Press Releases week beginning 16 October 2017
Twin Towns Sign Up
A new road sign celebrating all five of Hastings twin towns has been erected on the A259 on the eastern approach to Hastings.
The previous sign had only recognised Hastings' four European twin towns (Bethune, France; Oudenaarde, Belgium; Dordrecht, Netherlands; Schwerte, Germany), but to mark the 10th anniversary of the town's twinning with its namesake in Sierra Leone, a new sign has been erected listing all five towns :- and visiting teachers from Hastings, Sierra Leone, were there to celebrate.
Roger Mitchell, the co-ordinator of the teachers' exchange visit, and an active member of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, said :- "We have wanted all five twin town links to be shown on the sign for some time, and I am very pleased indeed that our visiting friends from Hastings Sierra Leone were able to see their home town listed. We are very grateful to Hastings Borough Council for arranging a new sign."
Council leader Peter Chowney added :- "It is only right that all of our twin towns are properly recognised, and it was a nice way for us to be able to mark the 10th anniversary of our formal twinning, in 2007. I am delighted that our African visitors were able to be present when our new sign was erected."
Francis Mason, the co-ordinator in Sierra Leone of the teachers' exchange programme, said :- "We were honoured to be present at the unveiling of this sign. It is very important to us. It shows that the links are tangible, not just symbolic, and really mean something. I will work hard to ensure that a similar sign is erected in Hastings Sierra Leone."
Empty Homes Week 16-22 October 2017
Hastings Borough Council empty homes review success
Hastings Borough Council published its Empty Homes Strategy in 2003, when there were over 2000 homes standing empty for six months or more. Today, that figure stands at 492; however, with up to 100 properties a month being identified as empty, the Council regularly contacts owners to offer assistance and to warn them of the consequences of allowing homes to remain empty for too long. Council tax bills are increased to a premium rate of an added 50% once a property is left empty for two years.
Councillor Andy Batsford, lead member for housing said, "The council works in partnership with housing associations and bids for external funding to reduce the number of empty homes on the register. With homeless levels spiralling we will first encourage owners of empty homes to return their property to use, but then enforce where necessary because every empty home has the potential to help fulfil the town's urgent need for good quality, affordable housing."
"If owners leave their homes empty for longer than two years the council will consider the use of compulsory purchase. Since 2011, the council have helped bring 621 of these 'two year empty homes' back into use. Only six properties were compulsory purchased."
Hastings Borough Council can offer advice and any financial assistance such as interest relief on loan repayment.
The council has worked in partnership with housing associations and the YMCA to identify and refurbish empty homes. Last year Hastings Borough Council and Optivo won the 2016 National Home Improvement Council (NHIC) award for Home Improvements with Community Benefit and the George Plucknett Award, chosen from all winners and finalists for successfully meeting the objectives of the NHIC
Hastings Borough Council has consistently achieved its annual target to bringing 70 homes back into use that were empty for over two years.
Stade Saturdays: Acrojou present All at Sea and Vessel
5 pm ALL AT SEA
7.30 pm VESSEL
Saturday 21 October at Hastings Stade
"Vessel" is the sequel to Acrojou's acclaimed show "All at Sea" and combines acrobatics, physical theatre and video projected onto water to create the bittersweet theatre and visual poetry for which the company is renowned. What is a life well lived? What about the things you meant to do one day?
Hastings Borough Councillor Kim Forward, lead member for regeneration and culture said, "This is a beautiful, poignant finish to an incredible Stade Saturdays season. Well done to all those involved with arranging such diverse performances, week after week, and all free! Thanks too to the Arts Council and Coasters for their part in bringing street performance from all over the UK and Europe to Hastings, providing high quality entertainment for families and young people, and being part of the summer package which brings new and returning visitors to the town'.
"Vessel and "All at Sea" are two intimate, roving theatre and sound installations suitable for children and adults.
Hastings welcomes teachers from Twin Town
Seven teachers from Hastings Sierra Leone arrived in the town on Hastings Day (14th October). They are spending a week working alongside teachers from The Baird Primary Academy, Guestling Bradshaw CE Primary, St Leonards CE Academy, St Mary Star of the Sea RC Primary and West St Leonards Academy.
The coordinator of this project, Roger Mitchell said 'Our partnerships are proving highly valuable in helping children here and in Sierra Leone to understand more about the world they live in. They gain insights into how cultures and lifestyles interact through history, climate and geography".
Support coordinator, Isabel Hodger has been overseeing the collaboration between the Link and the British Council. She has also been focusing on improving the teaching of mathematics in our partner Sierra Leone Schools with the help of Letitia Huggins. Letitia teaches at Jui Lower, near to Hastings town and is very keen to help her colleagues using the strategies learnt and observed. She said "I am really looking forward to developing some of the ideas we have shared when I return to my own school".
