Hastings and Bexhill ‘up for the challenge’

From right:Tony Leonard, director of services at Rother District Council, Paul Barnett, a Hastings resident who led the Bristol bid, and Felicity Harvest, former regional director of Arts Council Southeast, Jeremy Birch and Kevin Boorman.
From right:Tony Leonard, director of services at Rother District Council, Paul Barnett, a Hastings resident who led the Bristol bid, and Felicity Harvest, former regional director of Arts Council Southeast, Jeremy Birch and Kevin Boorman.

THE FACT that Hastings and Bexhill are bidding for City of Culture status will pay off whether or not we are successful, said a former regional director of Arts Council South East.

Felicity Harvest, who is giving advice to Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council on the UK City of Culture 2017 bid, said that the bidding process gets people talking and sets out a framework for future development.

She was speaking at a symposium to generate ideas for the bid that was held at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Friday (April 19), attended by around 120 people from all sections of the community.

This was echoed by Paul Barnett, another one of the four unpaid advisors helping with the bid, who worked on a similar bid in Bristol, who said: “Although Bristol didn’t win, they got noticed, doors opened nationally and internationally, and the money poured in.”

The message from the leader of Hastings Borough Council Jeremy Birch was: “Hastings and Bexhill are up for the challenge.”

He said: “We believe our area is in the league of being the UK City of Culture, and that culture should be at the heart of the revival of our area.

“We think we have the winning formula.”

A wealth of ideas and support was apparent at Friday’s meeting.

One of the key points raised was the need to promote Hastings and Bexhill, and the many events that take place in our towns, to a wider audience.

One of the more unusual suggestions included taking Hastings pirates to Trafalgar Square.

Simon Opie, chief executive of Hastings Pier Charity, said: “In order to make this work, we have to show how we are going to connect with a much wider national and international audience.”

Councillor Andrew Batsford, manager of Xtrax young people’s centre, was among those who put forward the point that making sure everyone, particularly those outside of the creative community, was behind the bid.

He said: “The real challenge is about how we make sure that everybody in Hastings and Bexhill knows about the bid.

“I know there are people in Hastings who have never been to the beach. How do we make this bid relevant to their lives?”

Leo Sedgley, Bexhill centre manager at DV8 Sussex, said that young people needed to be fully involved in the bid, and on a more than a tokenistic level, adding that if asked they would likely come up with ideas that no one else had thought of.

Others groups and organisations represented at the symposium included Project Art Works, St Leonards Film Society, Bexhill Museum, Hastings Stage Studio, Photo Hub Group, and the Burtons’ St Leonards Society.

The initial bid must be submitted by Tuesday (April 30), following which will be a nail-biting wait.

Four cities/areas are expected to be shortlisted. This announcement will be made in June, and final bids must then be submitted by September 30 to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The winner will be announced in Derry, current UK City of Culture, in November this year.

Other places entering their bids are Aberdeen, Chester, Dundee, East Kent, Hull, Leicester, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, and Swansea Bay.

Support Hastings and Bexhill’s bid by visiting www.facebook.com/hastingsbexhillcityofculture and the DCMS Facebook page at on.fb.me/Zr7xXD.