John Edwards Estate Agents, South Farm Road.

‘Sold! ‘Sold! ‘Sold!’ boasts the window in an exhausting hyperbole of celebration. Plenty of bungalows, just as we suspected there would be. But town houses too.  And – look! – some smart contemporary flats designed for urban commuter living (if you’re unlucky enough to be a South-eastern rail customer). Or perhaps they’re intended as cool cutting-edge residence for co-working start-up entrepreneurs who don’t need – or want – to confuse their living space by hybridising it with the dreaded ‘home office’. Blimey, the prices seem to have gone up quite sharply since last time we looked in here. The rumours must have some substance, then?  Let’s ask some people who are bound to have an opinion – albeit it will be filtered through professional optimism and property market values. Four eager friendly faces look up as we walk in. And – considering the way that nobody makes gauche assumptions about our unusual little family group as we take over the space – we sense that this is a diversity-friendly business too.  Is Worthing the new Brighton, then?  A controversial question, it turns out. Even in here. Perhaps especially in here?  

“Definitely!  The signs of it are everywhere.  Building plans, new places like the Cowshed, Coast Cafe.  It’s all coming up fast.”

“Definitely no. It will never be like Brighton. For one thing, it’s smaller. But then again, Brighton is now London, and so Worthing is coming up very fast as a really good place to live” .
(John Edwards Estate Agents, South Farm Road).

 

Artist Deborah Petch stands by her massive outdoor work: black ink on huge rectangular long white canvas.

Deborah Petch stands with her massive outdoor ink work, done at Cissbury Ring.

Deborah Petch graduated in 2015 with a Fine Art Masters degree from University of Chichester.   Recently Deborah has been working on an Arts Council England Project called Insight.  Her intuitive ink drawings or ‘Inklings’ describing her journeying in Sussex started as small sketches, culminating in an epic sized 10 meter long ink drawing or ‘Inkscape’ made in situ on the top of Cissbury Ring, Worthing.  Her aim was to capture the full vista of the landscape before her, both what she can see and what she can feel, working outside in the elements on top of Worthing’s Iron Age Hill Fort.

Pooch’s Parlour, Park Road, Worthing.

Some days, cycling up this hill is desperately difficult, but in today’s morning sunshine – not yet vicious – the air feels thin and pliable, parting to let me move through it. The thought of the next corner pulls me on as much as does my appointment – strict timing, no latecomers allowed – at a gym class at Splashpoint. My pedals slow and I let out an anticipatory snorty-laugh to myself (to the bewilderment of a nurse rushing into work) as I approach the place, this favourite slow-down point. I have to stop the cycle or my darting eye, lingering on each element, would prove a danger. The old-style red phone box draws me in first: a mannequin (named Kate, I am told) is inside making a phone call, and is wearing Olympic sports kit right now (as are her two mannequin – doggequin? – pups, who stand on hind legs to peer at me out of the phone box window. Later this year, Kate will model Halloween, Christmas, and other outfits. Her pups will dress to suit. Two red post boxes – an old-style pillar box and a flat wall one – pick up the red splash motif, while an American gas pump with Texaco and Shell stickers brings some colour contrast. Scores of model dogs dot the borders and pathway, guard the porch. The effect is not creepy. I return after the gym session. A cheeky door knock, borrow-dog Barney as entry-visa, to accost whoever is there. “Is Worthing the New Brighton?  Yes or No, and why?” Auntie Rita mulls it over, talks at length, supports her thoughtful and engaging response with examples.  She hopes it will not be, thinks it will not be. Her reasoning ranges over several aspects of the Worthing environment and settles on a sense of identity: Worthing people like low-rise buildings, enjoy their chilled lifestyle, value Worthing’s dense social networks (“You’d be surprised at who knows who here”) – and they actively don’t want Brighton, but value the specialness of Worthing.

 

 

Cissbury Ring Inkscape Detail

Cissbury Ring Inkscape Detail,  Deborah Petch.

