Getting the Business Edge

Sussex Enterprise Business Edge Magazine page 39 Aug/Sept edition

When I arrived at ad agency Zerofiftyone on the 4th January I embarked upon an audit of the affiliations, memberships, connections and outbound communications used by the agency. Many of the memberships including Sussex Enterprise, Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce, CADIA (Crawley & District Industry Association) and Wired Sussex were in the name of a short-lived digital media offshoot called Blue Herring.

As this deflected from the primary brand, it was decided to drop this – but all the links were in this name. As the branding had reverted to ad agency Zerofiftyone Digital I used this as an opportunity to telephone all the membership managers of the organisations we belong to and bring them up to speed.

I have also created a Facebook Places presence for the company and logged it as a location on Foursquare.

If you drive past our offices in Peacehaven with your Smartphone applications switched on you will detect an invitation to pop in a have a complimentary cup of coffee over a chat about your marketing strategy.

Since January I have also joined the Worthing Theatres Trust as a Trustee/Board Director and because I maintain the website, the Twitter account and the Facebook page there has been a lot of activity on the internet over the last few months.

After ringing Business Edge magazine (the members magazine for Sussex Enterprise – circulation 12,000 businesses) to ask why the magazine was printed in Gateshead (a perfectly reasonable question to a title set up to nurture and defend Sussex business), the magazine offered to put me into its Movers and Shakers page. Despite arriving in January and the piece appearing on page 39 of the August/September edition, it was good to see it finally appear.

I insisted on a credit and website link for Maria Scard, a fine photographer who kindly took the photograph free of charge at a recent event. She will be tagged in this piece as well. The beauty of social media is that it is easy to promote like-minded businesses without resorting to the traditional avenues such as sponsorship or co-promotion.

Writing a blog post about it and connecting it to all my sites is another easy way to communicate outwards.

You reading this now is testament to its efficacy.

The end of the Pier doesn’t mean the end of the road

Worthing Pier - only 55 left in the UK

Emily Gosden’s piece about end of the pier entertainment in the Daily Telegraph (9.6.11) makes the valid point that out of 55 remaining piers in the UK only six are offering traditional Summer seaside entertainment. The end of the pier show has been part of the English seaside landscape for as long as Punch has been altercating with Judy and candyfloss has been blown away by stiff north easterly breezes.

Punch and a Judy

In Worthing there is an additional threat. Apart from the economy, the migration abroad rather than to the UK for Summer holidays, the dwindling municipal coffers for seaside promotion, here the Council operates all three major venues (The Connaught Theatre, the Assembly Hall and the end of the pier Pavilion Theatre) and there is no more money in the cupboard to maintain the cultural and leisure service to the community. The theatres have been advertised in The Stage and expressions of interest requested from operators keen to take the theatres off the Council’s hands. Worthing Theatres Trust is a Company Limited by Guarantee (Community Trust) set up with this in mind – and to return profits, pride, interest from local groups and schools and good old fashioned bums on seats back to the venues of Worthing.

It is well documented that Worthing’s Connaught Theatre has a rich theatrical tradition – it’s where Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE (who announced this week that he is to become WTT’s Patron) as a young assistant stage manager performed on stage (they were short handed) in 1956. Pinter lived around the corner and wrote in the Town. Susan Penhaligon started her career here. Mark Wynter, Michael Simkins, Nick Day and many others trod the boards early in their careers in Worthing.

However, The Pavilion, built in 1926, is a thriving venue for traditional seaside entertainment. Every Wednesday afternoon in August John Mann’s Seaside Summer Melodies on the organ will beguile the elderly – and in the evenings in a Tardis-like experience, you will be able to track down the 60s group The Searchers, the inimitable Ken Dodd who holds the record for the longest stand up show ever performed in Worthing, The Rat Pack who will swagger on stage, then set the controls to ‘One Night of Queen with Gary Mullen’ followed by ‘That’ll be the Day – the stage show, along with old-time TV comedy duo, Cannon and Ball, The Glen Miller Orchestra, The Alter Eagles, before finishing the Season with Jim Davidson’s Seaside Frolics.

