A ‘living, breathing contradiction’ – just one view of our town

When the weather turned nice Tom McCann took his camera, went for a walk and considered all that Hastings means to him.

The weather was lovely earlier in the week, for the first time in a very long time you could really feel that things are getting better – like a little bit of June was lighting up the way out of the dark that was the winter.

For all the bad, there’s a sense of optimism once again. So I went out walking and I ended up taking some photos of the town – of some of the things that epitomise it, at least to me. Whether I’m any good at photography is another thing entirely, but here’s a little something anyhow.

Bottle Alley: Isn’t it just like Hastings to build an underground alleyway facing the sea and all the way along it line the walls with shards of glass? It’s poetic, really: it is what it is, just like the town.

Bottle Alley, with its reputation for being where the days are drank away; Hastings, with its reputation for being where the days are drank away. And yet, like Hastings itself, don’t it half look lovely, with its lights in the night and its view of the sea and the pier alongside?

Bottle Alley and Hastings – and all their unfulfilled potential.

Fishing Boats: James Baldwin once wrote that “people are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them”. Here a rusted gate keeps in ageing boats as CCTV watches over like a vulture encroaching, while down the road the gallery stands in place of where historic fishing huts once stood.

For better or for worse? It depends on who you’re asking. And such is the predicament of Hastings and other seaside towns: do we embrace change to grow and adapt with the times, or do we retain identity and remain as we are for the sake of tradition?

Ore Village: On the left is Speckled Wood. On the right and beyond the frame surrounding it, the suburbia of Ore.

Speckled Wood, like many areas, lies largely forgotten. Its pathways are often overgrown and its bridges collapsed; the road you see beside it is unpaved and unadopted. While other parts of town progress. Speckled Wood is frozen in time and no one knows what to do with it. There’s movements to preserve it as a green, despite that it isn’t well preserved; there were plans to build houses on top of it, despite its topography and a river flowing through it.

It’s a living, breathing contradiction, just exactly like the town.

New Town: The melting pot of Hastings, where you’ll find a little bit of everything and everyone. I watched a man preaching in the centre something about salvation; there are all the shops and all the people who would be in them, and the bars and clubs where we spend all the nights we don’t remember doing the things that we’ll regret.

Sometimes you’ll grow sick of it, but you’ll keep coming back, Crowley’s Curse and all.

There’s all the progress that we’ve made, and yet the things we ignore and would rather forget – the homeless, for one. And look how empty it is now, and how strange that is, too.

The Beach: The unending beach, the stones, the boatyard and Old Town there beside with the West Hill cliffs overhead and New Town out beyond.

The sea. I couldn’t live anywhere without the sea and I can’t even swim. And what’s better than a hot summer’s day on the beach before drinks in Old Town? Then again, what’s better than Old Town at all, with all its characters and charm?

I don’t think anything epitomises Hastings more than the beach and Old Town. They’re the heart and soul of the town. How lucky you are if you live there; and if I could again, how I would.

The Pier: What else but the pier? Left to rot for years until burning down before being rebuilt and rising once again and finally looking like it might come to something – although rising perhaps more like a pigeon than a phoenix, but the point remains.

I can’t even remember a time before it was closed; my first real memory of it is it burning down. But look at it now – as good as new, fixed up and clean, with local musicians playing music on there once again. And the photo of it taken by Joe Charrington, just one great example of the Hastings’ ever-growing art scene.

What does Hastings and St Leonards mean to you and what are the scenes or the images that sum up the town for you? Tell us in the comment section below.

One thought on “A ‘living, breathing contradiction’ – just one view of our town

  1. A great story with lots of heart from a young head ,like most seaside towns Hastings has it problems but it has a lot of good points as well , , hopefully with the summer not far away it will only get better

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