Observer column: 07 September 2018
Summer holidays might be over, but that certainly doesn't mean the programme of events in Hastings ends. There's still plenty to do as autumn approaches.
There's the Coastal Currents visual arts festival, which continues throughout September. The festival began as a Hastings Council initiative. Now in its twentieth year, it's grown into an independent, nationally-recognised visual arts festival, funded from many different sources. Once again, there's a whole month of curated events, installations, and artworks in and around Hastings. One of the highlights is the Open Studios weekends, with dozens of artists' studios across Hastings, St Leonards, and beyond participating in the programme. Open Studios continues this coming weekend, showcasing the amazing variety and quality of artists we have working locally.
There are various artworks around town to enjoy too, from a new mural in Queen's Road and a decorated shelter on the West Hill, to a car in Rock-a-Nore car park filled with the tideline of the beach. And there are performances, video and film events, exhibitions and more. Programmes are available at the Tourist Information Centre and various shops and galleries, or you can download it from the Coastal Currents website.
And don't miss what has become one of the biggest Hastings festivals, the council-run Seafood and Wine Festival, on 14th-16th September. Enjoy seafood caught off the shores of Hastings with wine from local vineyards and retailers, along with many other tasty treats from local restaurants and producers. There's non-stop live music, family entertainment, hands-on cooking demonstrations and beer from a local microbrewery. Wristbands for the whole weekend cost £3 on the gate, £2 in advance from the Tourist Information Centre (children are free).
The spectacular 'Battle of Hastings' international BMX tournament is taking place this weekend at The Source, or there's the International Composers' Festival, another world-class event, which begins with a concert at the Opus Theatre in Cambridge Road on 21st September. Or how about the first-ever Hastings Steampunk Festival, at Horntye Sports Centre on 16th September? There's the Photo Hastings festival that stretches right through to November, and of course, Stade Saturdays events continue throughout September, on the Stade Open Space.
But it doesn't even end with September - looking forward to October there's Hastings Week, with the Classic Car Show, Sprat and Winkle Run of historic commercial vehicles, and of course the anarchic and slightly scary bonfire procession, and firework display. There's also the Black Huts Poetry Festival, Oktoberfest, AfriKàBa celebrating Black History Month … and even more.
But while we're celebrating this astonishing cultural cornucopia and the many local volunteers who make all this possible, let's remember Ion Castro, who sadly died last week. Ion had been involved in organising Hastings Week and Hastings Carnival. He wrote a two-page spread for this paper every week, illustrated by his huge archive of Hastings historic photographs. He was a key member of the Hastings Trolleybus Preservation Society, looking after and driving 'Happy Harold', the unique 1928 Hastings open-top trolleybus that's often seen at local events. Ion is irreplaceable - he'll be sadly missed by many of us, a true supporter of Hastings and everything that makes it special.
So enjoy September and everything that's still to come as summer fades away. But raise a glass to Ion and remember all the Hastings characters that have made our town the beautiful, creative, eclectic, and eccentric place we all love.
Council Leader's column