If this wasn’t enough, Worthing Theatres Trust TT has already made a public declaration that it will seek every means of preserving the future of the world-famous Wurlitzer organ found in The Assembly Hall. It is listed. Who else owns a listed organ? The Trust also sees a public trust as a means of increasing community and educational participation in the three venues – with a particular emphasis on encouraging local schools and colleges usage of the three venues. The Preserving theatres, culture, the arts is not about creating a business plan. It doesn’t – and shouldn’t fit into a business portfolio or a corporate plan. This is why we are receiving support from actors, directors and other theatre professionals who have worked at the Connaught Theatre and other Worthing venues. You can’t chip away at people’s memories.

The world loves the sound of waves against shingle, the curlicue calls of seagulls tossed into the channel gusts, the cries of children building memories like sandcastles. In Worthing we know how to do history, heritage and the celebration of what we are, and where we’ve come from. Worthing Birdman is an annual exercise in futility as participants build their own flying machines and try to fly off the Pier. One year an entrant came within centimetres of succeeding. Futility – or hope?

Worthing Pier from the Pavilion Theatre

Each September in Worthing we celebrate our heritage with the Annual Pier Day where people flock to the pier to enjoy vintage fun, frolics and a veritable mountain of popcorn, candyfloss and Edwardian sing-alongs. As one of the six remaining piers that endeavours to entertain its public, we see our job as preserving this facility for future generations.

The Trust is appealing for public support at this critical time – especially from the 17,000 plus people who signed the Save Worthing Theatres petition.  

Visit and go the to the Friends page to join up immediately as a Friend of Worthing Theatres. Alternatively, email your request for a form to

Which part of your history are you prepared to see sold?

South Pacific at the Connaught – another reason why we have to save the theatres..

South Pacific by Worthing Musical Comedy Society

The Connaught Theatre Thursday May 19th 2011 

Director: Lee Payne  / Choreography: Terri Moore  / Lighting Director: Stephen Holroyd

It was good to see a packed Connaught Theatre warmly receive South Pacific’s cute opening scene as Sky Cook and Robert Glick, playing the children of the Musical’s romantic lead Emile De Beque, sang and acted in French. The preamble with WWII combat footage reminds us that there is a serious war going on behind the South Pacific froth. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 musical is based on Tales of the South Pacific by Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist James A. Michener which focuses on the story of an American nurse in World War II, Nellie Forbush (showstopper Amelia Regnante), who falls in love with De Beque, a French plantation owner played by Chris Keen who exudes warmth and character throughout. He confesses that he killed a man in France – but what she still doesn’t know is that he has two mixed race children. There is an undertow of criticism of the US racial insularity running through the script which led to some discomfort in society at the time, but which seems quaint and arcane today.

The US army, Captain George Brackett (played splendidly by Paddy Gosden) and Commander William Harbinson (captured perfectly by Andrew Taylor), need his assistance and recruit Nellie to try and uncover De Beque’s political opinions.

Adam Knight

Running alongside this main romance is the tale of Lt Cable (Adam Knight, showing huge promise and smouldering control in his first lead) and Liat (the doll-like and demure Kristie Murphy), the daughter of Bloody Mary (played with wit and style – and with vocal excellence by Caroline Lowe). Their rendition of Happy Talk was memorable.

Some of the dialogue and vocal performances were hard to discern against the music – a mixing issue rather than a musical one. The band was excellent and ably led by MD Nigel Newman.

The character of Luther Billis is a comic anchor of the show and a lot of responsibility sits on the shoulders of the actor playing him. John Chambers does this with energy, pace and tremendous humour. John can also sing which is a bonus. His performance of Honey Bun with the full line-up of dancers was a highlight of the evening.

I have to mention first timer Michelle Quibell (Ensign Dinah Murphy) who delivered a memorably comic performance in the ‘Wash that man right out of my hair’ scene. Will Croome as Lt. Buzz Adams had the cameo of the night with his rat-a-tat-tat delivery in the military briefing scene.

Amelia Regnante

The final word has to go to Amelia Regnante who was equal to the tremendous acting, singing and energy demands placed on her. Resisting the temptation to overact and deliver lines in a cod southern US drawl, she sounded authentic and played the part with the subtlety and dignity it deserved. She undergoes a personal value system transformation and this was delivered realistically and with style.

