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Tony Fenton

Tony Fenton moved to Sussex in 1993, following a period commuting to Russia (and other parts of Eastern Europe) every fortnight. His wife was beginning to ask who he was. Tony does not consider himself to be a true Sussex author as he does not write about Sussex in particular, although much of his work is based upon the escapades of the many friends he has made since moving to Sussex.Following retirement in 2001 Tony started writing (mainly humorous) poetry. He has self-published four poetry books and provides them to people who make a contribution to St. Peter & St. James Hospice and Continuing Care Centre for a copy. Tony attended Hull University in the UK during the time when Philip Larkin (commonly regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century) was the university librarian.Roger McGough (one of Britain’s best-loved poets for both adults & children) preceded Tony at Hull University.Tony studied neither poetry nor English at university. He studied physics, mathematics, statistics and the opposite sex; and subsequently qualified as an accountant (a profession with a similar reputation to Information Technology for being boring). Tony later had a successful career in IT spending much time working in Eastern Europe; where he found himself spending much time explaining the English language and UK cultures. Tony plays badminton at The Triangle in Burgess Hill and he and his wife can often be seen at the many dances around Burgess Hill. Two of Tony’s poetry books can be seen on his website at

Tony Fenton photo

Phil Pavey

Phil Pavey was born and brought up in Brighton, with a father who took him on long country walks in Sussex from an early age – to anywhere that could be reached by a Southdown employee’s ‘priv ticket’! Walks taking in village churches, battlefields, castles (and later on country pubs) gave him a fascination with history, but with some reluctance he chose instead to study economics at university, which was in Scotland. This gave access to a whole different type of country walking, as well as a fresh viewpoint on history. Later on, when working and living in London, he discovered the Yorkshire Dales and had many a holiday exploring that beautiful part of England on foot, initially with friends and later with wife and daughter.But he always retained a special attachment to Sussex and over decades of rambles in the Downs and the Weald he thought more and more about various unsolved mysteries in its history that present themselves to anyone exploring the landscape. Some of them are well known puzzles, such as the age and origin of the Long Man of Wilmington and whether King Canute’s reputed commandment to the waves was on the Sussex coast. Others have not really been widely considered, such as the origin of the ‘green cross’ of Ansty, and whether round holes in the door of West Hoathley church actually are from a Civil War engagement there, and if so when and in what context. When Phil moved to part time working in the run up to retirement he found time to research and set out a dozen of these questions and decided to bring them together into a book. Although his first, he had over the years authored a number of published reports for the government agency he works for, so he had some experience to draw on. Although marketing the book takes more time than he anticipated, he has started work on a second one and has ideas for a third. So retirement when it comes will not be idle!

Phil Pavey photo

Richard Pitcairn-Knowles

Richard Pitcairn-Knowles was born in Hastings in 1932 at the Health Hydro founded by his grand-father, Andrew, in 1912. He attended Hastings Grammar School and lived in Hastings until he was 28. He has a local interest book published last August – Celebrating the Centenary of the Founding of Riposo Health Hydro in Hastings. The Hastings & St Leonards Observer reported in 1944 the discovery in Germany of James Pitcairn-Knowles, brother of Andrew, and on 13th June Richard will publish The Unfinished Monk – The Life and Work of James Pitcairn-Knowles. Richard has entered the 2013 London Marathon aged 80 in aid of the The Venkatraman Memorial Trust, Shelter Box and Hospice in the Weald. If you would like to sponsor Richard please donate online via the Virgin Money Giving website, enter ‘friend’s name’ as Richard Pitcairn-Knowles and then follow further instructions. He met his wife, Pamela, at the De La Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill, of which they are members of the Friends! They now live at Sevenoaks where their son, Mark, has taken over the osteopathic practice started by Richard in 1959. They have two daughters, a son and six grandchildren.

Richard Pitcairn-Knowles photo

David Johnston

Architectural and countryside photographer

2002 – Full-colour hardback book West Sussex Barns & Farms Buildings published by the Dovecote Press. A review by the Sussex Archaeological Society. “The volume is lavishly illustrated by colour photographs, all of which admirably portray these utilitarian, yet noble buildings.”

2009 – BBC South Today Finn’s Country. A short, evocative film in which broadcaster Roger Finn relates my childhood growing up in the Sussex countryside; and how those early years inspired a passion in later life for the recording on film the Sussex barns and farm buildings.

2009 – City Streets to Sussex Lanes. childhood memoirs.
Described by the Sussex Book Club as ‘a Sussex classic –
Johnston’s evocative pen brings to life a world that has gone, rich with country flavours and peopled by strong individuals who flourished in areas remote from the general gaze. It vividly recaptures the sounds and smells of the old farms and cottages where he lived; his adventures down country lanes and field paths; and his delight in the wildlife and the country characters he met on the way.’ This England review: ‘This is no rose-tinted reminiscence – the life was often hard and cruel – but the author’s lyrical way with words and sharp memory for detail give it a beauty and truth that raise it far above most similar memoirs.’

2010 – The Restless Miller, scenes from rural life in bygone Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. Published by Pomegranate Press. This true story of a well-to-do miller who fell to the level of a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave.

