Hastings is a magnet of raw musical talent and home to one of the UK’s most vibrant music scenes. In fact, there’s so much music happening in and around Hastings that the area has been declared the UK’s newest ‘Music City’.
Unapologetically loud and proud of its musical heritage, Hastings and the 1066 area has a rich musical legacy. Legendary artists of the 60’s and 70’s from The Who, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols to Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones have all graced its iconic Pier over the decades. Syd Barrett's last ever gig with Pink Floyd was at the end of the Pier on January 20th 1968. Madness frontman Suggs is Hastings born and bred. David Bowie shot his video for Ashes to Ashes on the beach at Pett and Bob Marley's first live UK gig in 1972 was at the De La Warr Pavillion.
Fast forward to 2018 and the energy infused in the towns and villages along the coast from Bexhill to Rye today is due to the sheer number of exciting, up-and-coming underground artists, an abundance of festivals and the rafts of pubs and venues essential for nurturing grassroots music. Hastings and Rother have been placed firmly on the map of the UK's new music scene, earning 1066 Country the title of a new Music City.
A Music City by its simplest definition is a place with a vibrant music industry. Essential elements include artists and musicians, music venues, record labels and most importantly, an engaged audience. More than a match for the music city criteria, Hastings and the entire District of Rother is teeming with musicians and songwriters of every musical genre along with DJs, producers, recording studios and music mastering and production companies. As Andy Gunton, of The Stinger, puts it:
It’s a very vibrant and loaded local scene. For somewhere so small there is a hell of a lot going on
Enough to excite all musical tastes, Hastings and Rother is home to Rye’s award-winning International Jazz and Blues Festival and Hastings Philharmonic, the first fully professional orchestra in Hastings in nearly eighty years. The reputation of the De La Warr Pavilion's stand-out live music programme goes from strength to strength. The cultural powerhouse of the south coast sells over 45,000 tickets annually to over 120 events, adding a value of 16m to the region.
The whole area fizzes with creative energy, earning it a growing reputation as the new musical mecca of the south. The number of festivals and eye-opening events throughout the year range from Hastings Beer Festival, TN32 Festival in Bodiam, or the drum and bass of Pier Jam, and Beatwave - a weekend of live surf, beat and garage frenzy.
Music Month runs from Valentines Day to St. Patrick's Day each year and includes the mighty Fat Tuesday and the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition - both bigger and better than ever. Fat Tuesday is hailed as Hastings’ answer to SXSW in Texas, or Brighton’s The Great Escape and is the UK’s largest Mardi Gras celebration with its own distinctive flavour. It was voted by The Telegraph as the 12th Best Mardi Gras event in the world.
The climax of Fat Tuesday consists of forty acts each playing 15-minute sets in different venues on rotation throughout Hastings Old Town. An afternoon of 200 raucous beer-heavy gigs makes it one of Hastings' most celebrated events. This year's line up included grime from Hull, female rappers from SE London, a punk-folk singer-songwriter from Southampton, all interspersed with some mighty fine local talent from indie-rock and acoustics to folk, soul and blues and everything in between.
For four days every summer, Rye becomes a hotbed of jazz and blues, with the International Jazz and Blues Festival attracting a line up to rival the Montreal Jazz Festival. Now in its seventh year, the festival's acknowledged as one of the best boutique music festivals of its kind in the UK with the potential to grow a truly international audience. The beautiful cobbled streets of Rye come alive as audiences are treated to the intoxicating sounds of the best jazz, blues, swing, afro-beat, funk, folk and Latin music. The festival and event headliners have included legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Wilco Johnson, Gregory Porter and Liane Carroll. Creative Director, Ian Bowden, shares his ideas for the future:
As well as the many local sponsors, I’m thinking of asking Eurostar and Get Link, to partner us. They’re only a few miles away, and it would be great to open this up to Europe. Europeans love their music festivals
There are over 100 pubs and venues supporting the music scene. From Rye's The Ypres Castle Inn and The Mermaid Inn, Icklesham's The Queens Head, right through to Hastings' Old Town, which is overflowing with popular live music venues including The Black-Market VIP, Whistle Trago, The Brass Monkey, Dragon Bar, Jenny Lind, Albion to name a few. It would be a challenge to find a pub without live music. Just a stone’s throw away is the enigmatic and atmospheric St Mary in the Castle, the White Rock Theatre and The Printworks, a flexible, multi-use music, arts and cultural venue in arguably Hastings' newest creative quarter, America Ground, with its unique history of independence. Trinity Triangle is also home to the Palace, On The Rocks, Golden Axe Music Shop, indie record shop Wow and Flutter and Borough Beers, Wines and Books, who's intimate underground gigs have included German Krautrock legends Faust in its basement, complete with axel grinder!
