Observer column: 25 November 2022
Were you surprised to hear this week that Hastings has been voted the happiest place in Sussex by our residents?
I wasn't. Because although we know how tough life is for many here, the resilience needed to carve out a life even when you have no money or poor housing or poor health often in my experience makes you a more positive person. Money doesn't buy happiness. But a sense of community does.
So all those unique events run by local communities, all those charities run by local people, all those amazing initiatives are what make us happy. From Jack in the Green to the Pocket Park in Hughenden Road to the Woody Wood in Hollington. From St Leonards Progress to Ore Community Library to the Fishermen's Museum. From the Refugee Buddy Project to the 1066 Community Bank. And many, many more.
Other towns might be richer in terms of money. But we are richest in terms of mutual support. The way 1,000 people volunteered when HEART was set up to help people during COVID-19. The way Surviving the Streets has 100 volunteers from Hollington. The way St Leonards Festival has a local committee dedicated to keeping the annual celebration of being from diverse St Leonards alive.
I have a very privileged position as Council Leader. Not because it's a cushy role, far from it, as we struggle to balance the books having been left with no government funding, but because this town is inspirational, a great example of how local determination can make a town a success. People are moving and investing here in numbers, drawn by the sea, the setting, the architecture but most of all by this positivity.
So our challenge now is to harness the new skills, the new wealth that this brings, for the benefit of the whole town.
I will be asking residents to do more next year, because when you step up, it works. On my list is community leadership for new investment in Broomgrove and Hollington, community leadership for a Hastings Cultural Trust to lead our key arts assets, and community leadership to drive our aim to tackle climate change through a new Environment Commission.
All proposals welcome!
Council Leader's column