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.
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.