Brighton Gay Switchboard 1979

Cripes Restaurant, Victoria Road, Brighton

“7 Victoria Road is Cripes Restaurant now, but in 1979 it was Green’s Vegetarian Restaurant and right at the top was a tiny room they let out to Brighton Gay Switchboard. Every evening a volunteer would be there to answer calls for information and advice.”

Comments about this page

  • A couple of other points regards Cripes, Victoria Road that may be of interest. Until just a year or two ago there was an Italian restaurant just down from Cripes ( Piccolos?) It was in a basement next to Headroom the Barbershop (previously Freddies cutting shop, famous in the Punk days). Headroom itself was used as a location in the feature film Wimbledon, although it was turned into a betting shop. If you look opposite you can see a fake door painted for the film on the corner of the Doctor’s surgery. I recall that it became a florist. Elsewhere on this site are links to two great pictures of pubs. One was where the fake door is and the other at the end of Victoria Road where it abutts Clifton terrace. This was called The Clifton and is easily recognisable today. At the side road to the nearby children’s hospital, are some old flint storage buildings with interesting reliefs and door furniture. These buildings are amongst the oldest in the area and maybe even as old as the work house mentioned on this site. The structures I believe were part of the old farm. Today I passed by and there is a planning application sign to convert the stores into a community centre for the Clifton and Montpelier “conversation” areas.

    By SJS (01/01/1900)
  • In the late sixties, early seventies, it was Open Cafe, a hippie hangout where you could read Brighton Voice and other such subversive press with your dandelion coffee.

    By Kate Palmer (03/10/2003)
  • Unfortunately, Cripes has been closed for some years and is now being redeveloped to residential premises – so it seems its time as a commercial premises is over. This is a shame as it is part of the area’s character.

    By MD (08/04/2004)
  • What happened to the Brighton Voice and the wonderful editors and contributors who worked so hard on it?

    By Cin (07/06/2004)
  • As one of the comments states ‘Sadly no longer there!’ Does anyone out there know the reason why such a fab restaurant would warrant closing – or have they relocated ? I would love to hear from anyone who has any information regarding this matter.

    By Roger Meekings (19/01/2005)
  • I had many a happy evening at Cripes. An old friend Bill Boyes was the chef and fellow lifeguard. Interestingly a Cripes opened in Exeter some years ago (now shut) but it transpired it was opened by the original owner of Cripes who sold up and moved west….like me.

    By Martin Scrace (12/08/2005)
  • Any one remember Bruno at Open? He died a few years back and Adam Trimmingham did a front page tribute in the Argus. As well as the Brighton Voice, I recall a duplicated magazine called Atilla. The dandelion coffee was excellent accompanied by a bowl of brown rice. Good times.

    By SJS. (17/01/2006)
  • The restaurant referred to by SJS was called ‘La Pergola’. I now live there.

    By Rich (25/08/2006)
  • Yes what a great institution Cripes was. I was very fortunate to own the place from 1988 until March 2000. In answer to Roger Meekings as to what happened, well I sold the place on to Tony Baker who then owned the ‘Dorset Bar’ and ‘Dig in the ribs’ and it was Tony’s decision to change the place into residential which I understand it never had been. Unfortunately Tony died in October 2005 and never saw the results of his plans. For me Cripes was the most exciting period of my life and I have extremely fond memories of the place, the lovely customers that were always very loyal to the place and the wonderful staff, particularly Graham, the chef who stayed with me for most of it. If any of my regular customers from that time read this and would like to keep in touch that would be great! Has anyone noticed that there is not another creperie in this town that is now awash with restaurants!

    By Joy (31/03/2007)
  • I remember the opening of Cripes (1979?). I was at work when John phoned me at about 4 pm. WE NEED HELP  and that was it. I became a waitress.
    For those of you that go way back. What’s the connection between Great American Disaster, Asterix and Cripes ?

    By Angie (25/09/2007)
  • Re Open Cafe, and Bruno, who I just about remember:  When I was about 8 years old my mother took me there. There was a woman in there who was completely ‘spaced out’ who I remember being fascinated by my innocence. I have repeatedly looked for any mention of Open Cafe on the internet as that one visit was very evocative of the general atmosphere of the time. So sorry that Bruno has passed away. Others that people may remember from that time… Derek (American or Canadian), Marek and Yatek Laskowski (Polish brothers), Daniel and Jaime Chatan (Mexican? sorry about spelling), Rick Zienko, Peter Marshall, Sheila Troy and Sian Jackson, Wesley Waring and many more.  Also Marek helped organise the Roy Wood concert.  Memories indeed. I was too young to try the beverages on offer at Open Cafe!