The Music City project was devised by the Hastings & Rother Music City partnership and supported by Rother District Council, Hastings Borough Council, De La Warr Pavilion Charitable Trust, The Joe Strummer Foundation and Rhythmix, with support from AudioActive and Eggtooth.
De La Warr Pavilion is widely recognised as the cultural and musical hub of England's Creative Coast
Multi-award-winning hip-hop DJ and producer, DJ Yoda launched the De La Warr’s new Debut programme earlier this year for #1066MusicCity. Debut is a new annual programme that supports emerging musicians from the local area, offering them performance and development opportunities, including local studio time with Curve Pusher Studios to record a track.
There is an array of first-rate recording, mixing and mastering studios, all bringing their own unique flavour, from Yiayia’s Studio, Savage Sound and 360 Mastering and Curve Pusher, along with independent record labels including the legendary BBE - Barely Breaking Even Records, releasing disco, soul, funk, hip hop, jazz and house music on vinyl for 20 years. Independent record shops provide the town with its vinyl fix, Wow and Flutter, Atlas Sounds Records, Japhy's, as well as Bexhill’s Music’s Not Dead - opening as a “pop-up” at the De La Warr Pavilion, selling a wide range of vinyl/labels covering all music tastes.
My inspiration is the Montreux Jazz Festival, which was founded over 45 years ago to attract tourism and grew into something incredibleIan Bowden Creative Director, Rye Jazz Festival
I immediately felt like I could live here, and being from London, I don't get that feeling very often.Laurie Dunster Curve Pusher
Hastings-born, hardcore indie-rockers Alibi embody a strong stage presence, giving bands like Royal Blood a run for their money. They have performed on BBC introducing the South, amazed crowds at Reading and Leeds festival, and had their top single ‘Space, man’ receive extensive airplay. The band’s quirky, alternative jams claim influences from the Swinging Sixties and The Smiths to the likes of The Libertines.
Emerging from a fiery musical explosion comes Kid Kapichi, a band that doesn’t hide away from ferocious crowd-surfing and anarchic mosh pits. Paired with Alibi, Kid Kapichi are a band determined to overcome the pop-dominated charts with the motivation to make Indie Rock great again. Receiving support from BBC introducing, MTV Rocks and even Kerrang, Kid Kapichi are at the forefront of a new generation of Hastings bands. The band, unshy of personality and charisma, have supported the likes of NME favourite Slaves, with their punk-rock guitar-driven anthems.
Once the front man of a folk band, ‘Tom Williams and the Boat’ and the support act for Adele, Tom Williams later decided to go it alone. Much loved by BBC 6 Music, Williams' current album ‘All Change’ was met with critical acclaim and selected as one of BBC 6 Music's definitive albums of 2017.
Imagine if Ginger Baker had played at your school?
14-year-old wonders, The Kiffs are breaking rock gender imbalance with their fresh, authentic talent. Formed at Rye College this all-girl band were chosen by Steve Lamacq as one to watch, and are flourishing on the local music scene, often showcasing their music amongst bands like Alibi.
Amongst other rising giants in the Hastings musical community is prolific songwriter John Sterry, aka Billionaire, who recently toured the US while fronting seminal post-punk group Gang of Four. Billionaire supported BØRNS in 2016. A combination of electronic pop and psychedelic rock, Billionaire’s melodic beauty is an unconventional twist, proudly breaking the boundaries of mainstream music. The song ‘Santa Fe’ received over 45k listens on Spotify.
The Eggtooth Project launched the Arts Council supported Incubate project in 2017 to develop and “hatch” the potential of emerging young musical talent. While DV8 in Bexhill run accredited music production courses for aspiring musicians to get the chance to record their tracks and learn how to promote themselves online.
The Music City status is more than a tag of recognition for the town’s rich and diverse music scene, it’s a rallying call to action to support and nurture the next generation of aspiring musicians and help unlock the potential of young people through the transformative power of music.
Bigger cities usually relish in the attraction of international superstars, yet struggle to draw attention to local, growing artists. Here, we have both. Thriving on people that make things happen, Hastings and Rother have become a haven for both growing talent and music lovers alike.
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