Thursday, 8 November 2012

Famously Attractive

Opening of the Jerwood Gallery
 “I hadn't realised how lovely Hastings is.” 

That was how Masterchef celebrity Greg Wallace summed up his visit to the Seafood and Wine festival in September.” Let’s hope he now tells everyone else.

Nick Roe writing in the Times about the Great British Weekend waxed lyrical. “A spanking new art gallery has opened on the seafront, right in the middle of fish-and-chip territory, which sounds like a decisive change in the town's cultural style. A word about St Leonards: it's a westward extension of Hastings and was once quite grand but somehow ended up as a faintly seedy patchwork of rented homes set amid occasionally majestic old houses. The feeling nowadays, however, is of an area that is moving back up again.”

I agree Nick the whole borough is moving up, famously; and St Leonards is part of that movement. Tom Chesshyre writing in the Guardian Weekend about Let's Move To ...Hastings Old Town says the town “is pretty much Tom's Ideal Place, with all the things I like squished into a fold on the sea between the imaginatively titled East Hill and West Hill: faint melancholy; a smashing higgledy crush of architecture - Tudor, seaside stucco, you name it; the amazing Electric cinema that shows The Creature From The Black Lagoon; magnificent tea shops; magnificent (independent) shops; two funiculars; fishmongers and fishermen galore; a miniature railway! Plus a few special things of its own, such as the spooky, surreal, monolithic net huts on the beach, the Jerwood art gallery hard on the shingle next door, an annual Pirate Day and the home of Aleister Crowley. And it's not a squillion pounds to live there.”
These latest endorsements give just a flavour of how our town is increasingly being viewed from outside and it’s not just in the broadsheet papers either. 

The Mirror ran a story by Gill Murr about an enjoyable caravan holiday at Combe Haven. When the family ventured out they “started on the East Hill Lift, the ­steepest funicular railway in Britain and one of two in Hastings, for a spectacular view over the long ­shingle beach known as the Stade. Little stalls selling the day’s catch add to the salty sea dog atmosphere. One of the sheds forms part of the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum, a fascinating place crammed full of old photos and memorabilia.”

We couldn’t pay for positive coverage like this. The town is pitching itself to its regular visitors but clearly to a new audience too and we have the attractions – both natural and created – to do it. We just need the word to spread as wide as possible.