Observer column: 31 May 2019
Most people probably agree that these are not the best of times. Big cuts to public services, continuing austerity, Brexit, the housing crisis, and of course climate change, are all problems we're having to face, and mean that we're entering an uncertain future, in so many ways. So maybe it's time to consider what we've got to look forward to, here in Hastings, over the coming summer.
Reduced government funding has meant Hastings Council, and others, have less to spend on local events and festivals. Despite this, the council still contributes to many events, both with financial grants and by working with local organisations to help them organise and publicise their activities. And we've managed to continue the council's own events programme. We'll have the Mid-Summer Fish Festival and the 1066 Cycling Festival (jointly organised with Rother Council) on 22nd - 23rd June, the Seafood and Wine Festival on 14th - 15th September, The Herring Fair in November, and the Stade Saturdays programme of events on the Stade Open Space, commencing in July. There's also a range of sport and play activities put on by the council's Active Hastings team across the town, and a comprehensive programme of events and activities at Hastings Museum, too - check the council's website for details. Single-use plastics will be banned at all the council's events and festivals now too, and at other events held on council land.
But most events in the borough are put on by local groups because they have a passion for their own cultural specialism, or because they just want to entertain. In June, there's the Hastings Comedy Fringe Festival, as well as the Hastings Fringe Festival of Performing Arts, the World Crazy Golf Championship, and the St Leonards Festival, perhaps the most multi-cultural of all the festivals. Then in July, there's the week-long Hastings Theatre Festival, the Hastings Beer and Music Festival, and of course Pirate Day, with another world record attempt: the largest human image of a boat. August will see events for Hastings Carnival Week, culminating in the carnival procession, and the third Hastings Pride Festival on the Bank Holiday Weekend, with a 'Heroes' theme this year. Through September, we have the Coastal Currents Visual Arts Festival with its open studios programme, as well as the Battle of Hastings International BMX event, at The Source BMX Park. And in October, the summer rounds off with Hastings Week, incorporating the Hastings Classic Car Show, the Sprat and Winkle Run of historic commercial vehicles and the spectacular bonfire procession and firework display. And there are more … apologies to those I've missed.
That's an impressive array of summer festivities. You'd be hard pushed to find anything to compare even in major UK cities. And mostly, it's down to dedicated teams of volunteers and local businesses who work together to make our borough the colourful, exciting and vibrant place it is, and why we continue to attract more and more visitors each year. It's that love of Hastings and St Leonards, the desire to contribute to our borough's success and prosperity, that helps to make it a special place.
So whether you're anxious about austerity, bothered by Brexit or confused concerning climate change, take some time to relax and enjoy what Hastings has to offer. We're all going to have to face up to those issues, and deal with them. But make sure you enjoy the summer, too.
Council Leader's column