“Increasingly over the last few years I have felt that the new “place to be” (which was once the slogan for Brighton and Hove) is now Hastings and St Leonards. I feel that this area is on the cusp of greatness. It has changed beyond recognition in the last 10 to 15 years. The area has some challenges, and if you did choose to live or move your business there, there are some social problems that are still part and parcel of the town. It is a very mixed community, which is one reason I like it so much.” So says Andy Winter, the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust on his own blog recently.
Last month the Daily Telegraph ran an article about a young couple, Leida and Will, who had bought an old converted pub near Hastings town centre. “As with so much of Hastings, the street is changing, and bit by bit other properties are being done up,” the article read. The couple had moved from Brighton and the transition there happened very fast. Leida said:”Suddenly there were no more empty buildings – it had all been done. I was constantly saying things like, ‘Brighton used to be so this or so that’.” What will she do if Hastings similarly really goes on the up? “What will I do? I’ll lap it up,” she told the paper.
As we know Hastings is the most musically sophisticated town in the country. More than 94,000 people across the country answered questions on their musical background and musical habits in a study carried out by researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and BBC Lab UK. Interestingly the report was published the very week of our own Fat Tuesday programme and of the Hastings International Piano Competition final.
And if that wasn’t enough work on restoring our Pier is very visibly progressing well; the nationally renowned Jerwood Gallery has a new Spring exhibition. The university is on track to double its number of students in the town.
There’s even a suggestion that we are the new Shoreditch – the area of east London revived by becoming the home of artists and all sorts of cultural activists. The well-known Culture Trip website carries an article “Why Hastings is the Shoreditch of Sussex and the UK’s new cultural hotspot.” The article comments: “Hastings is a place for experimentation in a less competitive atmosphere than London (and more specifically the real Shoreditch) but remains a refreshing change from the buzz of London or the blinding colour of Brighton.”
It’s all very flattering but while there’s much that’s new and exciting about Hastings and St Leonards we’re not trying to become somewhere else. We want to continue improving with culture and creativity to the fore while at the same time retaining our own identity.
Where else would you get such a diverse calendar of festivals and events that brings us each May Day the Jack in the Green procession accompanied by the revving engines of 20,000 visiting bikers.
And a bet you can’t eat the best fish and chips in the country in Shoreditch!