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THIS WEEK PHOTOGRAPH OF THE WEEK: Louis French: Meteorite over Pevensey Bay


COMMUNITY Pevensey Bay Dog walking group and the Big Barn Christmas


BUSINESS Harper Hair Co. lands in Pevensey Bay

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image credit: Harper Hair Co.

Of course this could never work in Pevensey Bay.

Brighton maybe, get off the train, and walk down Trafalgar Street and you could find something of the quirky quality and calibre, but Harper Hair Co is setting up shop in Pevensey Bay

In the cosmopolitan Brighton city melting pot, there is the digital media workforce, the financial consultants, architects, artists, teachers, public sector workers, interns, students from every nationality, the office workers, the day trippers and the downsized London populous.

Brighton thinks the city is San Francisco but the city is really Uckfield, goes the affectionate description given to the culture, diversity and distinction of the coolest place on planet Britain.

Those of us of who have lived there a long time, (in my case 46 years) know the affectionate description well.

So Harper Hair Co would go down a treat in Brighton, fitting like a hand in a metal lace glove, but Pevensey Bay?

Beyond the lanyard logo upfront, there is nothing on the outside of the shop at all. in the Eastbourne Road, on the parade of shops that is the gateway to the village.

When I stood outside the salon as the darkness started to set in Monday (26 January), with the shop fitting done, I studied what was inside.

I felt like a boy with his nose to a sweetshop window,

A beautiful black stage set.

Black is the hardest colour to work with, with a shop setting. Black looks like the easiest colour. Black is the hardest colour. To do black well you have to know what you are doing.

Harper Hair Co. is cool, sleek, cosmopolitan, with a well chosen eclectic mix of big solid consistent wood mirrors and chairs.

How else could you contextualise something this simple?

There was something more that made the setting work.

The space centre stage made the salon work, crossed zig zag increases the perception of space by as much as 12%, the Victorians knew this point, that is how we got all those patterns in hallways, but there was something else as well.

As I walked into the salon on Wednesday (28 January) to meet the new owners, that was my first question.

Co-owner Sean Harper, welcomed me with an open hand towards the couch at the front of the salon and he had answered the question before I sat down.

“Look at the floor”,  he said, “yes you are right, black is hardest colour, but look at the floor”

There was the subtle editing of the stage set.

The soft brown subtle zigzag of the light and shaded brown wood floor with the stage lights was the complement, that and the utilisation of space, again something that appears to be easy, but something so hard to get right

Sean is an international award winning hair stylist, hailing from South Africa.

Harper Hair Co is ,“a boutique bespoke hairdressing salon including all specialised hair techniques and services”. The service is described in one breathtaking  sentence that spans their Facebook story page.

A bang of a hello, I sense that something is happening in Pevensey Bay with the arrival of Harper Hair Co.

The setting and take on the salon has been carefully and beautifully crafted with  classic simplicity. Would the setting  match the people that I was about to meet?

Sean looked at me as he drew up a chair and listened to what I had to say,

He had explained why the setting worked before I had sat down.

“But how come Pevensey Bay?”, I began.

“Because this will work”, he said, with a kind of natural confidence based on his 33 year experience and world class Wella awards.

As we began talking, his wife Kathy came into the picture, with her classic look and big pink hair..

As she took a seat beside us, her natural smile and spirit lit the salon, along with her classic look, she beamed a body and soul of warmth with her not so shocking pink hair.

She leaned forward just a little to tell the story.

“I am South African”, she said”,  “I was living in Eastbourne, and went out to South Africa, met Sean and we were married within six months, then we decided to come back here and now we live in Langney”.

Sean beamed.

We talked about the client base, straying from Pevensey Bay as my thoughts turned to the direction of travel from South Africa and the world class Wella awards.

“The people, will come’, explained Sean.

The artwork with hair has came over with them, the operation to open the salon shop has taken two weeks, by the time that we were talking, the salon had already been open for two days.

“The people will come”,  nodded Sean again, with the kind of natural ring of confidence that did not need any explanation.

As we talked the phone rang three times, as Kathy answered enquiries about the location, times and prices.

As Sean sat back in his chair there was the affirmation and confirmation and the kind of confidence that suggested that there really is something special come this way.

We talked about Gandhi and his decision to live in South Africa.  Sean had a local connection and mentioned the statue to Ghandi close to where he lived.

We talked about business and the history of South Africa and the history of this country.

“I love Pevensey castle” he said. as his eyes lit up as he talked about his visit.
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The fact that Sean knew about the castle and the history and some of the legends was interesting..

“There is magic there,” he suggested.

