Beef Everyday But No Latin Press Release
Ever thought you could run your school better than your teachers? In 1925, an 11-year-old schoolboy from Hove in Sussex, James Bernard Clifton did more than just think about it – he actually set up his own school. Complete with a one-legged swimming teacher, a book-throwing headmaster, a ball-stealing school dog, and WWII air raid, Beef Every Day but No Latin is the first novel by prolific Sussex author Kevin Newman. Kevin, who has turned his hand from factual to (historical) fiction for the moment, tells the tale of how ‘Clifton’ managed to do what no other British child has ever done before or since (and here in Sussex): open up his own school and keep it going.
Unlike any other school, Clifton was able to decide on the timetable, recruit his own staff, and teach other pupils. The end result? A warm, close and very unique school, which we’d all liked to have attended, where the pupils had ‘beef every day but no Latin’. The name of the book is based on the fact that Clifton had his say on all aspects of the school, except its school dinners. It all adds up to an equally sad, funny and heart-warming story, published by Sussex publishers The Real Press, based on the real-life story of this very amazing boy, the team he built and his school, Claremont Preparatory School in Hove, which still thrives today in Sussex.
“It’s a tale we definitely need in 2020,” explains author Kevin, who has written one previous novel, and the history of another Sussex school before. “I think every adult at some point would have loved to have snapped their fingers like Thanos and removed some teachers or lessons – Clifton was the only boy I’ve ever discovered though who got so fed up of his school (Holland House) he set up his own. Even more remarkably, it’s still going today.” Clifton’s idea to start a school up came about after his maths teacher threw a book at his head for ‘inattention’. Kevin explains that the achievements of Clifton (who died in 2000, aged 87) didn’t stop there: “He had a successful wartime naval career and as a skilled engineer, his power inverter helped send Nasa’s Gemini spacecraft into orbit in the early Sixties. James also created the Clifton Nanometer Osmometer, a high-tech scientific instrument which bears his name. He was both an incredible boy and man who deserves greater recognition.”
The book is suitable for older children too and Kevin believes it will fulfil a particular this year: “Schools have become bigger and bigger over the last few decades, with increasing exam pressure heaped on students in many cases, so I hope that Beef provides some escapism by taking children back nearly a century to a few different age of small, family-run schools. Hopefully spending time with Clifton, Eileen, Mick and Bill O’Byrne, Herbert Marshall the Hollywood film star swimming teacher and Buelis, the school’s demented dog will help pupils escape the strange and slightly alien COVID-era schools they return to this September.”
The novel, which retails at £7.99 in paperback and £2.99 on Kindle from www.therealpress.co.uk is now being converted by Kevin into a screenplay as feedback from bookshops, librarians and people at talks before lockdown have been incredibly positive with people saying what a great movie the story would make. Local history tour company, All-Inclusive History also provide a Beef Every Day but No Latin walking tour ending up at the Claremont Guest House in Hove’s Second Avenue, where the school was first founded by Clifton back in 1925. Rather than plates of Beef, a cream tea and glass of bubbly is more likely to be offered to those entering its doors.
The book’s launch event, will though include a chance to sample some fine local Sussex beef – or, for those who are vegetarians (like Clifton), a range of veggie and vegan dishes – all in a COVID-guidelines adhering setting of the Fountain pub at Ashurst, as part of Steyning and District Food and Drink Festival 2020. Those who wish to get their hands on a signed copy of the book and hear Kevin’s talk on this amazing school and its creator, need to book a place at the event on Tuesday 29 September, which starts at 7pm. The evening at The Fountain will be themed around the book, with diners able to choose a local ‘Beef’ or ‘Vegetarian or Vegan’ option, (the latter as Clifton would have preferred). The pub and its outdoor facilities will be open as normal for those who wish to attend and at 7.30pm an illustrated talk will take place for a capped number of ticket holders, in line with current COVID guidelines. The talk be an introduction to the book, how Kevin came to discover the tale of the boy who set up a school, why it is a tale we need right now in 2020 and the historical research behind the novel. Those not able to join the diners or those in the talk will still be able to enjoy the pub’s outdoor facilities for the event and Kevin will afterwards sign copies of the book at the event – outdoors if weather permitting.
Those not able to attend, who may be shielding or quarantining can still access the talk on Saturday October 3rd at 7pm via zoom – when Kevin will be giving a similar presentation but with extracts from the book for the Festival. Please see the festival website for details. Either way, an entertaining evening is promised, and (unlike James Bernard Clifton experienced), those attending will not receive books being thrown at their heads!
