Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
The only gravestone in Hastings Cemetery with South Africa flags and the resting-place of a black seaman who perished in WWI: one of the stories to be told of J Nguza - 'found' by local historians in Hastings cemetery

The only gravestone in Hastings Cemetery with South Africa flags: the resting-place of a black seaman who perished in British waters in WWI, whose story will be one of those told at the event Not 1066 And All That.

Rebalancing the history books: remembering the forgotten lives

As the 950th anniversary of William’s victory over Harold approached, historian Hilda Kean calls attention to the ‘ordinary’ people whose lives and fates are overlooked in the official histories. Together with other historical enthusiasts she has helped organise a day’s event on this theme.

Bertolt Brecht’s famous poem Questions from a worker while reading challenges the way in which conventional history is written and shows us who is written out of history books. As Brecht wrote: ‘And Babylon, so often destroyed/ Who kept rebuilding it?’ or ‘Where did the bricklayers go/The evening the Great Wall of China was finished?’

The Root 1066 events have steered an imaginative path away from the past as accounts of the great and the good with a focus on contemporary and community art but there is not much in the main events that focus on people themselves making their own history. Take the Story of Hastings in 66 Objects exhibition in Hastings museum. Ostensibly it aims ‘to reflect the diversity of events and characters that have made [Hastings] the town you can see today.’

But none of the objects were obtained for the special exhibition specifically from current residents and there is no evidence of museum visitors having any say in which objects got chosen for display. Thus we see remains of the Augustinian Priory but the people who built it are ignored. There are accounts of the cannons in a skirmish with the French: who fired them? And notices of trams: who drove them? A recent local football shirt: who wore it? The Silverhill pottery: who worked there?

Unlike Hastings Fishermen’s Museum that constantly attempts to privilege the lives and material of individual fishing families, the Hastings museum has chosen not to go down this path of valuing the individual lives of people who have made up the history of the town. This is a pity since locally there are so many rich histories of varied lives and experiences.

The event Not 1066 and all that: Radical histories in Hastings and St Leonards on Saturday 8 October’ from 9.30am at St Matthew’s church is an attempt to emphasise not only the history of ordinary people’s lives but also that this is a history we have created for ourselves and want to share in order to encourage others to do the same!

Details of the full programme will follow but you can book now through Eventbrite – and it is free.

Posted 12:40 Monday, Sep 12, 2016 In: Home Ground

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