Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Famously Hastings?

Jeremy Birch marching with the chimney sweeps
 in the famous Jack in the Green procession
Speaking to a Belgian delegate at a recent European meeting the council hosted he said to me: “Of course we all know about Hastings; one thousand and sixty six”. 1066 and the Battle of Hastings was what he was referring to. And there’s no getting away from it we are famous as a result of the battle and its place in the history of the country, our language, our culture, our legal system etc. Perhaps we need to do more within the town to celebrate and to interpret what happened 946 years ago.

But we are famous for a lot more than just one historical event, however significant it was.

The first television image was produced here by Logie Baird. The personally flawed but environmentally committed Grey Owl was a son of Hastings. Robert Tressell author of the first socialist novel and Muriel Matters – the first woman to speak in Parliament albeit heckling from the gallery – lived in Hastings.
Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who cracked the Nazi Enigma code grew up here. We are just putting up a blue plaque on his old home. The internationally acclaimed avant garde artists Dinos and Jake Chapman were born and bred here.

Walk around the town you can see the fantastic architectural heritage we have of many different eras – a medieval Old Town, Pelham Crescent and Burtons St Leonards from the 19th century and of course the 1930s modernist Marine Court. Any of these could make Hastings famous. And of course we have the largest beach-drawn fishing fleet in the country (and the best fish).

Our history, our heritage buildings, our traditional seaside character and our cultural and artistic side – these are what makes Hastings what it is and what gives us our renown.

And we haven’t stopped making our name known and spreading our fame far and wide.

In the Jerwood Gallery we have one of the best collections of British 20th and 21st century art anywhere. With the strong artistic community living here already we are becoming a cultural centre on the coast.
We are well known for our lively even quirky street processions. From Jack in the Green with bikers thrown in to the huge Bonfire Hastings is known for its events. And we are soon to reclaim our world record for the largest number of people dressed as pirates gathered in one place.

But as I go to meetings regionally and nationally people I meet have also heard of our regeneration programme. They know something is going on in Hastings and increasingly our town is on their radar. The story about our quality office space and new environmental business parks, about our advanced engineering and modern businesses is also being heard.

There’s certainly a LOT more to Hastings than 1066 and a lot more to attract people and businesses to the town. What are we most famous for – what do you think. Perhaps we are just famously Hastings.