Harvey’s cyan-blue eyes looked up and down Sydney Street as we spoke about his crush on coffee, the changes Brighton’s North Laines have recently seen, and Brighton’s community spirit.
What do you want out of life? To be happy, to be comfortable, and to help others around me.
What makes you happy in your spare time? Spending time with my family and friends, giving something back to them.
Where is your favourite place around Brighton? Well, this is where I work, at the Pelicano [cafe], which is like a little family for me, so Sydney Street is like a second home, with friends down the road at To Be Worn Again and Gypsy, those are the kind of places I hang out.
So it’s a tight-knit community? Yeah, absolutely, it is a tight-knit community.
What coffee beans do you recommend? Well, I like what we do here: we directly trade beans, so we source all our own beans, and we try and do something a little bit different – so we make our own blends, we just try and get a name for ourselves as a little community hub.
We try and treat everyone as a regular. So we just try and get a bit of a friendly vibe going, but also appeal to people that really, really, really care about coffee at the same time.
I think my favourite beans are from the Rocko Mount Reserve – it’s a micro-lot from Ethiopia, so that’s probably my go-to favourite.
How many coffees do you have every day? Haha, if I’m dialling in, I probably have about six or seven espressos in the morning and then throughout the day. I probably have a caffeine immunity though. So it doesn’t really touch the sides anymore.
Can you do latte art? Yeah, I’d like to say I could do any latte art if someone just gave me the idea, it’s creativity in a cup.
What’s been the strangest customer experience that you’ve had? We get a lot of people coming in feeling super stressed, or feeling bad about something, and then it’s a nice experience when someone can leave feeling like you’ve actually helped them, and often all they need is just a bit of coffee or a sandwich when they’re hungry or tired, and suddenly you’ve made an impact on that person’s day. It’s quite a nice feeling.
How long have you been around Brighton? I moved down from Manchester when I was about six, and have pretty much grown up here. I moved down with my parents but I think they were just happy about that creative, diverse environment that’s quite a friendly place to grow up in.
Is there anywhere else quite like it? No, absolutely not, it’s just a great place to come to. People come as youngsters, or, it doesn’t matter how old you are, people move here middle-aged, and it still gives you that opportunity to be free, and be who you are.
I was talking to a hundred-year old Brightonian earlier who spoke to me about how much the place has changed, have you seen the North Laines change? There’s things always coming, and it’s always constantly progressing with new crowds coming in.
But I’d like to think that we’re kind of away from the whole gentrification, that no matter how many new shops that come in, that we’ve still got that quirky, individual feel to it.
Some shops do establish themselves here, like the Bead shop – but that’s now gone. It’s a shame to see places like that go. I think they had such an impact for so many years. Nothing’s really ever going to change, but I think it shows a lot when companies like Starbucks try and come in, then suddenly the community really comes together and starts big petitions to put a stop to them moving in.
Do you get that community spirit in the North Laines? Yeah, absolutely, everyone here knows each other, if you ever had a problem or something you know you could can pop in and see a friendly face and they’ll help you out.
Once Harvey disappeared back inside the cafe, I glanced at the dark window of the empty Beadshop across the road – I scanned across to the corner of the window to see a small drawing of a sweet black cat smiling back at me.
Photo, interview, words by Marc Kis