Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Music and nibbles at West St Leonards Forum’s Sunday social.

Westward Go: socialising at West St Leonards Forum

West St Leonards Forum held a social last Sunday as they prepare for a busy year advancing community interests. HOT’s Chris Connelley joined local residents for a celebration of the local culture.

Just a couple of weeks ago, St Leonards got namechecked as one of the nation’s coolest postcodes in the Sunday Times Style Section, which picked up on the town’s increasing fashionability and its stellar food and cultural offer in the central areas spanning Kings Road, Norman Road and the seafront.

Its next door neighbour, West St Leonards, just a mile or so along the road, wouldn’t mind a little bit of that attention too.

For many years, notwithstanding its diverse shopping parade, highly rated Electro Studios gallery space and much-loved local, the Marina Fountain, the perception in West St Leonards of itself is as an often overlooked cousin that struggles to gain airtime and footfall; and where the sourdough has not quite landed yet.

The West St Leonards Forum, a group of local residents and businesses who for the past few years have been promoting the area and developing visions for a better profile, is determined to redress this imbalance by showcasing the area’s virtues and capturing and representing local opinion to the council, investors and other interested parties.

As the days slowly lengthen and we head towards spring, the Forum hosted its first public event of the year last weekend at The Compound, a new neighbourhood arts complex on the Bexhill Road. The Compound, which opened last autumn on a sizeable site formerly used as a shed salesroom, is operated by W.Ave Arts Bexhill, and offers a mix of indoor and outdoor space for community use, including a number of competitively priced artist studios.

Plenty to do in West St Leonards.

Virginia Vilela, the Forum chair and one of the organisers of the Sunday Social open day, said, “We thought it would be good to bring local people together for an informal gathering over the half term weekend to share some information about what we’ve been doing, to look at the brilliant archive of local photographs stretching back decades, to hear some great live music, and to share our hopes and dreams for the area over some music and food”.

Attendees were entertained by Ocean Road, a local combo based in Bexhill. They were also joined by ward councillor Karl Beaney, a long-time supporter of the Forum, who praised their efforts, commenting: “For too long, everything has been focused on the town centre. For us, the main thing is increasing awareness of what we have to offer and bringing people west. Local people definitely feel left out and see this as the forgotten bit.”

Maxine, left, and Annie.

The afternoon attracted the interest of residents old and new. Typical were Maxine and Annie, who “came along to find out what’s going on”. Annie, who has lived locally for just a year, was especially excited to get a sense of the area’s history whilst Maxine was interested in the burgeoning arts scene.

With no sign of development on the former bathing pool site, the issue of flooding an ongoing issue and the West St Leonards neighbourhood plan, the first in the borough,  just approved – news came through after the meeting – there’s a sense of much work still to be done. And, on the basis of Sunday’s session, there’s a lot of energy to get things sorted.


More about the West St Leonards Forum here. The Compound is at 161 Bexhill Road.



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Posted 21:15 Sunday, Feb 18, 2024 In: Community

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