Observer Comment: Rumours of riots... cost will run into thousands

RUMOUR is a powerful thing. It is no small matter for the town’s main supermarket to close its doors in the middle of an afternoon and physically board up windows, as Morrison’s did on Tuesday in the midst of riot rumours.

Several other businesses followed suit.

The police response sucked in most of the town’s officers, as well as vehicles from neighbouring forces, committing their already stretched budget to further overtime expense. There is no question of police being at fault for doing this - what choice did they have?

The rumours were generated through the dislocated, lightening-fast world of social media. This was Chinese whispers for the iPad generation, as bemused residents tweeting safely from the town centre were drowned out by a tidal wave of echoes and exaggeration. The whole thing might be ridiculous if it was not that the cost will run into thousands.


IF there is one story you must read in today’s Observer, make it the one about the threat to the Conquest’s maternity services (due on this website on August 13 at 8am).

The Observer is urging all readers to fill in the hospital trust’s questionnaire and make their feelings loud and clear that Hastings will not tolerate the loss or downgrading of the unit.

Back in 2006 and 2007 thousands of angry people protested against absurd plans to strip away a full consultant-led maternity unit at the Conquest or its sister hospital, the DGH.

Such proposals would have led to expectant mums travelling almost 20 miles to Eastbourne to give birth, or vice versa.

Campaigners from both towns cited poor infrastructure and the potential danger to babies’ lives, and their arguments won through, as the Secretary of State threw out the unpopular proposals at the end of 2007.

But the threat of downgrading once again rears its ugly head and it’s time for the whole town to make a stance.

Nothing has changed in the last four years, as the roads between Hastings and Eastbourne remain poor and congested, and there are many people who live in isolated rural areas without cars.

The quality and services of our maternity care in 1066 Country must not be allowed to suffer.


HEARING Ian Porter speak about the humble beginnings of Carnival Week is a reminder of what a determined community can achieve (see slideshows in NEWS section).

Twenty-one years ago, a group of friends sat down with a sheet of paper and a bottle of wine and came up with a small list of things they thought would appeal to the town.

Some of the original ideas, like the knobbly knee contest and Santa landing a boat on The Stade, have died a death, only to be replaced by other activities which now draw tourists from all over the south east, never mind Rother.

The carnival is now a permanent fixture in the Hastings calendar. Its benefits are economic, as well as social. Spin-off events like Pirate Day, which branches out into its own slot next year, only amplify this.

At the end of the biggest carnival to date, in terms of the number of events, the Observer pays tribute to that small group who batted ideas around in 1990, and particularly Ian Porter, who steps down this year, and whose quiet facilitating has helped the Old Town grow into the thriving hub it is today.