Don’t let anti-social youth spoil event

HASTINGS Traditional Jack-in-the-Green is one of the biggest events the people of Hastings take part in for their own pleasure and to keep an old tradition alive.

This year’s event was the usual mix of vibrant music, happy dancers, ceilidhs, good humour and friends meeting up again. New visiting Morris sides and visitors all expressing what a wonderful weekend it was. A huge thank you to the Jack-in-the-Green committee for their hard work in organising the event.

The procession on Monday was again its usual spectacular parade of greenery, colour, music and dancing. Nowhere does it like Hastings and with such panache. Great care is taken every year to ensure the safety of those taking part in the procession and those who turn up to spectate.

Once the Jack had arrived on the West hill and the procession had finally wound its way to the top the atmosphere was of a family day out with picnics and happiness. Young children were brought up to the Jack and photographed with the Bogies and the Jack itself.

The ritual slaying of the Jack at the end of the day was a little wild, but in a positive and energetic way, as is usual. In whole a great day out at a traditional event, with minor trouble given the thousands of people at the top of the West Hill.

But all is not well. Once again the event is in danger of being stopped due to the obnoxious behaviour of groups of drunken teenagers, many under the age of 18. The minority spoiling it for the majority.

I don’t believe Jack-in-the-Green is the cause of this. The event is being used as an excuse for people to come to Hastings, indulge in street drinking and behave in an uncivilised manner. The police presence was minimal on the hill, which is usual, but there was a fringe of youngsters, who had nothing to do with the event, probably had less idea of what was actually taking place and certainly had no interest in anything else than getting blind drunk and causing trouble.

George Street suffered the same problem. Masses of youngsters, drinking copiously and behaving badly in the street. Again not a huge police presence until well after Jack-in-the-Green had finished.

The police say they are under manned and underfunded. Yet they can spend a huge amount of money policing a ‘dry’ camp of 200 anti-fracking protestors, but they cannot properly police a one-day event and stop kids from drinking.

Who is at fault? It’s not the organisers of Jack-in-the-Green. It’s not the vast majority of peaceful, well-behaved spectators. It is the fault of a significant number of anti-social youngsters and it is the fault of Sussex Police for not being able to police effectively.

Don’t blame the innocent, sort out the problem. Stopping Jack-in-the-Green is the easy way out. It would also be hugely detrimental to a lot of the businesses in the town. If the authorities succeed in stopping Jack, then don’t expect to see Pirate Day, carnival, Bonfire, or any of the other wonderful events that we, the people of Hastings, support and enjoy.

ALAN GRIFFITHS

All Saints Street