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Illustration by Michelle Donovan (Creative Commons)

Illustration by Michelle Donovan (Creative Commons)

Hastings moves towards lockdown

Covid-19 has hit Hastings, taking its toll of our social, cultural, economic and political lives. Nick Terdre attempts a brief resume of the extent to which the town has shut down.

First the economic: tourism in 1066 Country, which normally supports over 15,000 jobs and contributes over £660m to the local economy, is already being hit hard by Covid-19 and its inhibiting effect on travel.

“1066 Country has been feeling the impact of Covid-19 for some weeks now, initially as our language school business slowed down, then stopped altogether, as other European countries banned their students from travelling here,” said Kevin Boorman, manager of 1066 Country Marketing, the private/public sector partnership responsible for marketing the area.

“Following our government advice earlier this week to avoid mass gatherings and unnecessary travel, many of our most popular attractions have announced that they are closing until further notice, as have most of our large entertainment venues.

“Some of our biggest events have also already been cancelled, including Jack in the Green. And our accommodation sector is also being affected now, with widespread cancellations reported.”

The income of many individuals and families is also suffering, as various tourism businesses lay off staff or fail to recruit seasonal workers as they would normally at this time of year, Boorman said.

Elections postponed

The local elections due to be held in early May have been postponed for a year, giving an unexpected extra 12 months in office for the 16 councillors whose seats should be up for election. The visit of the Green MP Caroline Lucas, who was due to launch the local party’s election campaign on 27 March, has been cancelled.

Does the full council meeting of all 32 councillors, plus officers, constitute a large gathering? In any event it was due to go ahead last night, when leadership of the council was to be transferred from Cllr Peter Chowney to Cllr Kim Forward, and Cllr Colin Fitzgerald announced as the new deputy leader. Whether members of the public were to be allowed in, HOT inquired too late to ascertain.

The council has set up a page dedicated to Covid-19 on its website, with the latest advice from the government and the NHS on how to combat the infection. Active Hastings sessions have been cancelled and Hastings Museum and Art Gallery closed, it reports; virtual tours of new exhibitions will be developed.

Private attractions including Hastings Pier, Blue Reef Aquarium and Smugglers’ Adventure have closed until further notice, and the Hastings Half Marathon has been cancelled, as have the weekly Park Runs.

Concerts and other cultural events across town have also been cancelled, among them Beatles Day on 5 April and a promotion concert arranged for next Sunday at the Albion pub. The next Beatles Day will be on Sunday 11 April 2021.

Venues cancel and suspend

The White Rock Theatre, the Beatles Day venue, advises that since Tuesday all events and shows have been suspended. St Mary in the Castle is busy rearranging events: four due to be held in the period up to 23 May have been rearranged (the earliest, the Hundred Watt Club, for 25 July), four, including the Bloom Britannia launch and Lindisfarne this weekend, are still waiting to be rearranged and three have been cancelled.

Kino-Teatr has cancelled this week’s live events and a live streaming but is going ahead with two film screenings, for which audience numbers will be limited. De La Warr Pavilion has rearranged a number of shows, the earliest, Goldfrapp, for 6 April, is seeking new dates for others and has cancelled Thursday’s appearance of the Bootleg Beatles.

The Stables Theatre has closed until further notice. It is seeking to reschedule its programme but says that sadly some productions will have to be cancelled. The Electric Palace has closed until 30 March when it says it will review the situation.

Hastings Contemporary has also closed but says it will engage with its “audiences and communities using our digital channels, including brand new content, such as video interviews with local artists, livestreaming, virtual book clubs, and exclusive tours and images from our three new Spring 2020 shows,” which will nevertheless be hung.

Hastings Against War tells HOT it is unlikely to go ahead with Kites not Drones, its annual protest on the beach against war-mongering, on Saturday 21st.

00ATEAB-20-flyer-frontStill on!

The A Town Explores A Book festival from 2–20 April is going ahead in altered form. Erica Smith, one of the organisers and a HOT colleague, says. “We are no longer including a launch event, exhibitions in buildings or any group gatherings, but there will still be an Open Air Art Trail to include Gensing Gardens, St Leonards Warrior Square station, Warrior Square and the seafront. Plus installations relating to this year’s book, HG Wells’ The Time Machine, will be displayed in a ‘street gallery’ of shop windows across St Leonards.”

Readings from The Time Machine are still planned to take place in the Bookkeeper bookshop in Kings Road. Rather than addressing an audience in the shop, the reading will be broadcast to passersby via a speaker in the street, and to Facebook via the ‘Live’ facility.

Looking forward

If most of the above is a depressing account of all the things we are losing, we can at least report that planning for the late summer Coastal Currents arts festival continues – after a crowdfunding exercise raised enough money to push ahead, director Tina Morris told Hastings Creatives she is preparing a funding application to the Arts Council.

This is the state of affairs in our town that we are aware of as of the morning of Thursday 19 March. No doubt many more organisations, venues and people are affected than we have yet heard about. And of course the situation is changing all the time – while the government has been slow to do more than issue advice so far, it is probable that before long it will move to order the closure of public places such as pubs and venues.

As we hear about these developments, we will endeavour to report them. If you have information to add, please put it in a comment.

Posted 22:37 Wednesday, Mar 18, 2020 In: Covid-19

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