Star-spangled fun at the America Ground Festival

A reveller at the America Ground Independence Day celebrations
A reveller at the America Ground Independence Day celebrations

THE town centre was awash with US flags and rock music filled the air as the annual America Ground festivities got underway on Sunday, June 3.

Scores of visitors and townsfolk were treated to bands, stalls and aerobic sessions after Mayor Kim Forward declared the celebrations open by raising the America Ground flag.

There was live entertainment from Ellie Lynn with Rufus Stone, the Cajun Dawgs, Dr Savage, Red Deisel and Dave Francis and his Ukelele Band.

The promenade opposite had arts and craft stalls and banners and bunting depicting the American Stars and Stripes flag were on display around the area.

Visitors took part in keep fit and aerobic sessions run by Leila Jarvis at the bottom of the Brassey Steps and a dress exchange party was held at the basement of the Bullet cafe in Claremont.

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

Lorna Lloyd, the group’s secretary, said: “We had three young bands, The Crooks, Copper Dollar and Behind Closed Doors, who were all amazing.

“Everyone who organised the event worked very hard for many hours. Unlike last year we had no funding this time, as we used to get it from the council and Hastings Trust.

“It was a really small, sweet and successful day and everyone who did come really enjoyed themselves. A big thanks must go to Rob Woods, from Ten Sixty-Six Enterprise, who did a lot behind the scenes to support the event.

“It will be back bigger and better.”

The annual event takes place on a strip of land in Hastings which declared itself part of the USA almost 200 years ago.

The roots of the America Ground go back to 1287 when a series of storms caused Hastings’s harbour to be blocked 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 in and 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.