A-Z of Brighton and Hove captures a fascinating city

Kevin Newman offers an A-Z of Brighton and Hove in his new book for Amberley Publishing.

Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman

Kevin, aged 46, explained: “The idea is to take the reader on a selective tour of the past of Britain’s premier coastal resort in alphabetical order.

“A-Z of Brighton and Hove aims to take the reader on a tour of the city’s most notable streets, places, parks and buildings, as well as the dark secrets of its inhabitants, lesser-known lanes and twittens, such as Queensbury Mews, home to Brighton’s smallest pub.”

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

A-Z of Brighton and Hove is available from Amberley’s website at £14.99.

“The book tries to reveal the stories behind some of the more unusual visitors to the city such as Sheena the camel who nearly ruined one of our first ever major conferences.

“Also here are tales of the town’s less-famous daughters and sons such as the wonderfully-named Chief Constable D’eath. It is a not a definitive reference book, but something to dip in and out of. There was no way I could hope to emulate Tim Carder’s wonderful Encyclopaedia of Brighton and its early 21st century successor, but I hope my book provides something for everyone.

“It’s significant to me as I wrote it after meeting Tim Carder, who put the original Encyclopaedia of Brighton together, and I wanted it to have the passion for Brighton that had and include the humour that you can’t miss when writing about such a lively and happy city.

“I think it will appeal to people as I think we need this sort of book in lockdown Sussex!

“When we were told we could only have one hour’s exercise a day, people that never usually went on walks widely decided they would now take them daily; it was their right.

“So you now have lots of people who’ve explored bits of Brighton and Hove they never knew existed on walks and want to find out more, and other Sussexians who’ve got the bug for exploring and learning and need inspiration for new walks. Hopefully the book caters for both.”

Kevin says the book brings to mind the character Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, who said: “Sussex, when all was said and done, was not like other counties.”

“If that is true, then it is equally true that Brighton and Hove is not like the rest of the county, and so its uniqueness always makes it worthy of another look.

“Wherever you live in Sussex as well, it’s hard to escape the impact of Brighton and I hope the humour that emanates from the city can give us all a much-needed cheer up . It’s a very happy city as my two sons, who feature in the book, will testify – they love getting over there.”

Kevin added: “I was asked to write the book by Amberley I guess as I’ve written a number of books for them, starting with Brighton and Hove in 50 Buildings, which I was told was their first book on Brighton that did well for them.

“I hope my book provides something for everyone, whether visiting or a citizen of the city.

“I think Amberley asked me to write A-Z as there is always more to discover about Brighton and Hove, and in these ‘terrible ‘twenties’ we need the tonic of reading about such a happy city.

“One of my favourite bits is where the book tells how Brighton was recently voted the most popular British seaside destination on the list of 30 locations people considered ‘happy places’. This meant it beat Padstow in Cornwall, the sandy beaches of the Hebrides, St Ives, and northern rival Blackpool.

“The book is full of quirky snippets including that in a survey of Brightonians, more than one in ten people said it also was their favourite holiday location, which suggests Brighton folk there-fore even feel on holiday in the place they live in – or as the book suggests, they’re confused about the concept of a holiday!”

“I have tons of archive material I’m working my way through so I’m sure there could be an-other A-Z Brighton and Hove at some point, but Amberley asked me to write another Bright-on book, which takes a different journey and is called Celebrating Brighton and Hove and that’s out next year first.

“My focus is back on the whole of Sussex again though before Celebrating is published as Pond Puddings and Sussex Smokies, telling about Sussex food and drink over the centuries is released first before Christmas.

“That was a lot of fun to write, but truly awful to have to research as you can imagine before lockdown – having to visit pubs, restaurants, drinking local beer and high-quality Sussex wines. Us authors really do struggle for our cause…….

“Food is a bit of a theme for my writing at one stage it seemed, as my first historical novel has a food-related title, and that’s also out before Christmas with The Real Press. Beef Every day But No Latin is the true story of Hove schoolboy James Bernard Clifton, who at the age of 11 set up his own school. Even more remarkably, it’s still going today.

I do have another novel for children, set partly in Brighton and you can read some of that for free on the Visit Brighton website: https://www.visitbrighton.com/blog/blog-post/2020/06/brighton-book-serialisation-b220

Kevin added: “I’ve been writing properly since 2013 but have always made comics, school news-letters and so on since I was a nipper. Back in the 80s I rounded up a group of schoolpals to pro-duce a computer magazine called Zoom so I’m expecting millions from a certain video-conferencing platform any day now!

“I’ve written school textbooks, novels and over a dozen different publications on Sussex for Amberley and also Pen and Sword books.

“ I’m due to be working on a book on Worthing soon but currently I’m writing a new history concept book for schools called Twistory and a book for the national market on clocktowers of England. They’re such odd, fascinating buildings we often ignore but they often have fascinating histories that nobody has ever told before. Brighton is also particularly blessed with them in great numbers and nobody’s ever really questioned why before.

“As I mentioned, I was always scribbling as a nipper – whether comics, magazines, novels or songs and just never gave it up properly as an adult. My break came in 2013 whilst teaching locally when I asked a publisher if they wanted my history students as guinea pigs to test out fu-ture textbooks and they said yes. Subsequently, I got to know the good people at Oxford Un-versity Press who asked me to write a few pages of a textbook the author wasn’t keen on doing and we took it from there.

“They next asked me to co-write a GCSE textbook that still sells well all round the country. That included bits on Sussex as it mentioned the Romans, Vi-kings and Normans so from there I wrote for local publications and that led to me being able to approach Amberley. They’ve been wonderful since then and have stuck with me, despite my terrible humour and tendency to hide pictures of my sons in the books. I have to get the boys to look at their dad’s books somehow!”

A-Z of Brighton and Hove (Amberley Publishing, £14.99) is available from Amberley’s website.

“People can also contact me via my website – www.allinclusivehistory.org – or email me at [email protected] and I can send them out a copy.”

“The book has an accompanied zoom/ actual talk that has been presented to audiences and a walking tour of Brighton – both of which can be booked on 07504 863867/ via [email protected]"