Do You Belong Here?

a young black mand and an older wite woman wear peaked caps, lanyards. They look sternly at us.

Officer GAB and Officer HELL in a Brighton performance of “Do You Belong Here?” Lady Helena Vortex on the right.

Live Art, Performance Art: – when I was an academic, I joined in the picking of subatomic nits about where definitions lie, how we recognise live art, whether live art falls properly under the people who do ART or the people who act up and show off (the PERFORMANCE people). I read super-nerd work from people in the Performance Philosophy network. 

I did a drag act with a grad student at the 2012 BABEL meeting, “Cruising in the Ruins”, where academics, poets, clowns (literal clowns), artists and others met – and did some real serious play. (The BABEL experiment is long gone, but the Punctum Books imprint survives – yay, thrives).  

A quick BABEL detour – because it was an extraordinary moment. 

university presentation, two people in drag standing talking
Eddie and Princess, 2012. Me and a grad student collab.

“The BABEL Working Group is a non-hierarchical scholarly collective and post-institutional desiring-assemblage with no leaders or followers, no top and no bottom, and only a middle. Membership in the BWG carries with it no fees, no obligations, and no hassles, and accrues to its members all the symbolic capital they need for whatever meanings they require. BABEL’s chief commitment is the cultivation of a more mindful being-together with others who work alongside us in the ruined towers of the post-historical university. BABEL roams and stalks these ruins as a multiplicity, a pack, not of subjects but of singularities without identity or unity, looking for other roaming packs and multiplicities with which to cohabit and build glittering misfit heterotopias.”

When Babel was over, Fierce Festival and Brighton based Helena Vortex (of gracegracegrace) were my gateway beyond the geekery and into the world of practitioners.

That’s enough hifalutin’ metropolitan life for you, sunshine. Back to Worthing, Sussex, UK.

We’re a small coastal town and we’ve been changing fast. Britain’s south coast has a rep as the place you retire to / drag yourself down to when you’re one foot in the grave. It’s been white, Tory, bigoted in every way. Except that lately, it’s not. This is making for some pretty hectic situations, as incomers and younger generations share space with the remnants of Boomer conservatives. 

The town centre initiative and the council have an eye towards daytrippers and weekenders. They’ve started a festival. We already have a bunch of arts spaces (another day, another piece) and a reputation for ‘brave’ programming. 

Last week, I agreed to do an iteration of a live art piece that I devised back in 2018 for a project funded by NYU / Columbia University.

‘Do You Belong Here?’ has had a couple of other outings, but always in art galleries or in Brighton. Coo-ee, Brighton! (The town down the road that is much more famous and full of queers, artists, Londoners and others who are very well used to this sort of thing. I’m not even giving them a hyperlink because they do not need it. And I think they’re kind of visitor-ed out, tbh – I was there last weekend and everybody looked pretty tired and even a bit skanky). 

our “courtroom sketcher” with tribble at his feet

This time, Do You Belong Here? will be in Worthing. 

The Socially Engaged Art Salon is coming over from B’town to run some festival work and they’ve commissioned a couple of locals to do events that support their art exhibition. (Hello, Amelia ‘Ace’ Armande! We won’t be in the same space at the same time this year and that is a very good thing, for I am mere nerd and you are a proper performer. Honestly, check out Amelia’s work).  

‘Do You Belong Here?’ is risky and challenging.

2 people in peaked caps, lanyards, menacing looks
Officers GAB and HELL , Brighton 2020

I planned (hoped, prayed) to rope in a couple of students from our local performing arts university, Northbrook Met. They’ve just put on a promenade performance of Kafka’s Trial around Brighton, unsettling and poking people as part of Brighton Fringe Festival. I reckoned I’d find a person or two willing to help me make some good trouble.

As it turns out, the students are away with their families, resting, in year-end burnout or – mostly – working paid jobs like crazy so that they can pay their rent over summer. Student life these days is an exhausting round of juggling university with employment – those glory days of having time for personal development, hobbies, travel? They’re long gone.

Thankfully, Liana from Worthing’s wonderful Inside Magazines was able to intro me to some people who are unafraid and ready to step into the piece.  WIMPS (Worthing Improv) are experienced performers and ready to collab. Expect terror and joy. Sunday 23rd June 2024.

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods. Caroline also writes. Find them on Substack at (Yes, there's a WIP and yes, it's a campus novel, but hang on - it's not a memoir, and it's not a thinly-disguised writeup of people and situations. I studied creative writing, trained, practiced and ** made it all up**).

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