Major Hastings arts festival facing an uncertain future

Belonging Bandstand by Morag Myerscough. Coastal Currents Arts Festival 2018, Hastings UK. Photo by Alexander Brattell.
Belonging Bandstand by Morag Myerscough. Coastal Currents Arts Festival 2018, Hastings UK. Photo by Alexander Brattell.

Organisers of a major arts festival are urging Hastings Borough Council (HBC) to reconsider a decision not to fund the event in 2019.

The team behind Coastal Currents Arts Festival says core funding for the event has been provided by HBC for many years, but that the authority has decided that it can no longer continue.

Coastal Currents 2015. Tod Hanson's "Geo", Hastings Museum & Art Gallery. Photo by Alexander Brattell. SUS-190116-173820001

Coastal Currents 2015. Tod Hanson's "Geo", Hastings Museum & Art Gallery. Photo by Alexander Brattell. SUS-190116-173820001

However, a HBC spokesman said funding was only granted last year as a one-off to help the event become self-funding.

Tina Morris has managed the festival over the past seven years – the last three through her marketing company Sweet and Dandy. Under Sweet and Dandy’s management, the festival had been growing year on year – last year was the biggest yet, amounting to a five-week-long celebration of multiple arts in 1066 Country.

Comprised of Open Studios trails covering 83 venues and over 40 curated events, plus another 40 springing up from local venues and organisations. 2018 showcased as many as 400 local artists to a physical audience of 120,000 people.

Tina said: “It’s well known that the funding landscape for the arts is extremely barren. But it’s also super easy to see that the £20,000 given to the festival creates visible areas of regeneration, often concentrated on council-owned property or land, and often for the further promotion of the area. It makes the council money in parking, tourism and feeding the economy. The council would be hard pushed to create the sort of change seen in Bottle Alley or the West Hill Shelter, or the love given to Queens Road encouraged by the catalyst of a new mural, on a £20,000 budget.

Public art commissioned as part of Coastal Currents 2018. Photo by Alexander Brattell.

Public art commissioned as part of Coastal Currents 2018. Photo by Alexander Brattell.

“I’ve been pro-actively marketing this area for 12 years now, supporting many local artists and art organisations, as well as demonstrating that we have a much greater power when we pull together. That makes for a wider reach and a stronger message to the rest of the UK in terms of the high-quality artists and art that the 1066 area has to offer. We lead the way. We’re on the tip of everyone’s tongues – but it takes hard work to keep us there.”

Coastal Currents has, in previous years, found money from a variety of sources. However, it says it has always relied upon the ‘core funding’ from HBC to release this other funding.

Ms Morris added: “Why does Coastal Currents not deserve to receive HBC funding from the core culture pot, considering the amount of further financing I’m able to leverage from it. It begs the question, what exactly is the culture pot funding? Moving focus away from Coastal Currents and the 1066 area at this time would be a great pity. We may never get it back.”

Sweet and Dandy has set up a petition asking the council to reconsider funding the festival in 2019. It can be signed at Borough Wines, eat @ The Stade, Goat Ledge, HI-Store, The Crown, Wow and Flutter, Shipwreck Museum and The White Rock Hotel.

Public art, Queens Rd. Coastal Currents Arts Festival. September 2018. Hastings, East Sussex UK. Photo by Alexander Brattell. SUS-190116-173806001

Public art, Queens Rd. Coastal Currents Arts Festival. September 2018. Hastings, East Sussex UK. Photo by Alexander Brattell. SUS-190116-173806001

You can also contribute to seed funding, which will help Coastal Currents apply for Arts Council funding, at www.gofundme.com/coastal-currents-2019.

A HBC spokesman said: “We gave Coastal Currents some funding last year as a one-off to assist them with the transition to a self-funding event. The organisers were aware it was for one year only.”

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