There was something decidedly fishy going on in the Old Town last weekend with thousands of people descending on the Stade to join in the annual Herring Fair celebrations.
The sixth annual Hastings Herring Fair, which took place in a marquee on the Stade open space on Saturday and Sunday November 18 and 19 was hailed a great success.
The free under cover event gave visitors the opportunity to discover more about the undervalued but versatile herring.
Celebrating what are described as the Silver Darlings of the sea, Hastings Herring Fair combined food stalls and cookery demonstrations with live music, and local beers, wines and ciders.
Cllr Kim Forward, the lead member for marketing at Hastings Borough Council, which organised the event, said: “We’ve had some great feedback on our Herring Fair, which has firmly established itself as a favourite in the town’s packed events calendar.
“Thousands of local residents and visitors enjoyed the Herring Fair, and we were especially pleased that, this year, the herrings joined in too! They were scarce last year, but we put the fair back a fortnight and this year the local fishermen have been catching them in abundance. It was good to see so many stalls selling our local fish.”
The celebrations included cookery classes in the Classroom on the Coast delivered by the famous Billingsgate Seafood Training School. The special classes taught how to souse, roll, sour and smoke herrings, with plenty of tastings and packs of fish and recipes to take and try at home. There were free demonstrations from St Leonards restaurant The Thai House, and local foraging tutor Sarah Watson of Wild Feast.
Throughout both days twenty stalls offered mouth-watering fish dishes, vegetarian options and local wine, together with a beer festival run by the First in Last Out public house.
On the stage non-stop live music with a folksy flavour, included shanty singers, bands and a ceilidh dance.
In the fishermen’s area visitors could try their hand at traditional skills such as net making, witness the annual blessing of the nets at 12noon on Sunday, and find out about local marine archaeology.
In Stade Hall facepainting and free craft activities kept children amused.
Cllr Foward says the Fair is a great catch for the town. “The feedback from visitors and stallholders alike has been fantastic, with many visitors complimenting us on the event, and the great selection of stalls and music,” he said.
“The fish cooking demonstrations, by both local experts and CJ Jackson, of Sunday Brunch and Celebrity Chef fame, and the director of the Billingsgate Seafood Training School, were very popular, as was the ‘blessing of the nets’ by Fr Luke Irvine-Capel.
“The whole Old Town has been busy and had a real buzz about it this weekend, showing what an impact events like this have.”