Brighton is famed for being unconventional with its melting pot of people of all ages, backgrounds, faiths and sexualities, reflected back to us through the various mix of architecture, tourists attractions and shops. Brighton has long been known as a place to nurture new talent, explore new ideas and allow people to express who they are. Another Brighton trait is for its residents to stand up and be counted when it matters. One such group did that way back in 1972 when those living in the Queens Park area ran a campaign to stop developers turning the Royal Spa Buildings into a Casino and into a nursery school instead.
The campaign was extremely successful, partly down to the popular ‘Sparks’ newsletter which led to the people of Queens Park winning the day. From then on the community continued to write on various subjects about Brighton, the buildings and the people who populated the seaside town (now a city). From those humble beginnings QueenSpark Books publishing was born and continues to thrive with their 40th Anniversary coming up in 2012.
Two of their most recent publications Backstage Brighton, a look at the many cinemas past and present, which itself is a follow up to their extremely popular Back Row Brighton a nostalgic look at the many cinemas that filled Brighton high and back streets alike. Their other most recent publication looked at famous art deco outdoor tea rooms, The Pavilion Gardens Cafe, titled Teatime Tales, filled with a host of fascinating stories from the customers who have flocked to this little piece of heaven Interviews along with a host of photos from the Sewell family who have been running the cafe since the 1930’s.
I am pleased to say that I was one of the many volunteers that came together in researching, interviewing and writing a piece on the now long gone Grand Theatre for Backstage Brighton and transcribing the interview for Teatime Tales. Both books are available from the QueenSpark website and below are two examples of what treasures to find within the pages.
Although the name changed, the entertainment was kept the same, with a mixture of melodramas, comedies and plays. The Grand would continue to be one of Brighton’s top five, most popular theatres, running in direct competition to The Theatre Royal; especially around Panto Season. The Grand could guarantee that throughout December and January, audiences would flock to see their extravagant productions, with sumptuous costumes and dazzling stage design. Shows included: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Forty Thieves and Robinson Crusoe.
In 1922, The Grand would welcome its new proprietor, Andrew Melville. Andrew, along with his older brother’s Walter and Frederick, were collectively known as the three musketeers of melodrama. Together they would bring their vast theatre experience, ensuring the popularity of The Grand would long continue, by writing or adapting many of the shows. These included: A Girl’s Cross Roads (written by Walter), The Bad Girl of the Family (written by Fredrick). Meanwhile, Andrew would appear in many of the productions; taking the leading role in their opening, performance Robespierre or The Reign of Terror, a retelling of the French Revolution. The programme promised; a working guillotine, buckets of blood and a cast of over 300. Andrew Melville, would garner a loyal following, receiving rave reviews and stacks of fan letters for his acting. However, it was his role as the demon barber in Sweeny Todd that really had the audiences standing on their feet. Each night the audience would yell Sweeny’s catch phrase, “I’ll polish him off”,
Backstage Brighton, Glenn Stevens.
Lou’s passion for Brighton began when her mother, Lady Elwyn-Jones (Pearl Binder-Authoress), and father, Lord Elwyn-Jones (Lord Chancellor in Harold Wilson’s Government) would come and stay at their Brighton home in Cannon Street, and take their young children for tea and cakes to the famous open air cafe.
After the Second World War, in which both Lou’s and present owner David’s father both served, Lou’s father joined the British prosecution team, in his role as Junior Barrister and bore witness to the Nuremburg trials of 1945/46.
Later, Lord Elwyn-Jones would become a well respected MP for New Hampton, where he served the people for twenty seven years.
In the 1960, Lou and her husband moved to Brighton, where they now both teach at University of Brighton.
Back then, as a young mum, the Pavilion Cafe became an essential hub for mums with babies to meet.
“The Pavilion cafe was the only place young mums could take their prams, all the other cafes, didn’t allow it.” Lou Taylor.
Teatime Tales, Glenn Stevens.