Monday 6 March 2023

The Big Gay Gull

 Now that's a blog post title I never thought I'd write, but here it is the very same....the Big Gay Gull🌈. It's a community art project celebrating diversity in Brighton and Hove. My friend Rescue Staffie S and I had decided that we were due a morning out and just the day before our destination would be Portslade.

Portslade is a small village just a few miles from Brighton and is one of the more deprived ones in the area. We had come specifically to visit the Emmaus project whose ethos is:

In 1949 a French MP and Catholic priest [and a former member of the French Resistance] was appalled by the huge volumes of homelessness [and deaths caused by it] following the end of WWII. Abbe Pierre as he was known set out to do something about it after a former prisoner called Georges was released after serving 20 years. His family had been unable to help him and following a failed suicide attempt he reached out for support. Abbe Pierre's reaction to his request was to empower him and ask him to help build houses for homeless mothers. This action not only saved, but changed the whole direction of Georges life and from then on he became the first companion. By 1951 there were 18 companions and following Abbe Pierre's resignation as an MP they became the French equivalent of rag and bone men picking up others unwanted goods and selling them on to raise funds to continue their good work. These days the Emmaus project is spread across four continents with several branches in the UK. They continue to provide work, accommodation and support to help those who have ended up on the streets to rebuild their lives. It's an amazing project and one which will restore your faith in the kindness of many who don't seek glory and fly below the radar.

The Portslade branch is set in the grounds of what was once a 12th century manor house. Some of the Grade II ruins are still standing, but are fenced off to protect them. The original house was left to fall into disrepair when it was replaced by a Georgian house in 1807. By 1901 it was owned by the Poor Servants of the Mother of God who cared for vulnerable women and ran a self supporting laundry. They had the chapel built which is now one of the on site shops. By 1997 the sisters had left and the Emmaus project had moved in. Now they run a whole series of themed preloved shops all in the one place and a cafe for when one needs a browsing pause. S and I are both enjoy a good rootle and have been doing so since trips down to the North Laines in Brighton when our kinderlings were still in pushchairs. It's a slightly scruffy sort of place [which I like] with a huge amount of stock, very reasonable prices, free parking and really friendly volunteers.

Well did we buy much then? Both of us bought books [she recommended the Dalai Lama one and gave it to me as a present] and I was delighted to find the folk book by Bob Copper for a pound as I have been hearing many good things about it of late. S is a keen cook [she was in catering for many years] so she's always happy to mooch around the kitchen bits whereas I am never happier than looking at the bric-a-brac as I am always amazed to see what's lurking there. I did not bring any dust catchers home with me, but I so enjoyed taking sneaky snaps of turns out that the rather peculiar green leprechaun shoe is probably Edwardian. It made the perfect contribution to the "Cr*p found in charity shops" FB group of which I am a proud member and gives me much mirth when I scroll through😆

Neither of us have been to the Emmaus project before and we both agreed how much we'd enjoyed doing something completely different. S is already planning to go back with her daughter. Next time I shall write a catch-up post about a recent NT adventure.



  1. Replies
    1. I enjoy browsing with my friends. We just enjoy the experience of looking at different things. Arilx

  2. Very interesting - amazing beginnings to the charity which is still running. I'd wondered if the gull was given the barrier fencing to stop children using it as a climbing frame.

    1. I think you're probably right about the fence round the gull. Arilx


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