WORLD OF WORDS: Interview with creative director of Worthing WOW festival 2016

Melody Bridges
Melody Bridges

Melody Bridges is a human dynamo: writer, producer, director, world traveller.

In the last month she’s had a book published and is about to release the programme for this year’s Worthing WOW (World of Words) festival.

She’s also an award-winning playwright, and has been nominated for a number of awards for her work towards improving culture in Sussex.

Melody recently gave a TEDx (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk on inspiring change, and she is a regular guest speaker on a variety of topics to do with film, theatre, and the creative arts.

One of Melody’s main interests is film, and in particular women film makers, on which subject she has become something of an expert.

She contributed a chapter on British women film directors to the book ‘Celluloid Ceiling’, published in 2014.

She is a co-author of ‘Silent Women’, an overview of early women film-makers in the US, Europe and beyond, which was published in February 2016.

For the past two years she has also been the artistic director of the Worthing WOW arts festival, and she is currently busy organising WOW 2016.

With around 45 events it is, as she says, “jam-packed with cultural events and creative opportunities.”

Tell us about your background. Did you come from a creative family?

Good question! My family are all in business actually so I suppose on the creativity front I always thought of myself as the black sheep!

Is there a film project you are working on that we may see at this year’s WOW, or at a future date?

We have a promotional film for the festival – which we’re just finishing now. It will be out shortly – and we can’t wait to share it.

Where did the idea of Worthing WOW come from? Was it difficult to get off the ground?

It came about after I produced a successful show called ‘Wilde about Worthing’ in 2013. After that there were all these writers, actors and performers asking me – what are you going to do next?

But really the first Worthing WOW only came about in 2014 because of a fantastic group of people stepping forward saying that they could help to make this happen.

Same with 2015, and now in 2016 also. We rely heavily on volunteers, and smart capable people are generous with their time and ideas. Without them there would be no WOW.

A key element has always been our workshops in schools – we do these in the run-up to the festival every year. We want to inspire local children to be proud of their town, and their own creativity. Our motto is: Create, Engage, Inspire!

Is there an area of the arts that WOW doesn’t currently embrace, that you would like to include in future festivals?

I am also a musician so I’d be keen to look at ways in which we could combine words and music. If John Gibbons from Worthing Symphony Orchestra is reading this – please get in touch! I think there are wonderful ways to combine poetry and music, as well as using music as a prompt for story writing, and I think it would be great to explore. This year the Sea Scribes are holding a workshop where they will use 1960s music as a way to stimulate stories – I’m looking forward to seeing that.

Where do you see Worthing WOW going over the next few years?

I’d like our events to get bigger, with more attendees and more ambition every year. That involves finding more people to get involved, as well as further sources of funding for the future. We have recently applied to become a charity so we are waiting to hear how that process goes. We have started to collect donations towards WOW – if you’d like to donate then the Trustees would like to hear from you!

We want Worthing’s cultural life to be getting bigger and better. The WOW festival is a part of that but there are also some other really exciting projects going on in Worthing now and we are happy to champion them.

And finally, do you have a burning ambition, personal or professional, that you still hope to achieve?

Yes three of them: turn Worthing into a hotspot for arts and culture; make all the books, plays and films that I think up daily; and contribute to ongoing discussions and improvements as to how equality is to be reached.

I believe it’s only when we treat our fellow humans with the dignity and respect that they deserve that we can move forward in the true spirit of collaboration.

I’d like that across all divides – race, gender, religion – and I aim to do my best to work towards that goal.

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Short Story

Love for the working man

By Rhona Gorringe

Because I disagreed with The State, my execution was set for sunset.

I knew their rules but refused to play by them.

Until then I had the freedom to roam in this beautiful park.

I was joined by a graceful young girl who shared the same fate.

Paths skirted sapphire lakes and the air was filled with trilling songs from exotic birds as they hovered above delicate flowers.

Hand in hand we strolled silently through this wonderment.

Diamond sparkles danced in the frothing fountains, I cupped my hands to drink the crystal waters.

Suddenly a voice called, “Wait, wait a moment.”

It was the hangman. “I am free until your execution. If I may dispatch you now, I can have the whole afternoon to help my children with their Abstract Thought homework.”

The girl and I looked at each other. She nodded and, as one, we agreed to his request.

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Over the next three months, we’ll be bringing you news of some of the exciting events planned for Worthing WOW 2016. Get your diaries ready!

On Thursday, April 14, as a curtain-raiser for the festival, legendary punk poet Dr John Cooper Clarke brings his satirical and funny verse performance, delivered in a unique, rapid-fire performance style, to the Connaught Theatre, Worthing. Tickets are available from worthingtheatres.co.uk

Saturday, May 28, is Recreation of 1896 Night, a special event to re-create the first film screening in Worthing, which took place at the end of the pier on August 31, 1896.

The evening features a music hall show and short films in the magnificent setting of the Southern Pavilion.

Tickets are only £5, available through Eventbrite and the Worthing WOW Facebook page.

This year, Worthing WOW is running three competitions:

• Flash Fiction (300 words) competition, with West Sussex Writers.

• Writing for children – a competition for adults, with The University of Chichester.

• Short film competition, with Worthing Film Club.

More details are available at www.worthingwow.co.uk, and don’t forget to check out the Worthing WOW Facebook page, or if you are on Twitter: @WorthingWOW

Worthing WOW events are supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

If you’d like to make a donation to help Worthing WOW please get in touch.

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