The countdown is over; Hastings Fat Tuesday, the UK’s largest Mardi Gras festival and five days of music and mayhem, begins today (February 13).
Featuring artists from all over the UK and beyond, and established acts alongside unsigned bands, the festival is back for its sixth year, bigger than ever, supported by Arts Council England.
Most events are free, with several new additions for 2015, and there is something for all ages.
The festival launches this evening with Lucky Friday. Music comes from Dr Savage and The Fat Tuesday 2nd Line, from 8pm at Pissarro’s, South Terrace; 9pm at The General Havelock, Havelock Road; and from 10pm at the Jenny Lind, High Street, where the Cajun Dawgs will also take to the stage.
Tomorrow (Saturday, February 14) Unplugged Saturday features live acoustic music in the bars and restaurants of the Old Town, 200 gigs in total across a wide range of genres.
Then in the evening the much anticipated Grande Mardi Gras Ball at St Mary in the Castle, Pelham Place, 8pm to 3am (£10).
The ball is about theatre and spectacle as much as music and for the first time attendees will be given a ballot paper on arrival, to vote for the Mardi Gras Monarch - three parts of town, represented by three pubs and three artists have been busily working on their campaigns.
Music comes from the Congo Faith Healers, one of the Independent’s top 10 bands to see live in London.
Also on Saturday, 10am to 4pm, upstairs at the Jenny Lind, in High Street, is Cardi Gras, a Fat Tuesday happening for those who like to party, but not too hard, a tongue-in-cheek event by the local Ore Women’s Institute.
On Sunday (February 15), Hastings parties in true New Orleans Mardi Gras style with the Umbrella Parade, which sets off from The Stade Open Space at noon, heading to Pelham roundabout and up to St Mary in the Castle. This hugely popular family friendly event is a long-standing feature of Hastings Fat Tuesday, complete with floats, and marching bands.
Radiator Arts are holding a free family “Pimp your brolly” workshop at Stade Hall on Saturday, February 14, 10am to 4pm. Just bring an umbrella.
When the parade ends Preservation Sunday gets underway at St Mary in the Castle, 1pm to 6pm.
Named after Preservation Hall the New Orleans home of traditional jazz, this is a trad jazz and beer festival, a family event in association with the 1066 Jazz Club. Music is provided by Dr Jazz, a six-piece roaring ‘20s band. Beer has been brewed especially by the FILO Brewery.
New for Fat Tuesday 2015, Danny Pockets and Compendium Studios present Sonic Sunday a mystery tour of sound, film and performance, around St Leonards on February 15, 1pm to 11pm, focusing on experimental electronic music.
Sonic Sunday celebrates acts from Hastings, while also pulling in those from the esoteric world of sonic and visual invention from all over the UK.
The Old Chemist, Silchester Road will be the Sonic Sunday hub open on the day with information on all the various happenings.
Another new Fat Tuesday event is Off Axis, a showcase of upcoming bands at The Carlisle, Pelham Crescent, 1pm to 6pm, on Sunday, February 15.
This event features 13 artists from Brighton to Bristol, Leeds, Folkestone and even Rouen, Normandy.
Slim Monday (February 16, 7pm to 11pm at the Brass Monkey, Havelock Road) provides an opportunity to meet the musicians who are playing at the festival as well as the team behind it, before the frenzy of Fat Tuesday. Music comes from King Size Slim.
New for 2015 is Un-Convention a two-day music industry seminar (St Mary in the Castle, Pelham Place, February 16 and 17, 10am to 6pm).
A line-up of top musicians and industry experts will lead panel discussions and breakout sessions, and Skunk Anansie guitarist Ace, will be hosting a guitar masterclass.
Tickets are £10 per day or £15 for both days.
Everything gears up to Fat Tuesday itself (February 17, 8pm to 11pm, Hastings Old Town), the showstopper of the festival, when the bars of Hastings come to life as 16 bands take to stages at 11 Old Town venues, with live music and DJs at 10 fringe venues.
Previously The Fat Tuesday Tour has hosted the likes of Skunk Anansie, The Ruts DC, Liane Carroll, Kitten & The Hip, and James Hunter. This year we welcome more excellent acts to the festival, including Bosco Rogers, Skinny Lister, Prose, Curst Sons, The Jacques, and a special guest.
This year there are two town centre venues for the After Party, West Exit, Robertson Passage, and Brass Monkey, Havelock Road (10pm to 3am, £10), with guest musicians and DJs to make sure Fat Tuesday goes out on a high.
Tickets where applicable are available from The Crown, All Saints Street; Substance, Robertson Street; and The St Leonard, London Road; or online at www.hastingsfattuesday.co.uk, where the full programme is also available.