Ex-Hastings councillor Jane Amstad dies aged 87
Tributes have been paid to an ex-councillor and deputy mayor, who died on Saturday (May 29).
Jane Amstad, who was known as Charity Jane because of her tireless fundraising for good causes, passed away aged 87.
One of the organisations she helped set up, together with Helene White and Barbara Silvester, was the Seaview Project in February 1985.
She was a LibDem councillor throughout the 1980s and deputy mayor in 1986.
A statement released on behalf of her family said: “Many in Hastings are mourning the loss of one of its most prolific charity fundraisers and well-known exuberant, colourful and often outrageous characters during the town’s last three decades.
“During her long and devoted service to public life and the wellbeing of so many disadvantaged in town, it is estimated that Jane raised in excess of £1 million for many good causes through countless boot fairs, Christmas markets and organised sponsorships.
“Jane’s first big project in 1982 was to raise money for the Spina Bifida Association (SASBAH) to buy a mobile home for parents who needed respite.
“Over many years and among many projects Jane funded a heart Doppler machine for the Conquest Hospital, funds for play schools and the Seaview Project.
“Ahead of her time she was a forerunner in recognising challenges of the LGBT community helping to establish its first crisis line in 1987.
“Jane drove minibuses for disabled children and was deeply involved with Frimley, the home for disabled youngsters. She was imaginative with her charity stunts. On one occasion to raise money for a children’s charity she slept overnight in a double bed with the town cryer in the so-called haunted caves and a month later paraded as Lady Godiva.
“It was due to Jane’s fundraising and organisation skills that the World Town Criers championships were saved and endured for many years after the council abandoned its commitment.
“During her political life she was a staunch member of the Liberal party, local councillor, deputy mayor and county councillor.”
Former Hastings MP and Minister for Equalities under the Blair Government, Michael Foster, said: “Jane had a full and eventful and political life and without parallel raised thousands of pounds for charity. And all the time without exception brought so much sparkle to local politics.”
Ex-LibDem borough councillor, Richard Stevens, said: “When I was first elected to Hastings Borough Council in 1983, I soon came to realise that Jane stood out as by far the most flamboyant and colourful member of the 32 council members. I used to call her by her middle name Elvira but used as a term of affection.
“She would often greet me in French as she was Swiss French and I did manage to reply as best I could with ‘Comment-allez vous?’
“Jane was by far the best known councillor in her time and naturally attracted much local publicity on an almost weekly basis it seemed.
“I also remember Jane arriving for a full council meeting in a ball gown and an enormous wig plus trade-mark long ear-rings following an instruction issued by the then mayor that all councillors should abide by a strict and ‘smart dress code’.
“Needless to say, that idea was soon abandoned. There are innumerable other stories about Jane’s escapades which always attracted the attention of the media and gave her a high local profile. Everyone in Hastings had heard of Jane Amstad back then.
“Jane used this high profile to raise thousands of pounds for charity and a host of good causes.
“She ran charity boot fairs and various other events and was soon to become known as ‘Charity Jane.’
“She served as deputy mayor and worked diligently on behalf of the electoral division that she represented in our town.
“She was a hard-working Liberal Democrat councillor but told me privately that she was really ‘non-political’ and just wanted to do her best for Hastings.
“Jane also stood for Parliament as a Liberal candidate. Jane was certainly an extrovert but put that extroversion to good use.
“My condolences go out to Jane’s family and she deserves to be remembered for all the good she did for our town and the charitable sector.”
Pam Brown, ex-mayor and former LibDem borough councillor, said: “Jane was such a forceful individual, a remarkable councillor and memorable deputy mayor.
“Not many people remember that Jane was responsible for the emergence of Seaview. She organised help and support for homeless people at the former church in London Road, and Seaview followed on from her initiative.
“Love her or criticise her sometimes provocative behaviour, no way could Jane be ignored. Many people will fondly remember her remarkable abilities. A special lady - one in a million.”
Hastings mayor, Cllr James Bacon, said: “My thoughts and prayers go out to Jane’s family at this difficult time.
“Jane’s heart was for her local community and this can be seen in her work as both a borough councillor and in her civic role as deputy mayor. On behalf of Hastings, thank you.”
Jane leaves behind her husband Nicki of 67 years, eight children, 17 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.