St Paul’s Art Centre, Worthing

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St Paul's

An ideal example of a community Art Centre…

 

St Paul’s Art Centre, Worthing

I always think an Art Centre shouldn’t be built of modern glass and concrete with insubstantial plastic furniture, but an old building of character with at least an echo of bohemia within its walls, and it should service the community in many and varied ways. St Paul’s Art Centre in Worthing certainly embodies that concept.

Transformed from a former church into an eclectic cafe, gallery, and performance venue, St Paul’s is now being enjoyed by local clubs and classes with a quite unique diversity of events. These range from self help classes such as yoga, pilates and WeightWatchers to flamenco and kids ballet, poetry groups, university groups and writing clubs to larger events such as the Worthing Beer festival, the Worthing Series of Poker, Worthing Open Houses, Food and Drink Festivals, Art Auctions and Worthing’s contemporary market, Bartie’s Boutique. The centre also caters for wedding functions, private parties and corporate events.
A decade or so ago, however, St Paul’s future did not look so rosy. The Grade II*  listed building, having been an important part of Worthing’s community since 1812, developed serious structural problems and in 1995 had to close.

After detailed review of the needs of people in the local area, it was soon realised that St Paul’s had an impressive past and it should have an important future for the town.

St Paul's Art Centre

St Paul’s Art Centre

Thus came the plan to convert the church into a Community Centre with Christian ethos. It would provide a cafeteria for sale of refreshments including light lunches, rooms for use by community groups, larger areas for exhibitions, theatre, lectures etc. This would ensure that the wider Community would benefit from using the Centre and the Grade II* listed building would be preserved and appreciated by generations to come.

Now, after over 12 years of local fund-raising, grants, legacies, and donations, over £1 million has been raised and the plan is now not only a reality, it is a great success.

Music definitely plays a central role in the centre’s renaissance and recently such world class acts as Turin Brakes, Ocean Colour Scene, Chris Difford, James Walsh (of Starsailor fame), Chris Helme (The Seahorses) and Mark Morris (The Bluetones) have performed there, all thanks to The Second Saturday Acoustic Showcase. Next in line is Andy Burrows, former Razorlight band member and now famous for his new ‘I am Arrows’ and ‘We are Scientists’ projects.

So Last Century String Band for Worthing Hoedown Society

So Last Century String Band – photo by Carlotta Luke photography

Coming up in June is the Worthing Hoedown Society event featuring the So Last Century String Band; Appalachian old-time music with fiddle, banjo, & guitar and double bass featuring crunchy harmonies, square dance tunes, songs of whisky and gambling and chickens, old gospel, jug-band songs, weird crooked tunes, a bit like recordings from the 1920s and 30s only maybe not quite as scratchy. Visit www.solastcenturystringband.com for more information.

Again showing the diversity of the venue, in November the world renowned Blockheads (of Ian Dury fame) are playing a concert not to be missed for sure. Tickets are on sale now, it’s sure to be a sell out!

Dawn's Vintage Burlesque classes

Dawn’s Vintage Do

An example of the diverse nature of the classes held at St Paul’s are the burlesque fitness sessions run monthly by Dawn’s Vintage Do, inviting women to regain their confidence and ‘shine like a starlet’. Dawn says “Helping women to feel incredible is something I absolutely adore doing. For some, it means taking tiny steps towards ultimate self confidence and for others, just the sight of a feather boa and their hidden showgirls are unleashed! My vintage burlesque is suitable for all and each monthly session at Worthing’s St Paul’s Arts Centre is a self contained experience so ladies can join at any time. I take my ‘starlets’ through posing, expression and full group routines in each wonderful workshop. Visit www.dawnsvintagedo.com for more information.

A monthly event that has come a long way is Barties Boutique. It’s a boutique with a difference, celebrating the skill, dedication and hard work in Sussex. Every second Saturday of the month it showcases some of the best craftspeople, independent sellers and small local businesses in Sussex. They aim to bring you a fresh contemporary shopping experience offering you gifts and products that are not on the high street. Not only that, they offer you free gift wrapping on the day and as a not-for-profit event they support breast cancer research in its fight against cancer. Visit www.bartiesboutique.moonfruit.com for more info.

St Paul's Cafe, St Pauls Art Centre, plus art & craft fair

St Paul’s Cafe plus art & craft fair

Last but not least I must mention the café. Serving delicious local, seasonal produce and fantastic coffee, and enhanced by exhibitions of locally produced art and photography, it seats 100, has a section with large plush seats if you want to spread out, and some lunchtimes you can be serenaded by a flamenco guitarist or other acoustic music while you eat.

All in all, that’s what I envision when I think of my ideal Arts Centre. And St Paul’s certainly comes close. Pay a visit and see what you think.

St Paul’s Art Centre, Chapel Road, Worthing
01903 368967
www.stpaulscentre.org.uk

 
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