Hastings gearing up for America Ground Festival

Mayor Kim Forward at last year's festival
Mayor Kim Forward at last year's festival

THE town will be alive to the sound of live, upbeat music on Sunday as the America Ground Festival gets underway.

The annual event, which takes place on a strip of land in Hastings which declared itself part of the USA almost 200 years ago, kicks off at 10.30am and runs until 4pm.

There will be live music from Ellie Lynn, the Cajun Dawgs, Red Deisel and Dave Francis and his Ukelele Band.

The promenade opposite will feature arts and craft stalls, selling many wares such as books.

Banners and bunting depicting the American Stars and Stripes flag will be festooned around the area.

Visitors can also take part in keep fit sessions run by Leila Jarvis at the bottom of the Brassey Steps in Claremont.

A dress exchange party will be held at the basement of the Bullet cafe in Claremont.

Happy Harold, the restored trolleybus, dating from 1928, is also offering visitors and residents rides along the seafront.

The event is organised by the White Rock and America Ground Group, made up of business owners based in the area.

The roots of the America Ground go back as far as 1287 when a series of storms wreaked havoc on Sussex.

Hastings was badly affected as the storms blocked the town’s harbour with silt and pebbles, forming a huge shingle bank.

This new piece of land, which comprises the area now bounded by Robertson Street, Trinity Triangle, Carlisle Parade and Harold Place, fell just outside the boundaries of the borough, making it a no man’s land.

Locals soon realised they could live there free from having to pay taxes and rents.

As a result many people moved into the area, building a thriving but ramshackle community of shops, houses and workplaces.

By 1822, around 1,000 people lived there, forcing the local authorities into action.

Taking inspiration from the American Revolution, the residents reacted defiantly, declaring themselves independent from Hastings as the ‘twenty-fourth’ US state and hoisting the Stars and Stripes flag.