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SAM McCARTHY-FOX

 

If  you have attended a Worthing Symphony Orchestra concert over the last two decades, then you will have encountered Sam.  As front of house staff for Worthing Theatres, or as a volunteer, Sam rarely missed a concert.  He was a great friend and supporter of WSO, and we were all deeply saddened to learn of his passing in  July 2021. Sam always had a warm greeting for everyone he met –  a smile, a wave, a hug or a handshake - and we are going to miss his friendly presence at concerts.

Gemma Nethersole, has written this moving tribute to Sam ....

When I heard the news that Sam had died, it took a while to sink in as shocking news so often does. How could the man who was always first with a smile, a hug, a wry quip or a piece of brilliant advice no longer be here? 

 

And yet although he's no longer here to chat to, for me, he'll never be far because his smiling face is linked with Worthing and Sussex as a whole.

 

I had the privilege of calling Sam my colleague and friend. I don’t remember the detail of the first time I met him, although I am certain it was at Worthing’s  Pavilion Theatre in the marketing office and probably involved a discussion about newspaper clippings. But I do remember the last time I saw him; we had spent the afternoon sitting in my living room drinking coffee and munching chocolate Digestives as we chatted for hours. It was an activity that punctuated much of the time we spent together. No matter how busy it was at the theatres there was always time for a hot drink and a biscuit. And a hug. 

 

Sam was great at hugs - in those pre-pandemic halcyon days when a hug was the most natural thing in the world. Whenever he arrived at the theatres, to volunteer in the offices or to begin a Front of House shift, he’d always call in and say hello to everyone, with hugs for those who wanted them. Sam’s hugs always came at the perfect time whether it was a hectic Monday morning, at the end of a long show or the time I became ill at work and refused to go home until Sam intervened. He gave me a hug and gently guided me out of the venue before walking me to my front door, stopping at every seafront bench as I needed, taking an hour and a half to walk a distance that would usually take 30 minutes.

 

Kindness and warmth shone from Sam. He went out of his way to ensure people felt welcome and included. 

 

It was what made him such a perfect ambassador for the theatres and for the wider town.  

After I heard the news of Sam’s death I mentioned how sad it was to a friend. She had moved

to Worthing from Lancashire a few years ago and knew nobody in the town. As I chatted about him she suddenly stopped me and asked if I was talking about “the lovely white-haired gentleman with a brilliant smile who worked at the theatres”. Sam had been the first person she’d had a proper conversation with when she moved to Sussex. They met on a bus when he noticed her accent and asked if she was new in town. He went on to tell her about the current programme at the theatres, encouraged her to see a film, call in for jazz, witness the majesty

of WSO and try out The Selden Arms where he would often call in for a quick pint before closing at the end of a shift. He made the difference for her between it being a place to live and place to call home.    

 

In addition to his love of the theatres, Sam was always keen to share news of his family - particularly his son Zachary's latest adventures. Whether he was travelling the world with his mum Julia, sharing Sam's enthusiasm for a Morris dance, learning a new skill or simply visiting for a weekend, Sam was endlessly proud.  

    

Sam was also the epitome of ‘a safe pair of hands’. Whether he was jovially shepherding patrons through the venues, sharing anecdotes with journalists at press nights, guiding backstage tours or producing perfectly-timed items from theatres’ archive, his knowledge of the theatres, both practical and historical, was impeccable. 

 

Whatever happened at the theatres, if Sam was by my side I knew everything would run like clockwork. On one of the rare occasions snow settled in Worthing it happened to be a panto press day and we were promoting both of the town’s festive shows from the Pavilion. The days were great fun but also a feat of timing and coordination involving two casts, two photo-shoots, two promotional videos, multiple interviews and not one, but two, pantomime dames. And a lot of coffee. Unfortunately the snow had caused the heating in the venue to fail along with the electricity. Although the back-up generator was whirring to life, it was a little too slow for the arriving casts who were cold and uncaffeinated with a long day of smiles ahead but luckily Sam appeared with the immortal words “how can I help?”. 

 

Together we ferried cups of coffee and pastries across the snow and I never did find out how Sam knew the location of so many space-heaters. 

 

Finally, a recollection of Sam wouldn’t be complete without a mention of marbles. Never one to champion himself, I had no idea I was chatting to Mr Marbles himself until he gave me a draft copy of the book he’d been writing about the history of marbles and their rightful place at Tinsley Green. I then learned he was the secretary of the British Marbles Board of Control and both saviour and organiser of the British and World Marbles Championships. It turned out he had visited marble factories worldwide and proudly showed me a length of hand-blown glass rod from which marbles are subsequently fashioned. Later he casually dropped into conversation that he owned over 100,000 marbles. Hearing Sam speak about his love of marbles, their colours, the way they’re made, their tactile nature, their evocative names and their sheer beauty always sounded as though each one was a star snatched from the heavens, a tiny sphere of magic to be cherished.   

 

And so, every time I see a marble, a panto dame, snow on Worthing seafront, walk past the Selden, catch a glimpse of a loud-but-fabulous shirt, pause on a bench or chuckle at the Shoreham-registered boats on the beach because he briefly convinced me they were his as they bore the initials ‘SM’ - Sam’s right there. 

 

But best of all­ every time I ask somebody if they take sugar in their coffee, it’s Sam’s voice that I hear when they decline - “none for me, I’m sweet enough”, and he was, he really was. 

 

 

GEMMA NETHERSOLE 

The professional
orchestra of
West Sussex