Adapting to circumstance… Hastings Jack In The Green goes online to support the NHS

Organisers of Jack In The Green are taking the event online this weekend.

“We are very pleased to say that during these difficult times we are looking to bring the town online and together to celebrate our beloved festival, Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green,” Keith Leech, Chair of Trustees Traditional Jack in the Green announced this morning.

“We are working with local community Facebook channel Isolation Station Hastings to run a series of events streamed live on our Facebook page and theirs including a sunrise ceremony at dawn on May 1st and Morris Dancing, drumming and music on Saturday May 2nd with the main procession taking place on Sunday 3rd via Zoom and Facebook.”

Hastings Virtual Jack in the Green 2020

Jack in the Green 2020 – the show will go ONLINEWe are delighted to say that during these difficult times we are bringing the town online and together to celebrate our beloved Hastings festival, Jack in the Green. But we need your help! We are inviting the whole community to get dressed up, decorate your homes and join us in an interactive procession live on a giant town-wide Zoom on Sunday 3rd May, along with a special May Day 'Bang Your Drum and applaude the NHS at 3.30pm'. All info on our website. We will do everything we can to run our planned schedule of events – brought to you from hundreds of homes in Hastings and beyond. This will include Morris Dancers, Drummers, live music, the slaying of the Jack and all the wonderful performers, costumes and giant floats everybody loves so much.If you're able to, please donate to our 'Just Giving Page' which is raising money for two local organisations providing PPE and other urgently needed items for NHS staff and volunteers in Hastings and East Sussex: Hastings Supports Our NHS and Friends of the Conquest Hospital.'re working with the team from Isolation Station Hastings to make the procession happen (safely without the risk of hacking), as well as a series of lead up events on Friday 1st May and Saturday 2nd May, and will announce all of the details soon on our website and social media. In the mean time, please help us spread the word by sharing this post, downloading Zoom and helping those you know who would like to be part of the event but who might not have great internet skills.There are over a hundred of us working on this and we'll be posting pictures of us getting our decorations with the hashtag #hastingsvirtualjack2020 – please join us and show us how you're getting on!

Posted by Isolation Station Hastings on Monday, 27 April 2020

Dress up in green, decorate your homes and join in on Zoom.

Mr Leech says: “For the main event on Sunday we are asking the whole town to get dressed up in green as they normally would and join us online using Zoom.

“We will be able to celebrate together watching footage of previous years’ processions as well as live performances from across Hastings including Morris dancing, drum performances, a ceilidh, live music, the slaying of the Jack and all of the wonderful people and characters that make this event what it is. The exciting part is we will be able to see everyone dressed up and enjoying the virtual festival from their homes.”

The day the town goes green!

May Daybang your drum for the NHS at 3.30pm on Sunday May 3rd

The weekend of festivities will come to a close at 3.30pm on Sunday when the whole town is being invited to go to their doorsteps, windows and balconies and bang their drums in a special Hastings May Day applause for the NHS, that will be followed by the famous ceremonial slaying of the Jack.

Raising money for the NHS

Mr Leech points out that what is being planned is, “no small undertaking.”

“We estimate there will be over 100 people working and performing at this event, which will include as much of the actual schedule as is technologically possible,” he says.

“We are a charity and we losing money ourselves this year, but we hope everyone will come together and we are inviting those who can to donate to two local charities, Hastings Supports Our NHS Staff and Friends of the Conquest Hospital.

The event in more normal times.

“Normally tens of thousands attend our event, so if everybody donated a small amount we could make a big difference.”

Show us your decorations on social media

Full details will be available of Jack In The Green social media pages later this week, but in the meantime everyone is being asked to start preparing their decorations and costumes and post photos and videos with the hashtag #hastingsvirtualjack2020

“There will be a few hundred places available for the Zoom Procession, but it will be simultaneously broadcast to our own Facebook page and Isolation Station’s so nobody needs to miss out,” says Mr Leech.

“We believe this very special event belongs to our community, and we will work night and day to bring it online so that we can keep the spirit of Hastings alive during these difficult times.”

Tickets: The online event is free to all. Friday and Saturday’s events will broadcast live on Facebook.

To apply for spaces for Sunday’s Main Procession on Zoom, details will be announced on in the coming days.

Full schedule

Friday May 1st  

Sunrise Ceremony

Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

Welcome in the sunrise with Morris Dancers, Drummers and a live feed of the sunrise.

Saturday May 2nd

Winkle Island Morris Dancers

Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

A split screen Morris Dance live from participants homes.

Mr Fishy

Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

The famous giant Mr Fishy presented live.

Chess Square Drum Off

Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

The legendary drum contest between Sambalance & Section Five Drummers

St Mary in the Castle’s Ceilidh

Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

A traditional ceilidh live from our dancers’ and musicians’ living rooms and gardens.

Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

Sunday 3rd May

Hastings Jack in the Green Procession Live on Zoom

A few hundred places available on Zoom to take part in the interactive procession

Simultaneously broadcast on Facebook Live – Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green & Isolation Station Hastings

About Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green

The Jack.

The much loved annual May Day festival sees tens of thousands flock to Hastings dressed in green garments, with virtually the whole town decorated with leaves, ribbons and greenery.

The event is celebrated by the whole community through a number of events building up to the famous bank holiday procession, with thousands lining the streets of the Old Town as Morris Dancers, drummers, giants and hundreds of official Jack In The Green participants make their way to the West Hill for an afternoon of music. This culminates in the ceremonial slaying of the Jack – a giant conical structure made of leaves.

May 1st has long been an important part of the annual Calendar. It is the start of summer and as such has always been a day for celebration: the Celts celebrated May Day as Beltane; The Romans dedicated the day to the Goddess Flora and would go to the woods to cut a tree and decorate it with ribbons and flowers, this is the origin of the May Pole. In the 16th and 17th centuries in England people would make garlands of flowers and leaves for the May Day celebration, they became increasingly elaborate. Works Guilds would try to outdo each other, in the late 18th century this became a matter for competition, milkmaids in London carried garlands on their heads with silver objects on them, but the crown had to go to the chimney sweeps. Their garland was so big it covered the entire man. It became known as Jack in the Green.

In Hastings there were at least two groups who paraded a Jack in the Green until about 1889.

But by the turn of the century the custom was seen no more. The reasons were twofold: the Act which stopped boys climbing chimneys had been passed and these had been the main performers; second the Victorians had a different attitude to these customs, the prettification of customs took place, no more the giant maypoles with drunken and promiscuous behaviour, replaced by small poles imported from Germany with happy skipping children around them.

The Lord and Lady of the May with their practical joking were replaced by a pretty May Queen. Certainly there was no place for the drunken noisy Jack in the Green.

The custom was revived in Hastings by Mad Jacks Morris Dancers in 1983.

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