Brighton Heroes

We ❤️ Brighton Heroes: Charlotte Bray

The Hanover Community Notice Board (HCNB) is embedded into Brighton culture. For the 14,700 members of this uniquely crackers Facebook group, it offers a peek behind the curtains of a Hanover community that’s one of the most socially diverse in the city. From heated debates about feminism to student noise complaints to the perpetual threads about parking permits and defecating dogs, it’s a wonderland of tubthumping liberalism and passive aggressive bickering.

Behind all this, though, it serves a key purpose as community fulcrum. Whether users are looking for an electrician, trying to sell a sofa, or drumming up support for a homeless person in need, it's helped thousands of people connect with someone that can aid them. It was founded over four years ago by Charlotte Bray and she – aided by a team of admins – keeps everything in check and ensures HCNB remains a tolerant group with a purpose.

We called Charlotte to chat insane notifications, Suki the shark and provocative members.


Hey Charlotte! First thing first: how many hours a day do you reckon you spend looking after the Hanover board?

I would say three hours on average. If you asked my husband, he’d definitely say I have a problem!

That's over 1000 hours a year! So how much does the board actually get used?

In the last 28 days we’ve had 74,600 posts, comments and reactions.

Woah. Your notifications must be insane.

 All photos by Alexis Maryon

All photos by Alexis Maryon

I probably get 100-150 a day but I switched off notifications six month ago! So I have to go into Facebook and open it. I also moved it to the third page of my phone so I’m a bit more mindful. I’m currently halfway through a book called How To Break Up With Your Phone: make of that what you will!

When you set the group up, did you mean to create something this size?

Ha. Not al all. I set it up when I first moved to Brighton and invited 25 local people. These were the days before WhatsApp and I thought it would be useful to have a way to ask for plumber recommendations, or someone to lay tiles. Within three weeks there was about 100 people on it and within a year it was ridiculous. I was quite active on it at first but now it’s become its own creature and we just moderate it.

Do you feel a responsibility for what happens on there?

I do, yeah. But over the last year the group has got very good at self-policing.

Why do you think it has grown the way it has?

I think it’s to do with the mix; there are so many types of people and its socially and economically diverse. There’s the students, then the DFLs [Down From Londoners], the born and bred-ers. There’s also a lot of people in Hanover that are struggling from day to day, or in social isolation, or experiencing physical struggles in general. Sometimes this produces high levels of conflict but it also produces high levels of tolerance.

Do you have any favourite threads?

Ask any long-time users and they’ll know about Suki the shark.That spat went on for days but it was all humour and that’s the board at its best. I also love the posts with positive outcomes. A few months ago a women posted that she was alone and struggling and there was a flood of reactions: people directing her to services, offering to go for coffee or come and sit with her. I was just crying all the way through. Social media gets a bad press for a lot of reasons but I like to think our board can be a force for good. I don’t think i’d carry on if I didn’t.

What are you thinking and doing when threads kick off, like the debate about the price of wine at The Greys last year?

It can be alarming, hysterical and entertaining. I have a family, a job and a life outside the Hanover board – believe it or not –  and you can come into it a bit late. By which time it’s taken off and you think, ‘Shit, what am i going to do?’ It develops into a mini hysteria, part of which is fueled by humour. Part it is a culture of people taking things very personally.

You have some infamously provocative members who shall remain nameless. Do they wind you up?

Well there's one particular firebrand who loves to stir the pot. He’s provocative but I think he’s slightly misunderstood. I've met him and he is alright. He’s really alright but he can’t help himself. There's a couple like that and I reckon they'll read this and know exactly who they are!

Do you ever worry about arguments or bickering moving from online to IRL?

It doesn’t particularly worry me. You do get 2am aggro sometimes and you just think, ‘Put your phone down and go to bed, mate’.

Finally… why does everyone hate the cereal cafe?

Well, if you read that thread I actually don’t think most people do. Obviously, the cereal cafe in Shoreditch was made a scapegoat for gentrification but I don’t think that’s what the majority of posters on the Hanover board think. I read it more as a massive collective eye-roll. I mean, it’s a bit silly to charge £3.80 for a bowl of cereal but it’s a independent, quirky business and most people would rather that than another Starbuck’s or Costa.

We agree. Thanks so much for your time, Charlotte!