Francis Mason, co-ordinator of the link in Sierra Leone, accompanied the party and spent time visiting the other nine schools involved in the link. Francis said "I want to thank all the people in Hastings UK for their hospitality and desire to share with us in educating all our children. We appreciate greatly the friendships that have grown up between us"
Regular exchange visits have been taking place between Link schools in both countries since 2010, mainly funded by British Council grants. This year, jointly funded by the schools themselves and the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, this return visit helped to share skills and embed relationships in order to enhance the children's understanding of our world in both countries.
As well as working hard in their schools, the teachers have had an opportunity to experience life and have some fun in Hastings and East Sussex. They will be trying Morris Dancing and Crazy Golf, and will visit the Caves and Hastings Castle.
Plans are already well advanced for further exchanges in 2018.
Terrific Torches, Brilliant Bonfire, Fantastic Fireworks
Hastings Day (Saturday 14th October) saw one of the biggest and best bonfire nights ever seen in Hastings, organised by Hastings Borough Bonfire Society.
Council leader Peter Chowney was at the front of the torchlight procession with the mayor, Cllr Judy Rogers, and said :- "What a fantastic end to Hastings Day 2017.
"Sadly last year's Saturday evening was a bit of a washout, with the torrential rain throughout the parade, but this year more than made up for it, with a terrific torchlight procession, brilliant bonfire, and fantastic fireworks. And the weather was great!
"Hastings was packed all day, and tens of thousands of people watched what I have been told could be the biggest ever torchlight procession ever seen in Sussex.
"I was delighted to be able to join in myself, walking with our Mayor Cllr Judy Rogers and the town criers.
"I'd like to pay tribute to the fantastic efforts of Hastings Borough Bonfire Society and local Renegade Pyrotechnics. All are volunteers, but the event was incredibly professional - and a great attraction for the town."
Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, Town Criers' Compete on Hastings Day
The winner of the 64th national town criers' championship, held in Hastings on Hastings Day (14th October), was Terry Ford, the 'bellman' of Otley, West Yorkshire. Second was Andrew Fleming, from Swanage, and third was Jon Borthwick, of Lewes & Peacehaven. The best dressed crier was Jane Smith, from Bognor.
The national town criers' championship is the oldest town criers' competition in the country. It is organised by Hastings Borough Council, and hosted by the Hastings town crier Jon Bartholomew, who is not allowed to enter the competition himself.
The mayor of Hastings, Cllr Judy Rogers, watched the competition and presented the prizes. Cllr Rogers said :- "Town crying is a real English tradition, although it is believed to have originated with the Norman Conquest of 1066, as 'bellmen' figures are depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.
"It is therefore very appropriate that Hastings hosts the national town criers' competition, especially so in Hastings Week when we remember 'that' battle.
"It has become a real feature of Hastings Week, and the town criers provide a colourful, and noisy, spectacle, both in Priory Meadow during the day, and in the torchlight procession in the evening. I was especially delighted this year that we had two female town criers entering the national championship here.
"Town criers, and our competition, are extremely popular, long may the tradition continue."
Old Pier Remembered
The site of the now almost-forgotten St Leonards Pier has been highlighted by a display board telling its story in words and pictures. Mayor Judy Rogers and local historian Steve Peak last week (Thursday 12th October) unveiled the board on the promenade, just to the west of the Royal Victoria Hotel. The board was designed by Hastings Borough Council staff.
Steve had the idea of marking the pier's site while researching his book A Pier Without Peer on the history of Hastings Pier, published by Peter Owen Publishers.
Steve said "St Leonards Pier was a leading tourist attraction and social centre for nearly half a century, but today there is nothing of it to be seen. The 275 metre long pier was built in 1888-91 in opposition to the successful Hastings Pier, which had opened in 1872.
"But St Leonards Pier suffered from lack of investment, and in 1909 it was taken over by an American company which renamed it the Palace Pier. Then in August 1917 the pier was bought by John Gardner, the well-off owner of several Welsh coal mines, who ran the pier in a public-spirited, non-profit way. It became especially popular in the 1920s and '30s, especially after it was taken over in 1933 by two London speculators, who renamed it the New Palace Pier.
"But the pier's life was suddenly cut short by the start of the Second World War in 1939, when it had to close, and then in 1944 there was a major fire which wrecked most of it. In 1951 Hastings Council bought the ruins and began removing everything still standing. By late 1953 all that was left of St Leonards Pier were some pieces of ironwork under the sand."
Hastings mayor Cllr Judy Rogers added :- "Sadly St Leonards Pier is just a distant memory for some more mature residents now, but in its heyday it was a major visitor attraction.
"Fortunately we still have a great pier to enjoy in Hastings, but it is right that we remember our past too, and I'd like to pay tribute to Steve Peak for the tremendous work he's done in researching this information board, and to the council's graphic design team for doing such a splendid job designing it."