Let’s Move to Worthing?

Worthing Council Teville Gate plans

On the ‘Coastal Identities’ page we’re thinking about the English seaside and whiteness. There’s plenty of incomers here in our town, but the ones we see represented most often are the ones who’ve chosen to come (like WoBy) for quality of life reasons. (We’ve not been put here by a local authority, we didn’t come fleeing war or destitution).

The ‘Let’s Move to Worthing’ movement goes back at least ten years. Here’s local hero nuevo Dad La Soul on some of the reasons why his family came over; his post pinpoints many of the things that we hear from Brighton and London incomers.

While cool dad may have abandoned Brighton-Hove in part (he tells us) because he was fed up with tripping over yummy-mummies at every corner, we do have plenty of our own seafront-walking, start-up talking, mums in Worthing. Let’s not knock them: they’re bringing in good stuff like cinammon buns and their antidote, fat metaboliser. (I realise that the last sentence is kind of a haiku meta-commentary on the contradictions within white femininity – I swear that was unintentional).

The Worthing Mums‘ blog, with it’s listings and short pieces, gives us a bit more of a sense of those changes happening here, including one woman’s personal account of her journey from Brighton. Like the best personal writing, its story is totemic.

If you feel you already know cool dad and start-up mum, you might enjoy the highly particular twist on the incomer story coming from an expat mum who was based here, and who blogged about the things you have to learn when you are ‘Bringing up Brits’.

Peterson’s blog became a network and a book

Now, if we can also begin to gather in the stories of some of the other incomers, and if we can stop and reflect a bit on how we engage with gentrification (come on, let’s not shy away from the G-word), it’ll do us all a power of good. Mindful incoming, anyone?

Here, the Teville Gate development has several other poignant stories to it: the disappearance of Georgina Gharsallah (and the posters appealing for witnesses to her disappearance) would be one of those stories.

Georgina Gharsallah, missing

While I’ve got a PhD in anthropology, I’m bored with being part of scholarly debates on ethnicity, class, sex-gender and migration which don’t make it past an academic journal (or, at best, the Guardian newspaper) in terms of public engagement. So I’ll keep listening and thinking and trying to write about all this in ways that are meaningful. Keep reading.

Oh – and let me know when I miss the mark, so I can think again.

2020 update

Development moving on apace. Time for Worthing campaign launched, with promo video branding the town.

Not everyone is celebrating, as this petition shows.

We’ll keep recording what’s going on.

2020 Covid update

Nobody saw that coming, did they? Actually, plenty of people saw it coming a long way off, from Obama to UK public health officials, biologists and environmental researchers and activists. There’s been Ebola, SARS, Nipah – but I guess we didn’t care so much about the rise in new deadly viruses until it left Africa and Asia and hit us right here in our own local space.

When we were kids, we used to write into our new school books and diaries on the frontispiece something like this:- Caroline Osella, Flat 4, Sundown Street, Worthing, West Sussex, England, Northern Hemisphere, The World, The Universe.

Worthing is both a relatively insignificant small town in a corner of a tiny nation flung into the sea somewhere between North America and Europe – and also an essential part of the global network that makes up The World, The Universe. Increasingly, we’ll have to let go of borders, boundaries, isolationist ideals, parochial thinking, in order to understand and accept that the world is one entity and that we are all connected.

Is a border-ignoring, fast-adapting virus more intelligent as a life-form than a human? (Don’t answer that right now, the answer is painful).

Photo by Wesley Carvalho on Pexels.com

At our micro-scale of Worthing, independent shops and businesses quivered – and then quickly stepped forward to pivot or to expand and change the way they work. Neighourhood networks intensified – WoBy’s household was among many who received a kindly handwritten note through the door in the early days offering shopping, or any other kind of support needed. The pub announced it would collect prescriptions and deliver them (along with opening up beer delivery and provinding us with quarantunes). Lucky people who already had internet shopping delivery slots set up offered to add bits of shopping into theirs so that neighbours wouldn’t go without. Worthing FB pages for independent businesses offered us cupcakes, full Sunday roasts, vegan breakfasts, and full weekly shops. There were mass outbreaks of crafting and mask-sewing. Home-schooling parents shared despair, support, and tips via Worthing Mums and Dads. Community projects set up zoom meets and online socials to mitigate isolation. Worthing mosque offered a ‘covid mutual aid’ project. Churches gave us online mass. Performers hosted virtual parties and DJ sets. Northbrook Met musical theatre students offered online showcases in place of their end-of-year performances.

Quarantine 2020, Worthing. We wanted for nothing.

Worthing intra-connections multiplied as we reached out to one another. On Nextdoor and local FB pages, people bartered: an early post offered, “a lump of sourdough starter and you can give me an equivalent weight of anything useful – maybe an egg or a lemon or something”. But we couldn’t get flour for our lockdown baking projects in supermarkets, in the small stores, or even online. Local bakers began to sell not just the daily bread, but also loose flour bagged up into kilos.

Over the next few weeks, WoBy plans to speak to a few people about the double impact of Covid-19 and the death of George Floyd: both are events which seem singular in their intensity and impact but have been a long time in the making, representing the latest moment in a long-unfolding story of human-created miseries.

The difference is that we seem to be waking up to consciousness.

Did you fall asleep at the wheel of modernity? Did ya? Did ya? Did you think it would keep going till the end of eternity? Did ya? Did ya?

Back in the day, Tracey Chapman thought a fast car would help her, “finally see what it means to be living”. Right now, we’re pretty sure that fast cars are part of 20th C history and that for the 21st C, to finally find see what it means to be living will mean something different. And as Avi Khalil suggests – that’s not likely to be permanent quarantine.

Good morning, Worthing! We love you and we’re excited for our future together.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

August 2020 Update

The council has re-launched the ‘Time for Worthing’ campaign, with some updates and case-studies about how local independent businesses faced the Covid challenge and what they’ve done to re-open safely. You can read more here or here.

Over on Nextdoor, lockdown saw loads of new members as people took up the chance to network locally and meet the neighbours virtually. An interesting development in the last couple of weeks has been the number of posts from people asking for feedback on new small business ideas. Looks like lockdown pushed a re-think for a lot of Worthing residents about their working lives; and maybe opened up space and courage to people who’d been vaguely thinking about self-employment but not had the time till lockdown to think it through and make plans. Some people got put on furlough and never called back, as large employers grasped the excuse to slim down workforces even further. Most of us developed new relationships with local retailers and many of us changed the way we shop and eat. Local info and networking pages online flourished, even as our beloved print editions of Here and Now and Inside magazines went dormant for a bit. Thanks to online words of mouth like the Worthing Independents FB page, we all discovered stuff right in the town that we’d not known about. (Weekend bakes of vegan sea-cakes, craft beers on delivery, artisan jewellers workshopping from home).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. Expect plenty of Worthing start-ups over the next 3 months.

Horaceart has put a set of pavement art down in Portland Road. Go see it before too many more footprints blur it all out.

Part of Horaceart’s Portland Road pavement work, August 2020.

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