Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Erica Smith Photo ZR

Erica Smith Photo ZR

Erica says: “Do something!”

HOT’s Erica Smith has been a stalwart of this town for many many years, creating, encouraging, campaigning, initiating, catalysing, inputting and participating – all from a place of sincere love and genuine passion for this town that’s been her home, work and play location for nearly two decades. HOT colleague, Zelly Restorick, speaks to Erica about the exhibition and series of events, Protest and Thrive at Hastings Arts Forum.

Even though Erica is one of the town’s highly self-motivated, talented, determined and passionate women who make things happen and stimulate positive local changes, it’s taken me a few months to pin her down, as she’s just not into self-promotion. However, I feel her time, energy, contribution and commitment to the town and its people need to be acknowledged and celebrated.

To encapsulate Erica and her passionate power, here are some words from sculptor, Sharon Moore: “What is so good about Erica is that she has the energy to help motivate us – more lazy individuals – who care and are growing ever more exasperated about the injustices of our immediate world; she helps steer us into action. What she has is an amazing gift – and it is a gift. Only a few people have it and altho’ I do not know Erica really well, I do know that without her, Hastings and St Leonards would be a much less interesting place to live.”

ZR: What are your passions?

ES: I like cycling; I love the town I live in; making things happen; colours; running along the seafront; swimming in the sea; making connections.

ZR: I’d add in ‘caring’, ‘creativity’ and ‘design’ too. I know you as someone who is invariably busy, invariably ‘doing something somewhere’ – and always with the good of the town and the town’s residents, human and non human, in your heart and mind.

Tell HOT about some of the things you’ve catalyzed and initiated since coming to his area? I’ll start the list with you being one of the original team that created HOT, turning Rachel Lever’s original idea for an online newspaper into a reality.

ES: What came before creating HOT was the development of Hastings Creatives (née Hastings Creative Media Community), which I initiated – and it’s been amazing to watch this site grow over 16 years. Hastings Creatives is two things – an email group for the creative people in the town to allow communication to flow – plus an online directory for local creatives to add their entry to.

Early on, I was involved with Castle Ward Forum Community Group and that’s partly how I got to know about my town. Often I do things as part of a group… I was part of the group that set up the Outrageous Decadence New Year’s Eve Parties, which raise money for various local charities and causes. Also, along with Penny Precious, I organized the 1066 Cartoon Festival two years ago.

About ten years agon, I was lead petitioner to get a new and improved library – something which, now it’s finally been built, was claimed by Amber Rudd as one of her successes. I was part of the Save St Leonards Post Office Campaign – and recently, I’ve been very involved with SWISH – the Hastings Walk-In Centre Campaign, saving this vital resource for the town.

I have also been Chair of the Town Team in St Leonards, which is still running: encouraging both residents and businesses to work together to ensure St Leonards town centre is a thriving place for residents, visitors and local businesses.

Erica working on her 'Protest and Thrive' T shirt designs

Erica working on her ‘Protest and Thrive’ T shirt designs Photo ZR

ZR: You’ve been living and working here for over 16 years? What brought you to this area?

ES: I couldn’t afford to live in Brighton anymore and I came to visit a friend here, was knocked out by what a beautiful place it was and I’ve not regretted moving here ever… it’s a million times better than Brighton.

ZR: I know that you work so hard in so many different areas of the town – and that you are a self-employed graphic designer. Do you find time to work, rest and play? Are things in balance?

ES: I’m bad at balancing. I do yoga and the thing I find the hardest to do is standing on one leg! But I do try to make my work playful and my play meaningful, useful, valuable.

000UKIPBeerZR: Rob Hopkins, Transition Town movement director, is currently exploring the power of imagination and creativity – and their importance at this time of planetary change. What do you think about imagination and creativity – their role in creating positive change.

ES: I think they’re really important. If there’s something that I’m not happy about, I try and find a positive way to share my views and make my voice heard. A good example is the UKIP Put Me Off My Beer beermats, which turned into a national protest – or chalking FUNNY messages next to dog poo – see an earlier article on HOT.

It’s very easy to be upset and angry and anxious about the world, so the way I deal with it is to try and find a positive way of voicing my concerns. The whole Protest and Thrive thing is a good example.

Erica Smith with her Doughnut Economics DO SOMETHING design for Protest and Thrive

Erica Smith & her Doughnut Economics DO SOMETHING design for Protest & Thrive Photo ZR

ZR: Tell HOT about Protest and Thrive. What was the catalyst?