The show sees two men change their minds but fulfill their military mission. The mission succeeds but one man lives and one dies. The women are defined by their relationships with their men. There’s lots of antediluvian attitudes to smile at, but this show does contain ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’ a subtle song on many levels and delivered with understated power by talented teenager Adam Knight.

Overall, a fine show with a great ensemble WMCS cast that demonstrates precisely why the current campaign by the Worthing Theatres Trust to keep all three performance spaces open must succeed. A community show for all in a much loved community theatre.

Roy Stannard


The next stage for Worthing Theatres?

Acting now for the future

What’s in a logo?
In this case, a great deal. In a previous post I have outlined the fate that awaits the three historic theatres of Worthing if we don’t act now.
A group of people who care about the future of arts, theatre and culture in Worthing have got together to set up a Company Limited by Guarantee which in its guise as a not for profit enterprise will be able to access grants and other funding denied to the current owners, Worthing Borough Council.
A very talented young designer and resident of Worthing, Tom Barnard, currently finishing a three year Graphics Design Course at Falmouth University, has worked tirelessly to produce a selection of brand images for the new Trust, from which the successful logo was selected.
The logo works on three levels. At first sight, you see an upright figure, an actor, arms aloft, head bowed taking the applause from the audience in front of him or her. The waves in front of the figure represent the people in the audience.
At second viewing you see a ‘T’ figure representing the ‘T’ in Theatres and Trust. The ‘T’ represents a triumphant celebration of all that’s good in the Worthing theatrical tradition.
At third sight, you might, if you tried, see the image of an anchor sitting above the waves in a manner that celebrates Worthing’s seaside town status.
The font selected, Futura, is a strong, positive typeface to represent the strength of purpose and passion that exists within the town for the theatres. Recently, 17,000 people signed a petition to signal their belief that the theatres are an essential part of the cultural landscape and should be preserved.

Acting now for the future

Worthing has a rich theatrical tradition, exemplified by its three working theatres – The Connaught, The Pavilion and the Assembly Hall. Like many other towns, Worthing is experiencing difficulties funding these and a working group has been set up to create a Public Trust via a Company Limited by Guarantee to take the theatres into community ownership. Worthing Theatres Trust will be headed by Jon Woodley who has led the Save Worthing Theatres campaign to date and a dedicated team of volunteers on the Trust Board with a blend of skills appropriate to the task.

Consider the history. Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE appeared in several plays at the Connaught in the 1950s. Winston Churchill visited the theatre in 1956 to see his daughter Sarah perform in Terrence Rattigan’s play Variation on a Theme. Harold Pinter acted at the Connaught under the stage name of David Baron, taking residence in the town centre just a few yards from the theatre in Ambrose Place in the 1960s. Pinter’s first wife, actress Vivien Merchant, acted at the Connaught during this period. Giles Cooper worked with Pinter at the Connaught. Robin Maugham wrote several plays which he directed and premiered at the Connaught, including The Claimant (1962) and Winter in Ischia (1964).  Actress Marina Sirtis, perhaps best known for her role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, began her career in rep at the Connaught in 1976 and lived in the town. Actor Robert Blythe has also worked in repertory theatre at the Connaught.

The Trust intends to re-introduce Repertory Theatre to the Connaught. However, this project needs the support of the public of Worthing in order to succeed. We want to raise £800,000 in the next few months to sustain the theatres in the first few months of post-Council ownership. We need £5,000 immediately in order to set up a charity account and start the work of establishing the Trust. We have already created a brand identity, a website and a structure for the Trust.

Now it’s your turn. Please go to our website and sign up as Supporters. There will be an opportunity there to contribute money and in kind. We believe that Worthing needs its theatres. The theatres, in order to survive, need you. It’s time for you to take centre stage.

Curtains for theatre in Worthing?  Not if we can help it.

Why saving theatres is great theatre

Jonathan Woodley - Stage managing the rescue of theatre in Worthing

Since Christmas something rather remarkable has been happening in Worthing. Because of the cuts in Central Government spending, the Town has been looking under its moth-eaten bed to see what obsolete pieces of social detritus it can afford to get rid of.

