Jack in the Green – Hastings dresses up again!
More jollity took place in Hastings this Bank Holiday Monday, with Jack in the Green – a celebration of the arrival of summer. Fortunately, after weeks of dire weather, the sun kindly burnt off the morning sea mist and shone on the crowds, writes Antony Mair.
According to the website devoted to Hastings’ annual event, the festival goes back to May Day celebrations in the eighteenth century and before, when trade guilds vied with each other in parades with garlands. The chimney-sweeps took the matter furthest, with a garland that covered the entire man, known as a jack. Hastings revived the custom in 1983, and it is now a major event in the town’s calendar, with a procession full of Morris dancers, papier mâché giants, drumming groups and anyone who is prepared to put on a costume that is elaborately green.
The procession starts at the Fishermen’s Museum and winds its way through the Old Town until it finally arrives on the top of West Hill. This year a stage had been erected for the participants to strut their stuff. It was impossible not to enjoy the spectacle of Morris dancers – at least half a dozen groups (or sides, as they call them) – waving their handkerchiefs or knocking their sticks together, joining up with dramatic drummers and a variety of people dressed from head to foot in elaborate green costumes worthy in some cases of the Venice Carnival. On West Hill, with its breathtaking view over the sea, happy crowds sprawled on the grass listening to the music and watching the spectacle – all in temperatures that we had virtually forgotten since last summer.
The particular virtue of this event is that it has arisen entirely from local initiatives, and although there is a degree of sponsorship from the town council, it is insignificant by comparison with the huge local effort put in by volunteers. The result is a win-win situation – local traders benefit from the visiting crowds, volunteer activity strengthens the sense of community, and everyone has a good time. And when the sun shines on the whole event, it is – to quote Pop Larkin – “just perfick”.
Republished with kind permission from Postcards from Hastings
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