He was interested to hear the story of the Eastern Gate at the castle, being the gateway to ‘The Albion’ in Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling.

The London Lampost in front of the Eastern Gate and the possible connection with C.S. Lewis and The Lion,  the Witch and the Wardrobe and the famous wardrobe to Narnia also got a mention.

Kathy moved to the corner of the salon as I studied the giant silver scissors on the wall and the so solid consistent wood mirrors.

She lovingly stroked one of the mirror frames as she told the personal story behind the mirrors.

She picked up the silver wire corset in the corner and explained, “this was made for us by an African craftsman”,  adding, ” the corset was  worn by a model on the catwalk in a show”.

I am not in Brighton now, and I am not in Narnia, but as we talked, I was beginning to wonder more about Sean and his belief in the magic at the castle.

Who will come to Harper Hair Co.?

There is the story of the woman who drove past from Bexhill twice,  saw the shop front and drew up out of curiosity, stayed and had her hair done.

There is the story of the woman from Polegate who found the salon and will be back.

Gradually what dawned on me is that there really is something big happening here.

Clusters make business communities work.

Monique Astridge setting up shop along the road, with the nail clinic, and Belle En Soi is part of something.

Maybe more businesses will follow, informed by the times in which we live.

Coming to visit Pevenssey Bay, and then deciding to re-locate their business to Pevensey Bay. We are not just a visitor destination. We need also to be a business destination if we are to survive and flourish, but we also now need diversity, maybe that will also follow,

There are possibilities that we are seeing some interesting new organic growth in the business community here.

Pevensey Bay has a 200 year old, eclectic, spirited, quirky, individual and particular history.

The Guardian (18 September 2015) , in their ‘Let’s Move To” section, said, ” the seafront at Pevensey Bay might not be Malibu, but it is splendidly eccentric, with Edwardian town houses cheek-by-jowl with shacks and the 1930s-50s bungalow estate of Beachlands”.

The golden big sunsets on the beach, walking with loved ones and the dog, as the sun goes down, is our unique setting and gift as a seascape.

This is the hidden jewel in the crown of Sussex, with nobs on, Kiss me Quick hats and something of the essence of an English seaside small scale coastal resort in the South East.

Add nostalgia, the independence of view, circa Passport to Pimlico, the fact that the Goon Show is littered with references to Pevensey Bay and that the roads are named after Pre-Raphaelite masters and what you see is what you get, something pretty much odd and quirky, but something unique and special

Which is why we all love the place.

And Pevensey has the castle and the legends, the 2,000 year timeline and appears on the Bayeux Tapestry.

Will the clients come? Clients will come to Harper Hair Co as part of day visit and they will spend their money in the cafes and shops as well as coming here to have their hair styled, and they will be new clients and this will be new business for the Bay.

Sean explained to me again about the magic he saw in Pevensey castle.

The welcome Kathy has to offer is also a tremendous boost to the salon. Like Sean, she was simply so connective as she pulled her pink hair back, connecting body and soul as she spoke.

Perhaps the arrival of Harper Hair Co will change Pevensey Bay just a little. Perhaps Pevensey Bay will change Harper Hair Co a little. Perhaps in that catalyst, court and spark, maybe there will be some kind of alchemy and there will be magic.

The logo was created by a team from South Africa and sent over. The banner was printed and put into place by Bay Designs, based in Pevensey Bay.

Time will tell what will happen next.

And there were three of us talking with the space between us on the stage set.

And in the special space made for the salon, Sean smiled and Kathy smiled and I got up to leave.

And in the space made, with the classic black furniture, and the soft brown floor between us, there was the music to be heard with what they said.

The theremin makes music by utilising space.

I left, thinking about what they had said, with an international sense of something singing in my ears.

An international perspective, lights, sound, action and Harper Hair Co and the stage that has been set.

Is Harper Hair Co the most important business to come to Pevensey Bay in a generation?

Is there value here to Pevensey Bay beyond what the salon has to offer?

And the people will come.

For Pevensey Bay maybe Harper Hair Co is music by the Band, the classic album Music from Big Pink.

This is Graceland by Paul Simon, as well as the silver corset made for them by an African craftsman in the corner of the salon, there are diamonds on the soles of their shoes.

Harper Hair Co has landed in Pevensey Bay.

Time will tell if what we are seeing is the next chapter in the story of Pevensey Bay beginning to unfold.

But this is only make believe.

Of course this could never work in Pevensey Bay.

Harper Hair Co. opened on Monday 26 November 2018, at 37 Eastbourne Road, Pevensey Bay.
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Simon Montgomery
For the Pevensey Bay Journal, all rights reserved