Help hunt for Hastings’ heritage
In September this year a new Hastings Heritage and Art Trail will be launched. The idea is to take 10 Heritage Sites in, or close to, the town and install specially designed display cabinets alongside them. These will feature historical information, relevant artefacts from the Hastings Museum collection and new pictures taken by trail users. The person behind this is Hastings-born artist, Maxine Beuret, who will photograph each location. Now Ms Beuret wants to gather suggestions from all of us as to which sites should be included. Toby Sargent reports – and ruminates – on the initiative.
You may have heard about this already. There was a stall at Priory Meadow Shopping Centre a couple of weeks ago promoting it. Ms Beuret used it to explain how the trail would work and attract suggestions from passers by for places to feature.
Three have already been chosen: Pelham Roundabout Fountain (built in 1960), The Ghost Train, Flamingo Park (built in 1962) and The West Hill Lift (built in 1890).
So that leaves seven more to find. And that’s where you all come in. Send your suggestions to Maxine via email@example.com.
The only condition for inclusion is that the place hasn’t largely changed for at least 25 years. Also, it needs to be an actual place – something readily identifiable that can be photographed. You can argue ’til your blue in the face that the Hastings’ music scene or the taste of fish and chips are as much a part of our heritage as the towering black fishing huts on Rock-a Nore, but unless you can tie it down to an object – and one that was there before 1991 – it won’t be considered.
25 year cut-off for nominations
I asked Maxine about her connection with the town and why she was imposing a 25 year cut-off point for nominations. She told me:
Inevitably – but also cleverly – there’s going to be an online component to it all. When completed, an interactive mobile website will allow users to plan their own route and display one-minute videos that depict each location combining photography, oral history and environmental sounds. As such we should end up with the potential for an entertaining multi-dimensional living history tour.
The ‘wretched’ Pelham Roundabout Fountain?
At the moment the prototype entries are pretty bald, but hopefully they will become richer and more personalised as time goes by. I would, in passing, commend you to look at the one for the wretched Pelham Roundabout Fountain.
The institutional voice-over offers an explanation of why the design appears so dreary and banal to some coming to it today: ‘it was designed in-house by the Borough Engineer’s Department, led by Mr Baxter,’ the anonymous voice tells us. No design competition to find a bright new creative talent for us then.
Wonderful designers of fountains
As we turn history’s pages, we find many wonderful designers of fountains, of course. Nicola Salvi created the Trevi Fountain in Rome back in 1730 and before that, Charles Le Brun had the vision and tenacity to produce those in the gardens of Versailles. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ it seems – and for Hastings that man was Mr Baxter and his team of Borough Engineers.
The Pelham Roundabout, by the way, was an issue again three years ago when a local philanthropist pledged more than £100,000 of his own money to replace it with something professionally designed and more exciting. The council turned the idea – and the money – down, for their own mysterious reasons.
But that was then – and this is now. Maxine has got backing from Arts Council England to do this project and needs our help. Think of it as compiling a sort of heritage ‘first team’ – Hastings’ Heritage Greatest Hits, as it were.
Art deco delights of The White Rock Theatre
What do you reckon? One of our historic pubs should be a shoo-in, I’d have thought. And the art-deco delights of The White Rock Theatre would meet most people’s requirements. The pier is another obvious selection but would not, of course, qualify because it fails the ’25 years or older’ test. Unless it somehow slips in under the radar by virtue of some of its fixtures and fittings having been up-cycled from the original timber. Not very likely though.
But then again, what do I know? It’s all very well for me to get all sniffy about the fountain on the Pelham Roundabout, but for all I know it has held a very special place in the collective consciousness of tens of thousands of people over the years. Heritage is a slippery thing and one man’s – or woman’s – historic icon is another’s monstrous carbuncle, so Maxine’s project is a timely way of capturing what means the most to real people.
I’ve only lived in Hastings for 12 months, and there are still thousands of amazing things here I simply haven’t got round to visiting yet. But where to start? I need some sort of Heritage Trail, perhaps . .
I think Ms Beuret may be on to something with this idea.
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