West Sussex Writers
West Sussex Writers is one of the oldest writers’ groups in the country, having been founded by Francis O'Hanlon, a journalist and non-fiction writer, in 1937. The other founding members were Barbara Hector, Maida Butler, Vera Arlett and George King.
Initially meetings were held in each other’s homes, but by the time the Second World War arrived there were too many members to be accommodated in a single living room, so meetings moved to a solicitor’s office in The Arcade, Worthing. The group (then known as West Sussex Writers Club) continued to meet during the war, but remained fairly peripatetic until 1962, when members settled on a regular venue: the Norfolk Hotel in Chapel Road, Worthing. It has been suggested that members had to enter by a special door, not through the hotel - for fear of scaring the regular guests, perhaps?
This wasn’t the only problem at the Norfolk. Members often disappeared to the hotel bar during the interval, and didn’t return for the second half of the meeting - so in 1967 meetings moved to Worthing’s Adult Education Centre. This strategy must have worked as the group continued to grow, and by 1990, the club was on the move again, this time to Heene Community Centre in Heene Road, Worthing. The first meeting there was presented by Simon Brett, who later became West Sussex Writers’ patron.
The group moved away from Heene Road for a few years, meeting at Field Place in Worthing, but returned a few years ago to Heene Gallery. In April 2016 the group moved to its present venue in the Goring Methodists Chuch Hall.
1977 - A dinner is held at the Beach House Park Restaurant for 70 past and present members to celebrate West Sussex Writers’ 40th anniversary.
1987 - 50th anniversary celebrations include a volume of poetry called “Green Leaf, Gold Leaf”.
1997 - £3,300 worth of lottery funding is awarded, due mostly to the efforts of member, Lawrence Long. The award arrives in time for the “Diamond Day for Writers” to mark the club’s 60th year.
2005 – An anthology of members’ work is published as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival.
2007 – A selection of members’ short stories is recorded onto a CD entitled “70- Not Out,” voiced by our patron Simon Brett, to mark our 70th anniversary celebrations.
2012 – launch of our first national short story competition.
We’ve had a host of members over the years, and membership now includes short story writers, poets, scriptwriters, ghostwriters, editors, novelists, creative writing tutors and journalists. Many have written purely for pleasure, but some have enjoyed considerable professional writing success including Pauline Bentley, Carey Cleaver, Julie Coffin, Constance Cox, Beryl Fleming, Peter Guttridge, Alison Hawes, Jan Henley, Pat Hopper, Rosanna Ley, Fay Marshall, June Tate, Sue Walker, Pam Weaver, Malcolm Welshman, Stella Whitelaw and Susan Wright - to mention but a few.
With thanks to Nina Tucknott for original text and research.