Hastings Fat Tuesday
Hastings Fat Tuesday music festival is the UK's largest Mardi Gras celebration which showcases Hastings' thriving music scene. It is more than one day. Hastings Fat Tuesday delivers an amazing programme of live music performance, creative music-making opportunities, and music industry skills development throughout the year. This includes Sonics, Hastings Fat Tuesday Music Festival, Fat Tuesday Club, Under the Radar and Voodoo Fest alongside additional community and education projects.
Cultural strategy ambition(s)
Culture for everyone - Hastings' cultural offer is inclusive and accessible - there are chances for people to take part in culture and creativity in their community.
Proud to live in Hastings - Culture builds connections between communities to improve the quality of life for local people.
Open for tourism - Cultural tourism brings people to Hastings - creating opportunities for local people to gain skills and employment.
What did you do/what happened?
From 25 February - 1 March 2022, the UK's largest Mardi Gras festival brought Hastings to life with a vibrant showcase of the town's thriving music scene and colourful local character. Following last winter's lockdown, the community came together to celebrate the eagerly anticipated return of the much-loved annual event, now in its twelfth year.
For five unforgettable days, the pubs, restaurants, streets and squares of Hastings and St Leonard's played host to more than 350 FREE music performances. A diverse line-up of emerging, young talent and local bands alongside internationally acclaimed musicians presented an eclectic programme, which spanned everything from disco, drag and punk, to gospel, samba and a New Orleans marching band. From the family favourite Umbrella Parade and accompanying school and public workshops, to the cutting-edge and experimental Sonics. Hastings Fat Tuesday provides something for everyone and arrives as a farewell to Winter and a precursor to Spring bringing colour, music and fun in a dreary time of the year when people's spirits really need lifting.
Alongside the free music offering we host a grand Mardi Gras ball and one-day music conference aimed at grass roots musicians and students wanting to make a career in the industry.
Who was involved?
HFT 22 attracted a live audience of more than 28,350 people from both near and far. The programme engaged 475 artists across 126 music acts, performing in 33 local venues. The seven carnival workshops engaged 260 school children and more thank 65 members of the public, resulting in 3,300 parade participants carrying 1,100 umbrellas.
When did this happen, over what time period?
Hastings Fat Tuesday Festival takes place over five days in February, with one month of community workshops from the start of the year.
What was involved in terms of logistics, time or resources? (i.e. how much work did it take?)
Our core team works on the festival all year round, with freelance designers and marketing team working on the project from the Autumn. Our teams of freelance audio technicians and lighting riggers are engaged the week of the festival, as are our team of 20 volunteers,
Is this a first for Hastings, regionally or even nationally?
HFT Music Festival has taken place annually for 13 years, with one year off due to COVID-19.
Where did you get inspiration / the idea from for this activity?
It all started in 1999 when local musician Bob Tipler teamed up with event producer Adam Daly with the ambition to create the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the UK. They had both recognised for some time that one of the greatest assets that Hastings had to offer was its incredibly diverse and well developed music scene, and so Hastings Fat Tuesday was born. Since then the mixture of family friendly and more rock 'n' roll events, with great local bands appearing alongside acts of international repute (including Skunk Anansie, Dodgy, The Membranes, Craig Charles, Baxter Dury) has established Hastings Fat Tuesday as one of '12 best places to party in the World' (The Telegraph).
What difference has this made to your organisation, the people involved?
The ever expanding festival has allowed us to grow our core team and our team of freelancers, which in turn has enabled us to develop into an established arts organisation operating a year round programme of activity
What are your plans for the future?
Since 2021, we have expanded on our festival activity to provide a year round programme. This includes a youth music 'Fat Tuesday Club' and a monthly emerging artist 'Under the Radar' gig night at a local venue in partnership with BBC Introducing. In 2022 we launched our first 'Sonics' festival, a three-day festival of ground-breaking experimental, electronic, and underground culture. This year we plan to produce an additional youth music club focusing on experimental and electronic music, called Pocket Sonics and working with Create Music to launch a 'Youth Second Line Band'. We have also recruited a 'Youth Curatorial Panel' to help shape our curation across all of our events to ensure that the next generation of artists have a platform and a voice. Our learning and engagement work will culminate in a youth summer festival on the Stade in July that will be curated and produced by the young people that are engaged in our activity.
What advice would you give another arts organisation or creative practitioner looking to do something similar / work in Hastings?
Hastings has a strong cultural community and success in producing creative initiatives relies on strong local partnerships, be that with other organisations, venues, networks, educators and freelances.
"It is well known that for a small town with a population of just over 90,000 people, Hastings punches well above its weight in terms of venues, audiences and talent. It boasts a local music scene that is more vibrant than in many British cities, as well as having been named the most musically sophisticated town or city in the UK. Hastings Fat Tuesday has been the driving force behind the designation of Hastings & Rother as a Music City (launched at HFT 2017) and now a key strategic initiative for the local authority and Arts Council England-South East, responding to the critical mass of musicians and music audiences."
-Sally Lampitt - Director, Hastings Fat Tuesday
"It's the best night of the year in Hastings, it embodies what the town is about and puts an emphasis on the amazing swathes of talent that operate out of 1066 country!"
-Local musician who took part