A highly convivial space.
When you arrived, there were few people. Some of them were playing badminton in a foursome and immediately greeted you warmly and offered you a place in the game. You replaced two adults (who went off to check on preparations) and began to share giggles and ineffectual shots, plus plenty of misses, with two pre-teen girls who were dressed very unsuitably for sport (this being a party, after all). When some glammed-up older teens click-clocked in on their high heels and stood to watch, you happily ceded your places to them. An elderly woman in a wheelchair sat at the doorway to greet newcomers, so you chatted to her for a while and found out that this organisation runs several social and cultural events like this, and that just last week there had been a huge party. Letting her continue her door-duty, you shifted to the main hall, where smaller tables were set up with chairs and paper tablecloths and where two long tables were already covered with full bowls and platters. Even so, women kept appearing from the kitchen bearing new dishes, moving everything around to make space. Two young women, clearly close friends, walked in chatting intently and were warmly greeted by several others: one woman was tall, blonde, wearing a black mini-dress and long bare legs; the other was shorter, with brown-skin and black hair and wearing a beige long skirt-and-top with carefully matching fashionable hijab. A few men sat near the back, talking quietly and keeping out of the way, while women and kids everywhere greeted, laughed, talked, brought and set out food dishes. A game of indoor hockey now took over from badminton, and something energetic was also happening outdoors. Kids ran in, laughing and chasing, said quick hellos and ran out again to play. A young woman in a striking outfit which would be quite common in London but is less common in Worthing – carefully matched dress, leggings, funky head-wrap and jewellery – talked to us for a long while and told us that she has actually recently moved from London and also, that she is a lifelong scout and a scout leader. (They’re not girl scouts these days, just scouts). Mariani makes a short speech and invites us to eat. How to choose with such variety? The carb-free intentions disappear as soon as you try one of the tiny home-made pizzas; four or five disappear swiftly into your mouth and you don’t feel guilty, because there is such a huge bowl of these delicious things on the table. You settle to a table, where a family of three sit and talk without restraint to you as if you were already acquainted, about their personal histories, health issues, lives, beliefs, travel experiences, and food preferences. The teenager jumps up every now and then to return with special items for her parents. Fresh dishes are still arriving from the kitchen. At one point home-made chicken nuggets cause a great stir of joy through the room. The groups at the tables are mixed: white folk and a few more brown folk than you usually see in any Worthing social situation. The variety of dress styles and accents brings energy and a sense of expansiveness to the space. This feels like vernacular cosmopolitanism, or at least, conviviality You know that this group is part of Worthing’s ‘One Love festival‘ initiative, aimed at bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. As you leave, you pop your head into the kitchen to thank the cooks and ask who made the pizzas, because they were so very memorable. The group of women laugh in recognition: these pillowy-soft mini pizzas are apparently famously desirable. The maker raises her hand and smiles at your acknowledgement of her skill. This was Worthing Women’s Hub post-Eid family party.