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Street action: the torchlight procession and bonfire takes place on Saturday 15th (photo: Hastings Borough Bonfire Society).

Street action: this year the torchlight procession and bonfire will be preceded by La Grande Promenade, a procession commemorating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (photo: Hastings Borough Bonfire Society).

Street processions lead the way as 950th celebrations reach their climax this weekend

With the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings falling on Friday 14 October, this coming weekend is crammed with commemorative events, including the annual torchlight procession and bonfire. Meanwhile Battle Festival is well under way and the final offerings from the ROOT 1066 international festival are to be savoured. Nick Terdre tries to keep track of the plethora of happenings.

This year there are two major street processions, both taking place on Saturday 15th. First off is La Grande Promenade, a family procession to celebrate the 950th, which will set off at 4pm from the Stade Open Space, progressing up All Saints Street, down High Street and then along the sea front to the town centre. It will be led by invited guests, including a number of Normans, and will include other Normans and Saxons, town criers, Morris dancers, drumming groups, bonfire societies in their regalia (but without burning torches), school groups and various community groups, the council tells HOT.

bonfire-route_map_resizedIn the evening comes the torchlight procession and bonfire. The procession will start at 7.15pm from the sea-front end of Robertson Street (or from the pier, according to the map), passing along Robertson Street and down Harold Place, along the sea-front to Rock-a-Nore Road, up All Saints Street, down High Street and back along the sea-front to the bonfire site opposite Pelham Place. The bonfire will be lit at 9pm, followed as ever by a spectacular fireworks display.

These events are the highlight of an extensive weekend programme organised by  Hastings Celebrates the 950th and Hastings Borough Bonfire Society. They include a free workshop on Guy-making, accompanied by story-telling, which runs from 11.30am to 2.30pm at St Clement’s Church in the High Street. At 3pm this will be followed by a Best Guys competition in the Stade Open Space, with various categories of prize for different age groups, schools and clubs.

Guy-makers are encouraged to parade their guys on La Grande Promenade and leave them at the bonfire for burning in the evening. Those who have their guys ready before the big day are invited to display them around town in the preceding week.

The Stade Open Space will be a hive of activity throughout Saturday afternoon, with music, Norman longboats, archery displays, skirmishes, hog roast, mead, cider and more between noon and 5pm. And at 3.30pm there will be a colourful daytime fireworks display in the style of the Spanish mascleta.

From midday to 3pm the Old Town will be the scene of drumming performances culminating in a drum-off on the south side of the Albion pub in George Street.

And if your eye was caught by the presence of town criers in La Grande Promenade, that’s because they will be gathering in Hastings for the 64th National Town Criers’ Championship, to be held in Priory Meadow at 10am on the Saturday.

On Sunday 16th at 6.30pm in St Clement’s, in an event titled The Reflection, the unveiling of the Hastings People’s Tapestry will take place, accompanied by music, songs and speeches.

Following its world premiere at the De La Warr Pavilion, PUSH, Howard's Moody's specially commissioned opera, was performed in a semi-staged version at St Mary's church in Battle last weekend (photo: Indiana Hamilton-Brown).

Following its world premiere at the De La Warr Pavilion, PUSH, Howard’s Moody’s new opera for ROOT 1066, was performed in a semi-staged version at St Mary’s church in Battle last weekend (photo: Indiana Hamilton-Brown).

Battle scene

There is also a full programme of events in Battle, which is in the midst of its own festival. On Friday 14 October, Concorde 1066 will see more than 600 schoolchildren gather at Battle Abbey at 1pm and parade down the High Street. At 3.30pm, there will be a multi-denominational commemorative service at St Mary’s Parish Church in Upper Lake. At 5.30pm a military band will march up the High Street, perform a sunset ceremony and lower the flag.

On Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 there will be a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings on the battlefield below Battle Abbey, with a cast of hundreds of re-enactors from all over the world representing the Saxon, Norman and other armies which took part. This is a ticketed event.

Sunday 16 also sees 1066 Way to Battle, a 17-mile race from Pevensey, where William is thought to have landed, to Battle. The starting gun will fire at 9am. Registration is required.

ROOT 1066 nears end

The end is drawing nigh for the ROOT 1066 international festival. Among its specially commissioned events is Three Kings, a new play by Michael Punter at the Stables Theatre in the Bourne. This is a “brand new telling of the famous 1066 story which unravels the mysteries, rivalries and bitter conflicts that led to a final battle that would change our history forever.” It is presented by community actors and accompanied by an original score by internationally renowned composer, Gary Ryan and magical lighting effects by West End theatrical illusion designer, Darren Lang. The play is on nightly at 7.30pm until Friday 14 October.

Sunday 16 sees the Closing Event of ROOT 1066. This is billed as an “audio-visual spectacle devised by Zeroh at the Source Park… featuring world-class riders and experiments in light and sound.” It starts at 6pm on Sunday 16 and is free, though tickets are required.

Several ROOT 1066 exhibitions and events also end on Sunday 16:

Marcus Harvey’s Inselaffe exhibition at the Jerwood, John Cole’s photo essay Fishermen of Quiberville, the photos for which are hung on the Stade net huts and fishmonger’s shops, and Drift, the guided tour with a difference.

Meanwhile the Story of Hastings in 66 Objects at Hastings Museum runs until Saturday 31 December and Fiona Banner’s Buoys Boys exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion until Sunday 8 January 2017.


See also Battle Festival offers visual and literary delights

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 11 October 2016.

Posted 17:56 Tuesday, Oct 11, 2016 In: Arts News

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