Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper


Dear Hastings diary…

People have always kept diaries. The earliest known ones date back to the second half of the second century AD. Some diaries are kept for years, others abandoned after a matter of weeks. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths kept one for several years, so was fascinated to hear about Hastings Speaks, an invitation to all of Hastings to record their day on 12 May as part of Root 1066, the festival to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

There is a BBC Radio 4 programme where comedians open their teenage diaries for public view. I, however, have no intention of digging mine out and looking at my younger self. I imagine it would be rather dull and turgid and, possibly, sad; ‘liver for lunch, treacle tart for pud, marked out hockey pitch on the beach – in the rain, Latin translation, letter from Mike’.

Now I wish I kept one to remember daily events, friendships, conversations, a joke; they paint a snapshot of memories and events that can so easily be forgotten.

Hastings Speaks

Hastings Speaks

Hastings Speaks is inviting the entire town – young and old, employed, unemployed, homeless, newly arrived, people whose family have lived here for generations – to become a diarist for one day and to record their musings on life in the town – both good and bad, funny and sad.

Project coordinators Chris Sanders and Bev Jenkins explain. “We see the day as an exciting opportunity to start conversations about the way we live. It’s about sharing stories and breaking down barriers between different groups of people; it’s about saying: this is my life, this is what I like, this is what I want to change…how about you?”

I was intrigued to join a Hastings Speaks workshop on diary writing in preparation for the big diary day. It was inspirational and fascinating to learn about the different ways to keep a diary. It could be a straight recording of events, a soundscape, photographs, poetry, a conversation, a poem, a song, a painting, an interview; a visual map of personal experiences – where friends live, memories, a walk home from school. And it could concentrate on any subject: a moment in the day, pets, walks, meals, colours, memories, weather, emotional/sensory musings, friends, a journey.

Anything goes. It’s you and your day. In Hastings.

Hastings Speaks workshop

Hastings Speaks workshop

Chris Sanders gave our small workshop group several topics as triggers to write about our day. One suggestion was a journey. My journey starts: “A cappuccino. Black and white. The coffee taste and the ritual of it all. The white cup and saucer, the thick ooze of black liquid, an explosion of steam, the milk frothing, tap, tap of the metal jug to deflate the milk bubbles. A slow pour to let it sit on top of the coffee. Slurp. Now I am ready for what the day will bring.”

The big diary day is May 12. All entries will be welcomed – the only proviso is that it be anonymous.

On the day, around lunchtime, there will be a psychogeography walk. Designed to be playful and give a different experience of Hastings’ familiar environment. Sanders will lead an exploration walk, up and down alley ways –  and who knows where –  stopping at different points to record what you hear, see, feel and smell. Some have volunteered to write a song about it.

So far, over 200 people and 25 community groups have already signed up to take part, including schools, colleges, hospices, homeless and wildlife groups, youth services and non-English speaking groups, for example: Seaview Project, Mallydams, St Michael’s Hospice, Sussex Coast College and Hastings Borough Council.

Entries must be anonymous. There are forms to be filled in, but they will be separated from the entry. The deadline for entries is May 30.

Hastings Speaks project is inspired by the work of the Mass Observations Archive that was set up on 12 May, 1937, to record the ‘common man’s view of King George VI’s coronation’. The aim is to produce a modern Domesday record, as part of the Root 1066 International Festival (see previous HOT article about Hastings Speaks.)

Entry forms available here

People are welcome to send their entries by email to, or by post to Hastings Speaks, 152 Ashburnham Road, Hastings TN35 5LJ, or drop them in to one of the six collection boxes at the Tourist Information Centre, Hastings Museum, Ore and Hollington libraries, the Bridge Community Centre and Sussex Coast College.

Follow on Hastings Speaks Facebook page or via twitter on @hastingsspeaks.

Posted 17:47 Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016 In: Community Arts

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