35 years ago The Pink Fairies played at the Phun City Festival just outside Worthing: and sang in their biggest hit "Don't think about it man - all you gotta do is do it ... Don't talk about it - all you do is do it." Across the years, their DIY anthem has obviously filtered into Worthing’s collective consciousness and RAG (based in the Sussex town) have been ‘doing it’, rather than just talking, for five years.
This website has been key in the process, providing a gateway to events organised by RAG as well as by over 50 other artists and groups from the South of England. And this is a landmark - the 500th story to appear on the site.
The past few years have seen a renaissance for the arts in RAG's hometown Worthing, with probably the most activity since the town embraced the arts, building a rash of theatres, cinemas and an art college in the 1920s and 30s. From the ashes of the short-lived Worthing Arts Festival in 2003 has come the Artists & Makers Festival. Organised by RAG, the festival takes place across Worthing and Horsham District, and features contributions from West Sussex Writers’ Club, Rainbow Shakespeare, the Textile Arts Forum and others.
Worthing venues like St Matthew’s in Tarring Road (pictured right) and the Field Place complex regularly host events, from art exhibitions to dance and live music. And earlier this year the region's arts, heritage and creative communities came together for the first Worthing Creative Conference, organised by RAG founder Dan Thompson and supported by business organisation Worthing First and community group Worthing Arts Council.
Dan (pictured below) has also been advocating the opening of Tate Worthing in twenty years time, and the foundation of a Creative Quarter, both to drive Worthing’s regeneration and to place the town firmly on the UK's cultural map.
A small survey carried out earlier this year found a hidden community of writers and web developers, musicians and craft makers, designers and dancers, publishers and poets, centred on the town and contributing tens of millions of pounds to the local economy. Around half of people surveyed were home-based, meaning that the creative community are often missed; you simply don’t see them.
This website, which is visited by around 500 people every day, is vitally important to give those people a community and a voice.
In ‘This Is The Beat Generation’, John Holmes says “Everyone I know felt it in one way or another- the bottled eagerness for talk, for joy, for excitement, for new truth. Whatever the reason, everyone had a look of impatience and expectation in his eyes” – and that’s how it feels in Worthing and Horsham District's creative community right now.
And while the confidence may be new found, all those artists, makers, designers and musicians are building on a great legacy. Compile your own list of Worthing’s famous sons and daughters. There are the obvious ones – Oscar Wilde lived here, Haile Selassie stayed in exile at the Warnes Hotel and Anita Roddick went to Worthing High School for Girls. We all know about Leo Sayer, Billy Idol, Simon Mayo and Keith Emerson …
But how about Jamie Hewlett? He started drawing the Tank Girl comic while in Worthing, before forming the band Gorillaz with Damon Albarn from Blur. Or Martin and Judith Miller, the team behind the best-selling Millers’ Antique Guides?
Comedian Harry Hill who was a doctor at Worthing Hospital? Pop artist Peter Sedgely, a contemporary of Bridget Riley? Martin Quittenton who wrote hits for Rod Stewart? Influential DJs Mex and Krafty Kuts? Already, plans for a Worthing ‘Walk of Fame’ are afoot.
35 years ago, Worthing was home to Phun City, the first free festival in the UK. Cult ‘60s band The MC5 played London’s Royal Festival Hall earlier this year: the band made their first UK appearance at Phun City and singer Wayne Kramer was heard backstage at the Royal Festival Hall, reminiscing about how important that Worthing visit was.
Mick Farren was a journalist at the NME, has had 17 novels published and has released 18 albums. Another ex-Worthing resident, he was a key mover and shaker in organising Phun City. He now lives in Los Angeles, and wrote a piece for the Worthing Creative Conference. He talked about Worthing High School for Boys, The Dome, the lack of fulfilment in the town and about how he drifted away to live in London, New York, and Tokyo.
“The very fact that I am writing this for a Worthing Creative Conference … all those years ago it would have been unimaginable, but … all the high times and hard struggles actually did achieve something. A vibrant creativity has been planted and nurtured,
and restless children no longer need seek their dreams on some other part of the planet.”
In short, Mick says that arts, heritage and creativity make Worthing a town worth living, working and investing in.
And this year, the Artists & Makers Festival saw visitors from across the UK coming into the town; as well as one visitor who’d come all the way from Tabernacle, New Jersey to see KLF frontman Bill Drummond perform MyDeath.net. So the arts don’t just make Worthing a town worth staying in, but a town worth visiting, too
This Christmas, visit the Start Contemporary Gallery to see in Brighton (17th - 27th November) to see RAG acting as Worthing’s ambassadors; or visit Artists & Makers at St Matthew’s (2nd & 3rd December) and see a little bit of the arts, culture and creativity that are reshaping Worthing, and investing it with a greater value for residents and visitors alike. You’ll see what happens when you “Don't talk about it - all you do is do it."