Sussex is too rough for me now, says Gary Numan (as he ups sticks to LA)


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The Independent Online

Waldron is a leafy Sussex village where the tranquillity is disturbed only by the bells of the parish church. Its residents, then, are baffled after the pop star Gary Numan said he was emigrating to California to escape its "thugs".

The electronic music pioneer, 53, who topped the charts in the late Seventies with "Cars" and "Are 'Friends' Electric?", is moving to the US with his family. Numan lives in the rural district of Wealden, East Sussex. The only blip in the crime rate came when the village of Waldron was paid a visit by Cromwell's troops in the mid-1600s.

But his patience snapped after an incident involving his wife, Gemma and their three children, Raven, Persia and Echo. "We live right out in the country," he said. "You would think it would be the most peaceful place in the world. Yet the other day my wife was walking down the high street and a bunch of kids between 12 and 14 were telling her what they would like to do to her. She had my children with her. You've got to be kidding."

Emigration, to Santa Monica, was the only answer, he said. "The day after the riots, I got on to the lawyer and said, 'Let's do it; get on with it'," said Numan. "Every village and town in England has a bunch of thugs running around in it. I have got to think of the children."

Dick Angel, Wealden District councillor, said: "The village is composed of a church, a pub and mainly retired pensioners. The only recent record of any crime is when someone had the wheels of their car pinched when they were in the pub and that was 15 years ago.

"It is one of the lowest crime areas in the whole of the country. I had never heard of Mr Numan before this but people are treating his comments with some amusement." Father David Charles, the priest in the 12th-century All Saints church in Waldron, said: "This is a very quiet village with only a couple of hundred residents. I've not seen much evidence of youth violence or gangs. People here feel Mr Numan's perception doesn't match the reality. It's a quiet and happy place."

Numan said that Santa Monica has "beautiful beaches and the Pacific Ocean. You ask the teenagers there for directions and they are polite and helpful. Do that here and you are as likely to get stabbed as you are to get directions. The fact is the English are pretty miserable".

Numan, an enthusiastic pilot, is now hailed as one of the post-punk era's most influential musicians.

How they compare

30: Crime statistics for the last available month show that Wealden had 30 incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour

317: Over the same period, there were 317 in Santa Monica, to where Gary Numan is moving

14: The California city recorded 14 assaults with a deadly weapon

0: The number of gun-related incidents in Wealden.

16: There were 16 counts of grand theft auto in Santa Monica, while no cars were stolen in the Sussex town.