It’s not easy being an artist in lockdown. Our worst enemy is isolation: not having something to create about. That can be terrifying, with or without lockdown. But it’s not like suddenly being unable to show in a gallery stops you from making a mark on some material. Musicians, actors, poets, can still perform online, and now outside, live. We’re all well-placed to adapt, especially in the era of the internet and universal digital technology. Much of Hastings has adapted, and we should all be happy to turn our attention to what’s on offer through these newer media. 

Fetch Theatre members John Knowles (right), Sidney Kean (left) in a scene from Toby Belch is Unwell
PICTURE: Peter Mould

Coastal Currents and Isocreation

Isocreation represents a wealth of artwork fresh from East Sussex College Hastings, and you’ll probably want to watch the featured presentations first. Head to www.wethefuture.co.uk/isocreationlive and scroll down. Play the video. It’s long, but it’s good. Skip to 2:57 if you don’t like introductions. Somewhere in that array of students’ short films, you’ll find one that really hits you, an artist whose chosen themes and styles change your world.
It’s 22 shorts, by the students and about their work. There’s easily room for a revelation in there somewhere, and a lot of entertainment in the meantime.

After this, scroll down the page again and there’s a lot of other work to peruse. Use the links, find the student whose video you liked. All those in the feature are Level 3, which should help narrow things down. Follow their Instagram. Send them an email. Many an artist would love that.

The National Theatre and its players are safe, especially with this new government funding pot floating about. Our local independent theatres are not

This virtual exhibition Isocreation is what would have been the summer showcase of East Sussex College Hastings’ student artwork. Due to Covid, it’s all online, and you have to jump through a few more hoops to talk to the artists and tutors, though you don’t have to travel as far. Coastal Currents – which you know – is still alive, and presented the 22 student films in a livestream on Facebook. They’re also on Isolation Station every Saturday. While we’re on that topic, go on Facebook, look up #coastalcurrents2020 in the search bar. You’ll then see what they’ve been up to recently, including the lovely features on Isolation Station. Actually, due to a small hashtagging oversight, you’ll also have to look up #coastalcurrentsartfestival to see everything. Some under #coastalcurrents2020, some under #coastalcurrentsartsfestival. It’s easy to lose track of hashtags. 

As per usual, there is a crowdfunding page for the 2020 Coastal Currents Festival. Find it here: www.gofundme.com/coastal-currents-2020. The aim is to raise match funding for an application to the Arts Council. Bearing in mind that the government has just released £1.57bn to fund “the arts”, there’s a chance that Arts Council England will have a few quid to spare, but again, it’s match funding. Coastal Currents has to bring its half to the table. Also, I’ve heard rumours that the government fund is there to keep our cultural giants afloat as a priority. We don’t yet know by any official statement who exactly will be funded and what they’ll need to spend it on, but I think it’s safe to assume that, as per usual, local arts initiatives will be at the bottom of the list. They just don’t generate enough tourism for Westminster to pay attention.

Hastings Theatre: Ghost in the Machine 

With sit-in theatre looking like it’ll be in lockdown longer than most other spheres of artistic life, creators and actors across the country are having to work out alternative ways of performing for our entertainment. The National Theatre is streaming from its back-catalogue every week on YouTube – and those shows are well worth the watching. It’s not just brilliant re-imaginings of Shakespeare, there’s plenty of content that’s modern and even contemporary in origin, with prescient subject matter. But the National Theatre and its players are safe, especially with this new government funding pot floating about. 

Our local independent theatres are not. But they’re doing their best to carry on anyway. Fetch Theatre (which many of you will know) is responsible for an excellent range of plays and performances that have toured internationally and won widespread acclaim. Look over the back catalogue on their website if you like: theneverplayed.wixsite.com/fetch-theatre. Fetch has responded to lockdown, true to form, by creating brilliant new material for us, and displaying it online for free. 

Scene from Toby Belch is Unwell
PICTURE: Peter Mould

Ghost in the Machine is a series of stories set in 2020, created on Zoom. Darkly comic tales with a twist, featuring actors from Hastings as different characters in different situations every episode (but not about the virus!).”

The first two stories or episodes of Ghost in the Machine are available to watch on YouTube, via the link on Fetch’s website: theneverplayed.wixsite.com/fetch-theatre/ghost-in-the-machine. So far the series reveals those parts of our digital and technological experience that sit beneath the tip of the iceberg: specifically the wealth of information about ourselves that we surrender willingly, or even put on display for people we wish wouldn’t see it. This leads to a shortening of distance that means friend and foe alike can more easily track their acquaintances across vast distances that could once have been used to escape past mistakes. 

We know “our data is vulnerable” because it’s regularly told to us in these metallic terms, but we don’t always recognise what this could mean. It’s very funny when this comes out in ludicrous ways, where our mistakes are minor, where it’s happy ignorance or common misconception leading to a tumble…but online and digitally, so much of our hidden self exists in the same space as our public self. Ghost in the Machine skilfully explores the many ways in which public and private now unexpectedly intersect, and how our memories are not always just our own. 


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