I’m not getting out of the house very much at the moment due to an annoying lung problem that means that I’m labouring under the influence of some particularly strong anti-biotics. So I haven’t been in to Brighton, just six miles away from my home here in Lewes, UK, and therefore I might have missed the new display at Brighton’s glittering modern library. Luckily my friend Val Ishii spotted it and sent me a photograph. It has cheered me up no end to see my new novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, there in pride of place at the library’s New Arrivals table. My thanks are due to Brighton Jubilee Library not just on my behalf but also for the main character in my novel, poor Stephen Dearsley, who spends a lot of significant time in Brighton’s old library building.
Stephen has problems with modernity and an unreconstructed admiration for Victorian architecture but I like to think he would approve of the new library building – opened in 2005 with vastly improved facilities.
Who can say though, Stephen is a strange young man.
My novel, set in 1967, begins with Stephen’s regular morning bus journey to his bus stop near Brighton’s famous Dolphin Fountain and then his short walk round the corner to study in the local reference library. Shockingly for Stephen, on this particular morning, there is some naked frolicking going on in the water at the base of the fountain.
Stephen is less impressed by that than the solid comforts of Brighton’s old library building now exclusively given over to the Brighton Art Gallery and Museum. Stephen’s sanctuary is upstairs here in what used to be the Reference Library.
So it is particularly apt now that the chronicle of Stephen Dearsley’s time in Brighton Library should be on display in the library’s shiny reincarnation.
The lovely old room is still there but some ten years ago it was converted into the Brighton History Centre and then, late last year, closed down when the History Centre moved to its own modern building, to join The Keep, the brand-new archive centre for Sussex, opened in November 2013.
Already The Keep is attracting much more distinguished visitors than Stephen Dearsley.
There are no plans yet for what will happen to the old reference library space upstairs at the Museum and Art Gallery but I trust that it will find a new role for new Stephen Dearsleys and others as a cultural refuge space away from that madding crowd that is the lively Brighton community. I suspect if Stephen does ever return to Brighton, he won’t be able to resist putting his nose inside the door to see what the room looks like now. When I was last there, the old tables and chairs had gone but the basic infrastructure had remained unchanged. Long may that be the case. Let’s preserve the old space but also celebrate Brighton’s splendid new library buildings.