When she’s not managing the board (plus raising a family and working full-time) Charlotte runs the Dine at 39 supperclub. Get along to one from this link.

And check our previous entries in our ‘We ❤️ Brighton Heroes’ series

We ❤️ Brighton Heroes: Brighton Table Tennis Club

Hanging out with Harry Fairchild is like being with a celebrity. We spent half an hour sitting outside Sydney Street’s Flour Pot Bakery and – in-between buying a natty Hawaiian shirt from Dirty Harry’s across the road – our Harry is interrupted every few minutes by someone he knows. They invariably come in for a hug before he apologetically explains that he’s being interviewed, and we continue until the next fan arrives.

Harry is 27, has Down’s Syndrome, and is the de facto ambassador for the Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) that we’re here to discuss. BTTC are one of the city’s jewels: an all-inclusive club that welcomes people who might find acceptance difficult elsewhere. Its famous All-Comers session accepts any player of any standard, and amongst the club's 1,250 weekly players are people with learning and/or physical disabilities, young local travellers, looked after children, people with cancer, and young asylum seekers.

The centre was opened in 2007 by ex-England junior players Tim Holtam and Harry McCarney and now run over 100 tables across the city, including in schools, sheltered housing schemes, a homeless centre and a psychiatric hospital. Harry – who was the world's first qualified table tennis coach with Down’s Syndrome and has won numerous international tournaments – is just one of many lives the BTTC has positively altered. He wanted to tell his story.


Hey Harry! When did you join Brighton Table Tennis Club?

I joined five years ago. 

Had you played before?

Not really. A bit on holiday and when we went camping. But not properly. I started coming to Brighton Table Tennis Club with a group from Grace Eyre [the learning disabilities foundation] but quite quickly Tim Holtam [head coach of the club] asked me to join an open session. 

Aren’t you a coach now?

Yes, I did a course and now I teach lots of people in the club! But I also teach at High Down prison, St Luke’s Primary school and Patching Lodge, which is an old people’s home.

 All photos by Alexis Maryon

All photos by Alexis Maryon

That's great! You must play a lot then?

Yes I play a lot. Every day. I also have two tables at home but I love to play most at Brighton Table Tennis Club. 

What are the other coaches there like?

They’re all my friends and I love them. I call Tim Holtam ‘The Boss’ and he made me the godfather to his daughter! I was so happy that I cried when he told me. Then there’s Pedro Santos. I’m going on holiday with him in June to meet his family in Portugal. 

He must really like you if he’s taking you to see his family.

Yeah! And I love coach Wen-Wei too. We coach at Patching Lodge and High Down prison together. He has been teaching me Chinese words. He taught me ‘hello’, ‘I love you’ and ‘how are you?’. Being with him makes me feel good in my heart.

How do you personally feel about Brighton Table Tennis Club?

The club is very important to me. I am happy there.

You recently won the a gold medal at the world championships [at the 2017 SU-DS International Championships for Athletes with Down Syndrome in Porto]. How was that?

Oh, it was very good! I scored the winning shot, which was very, very good. 

1 January 2016 Reopening.jpg

We’ve heard that you now have a part-time job at the Hand in Hand pub?

Yes. It’s across the road from Brighton Table Tennis Club and I used to go in and say hello to them. I said I wanted a job and they gave me one! 

Did you always want to work in a pub?

I actually wanted to work in the pub in Eastenders, but I like it there too!

That’s awesome, Harry. Thanks!

Harry’s mum, Linsey, helped out during the interview. She also wanted to say the following about Brighton Table Tennis Club:

“I can’t praise the club enough. It’s made such a huge difference to Harry’s life; not just keeping him fitter but opening access to so many different people and friendships. He feels relaxed there and feels himself there. He’s a obviously a little bit different, but at BTTC he’s just another table tennis player. He’s surrounded by older people, younger people, people with disabilities, refugees, able-bodied. The common thread is they all love table tennis and they end up forming friendships that you wouldn’t otherwise come across.”

Check out the great work Brighton Table Tennis Club are doing and come join them for an open session. All standards welcome…

And check our previous entries in our ‘We ❤️ Brighton Heroes’ series

Meet The PLATF9RM Legends Running The Brighton Marathon

This Sunday will see the eighth Brighton Marathon, when 12,000 sweat-loving souls pound the streets to raise money for over 300 charities. We’ve got huge admiration for everyone that takes on the race, but hold an extra space in our ❤️ for the PLATF9RM members in the starting pen. We’ve featured three– please have a read of the following stories…and then give them a donation, obvs.

