Magic, Dance and Diversity

2 seagulls on white stone balustrade overlooking beach and sea
2 seagulls on white stone balustrade overlooking beach and sea

A Family Birthday in Rustington

There’s about 40 of us at this family party, hiding, crammed into the dancefloor area at Rustington Manor Hotel Hotel (yes – stretching the ‘Greater Worthing’ concept to its limit – and why not?)

Stretching the ‘Greater Worthing’ concept to its limit – and why not?

We’re trying to hush the over-excited and primped-up children but not setting much of an example ourselves. The DJ (dandyish – red trousers, pink waistcoat) is not helping. “She’s left the house! She’s just 2 minutes away now! Shhhhhh everyone“, he stage-whispers through his mike, relayed to us via huge speakers.

The kids are beside themselves and the adults are eyeing the buffet, the bar, and each other’s party outfits while hanging on to party poppers carefully held at the correct tension for a coordinated ping at the DJ’s command. The oldest person here looks to be in their 90s, aided by a walking frame and a hardly much younger relative; the youngest is a fresh baby. We’re all (apparently) white.

George’s Marvellous Magic

50th B’day Surprise Sprung, I sit down with a bunch of people who are hawk-eyed but mystified over local magician George’s eye-defying and extraordinary magic show. Some of us are so close we’re almost in George’s lap; others are standing back, scrutinising for any ‘cheating’; not one of us can work out how the hell he did what he did. Magic, for sure … I realise that when you’ve been doing something consistently for so long (as George recounts in his Youtube story), you’re going to be very good at it. But still – this is phenomenal! And ew, those fish-hooks; I couldn’t look – could you?

Is Worthing the New Brighton?

After the magic show, I go to sit with a few teens and young adults. I’m asking an old, old, question.

“Is Worthing the new Brighton?”

Pow! Immediate, decisive, reaction:  No! Worthing is, like, no way, never, the New Brighton.

It’s not gay enough! I mean, there’s not enough diversity: diversity generally, not just gay.

“Yeah, Brighton is full of all different kinds of people”.

When you walk around Brighton, there’s amazing graffiti and writing on the walls.

“Brighton, there’s so many different people and things to see. Here, it’s just …”

The young adults here seem hungry for some Brighton-style variety, more than ready for change.

As we get up to leave for our next party, the DJ puts Punjabi MC’s Mundian to Bach Ke on.

No, I hadn’t expected that. As I bhangra my way to the door, enjoying a long moment en route with the crush of women on the dancefloor, I look around, re-appraising the crowd. Might this bhangra moment be an indication of an underplayed conviviality and cosmopolitanism? That could be interesting – and hopeful.

Nextdoor site for Worthing had a post recently with 150 comments in the thread, after Yasmine R came on to tell us that she’d been called a “bloody foreigner” to her (UK passport holding, lifetime resident) face. Many of the comments ran something like – I’m white English and so sorry that you faced this. Given that Nextdoor can be a space that doesn’t always feels inclusive or progressive, it was good to see the many comments that expressed white English Worthing residents’ sorrow, anger and shame that Yasmine had faced this kind of hate.

There’s certainly spaces where people are mingling. The Women’s Hub continues to do great work, bringing together Worthing women from diverse backgrounds to connect and do activities – like the legendary samosa-making sessions.

And are those youngsters entirely correct about the lack of queerness here? Worthing’s LGBTQI network on FB has 800 members in it and runs regular meetups.

There’s an art exhibition happening from May to September.


And there’s even going to be a ‘People’s Proud Picnic’ free event at Victoria Park on Sat July 8th.

As for graffiti – we’re rising to the Brighton challenge; there’s some gorgeous stuff around town. You know which one is my favourite!

Whatever – for now, I’m glad to be here, queer and dancing bhangra in (greater) Worthing.

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 writes, coaches postgrads, and does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods.

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