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 ‘Grimy Heights’ began under lockdown on Zoom. It was inspired by the idea of Warren and Gary Pleece’s graphic novel ‘Montague Terrace’ about a dilapidated ‘30s building haunted by the stories of its occupants, including a talking rabbit, and an exiled former pop crooner. Aiming for a noire-ish look, we - the Graphic Novels Real Life Stories group - worked mainly in shadowy black and white. We borrowed the concept of placing various people in a block of flats, and seeing what happened. The block was originally ‘Grimme Heights’ but defaced by a gang of imaginary vandals it soon became ‘Grimy’, which suited the down at heel, slightly mouldering vibe being channeled through our characters.  

Our people were, or are, a motley bunch. There’s nurse Angela, who can’t resist trying to rescue her sex worker flat mate Prudence. Builder/boxer Callum forges an unlikely friendship with cool but weedy Jeremiah, the rock star. Then there’s Hermione Good, whose life is blighted by dysmorphia; “I’m not a racialist, but…” Ted ‘Cheers’ Grimsby; the oddly glamorous Elvira, and grumpy youngster Bethany Bombastique. Meanwhile, deep down in the basement, but somehow presiding over them all lives the mysterious Alchemist.  

From an empty-beached Brighton and Hove, to the confines of a houseboat in Shoreham, from deserted, pandemic-stalked central London, to a small sleepy village deep in the French countryside, we invented our collection of inhabitants. Some were crooked, some young, old, bitter, naïve, alluring and downright strange, sweet and sinister and full of possibilities. We collaborated and mixed fully without ever being in the same room. Weekly Zoom meetings were a rabbit hole or a 'Terra Incognito' through which we vanished gladly. Grimy Heights is the feverish interconnected dream of our collective subconscious during a time of intense isolation. We do hope you enjoy your visit.                                                 

Graphic Novels Real Life Stories, 2020

Ottilie Hainsworth

Ottilie Hainsworth

Graphic Novels Real Life Stories - Course Leader

Ottilie teaches her popular Graphic Novels Real Life Stories course at Phoenix Studios, Brighton. She published her first graphic novel 'Talking to Gina' with Myriad Editions in 2017, and is working on a graphic diary.


Phoenix Art Space

A charitable (not for profit) Arts organisation

Phoenix Art Space in the heart of the city of Brighton, provides a stimulating calendar of art exhibitions, events and courses throughout the year. Bringing together artists and the wider community in a creative, friendly and professional environment.

Montague Terrace

Warren and Gary Pleece

Graphic novelists and creators of Montague Terrace

Unsuccessful megalomaniacs, brain frazzled ex-pop stars, Special Ops pensioners, haunted children, writers, fighters, nervous magicians and magic bunnies. 1930s detectives, fake pet psychics, hounded inventors, randy postmen, landlocked seamen, diabolical architects and secret societies. All under one roof.

Grimy Heights was brought to you from the Graphic Novels Real Life Stories course, which is run by Ottilie Hainsworth, who devised and coordinated the project.

It was made possible by the hugely generous creative and technical teamwork of Yvonne J Foster and Xenia K Dieroff, who collaborated with Ottilie on the concept of the website which was designed and created by Yvonne. Xenia contributed additional artwork, sound, and video work.

Support with flexible online communication was provided throughout by Benjamin Heroys and Xenia.Thanks also go to Rueben Aaronovitch-Bruce for his amazing last minute saxophone rendition of Willis Jackson’s ‘Harlem Nocturne’. 

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