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I spent last Sunday morning in the pleasant town of Worthing in Sussex for the Worthing WOW festival Mr Darcy breakfast, where the 2014 Mr Darcy of Sussex was crowned. I was lucky enough to be asked to be a judge for the competition.

The Worthing WOW ( festival, is the brainchild of Melody Bridges, the Artistic Director for the event. It celebrates the joy of words, through poetry, theatre, film and books. As Melody informs us, “Worthing WOW was born from the need to discover, in Sussex, new words, new scripts, new films, new poems, and new talent.” Melody hopes that this will ignite the creative flame in Worthing.

But why Worthing, I ask. It is a pleasant English coastal town, which sits in the shadow of its colourful neighbour Brighton. Melody informed me that “Worthing has a fantastic literary heritage: Shelley, Byron, Austen, Wilde, Priestley all came here and were inspired by our beautiful seaside town.”

It is this very Jane Austen literary connection that inspired the search for a modern Mr Darcy. At the breakfast, the exceptionally knowledgeable and interesting Janet Clarke gave us a guided tour of both Jane Austen’s extended stay in Worthing and what the town was like during that period. The venue at which the event was held was the house that Jane Austen stayed in, which is now a Pizza Express, but the basics of the cottage is intact. Janet informed us that her stay in the town certainly was a heavy influence for her unfinished novel Sanditon. Which is one I have not read, so I will have to rectify that.

#1PG with this year's Mr Darcy, Hugo Harding

#1PG with this year’s Mr Darcy, Hugo Harding

As for our Mr Darcy 2014, entrants were nominated from all over Sussex and entries were indeed quite numerous.  I was given a shortlist of 6 very eligible men and arranged them in my order of preference and then the Vote was open to the public. The judgement was based on his style, from a photo, and a written submission from his nominator and a bio. My judging criteria was, as with all Gentleman, how he matched up to our Manifesto.

The winner was the dashing and charming Mr Hugo Harding. He had dressed up in period attire for his win, a most fitting gesture. As part of his prize he received a signed pre-release copy of ‘Becoming the Perfect Gentleman’, we don’t think he needs it, but maybe he can pass it on to his young son!

We congratulate Melody Bridges on a very successful festival and we wish her even more success for the 2015 event and we hope that we can still be involved for next years Mr Darcy competition.

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