Tour firm boycotts Old Town celebrations

A LEADING Old Town businessman has hit out at the decision to give Hastings Week a World War II theme and claims the idea has driven away German tourists.

Thursday, 14th October 2004, 4:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 11:20 pm

Uli Kaschewski, 60, who owns Porters Wine Bar, in High Street, complained that at least one tour firm was relocating German visitors away from Hastings to save their embarrassment at the sight of traders recreating the Blitz in the Old Town.

And on Monday, Senlac Tours confirmed it had redirected four coachloads of Hastings-bound tourists to Bexhill and Eastbourne because it felt the Old Town's festivities could have been seen as hostile and unsettling to visitors from Germany.

While the Catsfield-based firm was unwilling to offer any direct criticism of the Old Town traders' decision to opt for a WWII theme for the annual festival, Mr Kaschewski, who was born in Germany, was not so reticent.

The exasperated wine bar boss said: "Taped-up windows and bomb damage? Oh, come on! It's 60 years on. Why do we have to keep flogging this dead horse?"

"If any tour firms are going to cancel visits to Hastings - even if it's just for the one week - and relocate them to Eastbourne or anywhere else, it's going to be the town that loses out.

Mr Kaschewski complained that the scheduled themed events, such as the Doodlebug Trail around the Old Town Pubs, the war-time re-enactment groups and the military vehicle displays, were inappropriate in 2004.

"Why couldn't we have had a French theme?" he asked. "After all, this year is the anniversary of the Entente Cordiale.

"It would have been better to do something positive, maybe even light-hearted.

"Why do we have to focus on something so dark and destructive?"

Mr Kaschewski says he's heartily sick of being reminded of the second world war and so are the vast majority of Germans.

He said: "Of course Germans feel bad about the war but they don't want constantly to be reminded of it. Over the years I've had enough grief on the subject.

He arrived in England in 1966 just in time for the World Cup final - another Anglo-German conflict for which he says he took considerable stick - albeit of a more light-hearted nature.

"After I came to this country I ran a guesthouse In Eastbourne," he recalled. "I used to tell the customers I was Swiss.

"I've had to put up with racist abuse all my life. I can laugh about it now but as far as the war is concerned I really do think it's time to move on.".

Angelika Fuller, director of Senlac Tours, told the Observer four coaches had been redirected from Hastings because of the war theme adopted by the Old Town.

She said: "We love Hastings, we support Hastings and we are very happy in Hastings; but we do feel that if something like this comes up again people should be aware that some Continentals could be offended."

She said a German coach-party, en route to Bath, in Somerset, had passed through the town and had been amazed by the Old Town decorations.

She added: "Even some Dutch tour-group leaders were very astonished that Hastings was celebrating the second world war - particularly as England is still at war in Iraq."

Ian Porter, chairman of the High Street Traders Association, was dismayed at the news. He said: "I'm surprised that anyone has had any bad feelings about what we've done. It's a celebration of the end of war, not of war itself.

"There has been incredible enthusiasm among the traders and I've heard they did a lot of business on Saturday and Sunday. They've certainly put a lot of effort into Hastings Week."

A spokesman for the borough council said: "We're disappointed that people have been upset by this.

"There is no anti-German feeling whatsoever and there was certainly no offence intended. It's a way of showing respect for what happened 60 years ago."

And he added: "All we're trying to do is bring people into the town at one of the quieter times of the year and raise the profile of Hastings."