2011 – 2012 – My photographs were deposited in the West Sussex Record Office. Now available from the Record Office, under the titles of: The David Johnston Collection of West Sussex Barn. Photographs and The David Johnston Countryside and
Millennium Collection.

David Johnston photo

Diana Crook

Diana Crook started researching into local history in the 1980s when she moved with her family into a Lewes house previously occupied by a pair of influential and eccentric artistic sisters. This led to her first book, The Ladies of Miller’s. She was then lucky enough to get permission to edit and publish the scandalous diaries of the Lewes novelist Mrs Henry Dudeney that had been closed for nearly 40 years. At this time she took over the setting up of a literary archive for the Lewes author, Julian Fane, who asked her to produce an anthology of his writings. After his death in 2009 this archive moved to the East Sussex Record Office. Her other projects have included a book on smallpox in Sussex which she considers her best but least commercial work, a Lewes anthology and an account of the delightful college of lady gardeners at Glynde set up by Viscountess Wolseley in 1906. She publishes her books herself and has become popular as a speaker, Mrs Dudeney being her favourite subject as she is full of good one-liners. In 2010 Diana moved to Seaford where she has written a novel about locked-in syndrome called Open The Cage (currently occupying an agent’s bottom drawer) and a Seaford anthology, Treasure Chest, due for publication in a few months time. To her surprise she has found the history of Seaford just as engrossing and fascinating as that of Lewes and spends a good deal of her time in the Martello Tower archives of Seaford Museum. ‘When I left Lewes, I vowed never to do any more books on local history’, she says. ‘But here I go again.

Diana Crook

Alex Askaroff

It is a funny old world and how my long journey to become a writer started. I remember the day that my Dad called me into his big office. At the time he ran a baby-goods business in Eastbourne called Simplantex, selling in most countries around the world from New Zealand to Iceland. Dad had a big problem – he relied on his machinists, piecework-paid girls just like in the film Made inDagenham. Dad was scared stiff of his women and paid them whatever rates they asked. The problem came when the machines broke. Dad would instantly be on the phone searching for a sewing machine engineer. Days later, an old man would arrive, lean over the offending machine with a sigh, then with a deep look of concentration get to work. By the time he left the sewing machine would be purring away. When the machines broke, both the women and my Dad suffered severe fits of high blood pressure and to this end he came up with a cunning plan. Dad had noticed that, out of his six rough’n’tough boys, one had some magic in his hands. I could fix almost anything from his plug to his watch. Why? Who knows, we do come from a long line of watchmakers. Even mad King George used to have one of my distant grandfathers make him special watches. So I was summoned into Dad’s big office. Eventually he looked up and asked “Alex what do you want to be when you grow up?” That was easy I had always wanted to be a doctor. “Doctor, Dad. I would love to be a brain surgeon.” Dad seemed taken aback by my quick reply. He leaned forward slightly and silently rested his head on one of his hands. Why did he ask me if he didn’t like my answer? He slowly looked up at me and said, “That is very lucky that you want to be a doctor – you are going to operate on my sewing machines!” Many years later I found myself as a highly trained sewing machine engineer. I started my own business, Sussex Sewing Machines, and over many years gained thousands of customers around the South East corner of England. Instead of huge industrial machines in noisy factories I would be sitting in rooms with ‘old dears’ telling me about their lives as I serviced their sewing machines. Some days I would come home and retell some of the amazing stories that I had heard. My wife always said “You should write them down Alex before they are lost forever.” I never othered and the years rolled by until I met Alice. Alice was living alone in a little flat off the High Street in Burwash, East Sussex. I had popped in to sort out her failing Singer. She told me about young life in Burwash and her time at Batemans with Rudyard Kipling. It was simply amazing, everything from Kipling hiding from his wife in the outside lav, scribbling poems on toilet paper, to him ordering the wrong vegetables deliberately so that he could escape for a drive to Heathfield in his Rolls Royce. When I got home I opened up my typewriter and started to bash away. “What are you doing?” Asked my wife when she got home. “I am starting a book about some of the amazing characters I have met over these last 20 years.” “You will have to learn how to spell,” she threw at me as she went to the kettle on. And so we jump to 2012. I am middle aged and I make a living still ‘operating’ on sewing machines. As a hobby I put down the best stories that I am told. All-in-all a great joy to write. I had no idea how popular they would become and initially turned one publisher down, then another. One day I bumped into a fellow author. The poor lad had spent most of his life looking for a publisher and at the age of 65 had given up. It slowly sunk in that I had thrown away two amazing opportunities which would probably never come again. But luck shines on the righteous. Ah, the wisdom that comes with experience. Now my books are global, available in over 40 countries worldwide and on all sorts of digital formats. Sussex Born & Bred was one of the first ever E-books (more lucky timing than anything smart on my part). The publishers loved my style of writing and simply told me to keep on scribbling. Seven books later and another in the pipeline, I am doing just that. Writing is an urge that only writers understand. Every writer knows what it is like to have story flow out of their fingertips. I adore writing and the challenge and the feeling that a completed story gives. The picture of the author was taken at the London Book Fair.

Alex Askaroff
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