ES: The catalyst was visiting the Sister Corita Kent exhibition at Ditching Museum; she was a nun who lived in Hollywood in the 1960s and was also a visionary printmaker and teacher.

ZR: And why was that so impactful?

ES: She was one of the first people to use advertising slogans, twisting them, using them not only to celebrate God, but also to campaign about poverty and to protest against the Vietnam War.

I’m not at all religious, but I found her work – as an artist, a teacher and campaigner – inspirational. She uses simple things in her artwork like cardboard boxes and old magazines, but makes you look at the world in a different way. We are screening two short films about her on Friday 2 November. I recommend coming to see them.

Sister Corita made me want to work with cardboard and letter forms. The idea for the show came about because Emily Johns and Milan Rai have an archive of Richard Crump’s protest placards. He protested outside parliament, weekly, until his death in St Leonards in 2009.

Richard Crump with some of his placards © Anthony O'Donnell

Richard Crump with some of his placards © Anthony O’Donnell

We decided to curate a show to exhibit his placards, and the work of other political artists, who work with text and protest messages. The other artists are: Rachael House, who produces feminist banners and artefacts; Mark Pawson who is a mail and book artist and works with slogans; Dennis Gould, who is a veteran letter press printer and poet, political postcards from Leeds Postcards and a piece by Rebecca Snotflower. Many of the items are for sale at affordable prices – including some T-shirts that I’ve made. We are paying for the gallery and materials out of our own pockets, so it’s really important that visitors who can afford to either donate some money or buy one of the postcards, prints or T-shirts that will be on sale. This is one time when I’m happily going to encourage consumerism!

Inspired by Sister Corita Kent, I wanted to build a cardboard wall with a message to encourage people to become more active about issues that they care about. I’ve recently read Doughnut Economics and it’s brilliant that this town now has a thriving Doughnut Economics action group, so I wanted to name-check that on my cardboard wall – alongside other positive ways to get actively involved.

I’m very aware that I’m one of the ‘usual suspects’ getting things done in this town  and I want to change this. I don’t think it’s fair or healthy to leave social responsibility to the same old tired faces… it’s up to all of us to use our voices – and not just by using social media to say how awful everything is.

ZR: Will part of the exhibition be interactive? Participatory?

ES: There’re loads of events happening, including badge making and ‘zine making. And we want people to buy – and send – postcards about the issues that they care about to the decision makers. It will be a chance to have fun whilst taking action!

Erica with Benji the dog

Erica with Benji the dog

ZR: Do you have a concluding message for HOT’s readers?

ES: I know that some people roll their eyes because I’m always standing up for worthy causes, but I really don’t like being the centre of attention… I have to work hard to overcome my natural shyness to do these things. I do them because I think they’re important and if no-one else is going to give them some attention, then I’ll roll up my sleeves and do it. I hate looking at myself, hearing the sound of my own voice and I don’t like being put into the role of ‘leader’ just because noone else wants to do it. I really believe in keeping power structures as flat as possible. If somone comes up to me and says “You should be doing such-and-such”, I say back to them “WE should be doing such-and-such – what’s the next step to making it happen?”

… So that’s a long way of saying: I want others to stand up and get actively involved with the town they live in/the planet they live on – please don’t leave it all to the same old faces… Raise your voice. If you care about things, don’t sit at home moaning on Facebook. Get out and ‘Do Something’ positive! Be thoughtful, be mindful, but DO do something!

Protest and Thrive is at Hastings Arts Forum from 30 October to 2 November. There are lots of events running alongside the exhibition – scroll down or check them out on the Hastings Arts Forum website, come along and get involved.


Wed 31 Oct, 6.30 – 8.30pm: Hallowe’en Witch Zine-Making Workshop.
Come and make your own zine page, badge or protest poster. Free event (but donations to cover the costs of gallery hire very welcome!) Open to everyone but places limited. Please book here:

Fri 2 Nov, 6.30 – 8.30pm: Sister Corita Kent film and Zine Making / Badge Making.
Two short films about the work of Sister Corita Kent: artist, nun and inspirational art teacher. Plus a chance to make your own badge or zine page.

Sat 3 Nov, 6.30 – 8.30pm: Open evening.
Wine, nibbles and protest! All welcome.

Sun 4 Nov, 6 – 7pm: ‘How the Vote Was Won’.
A free, one-woman performance of a 109-year-old play about women’s fight for the vote. Written by Cicely Hamilton (author of the lyrics for the famous suffrage song “The March of the Women”) and Christopher St John. Adapted and and performed by Hastings performer Esme Needham.