The Town Council in its wisdom has decided that Theatre is the defunct slice of culture it can justify eliminating. We will all be too poor or depressed to go to the theatre anyway. And it’s costing us £1.2m a year of money we can ill-afford to spend.

In steps Jon Woodley from the central casting department of ‘The Big Society’.  He is a charming young man of 26 with an equally engaging  fiancée, Ann-Marie Clarke, who work in London as a Theatre Consultant and Programme Manager respectively. He is the son of Kim Woodley who runs the wonderful Broadwater Manor School which has itself produced several talented actors. Jonathan, then, is a scion of Worthing, brought up in its rich tradition of producing  and repertory theatre. Jon was a member of the Worthing Youth Theatre based at the Connaught before going on to study Stage Management at the Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Art (RADA). After this he worked with amongst others, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre of Ireland, Bill Kenwright Ltd, and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. 

For three months he has laboured in the shadows taking the Council’s accounts and producing a startlingly good proposal to take the three theatres of Worthing into public trust ownership and running them quixotically for the  ‘benefit of the community’.

This week the Council Cabinet met to discuss the future of the theatres. Jon Woodley was invited to share his thoughts. An amazing concession in its own right.

The idea is that the Trust would take the Town’s Connaught and Pavilion Theatres and the Assembly Rooms into a social enterprise-based Trust or Community Interest Company, if a way can be found to avoid the protracted EU legislation on Asset Transfer from public to community ownership.

This campaign, of course, fits the Government template for ‘The Big Society’ to a ‘t’. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary is already rubbing his hands together at the thought that a local community could take a significant public enterprise out of the public subsidy ditch and thrust it atop the Big Society hill, glittering and golden – and profitable.

A petition to save the theatres with 17,741 names was handed to the Meeting before proceedings began. That is approximately one-sixth of the population of Worthing or twenty-five full houses at the Assembly Hall.

The outcome of the meeting was three recommendations from the Cabinet Committee to do the following: 

  1. A Committee has been formed: this committee comprises of 4 councillors who have volunteered to set up a group, specifically in order to work alongside the council staff in investigating and implementing the best route of putting in place an alternative body to manage / run Worthing Theatres. 
  2. The Council staff (the Chief Executive and the Head of Arts and Leisure) have been requested to investigate the alternatives to a full EU procurement route, which include other alternatives such as Community Asset Transfer.
  3. The Councillors have requested that these actions take place as quickly as possible, in order to resolve the process and put in place another management (The Trust, for eg) as quickly as possible, to allow maximum preparation and transitional time for the Trust to be established and responsibility transferred.

A note of caution was sounded by Council officers who advised that Cabinet Members should not show favouritism with any party until it is legally established which method they can adopt.

Once the Council has made its recommendation about the direction it will take, Jon Woodley and the Trust will then register the Trust or charity in the correct form with Companies House.

Jon Woodley was understandably delighted with the outcome, “We have achieved everything we could at this stage. The support for the Theatres was overwhelming. Worthing is a passionate centre for theatre and the arts. We need the whole Community to get involved and help. We will need to raise funds in order to get the Trust up and running. This can be done via corporate sponsorship, donations in kind, membership schemes and advertising.”

In the meantime the political machine ticks over. The ‘Yes Minister’ contingent in the Department for Communities and Local Government, where Minister Eric Pickles (responsible for the promotion of ‘The Big Society’) was given a private briefing last week by Worthing Council Leader Paul Yallop, are already preparing press releases.

The Group has already been approached by a TV production company to take part in a series of documentaries about the Arts trying to survive the cuts, to be broadcast on BBC2 later in the year.

The interesting outcome is that at the meeting there was a single solitary soul in the room who wanted one tiny scintilla of the theatre provision in Worthing to touched. There were no Thatcher revivalists calling for the theatres to stand up and be profitable or die. Not a single councillor asked why they had been making a loss when the ticket sales were only averagely poor. Even the very organ of Government responsible for removing the funding for the Arts is looking like the cat who ate the cream at the prospect of ‘The Big Society’ being brought to life in little ol’ Worthing.

There are people already rehearsing their laissez-faire lines for television. A thought occurs. Cynically. Perhaps they should be on stage? They should stand up and be heard before the final curtain falls on theatre in Worthing.

The website is being set up:

Go and visit your inheritance soon.