Rootling around in Mockingbird Arts.
Still on Brighton Road, still hoping to find some Worthing BME voices – because I so often move in spaces where I’m part of an un-noticed whiteness. Whiteness: default by-and-as privilege, overwhelming. This can leave the blog very unbalanced. I dodge into Mockingbird Cafe – a place which sometimes feels, if anything, like a little bit of London, more than anything Brightonian (unless we’re going with the line that B’town is the new London). I see that since my last visit, this place has become decidedly less cafe and way more antiques, art and craft centre. I don’t know where to look, because there are now so many stalls and cases, such variety, so much stuff. I’m sort of pleased I don’t have money, or I’d be chucking it about in here. I’m wondering if I can hear more of what I heard on this street last time, when I nabbed a pair of socially engaged and fed-up Worthing-ites. A Mockingbird regular (one who is not part of the sea of whiteness) agrees to discuss the ‘Is W the new’ B question. Their answer seems to imply confirmation that the demographic changes we’re witnessing are not accompanied by social change – but with reasons a bit different from those we heard last week.
Yes, new people are coming in, but are they just enjoying cheaper property prices and nice big gardens and only sleeping here? If there’s lesbians wandering the streets holding hands, does it really change anything? Are they really accepted and part of the community? If people live here but they’re going out in Brighton, working in London, shopping and eating out in other places – what are they actually bringing into Worthing? If that man running the Thai restaurant goes home once a year for a month and sends his money home, has he been brought into Worthing, made a part of it – or is he just doing business here? Is he spending his money here?
Several difficult questions here about migration, economics and inclusion.
I’m hearing an argument that white middle-class incomers and international migrants alike are not being drawn in, involved and included; which then reinforces their tendencies to keep on socialising, spending, and living their lives outside – with Worthing just a cheap place to set up home. Sounds persuasive – but is it true? I can’t help remembering the statistic on volunteering given to me by a council worker: Worthing is way below national average. What’s that about?
Then again, is UK a post-migrant society, where the work of integration needs now to turn towards change on the part of established elites and comfy belongings? Would it be more helpful to work in a truly post-migration stance, and think more carefully about who is made to un-belong and in what ways in our superdiverse society? And is this ‘belonging’ we need to think about even really mainly about stuff like whiteness and migration or does it stretch further?
Peter Jones says: “My photography has much in common with what I do with gardens – in both cases I am creating pictures.” Peter specialises in photography of high speed sports. He exhibited in Worthing Artists’ Open Houses in 2017.