Part one of an exploration of Hastings online communities that have one foot securely planted in actual geography, unscientifically chosen by Ben Bruges (HIP Features Editor) and members of the HIP family. 

There’s a whispering and a cursing between those hills carried through buried wires, fibres and electromagnetic waves. A town lives through its SOCIAL MEDIA as much as through sharing physical meatspace (as ‘real life’ used to be known on the early net), a fact that’s banal precisely because the two are now so entwined. Not just because of Covid-19, but just because. Sometimes usefully, enrichingly so. Sometimes not playing nice at all. And sometimes you really should just ditch that online community and use your time more wisely. Just do it without the flounce, there’s a dear (that’s the PSA over). Some communities feel like family, others merely useful. 

These are the places where people huddle and share. Social media is famously argumentative, and we’re simply going to ignore that, starting by entirely excluding Twitter from the list. There had to be an order. So I chose ‘size of community’, high to low, with mixed results. Part two next edition. 

Moon and Pier
PICTURE: Bob Beaney

How does it work? Take the first entry. No, really. Take it away and bury it somewhere. But, as an example: 

FB: For sale in Hastings, Bexhill, ore, Battle, St Leonards, Camber and Rye! (23k)
FB = put the name in FACEBOOK search and it will show first on the list.
(23k) = this means that 23 thousand people used it at some point according to FB, NOT the number online at that moment. 
IG = Instagram
WEB = exact website as given  
(private) = usually just means that you have to apply for membership and can’t read it in the meantime.


And we’re off, delving into hastingsdotconnected…

FB: For sale in Hastings, Bexhill, ore, Battle, St Leonards, Camber and Rye! (23k)

Bless. We have to start with this gem. For the sake of your eyes and our reputation, we’ve put their name through the sub-editors at HIP. But, on the day we accessed this, the name was actually: 
For sale in Hastings, Bexhill, ore, Battle.St Leonards, Camber and Rye! 
Yes really. I hate to come across like a grammar snob, but that really does tell you all you need to know about that one. Moving on. 


FB: Hastings Old Town Appreciation Group (17k)

The venerable stalwart of the Hastings online scene. The Old Town is the heart of Hastings, even though it’s not the commercial or geographical centre. When visited: businesses opening again, a celebration / recommend walks please, as given the pandemic I need green space / looking for a traditional piper for a 90-year-old’s birthday / and the stunning photo above. 
MOOD: chilled, calm, avoids conflict by discouraging some subjects. PROS: Helpful & genuine. CONS: Spring chickens may want to party elsewhere.


FB: What’s going on in Hastings, Bexhill, Battle (12.3k private) 

You think this is simply a listings group? Wrong! When visited: flytipping at its best – “some humans disgust me more and more each day”/ a link you’d have to search ‘grandmother bird poo mouse-droppings Pontins’ to get. You decide if you want that in your ‘targeted ad’ list (which is why I search through Duck Duck Go not Google). But then: also, organised picnic / nature trail / first aid classes / and… OMG, I HAVE to find out what Penelope’s Pitstop is all about, her bagels look delicious!… Ahem. Both sane and surreal: very Hastings. 


FB: Hastings and St Leonards Pictures and Videos (12k)

Another ‘does what it says on the tin’ group you might think. Nope. When visited: 50 juvenile gulls released (vid) “so beautiful to see them recovered and flying free” / a helicopter taken at three different shutter speeds / inspirational meme / heart-wrenching story of trying to save a fox a hit-and-run driver had left for dead… Harrowing stuff! 


FB: St Leonards on Sea is THE Place to be! (7.5k)

As recommended by the BBC. Sort of. Two local BBC journalists camped out on their lawn during the general election. Includes a contingent of “St Leonards lovers” who live far afield. All are welcome, if you are a lover of the “sunny seaside town… grand… fabulous… vibrant… unique… “, yes, it gets a bit gushy at times, but is lively and useful. 


FB: Hastings Give & Takery (5.3k private)

Heart-warming and delightful. “Every item we can save from landfill is a victory”, it says in ‘About’. Wonderful. But you also learn that some people are gob-smackingly rude, and others are so hopeful as to be deluded. What happened to please and thank you?! That said, this comes from a good place.  For example Sam Kinch, local community organiser and HIP co-founder just won the internet with his ‘odd request’: an elderly friend needs help with tightening her dreadlocks, and, no, she doesn’t want to chop them off, her dreads are part of her and what she chooses to say to the world, she just wants help. Righteous. “I chose G&T because over lockdown I’d seen the group explode in popularity, but unlike most “freecycle” or similar pages it had developed a good sense of community and mutual support. It’s a place where I could trust a request for a favour from a stranger wouldn’t be closed down in the interests of keeping the group ‘relevant’,” said Sam. Meanwhile, Michelle Shakesby, HIP Lead Designer said: “I love how many people are having clear-outs in lockdown and not wanting to throw into landfill. From children’s books and games to veg seeds and colour for the garden.  Someone’s junk is another’s treasure.” 


FB: Black Lives Matter – Sussex (4.1k private)

Seeing this rise from nothing to 2k in the first week made me feel the most hopeful I’ve felt about the future of humans in a while. It continues to grow into a force. There’s discussion, support, advice, discussion, tactics, love shared… a personal fave. I’m proud of my ‘founding member’ badge.
When visited: Meghan vs Andrew coverage / accessing Black owned business for positive stickers for kids / ‘The Talk’ / Black pound / deaths on police custody… Join, get involved.  


FB: Isolation Station Hastings (3.8k)

The ‘TV station’ that kept Hastings going during the lockdown: “Live-streaming the good vibes of Hastings and St Leonards”. A wide range of types of programme, just stunning. All still there to check out. Hopefully the ethos and programmes will continue. Social media at its finest. Thank you from all of the community to all Isolation Stationers for the hard work!  


FB: Hastings Pride (3k)

Hastings also has Pride! Not just a once a year event, but all year round. Tolerant, supportive and with a growing LGBT community. It’s 50 years since the first Pride march in New York, and in place of the march that wasn’t possible, there’s a range of great DJ mixes to check out. Nod your head! FB: LGBT Hastings (578 private) is a better place to start if you are gay rather than ally. 


FB: Hastings and surrounding area banter group (2.8k)

You need a strong sense of humour and the ability to not be offended when you dip your toe into this robust and wise-cracking community. Some say this is the authentic voice of Hastings, but maybe ‘an’ authentic voice is better. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the big-hearted. You *have* to check out the “gull mugging that man’s pie” video – what could be more Hastings than that? 

Read part two. Meanwhile – send your suggestions and comments to Ben at [email protected]  


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