Observer column 31 March 2023
Our Changing Culture
I have worked all my life in the arts, having trained as a musician and then an arts administrator. So I have seen the amazing ways in which culture changes and improves people's lives, and the image and sense of confidence of towns and cities throughout the world.
So what a privilege to be Council Leader in this most creative of towns. The long history and tradition of taking part, not just watching, has given us a unique place in the cultural life of Sussex, and continues to attract visitors to our festivals and events, and people to live here after they fall for that special feeling Hastings has, a community who celebrates difference, individuality and fun!
All this isn't new, and the challenges of keeping our arts infrastructure going remain a challenge, for artists, for residents and for the council. We need to find new ways of keeping our venues open, our galleries busy and our libraries thriving. And I believe this means ensuring our local voices lead the way, rather than public or private sector institutions.
And my confidence that this can and will happen is strengthened by the emergence of a new generation of creatives here. This weekend celebrates this, so here is where I will be today and tomorrow.
New bands emerge from the Hastings music scene constantly. We have a new generation of young musicians here, often growing up in households of local artists. Some, like Hot Wax and the Nova Twins, are taking the Hastings image out on tour. Others, like Borough Council, are just beginning. So with a name like that, I am all ears, and will be at their first headliner gig today (Friday) at the Marina Fountain.
Tomorrow (Saturday) I will be at two really important openings. Hastings Contemporary hosts an exhibition of six professional black artists from Hastings 'We Out Here' alongside a new show of Leon Kossoff, one of the country's most interesting Jewish painters, who died recently. Lots of events and tours where you can meet Lorna Hamilton-Brown, Maggie Scott and the other artists, including one by Robert Rummage on Sunday!
Then in the evening (7.30pm at Christchurch, St Leonards) is the free celebration to mark the annual month-long festival A Town Explores A Book. And the book this year is by Mary Seacole, so we can all learn more about this important figure in our, and Jamaica's, history. But also reflect that her fame came in the Crimea, a much fought over land that is, still, part of Ukraine.
This is just a small sample of our artistic richness, and I do hope you might join me this weekend in exploring these and other bits of Hastings magic.
Council Leader's column