Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Hastings is Great

Glyn Carter, Monica Adams-Acton, Councillor Chowney
and Councillor Jeremy Birch at the Urbanism Awards

So Hastings and St Leonards were pipped at the post for the Great Town 2014 award. The Academy of Urbanism shortlisted our town down to the final three and invited us to their awards ceremony along with Buxton and Cork.

It really was like being at the Oscars. I’d worked out what I would say if we were called up as winners. 
The chief reviewer gave his comments on the strengths of each of the three and was very generous in what he said about us. “Have we got it” I wondered. Then that slight pause after “and the winner is”…Cork.

So yes after all the build up and all that nervous energy it was a bit deflating but not for long. Seventy four towns were considered for this year’s prestigious honour and we were there in the top three.

The delegation from the Academy visited the town back in the Summer – although unfortunately it rained for most of their visit which showed up in the photos on the big screen at the awards ceremony. We entertained them at the Jerwood Gallery in the company of representatives of different public organisations and community bodies in the town.

Their conclusions included really complementary conclusions like:

“Hastings is a name with high recognition, nationally and to some extent internationally; an advantage to this resort on the south coast of England, striving to attract investment, political attention and visitors. Hastings and St Leonards have positive and varied character, a proactive and collaborative council with a lively mix of trusts and charities
contributing to the town’s regeneration. The cultural offer of Hastings and St Leonards is seen by all as a key element of the regeneration of the town. The privately funded Jerwood
Gallery is a recent asset to the town, attracting visitors from far and wide. Its outreach to the local community perhaps might be developed further. There is a positive strategy in Hastings of supporting events and festivals throughout the year to ‘stretch’ the attraction to visitors.”
Had I been called to respond on our behalf as the winning town I would have said we hope we are an example of a socially challenged town trying to regenerate itself without losing its essential identity. And I would have talked about the opportunities culture and the arts are offering us.

The city of culture judges recognised that in our bid for that accolade for 2017.

Celebrating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and working to realise our cultural potential as a means to continue reviving the town go together. So despite the borough council’s on-going financial challenges we are looking to put one-off money into making the most of 2016 and looking for serious public and private sponsorship.

The Academy and the city of culture judges all recognised just what Hastings can become. 

Even in these difficult times I want to make sure we get there.

And of course being Hastings born and bred I’ve always known we’re a Great Town.