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Friday, 13 August 2010

Living On An Island - Part 2.

In the first part of this blog, i talked about the Pirate Day event that had recently taken place in Hastings.
The day was a huge success and those who dressed up actually broke the Guinness World Record for the number of pirates in one place at any one time. A wonderful achievement.

When talking about why the record was broken and so easily too, i said "Hastings has a unique character and punches well above it's weight, when it comes to arranging and publicly celebrating events of this kind"

So, why is this?
Well, i think the answer to this question is tied up with something that i overheard somebody saying during the Pirate Day event.

This person had, i believe, moved to Hastings, from the London area, fairly recently and was saying that he didn't think that the type of events that took place in Hastings would ever happen in London. For example, he said that he had never seen Morris Dancing until he came here.
Now, i realise that things like Morris Dancing, Carnivals and some of the other events that happen in Hastings are not unique to the town, of course they're not. Although, some most certainly are.
But, i do believe that the sheer number of these events and the way in which they are embraced by the local community,  in many ways is unique. And this, once again, is tied to what this person said.

He went on to say that he felt that Hastings was in some ways an island and with this comment i would have to agree.
Hastings is notorious for having pretty bad transport links with the rest of the country and especially London, which is only 60+ miles away. Both the rail and road links to the town are considered antiquated and slow. This has led to the town becoming and feeling somewhat isolated.

Another aspect to all of this is that Hastings, for some unknown reason, always seems to get a rather bad press and any news coverage generally concentrates on bad news, rather than anything good. Hastings, like any other similar sized town, has it's fair share of problems. But, no worse than anywhere else, as far as i can see.

So, apart from sometimes feeling that you are living on an island. There is almost a kind of seige mentality amongst the local population. This reminds me of a chant used by supporters of Millwall football club, "No one likes us, we don't care".
Maybe, this tends to generate a special kind of community spirit and possibly even attract a certain type of person to come and live here? And maybe this is the reason that pirates feel so at home here?

I am, of course, biased about Hastings, having lived here for 22 years now. But, i do truly feel that there is something a little special about the town and i know that i am not alone in feeling this way.
Maybe, it's about time that others started to recognise that as well?

I, for one, certainly like living on this particular island and in a weird way i'd quite like it to remain cut off from "civilisation".

I'll leave you with a list of links to just some of the events and festivals that happen in Hastings every year. Some are, i believe, unique to Hastings. And some of them i am very happy to be associated with myself.
There are several more that happen in the local and surrounding area too.
I'm sure you'll agree, that for a town of approx 80,000 people, it sure has a lot of things going on and certainly punches above it's weight:

Pirate Day
Old Town Carnival Week
Hastings Half Marathon
Hastings Music Festival
Beatles Day
Hastings Rock radio
Jack in the Green
Hastings Beer and Music Festival
St Leonards Festival
Beach Concert
Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival
Hastings Week
Hastings Bonfire Night


  1. The "island mentality" can really bring a community together; usually for positive effects. Santa Cruz is very much like that as well, even with it's proximity to San Jose and San Francisco. It's amazing what a small range of hills can do to distinguish you from your neighbors :^)

  2. Like you, i think the effects are very positive.
    Maybe it's because you're a little cut off yourself, or at least it feels like it, that your community has a similar feeling to here in Hastings.
    It sure makes these places good ones to live in doesn't it?

  3. Sorry Andy, but Hastings is 'worse' than other places - it has extraordinarily bad stats on poverty, ill health, suicide, alcohol and substance misuse. I lived in Hastings from the age of 8 to 30, over the 80's and 90's, so saw the worst effects of the Care In The Community Act: thousands of formerly institutionalised people sent there to live, with little support. Such a disportionate influx of benefit claimants was a blow the delicate seasonal economy still hasn't recovered from. And something dark setlled on the town - an expectation of lunacy and pain, a difficulty with wanting more than just survival.

    But although Hastings is worse, it's also better. I know of no other town in the South where the people who work in the prettiest, most touristy part of town also can still afford to live there. The advantage of no one having any money is that it doesn't take much to get things happening - that list of events you posted would do any small town proud. There are tons of passionate, creative, wonderful people there who aren't motivated by cold hard cash. And there's the famous Hastings attitude, which, though I know it doesn't always go down well elsewhere, I still think is a great mixture of weirdness and defiance.

    One final point: I've been to Santa Cruz. It resembles Hastings about as much as a dolphin resembles a starling.

  4. Petra: Fair point about the past. I was living here in the 90's myself & watched the town go downhill. I do think things have improved since then though.
    But, as least we agree on the creative effects of those problems.
    I love your comment about Santa Cruz btw & i've been there too.