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Jack in the Green 2014

Written By Andy Gunton

After a winter full of storms, rain, flooding and landslides, I’m sure we’re all more than ready for summer to come along? Well the waiting is nearly over, and what better way to start it all off than with the festival of all that makes Hastings such a great place to be, Jack in the Green.

The origins of May Day celebrations go right back to the Celtic festival of Beltane, and the Romans dedicating the day to the Goddess Flora. They even decorated trees with flowers and ribbons, hence the May Pole. 

In Hastings, May Day celebrations were revived back in 1983 by Mad Jacks Morris Dancers, and has been going from strength to strength ever since. But there is far more to the event than just the well known spectacle of the procession, and the releasing then slaying of the Jack itself on the Bank Holiday Monday. There's also a big musical element to the weekend as well, which is well worth investigating.

For example, the evening of Friday, 2nd May sees Dirty Spoons at the crypt of St Mary in the Castle. There are also various Folk sessions in some Old Town pubs.

On Saturday evening it’s the time for the Big Ceilidh with Florida, at the St Mary in the Castle auditorium.

Sunday afternoon has the famous Copper Family, singing traditional Sussex songs, at St Clements church. And Sunday evening brings local favourites, The Tabs, to the same venue.

If that isn’t enough to get your toes tapping on the Sunday, there is another ceilidh with the Simon Care Trio at St Mary in the Castle, and The Big Squeeze are at the Cinque Ports pub. 

The weekend’s more traditional celebrations kick off at 4.30am on Thursday, 1st May with ‘Dance in the Dawn’, at Ladies Parlour, on the West Hill. Events then run through to Monday, 5 May.

For example there is Morris Dancing with Mad Jacks Morris, Hannah’s Cat and more around the town on the Saturday afternoon.

The Crowning of the May Queen takes place in Alexandra Park on Sunday afternoon. But if you want something a bit noisier, try the drum off between the Section 5 Drummers and Sambalanco, at Butlers Gap, George St, from 4pm the same afternoon.

The culmination of the whole weekend is, of course, on Bank Holiday Monday and is not to be missed. The gathering, the release of the Jack, the procession, and the finale on the West Hill. It’s a riot of green, including drumming, bogies, dancing, sweeps, giants and Jack himself. It really is a highlight of the Hastings year and there’s nothing quite like it.

And let’s not forget that Bank Holiday Monday is also the day when Hastings is invaded by ten’s of thousands of motorbikes!

What a day, what a weekend, and what a spectacle it all promises to be. I’m sure there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.

See the Official website for more info: hastingsjack.co.uk

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