Celebrating Hastings and Rother's grassroots music
Hastings is a magnet for 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 was declared the UK’s newest ‘Music City’.
Rich musical legacy
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 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 usually runs from Valentines Day to St. Patrick’s Day each year and includes the mighty Fat Tuesday and the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition. 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 and last year expanding into St. Leonards. An afternoon of 200 raucous beer-heavy gigs makes it one of Hastings’ most celebrated events. The 2019 headliner was Baxter Dury, 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, flexible, multi-use music, arts and cultural venue. America Ground, with its unique history of independence, is home to the Palace, On The Rocks, Golden Axe Music Shop, indie record shop Wow and Flutter.
Last year, The Piper in St Leonards opened as a destination venue for people who want to hear cutting edge music in a cool, quirky environment and has hosted, among others, psych-rock legends Toy, Bo Ningen and Night Beats. Since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Piper has been working with The (MVT) Music Venue Trust to lobby Government to save grassroots music venues & the pub trade and hopes to reopen its doors soon. Further along the seafront, The Marina Fountain, weathered the initial crisis by adapting its offer to an online click and collect, has become over the past year a firm favourite with dance music aficionados for hosting legendary DJ parties with the likes of Bill Brewster and the late great Andrew Weatherall as well as musicians and live bands.
The Music City project back in 2018, 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
The initiative was launched in 2018 by multi-award-winning hip-hop DJ and producer, DJ Yoda at the De La Warr’s as part of the Debut programme for #1066MusicCity. Debut supports emerging musicians from the local area, offering performance and development opportunities, including local studio time with Curve Pusher Studios to record a track.
Record labels, studios and record shops
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, who moved from Hackney to Hastings, 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 and Japhy’s, as well as the new record shop co-owned by DJ Mr. Thing, Underneath Printed Matter is a new basement record shop, in the Queens Road Quarter, dealing in a variety of genres & formats. While Bexhill’s Music’s Not Dead – has taken up permanent residence at the De La Warr Pavilion, selling a wide range of vinyl/labels covering all musical tastes.
Ones to watch
Hastings-born, hardcore indie-rockers Blabbermouth embody a strong stage presence, giving bands like Royal Blood a run for their money. They have amazed crowds at Hastings Fat Tuesday and their latest single, ‘Youthful Haze’ is an example of their raw, energetic sounds and catchy choruses. The band’s quirky, alternative jams claim influences from the classic post-punk era. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Blabbermouth.
Emerging from a fiery musical explosion comes Kid Kapichi. The rock heavyweights from Hastings stamped their name firmly onto the hide of the UK rock scene in 2019. Receiving support from BBC Introducing, MTV Rocks and 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.
Imagine if Ginger Baker had played at your school?
Teenage 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 Blabbermouth.
Amongst other stars in the Hastings musical community is prolific songwriter John Sterry, aka Billionaire and now FUKC band, Sterry toured the US while fronting the seminal post-punk band Gang of Four, alongside the late musical legend, Andy Gill.
Once the frontman 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’ album ‘All Change’ was met with critical acclaim and selected as one of BBC 6 Music’s definitive albums of 2017.
More than just a tag
Eggtooth Project which 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.
Punching above its weight musically
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.