Observer column: 14 July 2017
Hastings Spirit Of Summer
The summer season is well underway now, Hastings is vibrant and buzzing, with so much going on. Last weekend was especially busy. We had the Classic Car Boot Fair on Hastings Pier, the Midsummer Fish Festival on the Stade Open Space, the Independents Day celebrations in the America Ground and the Beer Festival at its new home on the Oval.
Hastings Council organised the Mid-Summer Fish Festival, attended by over 5,000 people, enjoying local fish, produce, and music. These fish festivals were in the past paid for by the EU from the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), but this money has now gone, so we introduced a small admission charge. This means we can keep the cost of the stalls down, to encourage small local traders to take part.
The next Hastings Council fish festival will be the Seafood and Wine Festival on 16th-17th September, which has become very popular, and also now has an admission charge. However, the wonderfully atmospheric Herring Fair in November (during the herring season) will again be free this year.
Hastings Council is also continuing its Stade Saturdays programme of live music, circus and other performance events on the Stade Open Space, and these are always free, continuing right through till October.
But of course, it's not just the council that's organising events and festivals. This Sunday, it's Pirate Day, with music, displays, and various piratical encounters. And then there's Old Town Carnival Week starting at the end of July and going into August, the Coastal Currents Arts Festival in September, and a summer programme of activities on Hastings Pier, from yoga sessions to music, cinema, and dinosaurs.
There's a full programme of events at the White Rock Theatre and St Mary in the Castle. And now we have Opus, the new performance venue in Cambridge Road United Reform Church which will have, I'm told, the best piano in the world (probably), the 'Phoenix Opus'. And there are so many small music venues around town, in pubs and bars, from relative newcomers such as The Albion and Palace, to old timers such as the Jenny Lind or The Stag (apologies to all those I don't have space to mention) - all hosting new bands and performers that enhance our reputation as a 'music town'. Many of our historic churches also host music events, notably a full programme of recitals at All Saints Church on its 'Father Willis' organ.
All of this continues through to Hastings Week in October, including the Classic Car Show, the Sprat and Winkle Run of historic commercial vehicles, Bonfire Day with its noisy processions and spectacular fireworks, and, for the first time this year, the Vintage and Classic Bike Show.
And this is what makes Hastings special. The council does its bit to put on events and festivals, but it's the strength of our local community and their enthusiasm for entertainment, culture and spectacle that makes it work. Often now, when I meet other council leaders, they express their envy for what we have here, as our reputation as a centre for cultural endeavour, artistic innovation, eccentric spectacle, and good old-fashioned fun, grows with each passing year.
So whatever your preference, whether it be dressing up as a pirate or listening to historic organ music, or perhaps both, there's plenty of entertainment, culture and fun to be had right here in Hastings. Just get out there and enjoy it!
Council Leader's column