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Deborah Petch graduated in 2015 with a Fine Art Masters degree from University of Chichester.   Recently Deborah has been working on an Arts Council England Project called Insight.  Her intuitive ink drawings or ‘Inklings’ describing her journeying in Sussex started as small sketches, culminating in an epic sized 10 meter long ink drawing or ‘Inkscape’ made in situ on the top of Cissbury Ring, Worthing.  Her aim was to capture the full vista of the landscape before her, both what she can see and what she can feel, working outside in the elements on top of Worthing’s Iron Age Hill Fort.

 

Durrington Working Men’s Club

Tuesday night at the Honey Hush Club and Colin Tenn on the decks mixes classic Elvis with lesser-known tracks, making judicious choices about tempo, era, danceability. Many people made the effort to dress up vintage: anything from 1940s style wide-leg pants – so conveniently back in high-street fashion this summer – through denim dungarees (aren’t they fantastically hot to dance in, you wonder) and, naturally, several circular skirts. Nobody’s wearing net petticoats because this is, after all, only a midweek casual hop. Many menfolk have jeans that look like they’re fresh-bought from the shop just tonight – how do they manage that?  Hawaian shirts a-plenty light up the dancefloor and give the lively-print frocks a run for their money. Everyone seems to have interesting shoes. It’s beautifully easy to talk to people here in this massively inter-generational space – folks are friendly and are also keen to help newbies learn or practice. Especially the stroll: a trip-stumble mess of wrong direction turns and too-many kicks when you first attempt, but smoothly automatic once it’s embedded into your legs and you switch off the mind. Is Worthing the new Brighton? Maybe some people want it to to be, but naaaah, not really.  It’s something far more interesting. 

Strong red and blue digitally altered image of a spinning top fairground ride.

Lee Milner is a prize-winning photographer working around the Worthing area and can be contacted on 07799940944.

 

Black Crow Cafe, South Farm Road

The barista’s tattoos are beautifully done – multi-coloured swoops and curls of dramatic shapes. It makes you a bit dizzy to look at them as you sideways-squint, trying to make out the images, trying not to be too stare-bear, while she focuses on not getting scalded by the heavyweight high-end machine.  She looks up and catches you looking a bit too intensely.  You smoothe it over by asking what the dreamy chilled sounds are that are coming out of the ipod – there’s always something interesting playing in this place. ‘Blackwood’, she tells you, ‘they’re really good’. They bloody are, too. While you drink your decaff soya-flat-white (a tricky order, with curdling a risk successfully avoided here), you eavesdrop one conversation about the lineup at an upcoming music festival and another one about last Saturday night, which now only exists as a sozzled text and snapchat trail currently being reconstructed over a soothing pot of earl grey by the puzzled protagonists. You launch a group conversation by first asking the bearded guy at the end of the bar –  the one who is sitting with a body language suggestive of openness to conversation:-  “Is Worthing the New Brighton?  Yes or No, and why?”  Yes yes yes yes yes.  (“People laughed at us for moving here. Now they’re getting it.”  “We’ve got quality of life and it all costs less.”  “£3.50 for a pint of good craft beer at the Brooksteed – what would that be in Brighton?!” “Small business rates are low and will stay low for a while”. “It’s gentrifying fast”).

Dark sunset with dramatic cloud over a shoreline.

Worthing Beach Sunset by Lee Milner, a prize-winning photographer working around the Worthing area. You can contact Lee on 07799940944. Visit his website www.milnerpics.com.

 

Words and Artwork: seaside postcards from Worthing to the World.

Every 2 weeks, on Thursday evening, I’ll be posting a new short flash-ethnography from Worthing, West Sussex, where I have lived since I made the crossing from East Sussex (Brighton-Hove) to West Sussex (Worthing) in 2014.  The writing comes out of the whispers about Worthing that I am collecting as I move around here.  The visuals are generously offered by Worthing-based artists and copyright remains with the artists.

 

 

 

(Main header image – detail from ‘Fairground Ride’ by Lee Milner),  http://www.milnerpics.com