    By Chloe Arrowsmith (12/12/2007)
  • A bit late I fear but if anyone has any more info on Open, I’d be really interested to hear about it – any stories or anecdotes or anything. Both my parents (Alan and Caroline) were involved in running it and the only thing I have is an old newspaper cutting, unfortunately not with me. I’ve just moved to Brighton and am fascinated by this part of my parents’ lives – they have both passed away. Thanks.

    By Aoife Dare (24/10/2008)
  • Aoife, I do remember your dad, just about I think, and certainly my mum would. Did he go to Wales? We went there in 73. My mum’s name is Lesley, and she was a clothes designer, my brother and sister are Nicky and Eugenie. We lived on Clifton St before we moved. If your dad did live in Wales did he live in Aberarth? So sorry you have lost them both.

    By Chloe Arrowsmith (05/11/2008)
  • Hi Chloe, Yes they did move to Wales, in … I’m not sure of the exact year but it was before 76 which is when my sister was born. They lived in Clettycubby (?) not sure where that is exactly. Thanks for your comment, sorry it took me so long to reply. My dad never gave up his obsession with ‘alternative’ lifestyles, that started in Brighton. He was involved in an organic yoghurt business, a health food shop and then a health food cafe which was his favourite.

    By Aoife Dare (18/12/2008)
  • Hi Aoife! Finally got back to you – sorry, found out from Mum, Lesley, that your (?) Uncle Chris Dare, who I do remember much better, used to live with my Mum’s boyfriend Chris Bromham, he recently passed away.  So Chris may want to know this if (pardon my crassness) he is still around. Sorry to be bearer of potentially bad tidings. I remember Chris being a sweet gentle well spoken chap.

    By Chloe Arrowsmith (05/06/2009)
  • Hhi again Chloe! Just saw your last comment – only now! Was going through some stuff and found the best article about Open Cafe, wish I could upload it here but don’t think I can, it’s really funny – great photos and mentions my mum, dad, and Bruno among other people. So glad it’s been kept all this time.

    By Aoife Dare (09/12/2009)
  • Brighton Voice could not only be read at the Open Cafe: it was actually produced there. I was one of the writers and sellers and have just put together a brief page on the Voice on Wikipedia. If anyone can add to that please go ahead.

    By Andrew Shepherd (30/12/2009)
  • I remember Alan and Caroline well as I used to spend a lot of time hanging out at Open. I’m very sorry to hear that they have both died. The capital for Open was put up by Bruno and Alan and Bruno were partners in the venture, I seem to remember. Remember Chris Dare too.

    By Nick Heath (19/07/2010)
  • I remember OPEN cafe well as my older brother Tom frequented it often and was friends with all three of them. He worked there occasionally too. I remember Caroline having a beautiful voice and Bruno was a real character and definitely one for the ladies! It was a really exciting place to be at the time..fond memories!

    By mel davies (16/11/2010)
  • Mel and Nick, thanks for your comments. It’s always such a treasure to get snippets of information, however random, about my parents. It’s funny you mention Caroline’s voice, we always took the p*ss out of her for being tone deaf.

    By Aoife (27/04/2011)
  • Random googling and I somehow ended up here. I worked at was a waiter at Cripes for short while in ’93 alongside tall, handsome Simon, who I had a bit of a crush on. Sorry to hear it’s no longer there.

    By Robert (08/09/2011)
  • I worked in Midland Bank in Western Road and Cripes used to bank with us. For my 19th birthday Andrew, one of the owners, gave me and my friend a T-shirt bearing the Cripes logo. That was in 1981 and I still have the t-shirt; I wear it to bed!!

    By Jaki Morris (09/09/2011)
  • Hi Aoife! I have very fond memories of teenage years spent at Open. Your parents were lovely and their wedding and the peoples’ picnic in Stanmer Park that followed it, was one of the most beautiful, fun days of my life. I may even still have the wedding invitation. Some of the names mentioned above are very familiar – Bruno especially!

