By Fiona McGarry

“Independents’ Day is a not-for-profit campaign that exists “to support and promote independent retail businesses across the UK all year round, with an annual focus on 4th July”.

In Hastings, the festivities are centred on White Rock and The Trinity Triangle, at the aptly named America Ground: given this name after being colonised by radicals in the early 19th Century because it did not fall under the Crown’s jurisdiction. Independents’ Day, Hastings celebrates our unique and extensive range of independent traders and is a joint venture, involving Heart of Hastings and various local organisations. 

Gotham Alley, Heart of Hastings Village Fete 2019

Over the past ten years it has been important in attracting footfall and encouraging both locals and visitors to support and show appreciation for the artists, creatives and traders who work here. Organisers hope the festival will continue to grow and become an important day in the Hastings event calendar.

There are usually a range of “pop-up events and in-store exclusives with live music and DJ sets, street food and barbecues”. This year things will be slightly different; although most shops and bars will have opened or be opening on 4th July, there has been limited planning time and a lot of uncertainty about what is possible. The organisers have tried to ensure that the event showcases the ‘independent’ spirit of Hastings, while keeping visitors safe. 

According to Caoimhe O’Gorman, of Heart of Hastings: “This festival will be a blended mixture of online and physical events.” A film crew from Isolation Station Hastings will be there to record the fun and local independent film makers have already made a film of independent traders talking about how they are facing lockdown and their preparations for future reopening. 

There will be plenty of shops and businesses promoting their goods or open for food and coffee. Most of the action will take place outdoors, including a big, open-air hairdressing event. According to Caoimhe, freelance hairdressers will use the event to try out (prebooked) ‘socially distanced’ haircuts. She points out that Independents’ Day encourages people to come to open spaces in the America Ground and Gotham Alley because these are much safer than indoor spaces.” 

Those unable to attend the live event can tune in to the live stream on Isolation Station with presenters Lily Kim and G’Mac and ‘surprise’ guests at the festival. There will also be online interactive games and quizzes about the history of the area.

For Heart of Hastings, Independents’ Day represents a launch event. It has four years’ funding to transform buildings in the community and is keen to get local businesses and consumers to imagine a better future. So come down to America Ground on 4th July: ask questions and share your ideas about your favourite shops, street art and furniture; talk about what you’ve missed and what brings you into town. 

As Caoimhe says: “It’s important to come together to think about shaping the future.”

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