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Hastings Seafood & Wine Festival in pre-Covid 2018, as viewed from the West Hill (photo: HBC).

Welcome return for Hastings Seafood & Wine Festival

Hastings Seafood & Wine Festival makes a welcome return to the Stade open space this weekend, after a year’s absence due to the Covid pandemic. In addition to the culinary offering, visitors can enjoy popular features including music, The Classroom on the Coast and Sunday’s Jazz Breakfast. Nick Terdre reports.

This weekend sees the welcome return of Hastings Seafood & Wine Festival, the first fish festival to be held in Hastings for nearly two years.

Held as always over the third weekend of September, the event, organised by Hastings Borough Council, showcases the best in local seafood, wine and music. “Its location on the Stade open space, in Hastings Old Town, means that we talk about food yards, not food miles, as the site is literally on the fishing beach,” says the council.

The festival marks another step in the return to normality of the town’s cultural life. Jack-in-the-Green in May weekend was a digital occurrence, and the herring festival normally scheduled for mid-year was unable to be held this year. But as Covid restrictions have eased, organisers have moved to bring their events back to life. St Leonards Festival took place in July, and Coastal Currents, featuring a Stade Saturday music extravangaza last weekend, is currently under way, while Hastings Litfest takes centre stage next weekend.

A new arrival on the music scene, Hastings Rocks, made its noisy debut on the Oval two weekends ago, and last weekend the Festival of Sanctuary was held, though at Hastings museum rather than in its usual setting by Ashburnham Lake.

So gradually the town’s cultural life is reviving, and the Seafood & Wine Festival marks another welcome step along the way. What is now the Stade open space was once in active use by the fishing community.

“Less than 100 years ago the festival area was the site of the capstans used to pull the fishing boats up the beach; there are circles cut into the modern surface to replicate the paths worn by the horses as they walked around the capstans,” the council says.

“If you have time during your visit, do venture down Rock-a-Nore Road to buy some fish from the shops and the huts on the beach and visit the Fishermen’s Museum to learn more about the area. The last remaining horse-driven capstan can also be seen there.

Covid modifications

“Like most things in 2021 the Seafood & Wine Festival will have a slightly different feel to it, and we have worked hard to make sure the event is as safe as it can be. The layout will be slightly different to give more space and reduce congestion, and all surfaces will be cleaned regularly.

“The entertainment marquee will have no sides this year to improve ventilation. If it gets too busy, access to the site will then be restricted temporarily to prevent overcrowding.

“The festival will have the familiar mix of stalls, with favourites such as Webbe’s likely to prove popular. Harveys will again be supplying the beer in the entertainment marquee, and, as always, there will be some great music to listen to, including The Elisha Edwards Band, Rhythm Shack and The Funking Bar Stewards.”

Hastings’s own jazz star, the ever-popular Liane Carroll, will be back on Sunday morning for her inimitable Jazz Breakfast, while The Classroom on the Coast, held in Stade Hall, will again offer the opportunity to improve your fish cooking skills: local legends ‘Tush’ and Pat Hamilton will be giving talks on Saturday, and CJ Jackson, from Billingsgate Seafood School and of Sunday Brunch fame, will be giving her very popular demonstrations on the Sunday.

Activities for kids will be available in the adjacent Stade Hall.

“We are delighted that the festival is making a return this year,” said tourism lead Cllr Paul Barnett. “We hope that locals and tourists alike come along and enjoy the excellent seafood and wine that our town and the surrounding countryside produces, with music and entertainment to match. This festival is always really popular, so come early for the best selection of produce!”

Hastings Seafood & Wine Festival Stade Open Space, Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 September, 11am-6pm, music until 7pm. Wristbands giving admission for the whole weekend are £4 in advance, from Hastings new Visitor Information Centre next to Hastings station, or £5 on the door. Under 18s admitted free.

Jazz Breakfast Sunday 19 September, 10am-12pm. Tickets £20 adult, £10 children, including a continental breakfast by Judges Bakery, also from the new Visitor Information Centre. You are advised to book promptly, says the council.

See the programme for full details.


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Posted 10:57 Friday, Sep 17, 2021 In: Festivals

1 Comment

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  1. Nick Terdre

    The council issued the following release on the Seafood & Wine Festival on Monday 20 September under the headline: Fantastic Fish Festival

    The weekend’s Seafood & Wine Festival has been hailed a great success by the organisers, Hastings Borough Council.

    Cllr Paul Barnett, lead councillor for regeneration, said :- “Thousands of local residents and visitors enjoyed our 15th Seafood & Wine Festival. It took place on the Stade open space, literally metres from where the fishing boats land their catch, in the heart of Hastings historic Old Town.

    “It was our first fish festival for nearly two years because of the pandemic, and we worked hard to ensure that it was Covid compliant, with hand sanitisers at entrance points, a new layout with a one way system and more space, more managers to ensure the event didn’t become overcrowded, and the sides removed from the entertainment marquee to improve ventilation.

    “And it seemed to work. The weather was glorious on Saturday and we sold over 2500 tickets on the gate, and another 1000 on Sunday despite the showers in the afternoon. It seems that our unique mix of local traders selling seafood and wine, our brilliant music, and fish demonstrations are as popular as they have ever been. We’ve had really positive comments about the weekend from both traders and visitors.

    “It has been a challenge to organise the event this year with the changing Covid situation. I’d like to thank the council team who put it together, the many local traders and musicians, and the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society, who made it possible and, of course, the thousands of local residents and visitors who supported it.”

    Comment by Nick Terdre — Monday, Sep 20, 2021 @ 18:59

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