To help our guys complete the race and recover as pain-free as possible we also chatted to Jamie Webb, sports physio from Brighton Sports Therapy. Jamie ran the marathon in 2015 so spoke from experience about hydrating effectively, and why roasts are the ultimate post-race meal.

Oliver Easton-Hughes

Hi Oliver. What charity are you running for and why?

More of us are aware these days that we need to take care of our mental health as well as maintain our physical upkeep… I certainly am, and that’s why I’m running for Mind.

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What’s your history of running marathons?

This is my second Marathon (I ran the Brighton Marathon last year too) but I’ve done a bunch of halves in the past. I don’t mind the half marathons, but the full marathon was pretty savage last year.

How do you find the training, especially in those long dark months of winter?

I was training quite heavily at the beginning of the year, but it’s all gone to pot after falling down the stairs at home a few weeks back and damaging one of my ribs - I’ve not really been able to do anything since. All very annoying but there’s nothing I can do at this stage – I think I’m in better shape than I was last year but it’s going to be a tough slog!

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about signing up for a marathon next year, but isn't quite sure?

Just sign up and work out the logistics later. I’d be lying if I said you were likely to enjoy it but it’s a hell of a thing to do. The sense of achievement when you’ve finished is something else.

What’s your plan for after the race?

You can’t beat a proper roast and a few pints after a long run. I’ve got a bunch of family coming down so I’m looking forward to spending some time with them too…

Please donate to Oli! Get his donation page below.

Joe Woods – Grovelands

Hey Joe! We’re nearly at the big day. What’s your chosen charity?

I am running for British Heart Foundation. It’s a great cause and one which is close to my heart – no pun intended – as my mum has suffered with a heart condition since birth.

Are you experienced with marathons and how are you going to attack this year’s race?

I have completed two half marathons but this will be my first full marathon. I’m running it with two friends who are also representing the British Heart Foundation. I’m aiming to complete the marathon in under 3hr40.

How do you get on with the training?

It’s been going well! I have had minor step back in the last few weeks when I sustained an injury to my ankle, however it is well on the mend now! During the winter months I kept most of my training in the gym but after two months of running on a treadmill it’s been great to get outside in the lighter evenings.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about signing up for a marathon next year?

Treat every training run the same as the main event. I didn’t stretch properly beforehand or bother strapping my ankles for some shorter runs and this resulted in some niggly injuries which could have been avoided.

Post-race plans?

Lots of beer! I have family and friends coming down so, assuming I can still walk after, I will be going out for lunch and having a few drinks. Once the beer wears off, and the aching kicks in the following day, I will be resting up in bed.

Joe and his running pals are hoping to raise £1200 between them and are not far off. Let’s help them get over the line by contriburing to Joe's page below.

Oliver Skipper


Oli is on holiday in Gran Canaria and didn’t actually get his replies back to us. 🙏🙏🙏🙏 We have got these pictures of him in his running gear in Hove Town Hall though. And he’s great. So give him a donation please, as his charity is also our partner charity, The Clocktower Sanctuary.

Sponser Oliver Skipper and the charity he is supporting, The Clocktower Sanctuary below.

And here’s our man Jamie Webb from Brighton Sports Therapy. Find them at

Hey Jamie, have you got any white-hot advice for people running this year’s marathon?

It’s quite specific – practice drinking out of cups beforehand! The cups you get from the drinking stations have a wide top and it’s easy to get more down you that in you. A top tip would be to squeeze the cup in, so there’s more water at the top. This makes it more effective to sip it whilst running. Hydration is key in terms staving off cramp; two litres is the minimum amount runners should be drinking.


Anything else?

Leave plenty of time to get there. Make sure you’re in the right pen and running at the right pace; otherwise you could try to keep pace with people that are too fast for you. And stick to your race plan! Have an A, B, C, and D time you want to achieve. If you find one getting away from you don’t strain to make it..

And what advice would you give for post-race recovery?

Certainly get a massage from one of the physics there. I’d then recommend a good meal. You’ll have burnt something like 3,000 calories so you’ll be craving fat. You’ll have glycogen depletion so you’ll want a bunch of carbs. You’ll need protein because your muscles will be on super-repair mode. You’ll probably want sugar but I would guard against that, other than maybe something immediately after completing.

