Stepping up and taking control… can you do it?

Last week we published a piece by 19-year-old Tom McCann, it was his very personal perspective of life in the town where he was born and has grown up. He explained his love/hate relationship with Hastings but concluded: “I do love it here, as much as I like to claim I hate it too”.

In reply to Tom and speaking directly to the 19-year-old in whom he sees much of his younger self, 62-year-old David Risley wrote this heartfelt response which we publish here in full.


Good to get your perspective on the town, as a seasoned DFL, I have been visiting Hastings man and boy for 45 years nearly every other weekend.

We like the town, I think you might say. Over those years I have seen the fortunes of the town waiver up and down; up and everyone’s talking property, property property, down and before you know it it’s all about the drugs, drunks and poverty.

What does not really change through all this is the vibrancy of the arts and music scene which is something Hastings should be very proud of – you crazy dudes don’t need any excuse for dressing up when it comes to partying.

Seaside towns like Hastings are always the first places to suffer in an economic downturn and usually the last places to benefit when the country’s on the up.

David Risley

It’s like you drop a stone in a pond, lets call that pond London. There is an almost immediate boost in all things property, wealth and good feeling. The ripples from that stone then travel out in great concentric circles and as those ripples pass across the land so we see a lifting in the local economies and a feel good factor boost. People look to expand their boundaries and at this time they will look for change.

But stop the pond moving, then reverse it, and all of a sudden all those concentric ripples are contracting sucking all the life, wealth and bonhomie away from the shores back into the black hole of the pond. Its a constant cycle – always has been and always will be, its how economies work.

So how do you shake out of the malaise that can overtake the town in these downturns? Well you can’t really, but what you can do is be in control of your own actions.

We live in a country that suffers at the cost of its drinking culture, this is often accentuated more in smaller towns where the problems are more evident on the streets – it’s not just a Hastings problem. But you and I don’t have to buy into that way of life, take control, look at the habitual things in life that oppress – you Tom, me David!

Set goals out to achieve what you desire, set limits on the things that prevent those goals becoming a reality. Only we can do that. Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can.

Seeing your picture and reading your text I see myself at 19 wandering in a wilderness of angst and dissatisfaction. I am 62 now but I have been in the same situation, I was never a big drinker or smoker but I have always enjoyed to socialising and most of that is done around drink. I used to take an interest in the ‘happening’ events in my own home town and complain about how things were. I was having a whinge in the earshot of one of our local councillors, he addressed me and said: “What are you bloody moaning about lad?”

Like a loose cannon I sounded off at him, “well it’s bloody this . . .and bloody that . . . oh yeah and it’s bloody this,” arms flailing in all directions.

He stepped forward and said: “Well if you want to make a difference, bloody well get involved!”

I stopped still and thought for a moment and retorted: “Right mate, I bloody well will”.

I stood for election on my town council and got involved and that is when I started to make a difference.

George, the councillor I had argued with became a mentor to me and it was great getting out on the hustings, getting elected and eventually becoming Deputy Mayor of my home town –  I might have become Mayor the next year but I left for the great black-hole of London where my work took me.

I think the impact you can have in these roles is sometimes sneered upon, most people think of the town councillors being responsible for who cleans up the dog shit on the streets – they are, but they get involved in many other things which bring real benefits to the life of a town.

There is such a lot of HOPE in Hastings and YOU can help to engineer that hope in to tangible reality, but only you Tom as a local lad, a likely sounding lad like myself. Only people like you/us, stepping up taking control, can do it!

  • Read Tom’s original piece by following the link below

2 thoughts on “Stepping up and taking control… can you do it?

  1. Wonderful to read but we have a major problem in this town – our councils have, over successive years done little to improve things. They have all received huge amounts of money in various grants but have they spent it wisely? We have tried to ‘get involved’ and make a change but there is something radically wrong with as local council who chooses to ignore residents pleas and appeals. Complain too strongly about anything here and you will be labelled vexatious. Something has to change. As someone who moved to this town from London 13 years ago I find things are getting worse and its getting harder to get this council to listen to anything other than that which they wish to hear.

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