Plans for festival to mark 950th anniversary of battle

A re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. SUS-141110-180854001
A re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. SUS-141110-180854001

An information day for artists, organisations and individuals to learn about Hastings Borough Council’s plans for a national contemporary arts festival to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings has been hailed a success.

The event took place last Wednesday (January 21) at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, and was chaired by council leader, councillor Jeremy Birch.

He said: “1066 is the most famous date in English history, and the 950th anniversary of that great battle, which has made Hastings the most famous town in the world, is something we want to really make something of.

“We are looking to stage a national cultural festival next year, and last Wednesday’s information day was a chance for artists and others interested in helping us to learn about what we are planning and to come up with ideas for activities and events.

“We had hoped for around 50 people to come to the De La Warr, but more than 100 turned up, and we had a really positive, constructive afternoon.

“Polly Gifford, who is leading our work on this festival, gave an outline of our ideas to date, followed by local historian Geoff Hutchinson who gave an animated summary of the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings, the battle itself, and its impact on our history.

“This was followed by a short session in which those attending discussed possible events that might be organised, ranging from television shows on the history of the battle and its impact to taking over empty buildings and turning them into temporary studios.

“One of my favourites was a ‘pop up castle’ that could tour the area as a performing arts venue, because the first Hastings castle was, literally, brought over as a ‘flat pack’ from Normandy.

“We will be developing and pursuing these ideas over the coming months, but couldn’t have got the project off to a better start.

“It was a lively, exhilarating session, and I’m now really looking forward to some of these plans coming to fruition.”

It was on September 28, 1066 that the Normans under William II (William the Conqueror) first landed on the south coast.

Harold had to rush his battered, weary army from Stamford Bridge in the East Riding of Yorkshire south to meet the new Norman invasion.

Less than three weeks after the Battle of Stamford Bridge in which Harold had successfully repelled an invading Norwegian force, Harold was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066 by William the Conqueror, thereby beginning the Norman Conquest of England.