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Photo: Kevin Boorman/HBC.

Idea-gathering for cultural mobilisation

The council’s invitation to the creative community to discuss how to turn the mobilisation around the failed City of Culture bid to advantage drew a large attendance. The community now waits to hear what the council proposes to do next, writes Nick Terdre.

Up to 60 members of the creative community turned up at the 2nd Cultural Regeneration Symposium at the De La Warr Pavilion last week to hear the thoughts of council representatives and to proffer their own. Council leader Jeremy Birch set the context, stating that we had lost nothing by putting in the bid – which was apparently judged to be the most cost-effective – and asking rhetorically, “What did we gain?”

That is the big question that remains to be answered – can the impetus and the energy generated by the bid still be used to the benefit of the local community? Where do we want Hastings and 1066 Country to be in 10 years’ time, those present were asked?

The meeting then broke into three smaller groups to discuss specific questions such as the role culture can play in regenerating isolated and disadvantaged communities, and in what ways we should change or add to our cultural calendar and infrastructure. Bright ideas and comments were then reported back to a final plenary session.

At the table, from left, Brenda Mason, head of policy, Rother District Council, Simon Hubbard, director of regeneration, HBC, Jeremy Birch, council leader, HBC, and two 'critical friends', Felicity Harvest and Paul Barnett. (Photo: Kevin Boorman/HBC.)

All that interesting feedback is now being chewed over by the council and is expected to find expression in the proposals it will come up with. The central feature of the bid, however, is to be maintained – as Jeremy Birch said in a statement after the meeting: “…we are committed to linking the cultural regeneration programme to 2016 and the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings as this will provide us with a national stage to display the artistic and cultural quality our area has to offer.”

So we have at least escaped the straitcoat which becoming the city of culture 2017 would have imposed on us, forcing the unnatural celebration of the 951st anniversary of the battle. But with the battle we are stuck – as one comment put it, we lack the capacity to market ourselves except as the place where the events of 1066 took place.

But are we also aiming to make a big splash in 2017, to make the point that Hastings is a cultural heavyweight regardless of who gets the City of Culture award? This is the thinking behind the proposal from Rachel Lever, whose handbook of support for the bid was described as one of its strengths, that Hastings become the fringe event to the official City of Culture winner. We wait to see.


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Posted 15:48 Monday, Jul 22, 2013 In: Arts News

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