The Worthing Workshop

Another piece for a local paper about Worthing’s rock ‘n’ roll history. Was Worthing the birthplace of punk?

“The Worthing Workshop was active for less than five years, but its alumni have had a huge – and until now, unrecorded – influence on the UK’s music scene.

In the late 1960s, every town worth its salt had an ‘arts lab’ bringing together art, music, and literature.

Worthing’s was started in 1968. The Living Loving Workshop was founded by Jimmy Doody, who with his company Krishna Lights went on to make the psychedelic lightshow into a commercial product. Doody’s work led to a company called Optikinetics – and a massive industry in disco lighting.

Doody’s early efforts evolved into the Worthing Workshop, and Ian Grant and John May took over the running. Grant went on to manage The Stranglers and Big Country, and John May later worked for Greenpeace. A close friend of Grant’s at the time, Alan Edwards, now runs The Outside Organisation – working with acts like Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols and Leona Lewis.

The Worthing Workshop held regular Saturday night gigs at The Norfolk, later home to more music as Flappers Bar, and now demolished.   Blues band Steamhammer, whose songwriter Martin Quittenton went on to pen hits for Rod Stewart, were regulars.

Their original singer Chris Slade is still a Worthing resident, running a company finding Brits property in France.

Another regular act were psychedelic blues band Mysterious Babies, featuring Brian James who later formed the Damned.

The Worthing Workshop also staged two open air free concerts at Beach House, with Steamhammer and T2, best known for their 1970 album It’ll All Work Out In Boomland. Jim Doody also brought the more famous Deep Purple to the Pavilion Theatre.

The Worthing Workshop had its own magazine, founded by Nigel Thompson – known to many as a schoolteacher of many years standing.

Originally called Swan and then renamed Scab, the magazine included poetry, articles, and interviews and was reportedly investigated for pornographic content.

The magazine was behind a series of impromptu poetry performances on the seafront and outside Worthing’s old town hall. Other events took place at the Art College Annexe in Union Place.

Members of the Workshop would regularly sell underground magazines like IT and Oz, as well as colourful screenprinted posters, at Holders Corner on Saturdays.

Twice, the group joined August’s Carnival Procession. Most notoriously they put the band The Pink Fairies on a float. The band, closely allied with Hawkwind, are now seen as the UK’s first punk band.

Take that fact, the connections with The Damned and The Stranglers, and Worthing may deserve a place in the history books as one of the places that punk started.”

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4 thoughts on “The Worthing Workshop

  1. A few errors Dan, one being Jimmy Doody had long gone when we put the Bonanza Benefit Ball together that Deep Purple headlined.

    1. Well, I’ve done my best to piece together the fragments and stories from a bunch of people who for some reason can’t remember the finer details. This was first published by the Argus a couple of years ago now.

  2. Does anyone remember the Montague Folk Gathering, going about
    ’65, run by Mo Hone, from Richmond/Eel Pie Island (long-stanging friend of Dave Brock, Hawkwind, & many other ‘names’), & Martin Miller, culminating in the Hootenanny Folk Rave at the Pier Pavilion 9th March ’66, with Peggy Seeger & Ewan MacColl? This pre-dated the Workshop, but was instrumental in it’s beginning. as in ’66 Mo Hone went from playing blues/folk into ‘psychedelic’, with light show, & ‘happenings’, along with poetry readings with many Brighton poets & John Upton & Bill Butler (Unicorn Bookshop) in Brighton (The first ‘Psycholitemare’ with liquid lightshow’ in the south.) When Mo left the band Blake’s Lighthouse the remaining members with Steve Davy, Kieran White, Des Mills & Chris Aylmer went on to become Steamhammer.

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