Mon 5 Nov, 7.30pm: Brand III (film)
For decades the Hambach Forest in Germany has been “cleared” for coal-mining. Today only 10% of it remains. Last year more than 10,000 people took part in protests around the opencast mines. In this 120 min film, Susanne Fasbender looks back on the first protest camps in the Rhineland, which helped end the silence about this ongoing environmental – and climate change – disaster.

Scan 2Fri 9 Nov, 7pm: ‘The World is My Country’ talk
Join Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle for a whirlwind tour of the history behind the images, and an exploration of the unknown history of the German Revolution that accompanied the war’s end. Plus, the story of the British campaigners who opposed Britain’s post-war ‘hunger blockade’ of Germany.

Sat 10 Nov, 10.30am – 4pm: How We Win: Exploring Nonviolent Resistance.
Angry about climate change or the arms trade? Concerned about the rights of refugees or the rise of the far right? Do you want to end zero hours contracts or protect your local library from closure? This workshop will explore how we can all take effective action to bring about the changes we want to see in the world. Led by three long-time campaigners from Peace News ( By donation. Food provided. Booking required. Book here – advance booking only.

Posted 11:05 Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018 In: Hastings People


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  1. Erica Smith

    I’ve just read all these comments – and yes – I’m blushing! Thank you all for your kind words.
    And hopefully I’ll see you on Sat 1 December, 1pm at the Walk-in Centre!
    There will be songs and carols and it will all be over by 1.45pm.
    It would be lovely to see you all!

    Comment by Erica Smith — Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 @ 21:22

  2. Patrick Glass

    Thank you so much for this. Brilliant. Lovely Erica’s so special: a complete inspiration. Such energy, persistence, pragmatism, and – above all – social conscience, generosity,
    creative vision and humour. Erica is charisma personified: a born leader always seeking community’s real needs and how to realize them. She is a precious asset to any community, a local ‘National Treasure’. Her ability to summarise key issues clearly and concisely – and chair meetings fairly and efficiently – is quite exceptional. And a rare gift, as Amber Rudd has rightly recognised. If she so wished, Erica would make a wonderful MP or Speaker. The article’s a great call to arms: yes, get involved, share the load, do something. (Thank you, Erica)

    Comment by Patrick Glass — Monday, Oct 29, 2018 @ 13:50

  3. aruna

    Lovely article. We do, indeed, need more Ericas in the world. She’s a force for change and more importantly a very kind and generous human being.

    Comment by aruna — Sunday, Oct 28, 2018 @ 12:33

  4. JS

    Erica is that rare campaigner, one who walks the walk every inch of the way in her own life. She is energetically involved with many campaigns and projects, but is not one of those all-too-common ideological beasts who are generous enough with their protests out there, but indifferent to the plight of media-unfriendly individual issues.

    And she’s there for the long haul too. The very opposite of a champagne idealist, all this abundant kindness and engagement comes from a modest lifestyle with every penny earned not inherited, invested, etc.

    ?Although Erica is in earnest she works in the style of her photographs above: always positive, smiling, and open to the comedy of life.

    It’s difficult to praise someone like Erica without being clumsy or too personal, but it’s important to pay a tribute to someone to whom these two towns owe so much.

    I’ll desist now, and spare your further blushes, Erica! May you thrive.

    Comment by JS — Thursday, Oct 25, 2018 @ 14:27

  5. muff james

    Erica is kind, intelligent, beautiful and sporty. Apart from all that she’s a force to be reckoned with for the good of St.Leonards and Hastings. Her talents lie, not only in her creativity but in her ability to empathise with and champion others. Long may she encourage and inspire her chosen wider community to “DO SOMETHNG”.
    A rare bird to be treasured and heeded.

    Comment by muff james — Thursday, Oct 25, 2018 @ 10:49

  6. gilly metcalfe

    Eric and Hastings! Brilliant! We need more Ericas – where are they?

    Comment by gilly metcalfe — Thursday, Oct 25, 2018 @ 09:45

  7. gilly metcalfe

    Hastings and Erica! Brilliant! We need many more Ericas – where are they?
    Hastings is the third worst town in the UK for Depression. The bustling busy sea-front gives the impression that all is well, but look behind the scenes in the hinterland and we find problems of poverty, drugs, poor housing and lack of amenities. I live in Kent, and it seems that other sea-side towns suffer similar levels of Depression. We need urgent action on this. We need more Ericas!

    Comment by gilly metcalfe — Thursday, Oct 25, 2018 @ 09:43

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