5 Down, 20 Across at Bom-Bane's
  • By Kat Pope
  • |
  • 27th May 2013
  • |
  • ★★★

Jane Bom-Bane's house/cafe/art gallery is a legendary Brighton hangout for anyone with an interest in the different. Her god-knows-how-many-storeyed Georgian house just off St James' Street is crammed full of interesting and unusual things for young and old alike to explore.

I do think this whole concept is a lovely one, and what better ice-breaker is there than to be in a tiny cafe full of other people trying to solve the same puzzle as you?

This festival, Jane is celebrating the centenary of the first published crossword by holding themed hour-long tea parties where you get to poke around the odd house, grapple with a crossword puzzle or two, and have some tea in the tiny but comfy cafe on the ground floor.

This was my first visit to the world of Bom-Bane and unfortunately the lady herself was ill so I didn't get to meet this legendary figure, but I still got a feel for what the place is all about.

Firstly, I was given my instructions; according to your level of expertise, choose a crossword from the three available – kiddy, concise, or cryptic – and have a wander around the house looking at the black and white themed artwork featured on every door. Attached to these doors are also your clues, written on little slips of paper.

I stumbled at the first step. I'm disabled and just couldn't manage the remarkably narrow, corkscrew-like stairs. I was therefore allowed to cheat and my hostess gave me all the clues, but this meant I missed out on all the door art. Instead I settled down at a table, surrounded by a myriad of scraps of paper with words swimming around on them and my mind went totally blank.

'Skip one day – skip day! - playing what could be grand parts (5,4)'. Any ideas? Actually that was one of the few I did manage when I remembered that all the clues had the theme 'black and white'. Still none the wiser? Well I'm not letting on, as there's rather a lovely prize if you can solve the whole cryptic puzzle and your name gets picked out of the hat: a day out with 'Paul', one of the famous Guardian compilers, who promises to 'show you the inner sanctum of the crossword setter.'

Next came tea plus a black and white lunchbox which was a little disappointing, consisting of three slices of baguette with cream cheese and olive tapenade, and an odd little pot of beany dip. A small monochrome cake finished it off.

Having said that, I do think this whole concept is a lovely one, and what better ice-breaker is there than to be in a tiny cafe full of other people trying to solve the same puzzle as you? You can't help but natter.

So did I finish the crossword in the end? Ho ho. No. But I'm still working on it (yes, they let you take it home and bring it back solved by the end of the festival). After all, it's a money-can't-buy prize, and it's all mine...

Reviews by Kat Pope

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Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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The Blurb

Celebrate 2013 - the Crossword Centenary! On each of the 20 doors over 5 storeys at Jane Bom-Bane's house is a black and white panel illustrated by one of 20 local artists (aged 2-92). Choose a crossword, stroll down & across the house, find your clues on the doors, then enjoy your box of black and white lunch/afternoon tea etc...

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