“It never occurred to me what was to the north of me [Whitehawk]. Since I’ve been involved in the Bygones group, I’ve discovered a whole side of Brighton that I never knew existed and that side is much more interesting. The real nitty gritty, the harsh Brighton. I was shocked at the level of poverty. I was shocked at how very, very poor some people are. I don’t know anybody rich who lives in Brighton.
We’re all existing on practically nothing.”
Landlords took away the windows
“This part of Brighton, East Brighton, has always been very poor. Most of Whitehawk was re-housed from the Carlton Hill area. People talk of their fathers being unemployed for nine or ten years. If they didn’t pay the rent, the landlord would take away the front door or the windows. They only had as much furniture that could be carried on a handcart. One of our members said they didn’t have any blankets on the bed, they had their father’s overcoat. They were lent blankets by the Ebenezer Chapel in wintertime, then they washed them by hand and returned them in the spring.”
Destruction of their culture and support
“I’ve been really surprised how happy people are to talk about the past. Most people are happy to talk about their grandparents, more reticent to talk about their parents. I’ve been amazed at how harsh the stories were and how harsh they still are. For many people the destruction of their homes [Carlton Hill slum clearance of 1930s] was the destruction of their culture, their social network and their support.”
Translating ‘luxury’ into cash
“Having electricity and electrical equipment was a novelty. Some people sold everything the minute they moved in, the cookers, baths. They realised they could translate it into cash. They had lived all their life without a bath so why start now?”
Sue Craig interviewed by Julian 15th April 2006.