A Short History of Hastings Week
Following the celebrations for the 900th centenary of the Battle of Hastings 1066 in 1966, it was agreed within Council, that the 14th October should be marked each year as ‘HASTINGS DAY’. A battle lost maybe, but a day which changed the future life of England. Regretfully the request for a National Day has yet to be achieved, but one still being made.
However, Hastings was about to make more of that famous date known world wide. Nineteen towns bear our name around the globe and in 1983 several sent literature and small artefacts to an exhibition within the Festival of Hastings organised by the Hastings & St. Leonards first association. Back in 1968 the Order of 1066 was initiated. This was to be presented each year to a Resident who had contributed exceptional service to the Borough. At a Reception in the Town Hall, at the invitation of the Mayor, the recipient is kept a secret until the actual presentation. The Order is always proudly received and with great public acclaim.
Each year the Gonfalon, William’s flag would be flown from a pole on West Hill and raised on command of the Mayor attended by three cadets and a bugler thus proclaiming the start of THE WEEK. A Hastings Day Committee was formed to organise the Celebrations, at first for just one day but lengthening to four in 1976. Included was William’s walk from Pevensey to Battle (Rotoract), Marching Bands, a torchlight procession and a medieval banquet. By 1980 it had become a full week and now included the normandy archery tournament, the Stamco open table tennis tournament, a 1066 dance competition, boxing and water polo tournaments, all bringing visitors from afar.
Throughout the 80s and 90s the celebrations continued with the increasingly spectacular Torchlight Procession, mammoth Bonfire topped by a special effigy and Firework Display over the sea. But remained at around twenty-five events. It was now felt that the week should contain more community based events and involve a wider age range. We done just that. Both the young and senior citizens have events of their own, bringing winners aged between four and ninety eight! There are Exhibitions of local Societies’ work, Cadets give excellent displays at the Opening, Closing and Gonfalon Ceremonies, the latter now taking place in the grounds of Hastings Castle and involving a Drumhead -Service, various forms of entertainment, and finally the Sunset Ceremony. There is a Festival of Jazz throughout the week, an Operatic Concert, Art Exhibitions, Our ‘Green areas’ are open to all and how beautiful they look. The Award Ceremony now includes the Civic Pride Awards following nominations from the public for unsung heroes and heroines who give selfless service over many years and quite rightly acknowledged. Sport and Music play an important part. In 1997 the National Town Criers’ Championship joined our Celebrations. The latter had been run independently for many years but was now taken over by Hastings Borough Council.
In the year 2000 (Millennium Year) the programme contained seventy plus entries. The programme itself is produced free to the public with the grateful support of local advertisers and very valuable support from the local Press and Radio. The printed programme, which contains exciting new events every year will be available in mid August. Don’t miss it!
The Hastings Week Committee is comprised of three councillors, the marketing & communications manager, five elected officers from the voluntary sector and approximately fifteen members of societies/associations/services, plus a valuable Secretary supplied by Council.
While you’re here, be sure to visit Hastings Country Park, Alexandra Park, St. Helens Wood Nature Reserve and our many smaller gardens. Explore our wonderful buildings in the Old Town and Burtons St Leonards. Give your ears a treat at our jazz festival and opera South East events then cover them up at the National Town Criers Championship and our climactic bonfire and fireworks display!
Life President Dorothy Clements 2006