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Sussex businessman Mike Holland on how he spends his spare time in Sussex

PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 December 2014

Mike with his partner, Wendy - photo by Graham Franks

Mike with his partner, Wendy - photo by Graham Franks

Archant

Businessman Mike Holland was the winner of the Hospitality Hero category at the inaugural Celebration of Sussex Life Awards. Here we find out how he spends his spare time

As a man who has invested in the leisure industry in Sussex, but especially Brighton and Hove, Mike knows more than most how to enjoy what the area has to offer. But it seems that for him, the simple pleasures at the richest: “I like nothing better than walking along the seafront. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, I just enjoy being by the sea, no matter how rough it is.”

Perhaps that is because as a youth he was in the Merchant Navy, and on leaving at 18, came to Brighton with little money but big ambitions. He says: “I like living in Sussex because it is pretty much as far south as you can go without emigrating. The convenience of being within striking distance of both London and the continent whilst living in a really diverse county works well for me.”

He also loves the fruits of the sea, saying that he invested in Brighton restaurant Riddle and Finns because of his passion for shellfish. “There is no fish restaurant better than Riddle and Finns and I try to eat there at least once a fortnight. I particularly like the atmosphere at the one in the Lanes.”

While in summer an afternoon might be spent outside the Brighton Music Hall on the seafront enjoying a pint and listening to some of the bands, come winter “I like going to Stanmer House, particularly on a cold day, and having a coffee in front of the open fire or a cream tea.”

While his favourite view is from Devil’s Dyke – “as you can see for miles in all directions on a clear day. My father also always loved it which makes it special for me” – Mike doesn’t enjoy muddy country walks. This explains his preference for strolling on Brighton seafront “although I am getting increasingly frustrated at dodging bikes. I like a bit of tarmac or proper grass under my feet and I admit to not being that keen on tramping cross country.”

A perfect weekend would be spent with his partner Wendy, although if any of Mike’s children turns up, that is “the icing on the cake”. Mike has a big family, with seven children, but has endured his share of heartache. One of his most treasured possessions is his son Brian’s address book. “He passed away in 1979 and not a day goes by when I don’t get out of bed and touch that book to give me strength throughout the day. He was a real inspiration to me and still is.”

When asked where he spends special occasions, he says: “This may sound corny, as I own it. However any special occasion such as my son Christopher’s birthdays are celebrated at The British Engineerium. I bought the place originally because I love it. It is a fantastic venue and a really fun place. Even though we have not fully finished the project yet I can honestly think of no place in Sussex I would rather go to celebrate.”

While he admits to being no lover of television, Mike and his partner Wendy are keen theatre-goers. When I ask him to name something special he saw recently, he says, “Phew, where do I start? Let’s take the last seven days! We saw That’ll Be The Day at the Theatre Royal Brighton which was great fun. We saw the Peter James play The Perfect Murder at the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne, which is a fabulous production and well worth seeing. Then, last but not least, we saw Evita at the Dominion Theatre in London which was first class – although they could do with some air conditioning.”

Mike is evengelical about the attractions of Sussex but says he believes family attractions are sorely lacking. “That is the one area I would like to see improved. However I would recommend to anyone that if they are visiting Sussex it is an absolute must to visit the the Royal Pavilion. It is steeped in history and really should not be missed if you are visiting this part of our green and pleasant land.

“Follow that with a wander round the historic lanes and stop for a bite to eat in one of the many lunchtime eating spots and you will have passed a very pleasant day indeed.”

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