Converted from a Victorian terraced house to Waldorf’s Café in the 1960s, 42 Marine Parade initially served ice cream with a dash of rock’n’roll spirit.
By the mid-80s it had become the Boat and Anchor pub, with netting and plastic lobsters on the ceiling and a clientele of hippies, bikers and fishermen. It was Paige’s in the 90s, a club-bar playing house sounds, and Bar Breeze opened in the early 00s. Over time, the latter gained a reputation for edginess set to a drum & bass soundtrack. By 2011 the premises sought a new leaseholder.
The story of Bar 42, however, is also the story of Mark Knowles. Born in Sutton in 1973, he moved to Worthing aged five, and grew up in Durrington.
“I always wanted to own a bar,” he says. “When I was 21 there was an empty double-fronted shop up for lease on Chapel Road. I had a surveyor look it over, then put a proposal together for the landlord, but they said I was too young.”
Mark had various jobs after leaving school but eventually studied physiotherapy at the University of Chichester in the late 90s. His canny plan was to join the growing armada of backroom bods in professional sport. He ended up instead working at Lloyds in Haywards Heath, learning the rudiments of computer programming language VBA. After a spell as a pizza delivery man (Favourite Pizza on Ann Street!), he snaffled a well-paid position at Shell in London, working as tech support to the trade floor.
“My first day I walked onto the trade floor and there was paper everywhere and people shouting down phones,” he recalls, “I was fantastically sack-able at first, but after six months I started to relax. The traders themselves were like massive children, as soon as you’d fixed a problem they’d just push you out of the way.”
Dealing with them, he says, stood him in good stead for later band ego games at Bar 42. The job was well paid but lacked a social life and he left after five years. Back down south he worked as a field engineer for Tarmac, a job he thoroughly enjoyed, but fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis closed the position. He was back working short-term jobs he disliked. When he saw 42 Marine Parade on the market, he took a loan and dived in.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” he recalls, “We painted it, put sofas in, but the toilets upstairs we couldn’t do much about. I’d always enjoyed community-based pubs like The Fountain [closed 1997, now Slug and Lettuce], so it was just going to be about that vibe, but it was a lot more difficult than we thought.”
Bar 42 opened on April 14 2011, with one of Mark’s friends, Sam Comfrey, performing an acoustic set. The first few months were good but then things slacked off. Whenever the weather was bad, the venue was empty. They started putting on comedy nights, tried salsa evenings, even Ann Summers parties, but times were tight.
Mark’s assistant manager Adam Saryazdi started putting on gigs. The first were by The Crown, his mates. It worked. Other acts followed: Brighton indie outfit Fickle Friends, Swedish band Red Sleeping Beauty, punks Sak-Less Jack, and local metallers (and Bar 42 perennials) Bleed Again. Of the last of these Mark says, “It was the loudest night I’ve ever had to endure – 120 decibels in the back room. There were complaints and we had a decision to make if we were to continue.”
He borrowed another £5000 for soundproofing, and bought the venue’s first in-house PA and sound desk. Local character ‘Noisy’ Nick Halstead (now deceased) built the soundman’s booth and the porch area. As important was Mark’s philosophy. He didn’t want to take the lazy route of pub covers bands; he wanted new talent, local talent, excitement. He persuaded then-rising (now-defunct) Brighton punk rockers Screama Ballerina to play, a key moment, but the venue’s bread’n’butter was metal.
“Even though Bar 42 is not a solely a metal venue,” says Mark, “the reason we’re sometimes known as a metal bar was that those were the busiest nights. People even came over from Brighton.”
Thursday nights put on by James Doherty of doom metallers DKH were a case in point, but there was much else happening. It wasn’t always successful – pop-punk band Roam played to one person; the lead singer of US prog-rockers Thank You Scientist refused to perform when he saw the venue – but over the years, despite having a stage made of pallets, acts such as St Albans punks Trash Boat, Portsmouth punk-metallers Seething Akira, prog-poppers Black Peaks, Littlehampton punks GLOO, Worthing alt-rockers Grenades, and many, many more, helped Bar 42 develop a gritty, vibrant reputation.
Last year the venue had a complete refurb. After it, Black Peaks said to Mark, “Well done, mate, you’ve a proper venue now.” For Mark, a gig last November by metal band Monuments, who usually play 500-1000 capacity venues, was validation.
“When they walked in, the drummer said, ‘We can’t play here’,” Mark remembers, “It tested my people management skills. When they heard the insane thunder of the sound check, when they saw the support bands amid the sweat, smoke and lights, they changed their minds. During their set the vocalist came out, ordered a pint of Guinness, jumped up on the bar and did vocals there while his pint settled. I’d seen them headline a stage at Download and here they were…”
Whether it’s Kev Hough’s punk-ish all-dayer Sundays, Northbrook College band evenings, electronic nights, folk bands, or metal mayhem, Bar 42, with a capacity of 100, now flies the flag as a leading venue.
“I didn’t really know about music, growing up,” Mark admits, “I was proper mainstream. My first gig was Wet Wet Wet at the Brighton Centre! But that’s changed, I’ve become a fan. There are bands that play Bar 42 no-one’s heard of, but that I love. There’s so much fantastic music going on in Worthing now, and people need to get out of their houses and come see it.”
The Time Machine says Amen to that.
By Thomas H Green
We have been contacted to say that there are differing opinions as to recollecting the ambiance of the venue, including ones that don’t tally with the description in this Time Machine feature. Do you remember the Boat and Anchor and other venues at 42 Marine Parade over the years? Why not drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org