What does ‘the South’ mean to you?
Counties along the coast of south-east England share a green and varied landscape, the natural beauty of the South Downs, thriving communities and a proud history and heritage going back centuries. But, being located so close to London, do people living in the South identify as naturally with the region as many ‘northerners’ do with the North?
Reading the South asked some contemporary writers who either live in the South, or have been influenced by the region in their work, to give their impressions of what the South means to them…
“The pebbles, sand and sky of the Sussex seascape are all a part of my sense of identity, of who I am, probably because I have lived most of my life close to the sea. I grew up in Bexhill, East Sussex, where we had a beach hut with a stove on which my mother made coffee and our breakfast porridge. My childhood memories are mostly of being outside, barefoot; of running on pebbles, climbing breakwaters, exploring rock pools, cartwheeling on the sand and building huge sandcastles with other children.” – Jane Rusbridge
“We think we know a place, think we belong, but life can change and we can begin to feel like outsiders. Worthing has become far more culturally diverse (at last!) – how do newer communities feel about the town, and their sense of identity within it?” – Juliet West
“The big skies of the Sussex Downs, big blue expanse of the Channel – the landscape here inspires me. And the community of amazing writers, past and present from Virginia Woolf to Polly Samson, inspire me.“ – Damian Barr
“The South is a peculiar part of the world: separated from the rest of the country by London, cut off from the world by the slowly encroaching sea and cushioned by relative wealth and prosperity. The latter breeds its own particular set of neuroses: a constant wondering if the grass might be greener, a voyeuristic identification with other people’s tragedies and an obsession with minutiae of relationships and family life.
It provides a rich seam of virtual unreality – one that I have mined in all of my novels.” – Lizzie Enfield
“Living on the South Coast has always informed my work. Both the Downs and local seascapes are full of open space and particular rhythms which shape how I think, and Brighton in particular is also full of movement, colour and alternative lifestyles. There’s nowhere else I’d rather live.” – John McCullough
“I identify strongly as a lily-livered southerner and as much as I am aware I live in possibly the most overcrowded and expensive corner of the country, I appreciate the fact that it is possible to walk out of my back door and be in rolling countryside in a matter of minutes, with only rabbits, crows, horses and the occasional dog walker for company.” – Hannah Vincent
“The feeling of belonging is something I have searched for all my life. I’ve travelled widely and lived in many places in India and the UK, but always felt like an outsider. When I moved to the south coast of England I felt at home for the first time.” – Umi Sinha