Anyone who’s been to The Printworks on Claremont knows that it’s an extraordinarily versatile space. Not just an atmospheric bar, concert hall or private function venue but, this weekend, host to a remarkable international artistic gathering. HiFest – Hastings Illustration Festival – will showcase amazing, illustrative talents through stalls, special guests, talks, workshops, signings and exhibitions. And the Printworks will be heaving. In the past four years since it began, HiFest has attracted more than 5000 visitors – some travelling from as far afield as Germany, Italy, Norway, France, and even India.

HiFest 2018 identity designed by Ben Newman

Last year festival founders Ali Graham and Nina Cosford opened ‘Hi-Store’, an illustration café in the heart of Hastings. They say it was designed to capture all the fun, colour and creative talent of HiFest all year round. Which is a good thing because this year’s will be the last festival. “We feel it’s achieved everything and more we set out to, bringing together the local illustration community who are usually quite isolated, shining a spotlight on Hastings’ illustration scene, promoting the America Ground area … and anyway five years is a nice clean number,” says Nina Cosford.

This year, as before, there will be more than 60 stalls across the weekend offering an array of prints, books, cards, t-shirts, ceramics and everything else you might need to fill your Christmas stocking. There will be a series of talks on subjects ranging from adult advent calendars (the mind boggles), travel and illustration, and a panel discussion entitled Girls that Draw.

Ali and Nina say the aim of HiFest was to showcase all the professional talent living and working in Hastings – a town which has always been home to a large creative community, but which in recent years has become a particularly popular place for freelance illustrators and animators.

For anyone who fancies a bit of hands-on drawing experience, there will be live portraiture sessions as well as interactive, family-friendly activities including colouring-in, paper craft animals and screen printing with Little Mashers. 

There are also likely to be a scattering of famous faces around. In past years guests have included Quentin Blake, Gemma Correll, John Vernon Lord and Lawrence Zeegan.

As Ali Graham says: “It’s important that HiFest benefits the wider Hastings community. Over the past years we have worked closely with local businesses putting on satellite events and encouraging our visitors to explore the local area – creating illustration-led trails around the town.”

  HiFest is on from 11.00 am to 6.00pm Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd December at The Printworks (stalls and interactive activities) Hi-Store (workshops, exhibitions and coffee) and 5 Trinity St (talks). Tickets are £5 adult, £4 student and under 16s free.

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