You’ve basically described a roast here, haven’t you?

I like the roast as a post-race meal! It’s got carbs in potatoes, vitamins in veg, protein in the meat. Your body will be literally drinking it in.

So can we say on record that a roast is the perfect post-marathon meal?

I don’t see why not. The pubs of Brighton will certainly thank us.

What about a celebratory beer or three?

Have a pint of water with your beer! I wouldn’t recommend drinking loads. I know people that have got drunk after and that’s their choice, but they’re the people won’t be able to walk the next day.

Thank Jamie!

We ❤️ Brighton Heroes: Codebar Brighton

Conjure the image of a coder and, right or wrongly, many of us will picture a man. Probably white. If he’s from Brighton – most likely hirsute. You could be forgiven for doing so as, sadly, the tech industry is outrageously skewed towards caucasian blokes who may or may not have beards.

This imbalance makes even less sense when you consider the first coders were actually women and that IBM had its first female vice-president in 1943. Trying to dissect the myriad societal reasons why the tech industry is unable to sort out its diversity problem – despite everyone in tech knowing it has a diversity problem – is an essay for another day but for now we’re just so pleased that codebar Brighton exist.

Codebar run free programming workshops for underrepresented groups in tech. They’re taught by pros who care passionately about growing a diverse tech community and believe in the power of coders to change the world (which, FYI, they totally can). We caught up with Cassie Evans, one of codebar Brighton’s core organizers, to chat programming, pipelines, and toys for boys.

PLATF9RM : Hey Cassie! How did codebar Brighton start?

Cassie: codebar Brighton was started shortly after codebar in London was set up. The first London codebar was started by Despo Pantera when she realised that as a female web developer, she was in the minority. About seven months later Rosa Emerald and Tom Ashworth threw the first codebar Brighton at Clearleft. It’s been running for four years now, we’re now one of the most active chapters, and Clearleft still host us regularly.


How many people have taken a Codebar Brighton session since you started?

A lot! We throw workshops every Tuesday evening with about 20 students coming along. We also organise occasional weekend workshops with even more student spaces. It’s hard to put an exact number but definitely over 800.


That’s amazing! What personally drives you to be involved?

The initial drive was so I would still have a place to learn! Before becoming an organiser, I was coming along as a student. The previous organisers started moving away from Brighton with their careers, and I was determined to keep the community together. Having people to encourage you and help when you get stuck is so important when you’re learning to code. I also feel strongly about contributing towards a more diverse tech scene. Technology is woven into everything around us and a huge part of our future. We need diverse representation to ensure that technological advances support everyone..


Amen. Why does the tech industry have a diversity problem?

It’s difficult to give a blanket answer as the struggles of each group are different. It’s also a reflection of a bigger societal issue. But a large part of it is to do with the “male computer geek” stereotype. In the 80s, computers were marketed quite heavily as gaming toys for boys and somehow that cultural stigma’s still pretty ingrained. Representation is important. People are less likely to be drawn to an industry that doesn’t appear to include them, and those biases affect decisions when it comes to hiring too. It’s not just tech savvy white men who have a knack for coding. In fact, in the 60’s, programming was a mainly female profession.

Can Brighton, with its community of progressive organisations like codebar Brighton and Brighton Digital Women, play a role in changing this?

I really hope so. One of the main excuses you hear from large tech companies is that diversity is a “pipeline” problem. They say: “There simply just aren't enough properly skilled members of under represented groups for hire.” Whether this holds any actual weight is debatable, but codebar’s definitely helping to fill that pipeline. There’s also a lot of amazing companies in brighton that really support what we’re doing. So the future feels positive!

Do you think there needs to a better approach to teaching coding in schools to encourage diversity?

I personally think the focus needs to be at a higher level. Coding and programming logic is being taught to kids in both primary and secondary school in the UK now. The focus needs to be on hiring and nurturing the careers of underrepresented groups within the industry.

Have you had any particular success stories?

Tons of success stories! Last year we had eight students go from no knowledge of coding into their first development jobs. In fact the current organisers of codebar Brighton – Zara, Alice and I – are all previous codebar students.


You guys are ace! Thanks Cassie

Also, read the previous installments of our We ❤️ Brighton Heroes series – The Magpie Collective and Audio Active