Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Hermit – a life on the margins

Hastings has its own legendary hermit, John Hancox, who lived in a cave in Ecclesbourne Glen for around fourteen years until his death in 1904. Sadly, homelessness is becoming an increasingly important issue in society, and now local community arts organisation, Radiator, has joined forces with the local wellbeing centre, Seaview, to produce a unique event based on John’s life. HOT reporter Cathy Simpson talked to Rebecca Child, who is leading the project along with Mary Hooper and Hilary Turner.


John was a professional draper who lost all his money due to a bad debt and ended up living in a cave, which can still be seen in Ecclesbourne Glen. Many of the service users can relate very keenly to this story, and to the sequence of events leading to homelessness. John’s life shows very clearly how homelessness is not generally that person’s fault – an important reminder in an age where vulnerable people are increasingly marginalised.

John himself was a well-presented, peaceful man who would sing to himself in the woods. He created an allotment outside his cave and scraped a living as a ‘market gardener’; ironically he was even required to pay rent on his cave!

Radiator and Seaview have been exploring the twin themes of John’s life and homelessness today. There is a shadow puppet enactment of the story and Hilary Turner has composed a ballad which will be performed by the Seaview Project choir on the opening night of the exhibition on April 1.

Individual service users have created boxes detailing significant aspects of their own lives. These will be exhibited against a backdrop of film and sound installation, while a giant sketchbook telling the story of the project will be on display.


Although the purpose of the event is to highlight the problem of increasing marginalisation and isolation of society’s most vulnerable people, the whole process has actually benefitted the participants. Rebecca described how moving it has been to see the total dedication, commitment and growing sense of community among them. One of the most devasting effects of homelessness and mental health problems are the loss of self esteem but this project will clearly reveal talents and inner resources to a wider public.

Radiator and Seaview are now hoping to bridge the gap between society and those on its margins by inviting everyone to visit the exhibition and participate in the workshops – activities will include creating shadow puppets and building a ‘den’ on the Stade.

Anyone who has enjoyed Radiator parades, the crazy bikes or those who visited The Snowline in 2014 will love this show. The details are as follows:

Venue: Stade Hall, Rockanore, TN34 3FJ
Date: 2 – 3 April 2016
Time: 11am – 5pm
For updates and more information, please visit Radiator’s Facebook page.
For more information on services offered by Seaview, you can access their website here.

Posted 14:07 Monday, Mar 14, 2016 In: Community Arts

Also in: Community Arts

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us

  • Subscribe to HOT