    By Jackie (13/01/2012)
  • Hi there Jackie, I remember the various peoples’ picnics from about the age of 6 or so and also the Crypt cafe at the uni – my mum and Sheila Jackson shared a house with her girls Troy and Sian, and me, my brother Nicholas and sister Eugenie, the youngest. I was born in ’63 if that helps. Yes, remembering Alan and Caroline too.

    By Chloe Arrowsmith (25/01/2012)
  • Hi Chloe! I remember Troy, Sian & Sheila really well. I’m 6 yrs older than you & can remember a girl of about 9 or 10 that I used to chat too – could well have been you. Happy days! I did find Alan & Caroline’s wedding invitation – I kept it to remind me of a beautiful day…makes me smile just looking at it!

    By Jackie (04/03/2012)
  • Stumbled across this page by chance – such good times associated with Open. Sorry to read that Bruno is no longer with us; it was actually his mum who funded Open. I knew that Alan and Caroline had died. My second daughter is named Caroline because Alan and Caroline Dare arrived at our house in Ireland when my then wife, Troy, was in labour and summoned an ambulance when it all started going horribly wrong. That was 38 years ago. Much water under the bridge since then, but the memories live on.

    By Marek (19/05/2012)
  • Hello Aoife, just like to say how sad it is to read about your Mum and Dad. I knew them from the early 70s when Alan had the combination and after with open, my nickname was Izzy back then, and Tony Cooke made my wedding cake and we had a little reception in the cafe. I visited in Wales one snowy Easter, and also in Glenlough about 18/19 years ago a couple of times. You were little and Alan was setting up a wholefood shop. I remember coming to the school Xmas play. I have loads of things I could say, if you want to get in contact please do.

    By Frederick Cartman (30/01/2013)
  • I lived around the corner in Powis Square from 1961 to 1977 and used to pass it on my way to school at St Mary Magdalene’s every day, so knew it as a greengrocer, then an electrical shop. I remember taking my mum’s vacuum cleaner for repair there. Even after moving elsewhere in town, I used to go to Cripes a lot and was very disappointed that it closed. Only went to the Open Cafe once I think. Still go to the same doctors a bit further down the road.

    By Peter Counihan (13/05/2013)
  • I used to live across the road at 6 Victoria Road which was my Dad’s working mans’ café. It finally closed in about 1981 after going steadily downhill for a couple of years. I remember Bruno well and am sorry to hear he’s passed on. For me as an 8/9/10 year old in 68,69,70 Open was a real treat especially the apple juice (probably organic) they used to sell.

    By Derek Mann (25/08/2013)
  • Dear Marek, Jackie and Frederick, thanks so much for your comments. Wonderful to hear. Frederick, I’d love to hear more but not sure how to get in touch with you. My sisters are still running the whole food shop –

    Today is mum’s 10 year anniversary, which is why I ended up back on the website – I never remember to check it. Jackie, my sisters did forward me an email from you but not the return address and then I forgot to follow up with them. Happy New Year to you all and thanks for the memories! 

    By Aoife May Dare (03/01/2014)
  • Hi Jackie! No idea if you’ll see this but just in case – we are trying to find out the name of the church that Alan and Caroline got married in – can you remember?! Hope you’re well.

    By Aoife Dare (30/07/2017)
  • Hi Aoife, your parents were married in St Michael’s Church.

    By Jackie (16/12/2017)
  • I remember in 1980 or so the best chef at ‘cripes!’ Andrew I think, his food was the best as were his big brown eyes! The place had a certain style and many people thought it was owned by Brown’s as the decor and furniture were so similar. Great times!

    By Helen (30/06/2018)
  • I met my wife Rosie at the Open Cafe. I noticed her arriving with a stunningly handsome guy who had long blonde hair and a matching well-groomed beard. She looked beautiful with long blonde hair and a colourful poncho. I felt she was way outside my league so I relaxed and spoke to her at the PNP meeting we both ended up attending. The gorgeous blonde guy was at the gay liberation meeting. I walked her home and, long story short, got married 3 months later. We adopted one of the Open Cafe cats (Poppy) who was the sister of ‘Sideways’, who was well known at the Cafe. All this happened in Aug 1972. We are still married now living on Vancouver Island in BC Canada. 

    By Jim Richardson (13/09/2018)
  • I loved Cripes! I first went there sometime in the early ’80s, I think it was. Later in the ’90s/2000s I lived in Montpelier St, so I was in fairly frequently. It was a good place for me to take dates. I loved the menu and I always had the crêpe in advocaat and chocolate sauce for pudding. I was very sad when it closed. For ages it looked like it might reopen – but it never did. Happy memories though, of a great place. A large chunk of character went out of the area when it closed.