There is a printed self-guided walking tour of the Beef tour of Hove should publications need a ‘Walk’ article and copies of the book are available for competition prizes. For further details on the book, talk or tour, please contact Kevin Newman of All-Inclusive History on 07504 863867 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Personalised tours are available from All-Inclusive History (min groups of 10). The book can also be ordered from Kevin or the Real Press and is on sale in bookshops; official bookseller being Steyning Bookshop.
Historical notes on the book are available for the media – explaining which bits of the book are based on fact and fiction and the historic ‘foundations’ of the novel.
The Claremont and James Bernard Clifton have also been mentioned by Kevin in his Visitors’ Historic Britain: East Sussex/ Brighton and Hove (Pen and Sword Books) and Historic England: Brighton and Hove (Amberley/ Historic England)
Kevin Newman writes the Argus’s history supplements and has written a range of local books on Sussex, as well as co-authoring GCSE textbooks. His next book is Pond Puddings and Sussex Smokies – about Sussex food and drink over the centuries (Amberley Publishing). He is currently writing another book for the national market, on clocktowers of England. Kevin has the same birthday as James Bernard Clifton, also went to school in Brighton and Hove and like him both left, and returned to his home county of Sussex. There the similarities end, however and this is his first published novel. He is a bit of a teacher, a bit of a Sussex tour guide, and most of all, a bit chuffed that this unusual tale has finally been published. He is married with two boys, neither of which have thankfully had a maths book thrown at their heads…
Further Interview Q&A with Kevin Newman:
- How did the idea for the book germinate?
I am a historian of hotels and do a lot of work in the Brighton and Hove area. I made contact with the Claremont Guest House, where the school was originally based and Coralie and Vicki from the Claremont kindly allowed me access to the hotel’s archives. They included Clifton’s letters and those of another boy who got back in touch with him back in 1987. It took me a while for the idea to finally grab me when they first told me about it – but reading Clifton’s letters took me into his world back in the 1920s and the following tale just needed to be told – it is so unique and would make a fantastic BBC or Channel 4 film! It has been a privilege to bring the tale of Clifton, his friends, and the family who ran the school for him (the O’ Byrnes) to life. I couldn’t believe the only school a boy every started was here in Sussex. The characters involved really came alive the more letters I read, and the more people I spoke to. I’ve been carrying them around in my head for several years now so I couldn’t wait to bring them alive for others to enjoy. It was wonderful to spend time with Jeremy O’Byrne, the grandson of the first headmaster of the school, who helped me piece together the school’s early days.
- What makes the book so special?
A number of things really make the book special. Firstly, it is based upon mainly letters by the author and his best mate who set up the school as schoolboys, who then attended there and it examines something familiar to all of us – good and bad days at school, moments of inspiration that hit us once in a lifetime, father-son relationships, family break ups and something unique – a school set up by one of its pupils, when a pupil. Also, it covers the lives of children and adults in Brighton and Hove in the 1920s onwards, in wartime and takes us (briefly at the end) up to the 1980s. It is a heart-warming story of overcoming obstacles, but for the reader the interest is in going on this unusual journey and routing for ‘Clifton’ to make his unusual team of teachers, staff and pupils succeed.
It also includes relationships such as family breakdowns, a boy looking for a replacement father figure, and tells the tale of a unique Brighton ‘dynasty’ of educators and reflections of attitudes towards education in the 1920s. This may hopefully make readers reflect upon the state of education today – and look at what schools perhaps have lost? Finally, Beef includes some fantastic, very ‘cinematographically visually strong’ locations in the famous city of Brighton and Hove – including the famous Sussex County Cricket Ground, and as you’d expect from a story set in Brighton and Hove, our famous coastline.
- Who is the book aimed at?
I believe the book would appeal nationwide and would sell to people of all ages and backgrounds. Although the story is mostly set in an independent school, it definitely doesn’t exclude state school children as readers. Adults have all been to school and children would identify with aspects of Clifton’s thoughts and attitude – the idea of creating your own school is appealing to everyone whether at school, or remembering their school days and you want to see firstly if it works, and then secondly how it all ends. It is hopefully an antidote to the pressurised years of Ofsted-related exam factories that schools can sadly be these days. The universal themes in the book also mean its South-East of England setting doesn’t just appeal to that region, but hopefully to the whole of the UK and, being quintessentially British, having overseas appeal too.