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Book Festival ends with completion of Platform Panel Project at Warrior Square station, and celebration of local railways

Recently the 2024 A Town Explores a Book festivities came to an end after their extensive exploration of E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. The Platform Panel Project celebrated the highlighting of the railway workforce and the building of the local railway infrastructure. The Festival ended with film shows and prizegiving, and an announcement of next year’s exciting programme. Bernard McGinley reports.

Recently A-Town-Explores-a-Book organisers and community partners met at St Leonards Warrior Square station to celebrate the installation of the final two panels of the Platform Panel Project.

Southeast Communities Rail Partnership (SCRP), a Community Interest Company (CIC), were also represented. Kevin Boorman, SCRP director, said: 

This has been a fantastic project, and one we’ve been very pleased to be involved in. It’s brought together many different parts of the community, given some early career artists some practical experience – I particularly enjoyed taking some to do research at the National Railway Museum in York! – and has a strong educational content. It’s benefitted older residents from Four Courts, and also helped introduce many young people to the pleasures of reading — some brilliant achievements.

Light at the end of the tunnel

SCRP collaborated with the early career artist team at ExploreTheArch to create inviting entry points on the station platform into a history that – although well researched by different enthusiast organisations – is not more widely known. It’s a history of the digging and laying of railway and the building of tunnels and stations in challenging topography requiring specialist skill. Southeastern Trains and Network Rail staff also helped.

The website has more details of the project and its many participants and supporters, including Chalk Cliff Trust, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and SCRP, Hastings & Bexhill Mencap’s Active Arts, Kings Road Traders and Zoom Arts.  It also has audio texts and information on translated signage (including from the visitor attraction map).

History at Warrior Square station (Platform 1)


That same afternoon, up at the Archer Lodge HQ in Charles Road, there was a bigger gathering. Gail Borrow of ExploreTheArch led a presentation on their work, including on the importance of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI), and their involvement with many other groups in the Borough such as Four Courts residents, the Seaview Project, Zoom Arts and HVA (Hastings Voluntary Action). A telling point was that everyone has his or her own entry point, finding ways to connect.

Rod Morris’s engaging film on the 2024 festival was shown, including Kings Road St Leonards looking en fête in bright sunshine.

Following an influx of children, teachers and parents, a presentation of awards for the Festival creative writing competition took place. Gail commended the young writers and their tales, and the very many drawings submitted. Praising the prizewinners, Gail explained ‘The children are our leaders’. Very many schools (and age groups) were represented, among them Robsack Wood, Dudley, Netherfield, Little Common, St Paul’s and Claremont. Many got prizes, such as Finn from All Saints and Dolly from St Paul’s.

Then another film was shown, documentary pieces with well chosen music.

Gail and train

Exploring a book, 2025

The finale was to announce next year’s programme. A short film was shown to help those present to guess: it showed how last year a statue of the great Mary Anning  came to Hastings, part of a cretaceous coast. The cliffs from Hastings to Pett Level are noted for their early cretaceous mammal fossils (from about 145m to 100m years ago). Such sites are few. Rocks and fossils abound (and even some dinosaur footprints are there), and everyone can be a palaeontologist.

Given the fossils and stones and the appeal of beachcombing in Hastings, the book choice for 2025 is one by Gideon Mantell, the East Sussex geologist who with his capable wife named the teeth of the Iguanadon.

(There’s more in a mural at the supermarket at Silverhill.)

Team Explore-a-Book 2024, with platform panels (photo: Rod Morris)

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Posted 19:12 Sunday, May 26, 2024 In: Campaigns

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