    By Michael (13/09/2018)
  • Hi Alice

    Ros Claxton here, this is amazing. Are you still in Brighton? I now live here. I was a great friend of Alan and Caroline. I was at university with Alan in London and through him met Caroline and Tony when he moved to Brighton. I used to visit them here. Was at their wedding in 73(?). Then when they moved to Wales to LLetty Cybi (sp?) I used to visit with my husband Johnny and daughters. We stayed in a caravan owned by a friend of theirs, Marian. We moved to Norfolk and Caroline came to visit us there, you were a baby in a buggy. I remember also meeting up with Caroline and you all in the British Museum when you came to London one year. Then when they moved to Ireland we would visit you at Glanlough. The last time I saw Alan was just after I moved to Brighton in 2005 when I came to Bantry with my daughter Hannah. You were away but Hannah, Rachel and Jamie were there. I would so love to meet up with you, I have lots of photos I could show you, if I can find them. I loved your parents,they had a very positive influence on my life.
    Many thanks to Maude who I recently discovered knew everyone at the Open and is still in touch with Tony. She remembered this website.

    By Ros Claxton (24/02/2020)
  • Maude sent me this. Talk about time travelling. I set up Open with Alan and Bruno. It started as the cafe in the Brighton Combination down West Street but we had to move to accommodate all of the things that were happening. Bruno’s mother put up the money for the building on Victoria Street and that was the start of a very big adventure. I have attempted to write about those times but keep getting transfixed by the memories. I’ll tell you more another time

    By Tony Cook (24/02/2020)
  • Tony – we must get together soon. And you must write about ‘Open’, it was such a unique place. I still have a cook book you gave me, you definitely made the best veggie food ever.

    By Ros Claxton (26/02/2020)
  • Thank you Ros. I’ll see what I can do. I’m wondering if it’s possible to share photos on here?

    By Tony Cook (03/03/2020)
  • I am so happy to have found this page. I used to visit Open when I was a young teenager, I loved it, I do remember Bruno and some of the other people. I have been looking and looking for photos online, I haven’t found anything so far, there really should be something on the www about those days. I heard Pete Deadman’s history of Infinity, and his stories about Bruno, I was at the Reading festival helping to serve food before they opened the first shop. In the mid seventies I visited the Pudding Shop in Istanbul and it really reminded me of Open! After that in 78 I moved to St Michaels Place and so I remember Cripes as well. I would so love to see photos of Open, if there are any, my first experience of that culture!

    By Candy (06/04/2020)
  • I remember Alan and Caroline and I went to their reception at Stanmer Park when they got married. Alan was a very kind and generous person. I also remember Bruno , he was a gentle soul and he very kindly let us set up the initial Brighton gay switchboard in the office on the side of the café in 1975 when we started it I’m very sad to hear of his passing – David Maplesden.

    By David Maplesden (15/09/2021)
  • This is what makes My B&H so fascinating, the evolution of a simple topic. I do guided tours around this area for Brighton Festival Fringe and have done for many years, so have delved back into its history on many occasions. Cripes was a greengrocers in 1914 so some continuity there with the vegetarian restaurant. There are many copies of Brighton Voice kept on the public access shelves at the city archive at The Keep, Falmer. On the face of it, this area in Clifton-Montpelier is true blue Brighton conservative, but here we have Gay Switchboard , a vegetarian restaurant, an ‘Alternative’ newspaper, with a radical feminist and suffragette, Minnie Turner across the road at 13 Victoria Rd and not far away in Denmark Terrace there is a Blue Plaque to Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor!
    How Brighton is all that!

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (18/09/2021)
  • My father, John Slinger, was the chef and manager of Cripes in the 80s. He sadly died in 2019. I would be so grateful of any memories of him this community would like to share. Thank you.

    By Alice Walker (08/06/2023)
  • I cannot believe I have only just come across this page, I loved ‘Cripes’, I have often tried to recreate the dishes myself, without much luck.
    The side salads always had a slice of orange on top, which seemed a bit different then!
    If anyone out there could post any recipes I would be very grateful, or maybe it was just the whole ambience of the place!

    By Jackie Hartt (22/07/2023)

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