The streets of the Old Town will be a riot of colour and noise on Monday when the much anticipated Jack in the Green celebration takes place.
Thousands of people are expected to line the streets as the procession winds its way through the Old Town before making its way to the West Hill.
Leading the procession is the Jack, a living tower of leaves with a crown of flowers. He is brought to life by bogies – green men who are his protectors for the day.
Taking part in the procession will be a wildly varied assortment of characters including sweeps, Morris dancers, Milkmaids, giants, drummers and musicians, as well as the Gay Bogies and Lovely Ladies, who sport some of the most colourful and fantastical costumes in the procession.
The procession starts just after 10.15pm when the jack bursts out of the Fishermen’s Museum in Rock-a-Nore Road. People will be gathering in the area for the build-up from 9.45am.
The procession will pause at 11.30am in the High Street when the Jack will dance back from St Clements Church to meet his followers.
This is a good time for spectators to pose for pictures or chat to characters in the procession.
The procession reforms at 12 noon and makes its way up Croft Road and along Collier Road to the open space of the West Hill, where dancers, singers and musicians will perform on the stage.
People will also be able to enjoy a craft fair and refreshments while on the hill.
At around 4pm, a crescendo of drumming will herald Jack’s final arrival to the main stage where, after a final dance, he will be ceremonially slain to release the spirit of summer.
Leaves from the Jack will be thrown out to spectators and are said to bring good luck.
Festival organisers say they want everyone to enjoy the atmosphere and are asking people not to bring barbecues and to keep dogs on leads.
The vibrant celebrations on Monday are the highlight of a whole weekend of music, dancing and other events.
The fun gets underway on Friday, May 4 with a music session and sing-around at the Stag in All Saints Street from 8pm, while folk-punk band 40 Shillings on the drum will be playing in the Albion, on the seafront, from 9pm.
Saturday sees a packed day of events which sees Morris dancers joining with the bikers on the Stade Open Space at 11.30am.
Local and visiting Morris sides will then dance on Winkle Island, opposite, from 12 noon.
Four piece female harmony group Rattlebag perform in the Stag from 3pm.
Folk legend Shirley Collins returns to her home town to launch her new book about the Sussex Downs.
She will be in conversation with David Tibet, the artist and musician behind industrial folk outfit Current 93, at All Saints Church, from 7.30pm on Saturday 5.
Before that the Electric Palace Cinema, in the High Street, is screening the recent film The Ballad of Shirley Collins at 5pm, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.
St Mary in the Castle, at Pelham Place, has ceilidh dances on Saturday and Sunday night at 8pm with energetic folk band Lasair on Saturday and Hekety on Sunday, who will be playing a mixture of traditional English dance tunes and their own tunes influenced by Klezmer and European music. Callers will instruct the dancers at both events.
Sunday sees the Morris Dancers Church Service taking place at 10am at All Saints Church in the Old Town. The service includes music and dance with host sides mad Jack’s Morris and Hannah’s Cat dancing outside the church from 11am.
There will be more massed Morris dancing taking place on the pier on Sunday, May 6 from 1pm.
The Copper family, from Rottingdean, will be performing traditional Sussex folk songs in All Saints Church, on Sunday from 4pm.
Drumming fans should head to Butlers Gap, in George Street, on Sunday at 4pm where the annual Drum-Off takes place – a massed drumming battle between local drumming groups Section 5 and Sambalanco and visiting groups.
For the full programme of events and background on the tradition visit www.hastingsjitg.co.uk.