THE MOUTHWATERING sweet smell of fried fesh fish and the infectious sounds of a sea shanty helped net more than 4,000 visitors to the second Hastings Herring Fair.
Despite torrential rain on Saturday, visitors poured into the tented village at The Stade to sample the tantalising array of herrings and local delicacies on offer.
Deep fried in batter or grilled and served with a wedge of lemon, the humble herring caught the public’s imagination and flew off the shelves like hot cakes.
One fishmonger reported selling 18 stone of wet fish over the weekend.
Organised by Hastings Borough Council, the two day event was funded with £15,000 of European money secured through the Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group.
The aim was to publicise the herring which is plentiful off the local coast but not as popular on the UK dinner plate as in the rest of Europe.
Visitors were treated to live music from local bands playing traditional folk music and shanties. The public was also invited to take part in barn dancing with young and old joining in to celebrate the event.
There was also a poignant moment of reflection when a traditional blessing of the net was conducted by Father Robert Featherstone from St Clements and Father Seamus Stapleton of St Mary Star of The Sea.
Cllr Peter Chowney, lead member of regeneration and marketing at Hastings Borough Council, and chair of the FLAG, said “The event is run by FLAG for the benefit of the fishermen and the local community.
“Herring used to be one of the main catches of the Hastings fleet and we organise the Herring Fair to promote the fish.
“It’s very plentiful at this time of year and Hastings herring is Marine Stewardship Council certified and so sustainable, and also extremely healthy to eat. By encouraging people to eat herring, the fishermen and the community benefit, so it really is a win win for everybody. “Although the weather was truly awful on Saturday, we still had quite a few hardy souls who braved the rain. And on Sunday the sun really brought the people out with several stalls having to replenish their stock.
“We’ve had some very positive feedback on the weekend, with many commenting on the friendly, community feel of the event. I’d like to thank the FLAG, stallholders, residents and visitors for their support, and my colleagues at Hastings Borough Council for organising it.
“We hope to run a series of fish fairs on the Stade Open Space over the next two years using FLAG funding. I look forward to them being as successful as this weekend’s Herring Fair.”