I was in Hastings for May Day, one of the most important dates on the Hastings calender.
As one of my housemates hails from the area, we thought this would be the perfect time to explore her hometown.
Now, Hastings doesn’t have the best reputation with a few of its infamous inhabitants popping up on Jeremy Kyle and stories of unemployment and increasing crime dotting the local news headlines. My housemate is constantly on the receiving end of Hastings-shaming ‘banter’ from the boys in our house, so it was only fair that we give this ill-represented town a chance.
My first contact with the May Day crowd came on the train as it sidled towards Hastings. As the train chugged closer and closer it became more and more overrun with fifteen year olds who had smuggled the vodka from their parent’s stash and had obviously been drinking for the majority of the morning. They squawked at each other in mock-Essex accents and blared tinny music from their phones. Oh, it made me feel old!
I exchanged wary side-glances with my boyfriend, Welcome to Hastings…
Our housemate met us decked out in the traditional Pagan regalia of flower crowns and green face-paint. Placing a freshly picked flower crown on my head she lead us through the New Town which was overflowing with fifteen year olds and families alike. Bikers sat sipping beer, their leather squeaking as they headed back to their bikes to ride in convoy through the town.
The New Town didn’t look as bleak as I had expected from all the bad press. Everyone was having fun and enjoying themselves with street drinking and dancing the norm, brightening the high street with their Pagan-themed costumes.
The Old Town was the real surprise. It was a step back in time with crooked buildings lining the narrow streets. It reminded me of Canterbury crossed with a Pirates of the Caribbean set.A famed smuggler hot spot in times past, you could feel the smugglers watching you as they lurked in the shadowy side streets.
Our stop for the day was the Hastings Arms, one of many beautiful pubs in the Old Town. Sitting outside in the sun, surrounded by ancient shop-fronts and the sea lapping at the shore it was hard to grasp how Hastings has declined whilst nearby Brighton has flourished as the arty-epicentre of the South Coast.
Hastings obviously has so much potential if more people were to exploit it. A walk through the beautiful Alexandra Park, one of the remaining relics of Hasting’s Victorian heyday, left me in disbelief about Hasting’s bad reputation on the tourist trail.
I don’t know the answer for Hasting’s decline but I, for one, will definitely be back.