelic Order of Fairy Belles’.
  • While there were 479 cases of drunkenness in Brighton in 1935, there was only one reported incident in Hove. The official record says: “A young girl was persuaded to go on a yacht and there saw some colours in bottles which she had not seen before. She was found safely asleep in the arms of Bacchus on the seafront”.
  • In 1936, Henry Metcalfe, landlord of The Lion (now The Sidewinder), shot himself and his wife before returning in spectral form to haunt the basement of the pub many years later.
  • In 1939 a Brighton councillor claimed that many of the town’s pubs were “insanitary and unhealthy”. On the eve of war, three members of Brighton health committee set out to investigate the claim – by going on a pub crawl.
  • In 1951 Brighton MP William Teeling told the town’s hotels and restaurants association: “There is no reason why we should not make ourselves a very gay town from now on.” Twenty-seven years later that dream came true with the opening of the Bulldog.
  • In 1975 the landlord of the Stable Inn took pity on a horse and invited it into his pub for a glass of beer. “It must be thirsty work being a horse,” quipped the landlord.
  • Minden Haley, landlord of the Montpelier Inn, declared in 1985 that he had the hottest barmaids in town: “It is a fetish – no an obsession – of mine to make sure that all the girls I take on as bar staff are real ravers.”
  • Britain’s first and only non-alcoholic pub, Norfolk LA Pub, opened in 1993 offering a radical new concept along with milkshakes and fruit juice. “What we are saying is: you don’t need alcohol to have fun”, said owners Pubs Unlimited. It closed four month later.

For the record, most of this stuff was gleaned from a book by Rose Collins called ‘Brighton Boozers’ which can be found in Jubilee Library. It was written in 2005 which is why history stops in the 90s.