AS THE coronavirus lockdown eases and some businesses start to reopen, photographer Justine Desmond and writer Daisy O’Clee have been capturing a socially distant snapshot of North Laine in Brighton.

They spoke to shoppers and business owners and found quiet streets but a thriving sense of community.

For the full gallery of pictures, visit their new website or @brightonpeeps on Instagram

The Argus:

Chefs Sally Holme, 55, and Josie Hawkins, 22, run Neighbourhood, a vegan cafe and coffee shop in Gloucester Place. They have recently reopened, serving vegan doughnuts, focaccia and artisan coffee. They have isolated together since lockdown began.

“We have become so much closer and we’ve loved spending more time together, talking about anything and everything and developing new recipes,” Sally said.

Josie said: “Normally we have a set menu and what we do is dictated by service, but now we have much more time to indulge in preparation and experimentation. For example, we’ve been up to Devil’s Dyke foraging for wild garlic and have found so many different ways to cook with it.”

Under lockdown, Josie has enjoyed exploring the countryside and coastline on her bike, while Sally has taken up hula hooping.

The Argus:

Jacqui Partridge, 54, works in the entertainment industry, making exhibition stands at festivals.

She came to Brighton from London ten years ago.

She said: “I didn’t get it at first. I was living in Brunswick Square, but it wasn’t for me.

“Then I moved to North Laine and it’s got such a different vibe – it’s more boho and there’s such an amazing community.”

Her company has had its entire calendar cancelled for this year and she has had to furlough staff.

“It’s not going to be about lavish events any more,” she said.

“People don’t have the money and it’s not appropriate.

“Instead, it’s going to be more about transforming minds and transforming the way people think and feel.”

Jacqui said she has used her time during lockdown to “work on her spiritual learning”.

She has been deepening her study of the Energy Alignment Method, which she says helps people get “unstuck, create more positive energy and feel happier”.

“I have been in a flat on my own for weeks and weeks with no stimulants. It has made me realise what inner strength I have,” she said.

She says the things she misses most are human touch and going to exhibitions and to the venue Komedia in Gardner Street.

The Argus:

Ricky Fernando, 52, owns Namul restaurant in Gardner Street, which specialises in Korean street food.

The star dish is bibimbap – a bowl of warm rice topped with a choice of sautéed and seasoned vegetables and sometimes fish or meat.

He said his life has completely changed since March.

“Before, I was working full-time as an accountant. I’d just do the odd day at Namul, helping the staff.

“Under normal circumstances we have tables out front and in the garden, but now it’s takeaway and delivery only.

“A lot of the students who worked for us have gone home and I’ve had to furlough the manager, so at the moment it’s just me and Marco, the cook.

“I’m here every day.”

Ricky says Namul has been one of the few places to stay open throughout lockdown.

At the beginning, he said the streets around him were eerily quiet.

Working every day at the cafe has been tiring, but he said he now has a much better understanding of the business.

He said: “In this market, if you don’t listen to the customer, you’re not going to survive.”

The Argus:

Gemma and Peter Ogston run Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen from their home in Brighton, where they live with their children Carmen, nine, Hendrix, seven, and the family dog Flash.

Gemma she has had the change to think a lot about the business since lockdown began.

She said: “We’ve had the time to regroup and think about what we want to do and where we want to go. I can’t see my business going back to what it was before. It’s been great to do things differently and to spend more time with the kids.”

Peter, a music producer, DJ and former teacher, gave up his job several months ago to work full time with Gemma.

He said the recent change in pace has given him time to work on a music collaboration with friends in Ibiza over Zoom. “I’ve had the space to rekindle that passion and also to teach Hendrix how to produce music,” he said.

The Argus:

Annie Gelpey, 48, co-owner of La Choza restaurants, lives with her daughter Emily, 19. Twenty years ago she was travelling around the world working on yachts as a chef, when she found out she was pregnant and decided to move to Brighton.

Annie, who has a captain’s licence, took her daughter out of school when she was six. They lived on boats in the Caribbean and then in America.

She said the time away, often experiencing little contact with the outside world, has meant both of them have been better equipped to deal with lockdown.

“At one point Emily had her own ‘time out’ island off the coast of Panama,” said Annie.

They returned to the UK in 2011 in time for Emily to start secondary school.

La Choza, which opened in 2012, has stayed open for delivery and takeaway food, and now operates from the Gloucester Road branch.

Lockdown has hit the business hard. They are not staying open for the money, Annie said, but to make a contribution and keep their name out there. La Choza has been cooking every Thursday for NHS staff working in the High Dependency Unit.

She says she consulted with staff before deciding who to furlough.

“I kept on the people who wanted to be here for their mental health,” she said.

The Argus:

Erin James, 22, a photographer and radio DJ, has lived in Brighton since her family moved from London when she was four.

Before lockdown she was supplying photography and videography for local businesses, but she is now developing a magazine focusing on mental health.

She says the concept for Tough Cookie Magazine, which launches this week on Instagram and in print, came about in response to the pandemic.

“The idea has always been to support people’s mental health, but now that’s more important than ever.

“A lot of the content has been produced in direct response to lockdown.

“Working on it has really kept me going and I hope it will help other people too.”

Erin has commissioned contributions from 11 other people, including photographers, illustrators, writers and a talented poet.

She said: “This magazine is for everyone.

“I want it to be a beacon of light in these difficult times.”

• The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. To donate visit