Ed Boxall

Friday 10th June was The Hastings Thrives Sky Parade. 2,000 children from 14 schools paraded along the seafront to the pier. Parents, school staff, councillors and artists joined the children to form a rainbow snake spreading colour and smiles as it went. The parade was the visible celebration at the end of months of varied Hastings Thrives activities in schools that are all about raising aspirations, building confidence and celebrating the identity of our unique town.

I came up with the idea of the Sky Parade on the evening after I was invited to be involved in Hastings Thrives. Over the months we went through lots of different ideas and then back to this initial simple concept – often the way! I hope the idea is self-explanatory: a sky of dreams, imagination and aspiration. It’s also versatile and open to lots of different interpretations from planes to owls, to albatrosses, to stars and clouds. I think ‘Sky Parade’ has a ring to it. It sounds familiar already. I hope we stick to the concept next year and see even more ambitious and amazing constructions.

The sky theme allows for a more reflective or melancholy interpretation too. Children must be able to express sadness too. Some stormy skies would have been fine.

The celebration on the pier at the end of the parade had several parts. Each of these bits was a brief glimpse to the public of loads of creative work that has been going on in schools this year as part of the Hastings Thrives project.

Westfield School sang their song ‘Hastings Seaside Celebration’ and we all joined in. This is the winning song in the Hastings Thrives Song Contest. Schools have been working on their songs since January for the contest that took place in May. This was a great success with 10 schools performing their songs to nearly 1,000 people at The White Rock Theatre. My idea for the contest arose out of my work at West Rise Junior School, doing lots of informal song writing and improvisation. The winning song has an incredibly catchy chorus with verses that cover the entire history and unique goings-on in Hastings. Westfield music specialist Rob Greig got all the kids to write their own couplets and put them together to make this great song.

Andy Cope, of the Art of Brilliance spoke on the pier too. The Art of Brilliance is a fantastic programme of training about choosing to be positive and making small choices every day to spread happiness while working towards your aspirations. Something I really like in Andy’s ‘Brilliance’ training is that he encourages children to be ambitious but to work backwards from these ambitions…to work out what small actions can be done today towards those ambitions…and to enjoy every minute of doing them. Many schools took part in this training as part of Hastings Thrives, with children receiving the training and then delivering the training to others.

We expressed the concept of The Art of Brilliance through the medium of dance! Many schools have made short films of the ‘Thrive Dance’.

It was a highlight for everyone to join in on the pier…including the mayor, councillors and teachers.

It was great that our mayor, MP and councillors spoke at the event, and they all got just the right tone of cheerful encouragement. Their involvement offers some great validation in the town and helps to put the project in the wider national scene. Thank you!

I’ve been working on this with fabulous partners since last November. It was the full involvement of these partners that have made the project a success – take any of us away and there’d be something really special missing. Radiator Arts, HBC, The Art of Brilliance, The Education Improvement Partnership, Aristotelis Maragkos films, The Pier Charity, The White Rock Theatre, Arthropod Arts and, most of all, of course, the amazing children of Hastings!