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Palace Pier

The other day at lunch with Daffers, Ivan was shouting the odds for Sussex sport. I will leave this to him. Alice Mansfield observed that in the art field Constable lived and painted in Brighton, Jaques Emile  Blanche, more known for his portraiture, lived and worked in Brighton and was a member of the New English Art Group, one of his most famous paintings was of Aubrey Beardsley, a Brighton resident, as was Edward Burne -Jones. The sculptor Eric Gilll who is the grand uncle of the delightful Polly, Bob Tickler’s P/A, lived in nearby Steyning. Lawrence Olivier leads a parade of actors, playwrights and comedians including Terence Rattigan, Max Miller, Dora Bryan, Michael Jayston, Ray Brooks, Anna Neagle, Flora Robson.

At this point I ran up the literary colours of Graham Greene and Keith Waterhouse. Brighton Rock was a successful film and novel. The best contemporary fiction on Brighton is Palace Pier by Keith Waterhouse who lived in Embassy Court, Hove. I re-read it recently. He brilliantly evokes the seediness of Brighton’s pubs and low life dealers that patronise them, the pretentiousness of the literary festival, and the beat of Brighton. One of his comments “Brighton is helping the police with its enquiries” has passed into legend. Aside from being a gifted , if cynical, observer of life from his debut with Billy Liar, Waterhouse is a genuine comic talent. I liked the confrontation between the central character Chris Duffy in Palace Pier, a dissolute writer that never had a second successful book after his first, and another writer Moss Cody, who says to Duffy “At  least I am a professional writer “. “Professional writer ..?” retorts Duffy “You could not write ‘fuck’  in the dust on a Venetian blind!”

Is there something in the sea air  that fosters the creative arts in Brighton? I do not think so. It’s more the history of arts patronage that began with the Prince Regent who entertained the leading musicians of the day, its tolerance to gays and all groups and a pleasant place to live.

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About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts