No. 3: Madness is creeping up the Hill

By Pete Donohue

When I moved to Hastings thirty years ago – yep, not a native but a BICCLIDFL – someone told me this town, like Rome, was built on seven hills. I loved that idea and instantly became a Hillbilly. BTW, a BICCLIDFL is a Born in County Cork London-Irish Down from London. BTW, BTW means by the way.

In case you didn’t already know this: The hills have eyes. Mine are west of centre and behind them lies an Old Town mentality. The hills also have ears. More on that later.

A couple or three weekends back the rejuvenated Hastings Pier officially reopened. We rolled down the hill for the mid-morning speeches. CEO Simon from the Pier Charity, John in the Love Chair, and the tall skinny guy from the National Lottery bigged up this great community achievement. BTW, CEO means chief executive officer.

Then we had some dull words from a stranger who purports to represent us in Parliament. Newly elected Labour Mayor Judy did the official honours with suitable aplomb but it was down to HBC Regeneration councillor Dawn (such an appropriate name) to secure the biggest applause and loudest cheers of the morning, not for herself but in recognition of the work by our passionate former HBC leader the late Jeremy, whose vision of a rebuilt ‘People’s Pier’ inspired so many. High-volume positive crowd noises cut through the wind and rain to echo Dawn’s sentiment. BTW, HBC means Hastings Borough Council.

Celebrations began immediately. DJs, lindy hoppers, bands, dance lessons, ukulele brothers and a HP-related music quiz all took their turns. Standout fave of me and my kin, however, was the Bonkers Bingo from Cheap Thrills.Bonkers Bingo Only one person gets the prizes and a rosette of their choice but everyone’s a winner baby – that’s for sure. If you haven’t played yet look out for the regular BB night at The Albion in George Street. BTW, HP means Hastings Pier, BB means Bonkers Bingo and Number One is “Up the …” (please insert suitable rhyme).

The biggest draw of the day, however, was of course those loveable nutty boys, playing through the sunset as the first big name band to tread the sustainably sourced Ekki boards of our gloriously restored pier. Earlier I had asked a popular local guitarist friend of mine who had first played HP in the seventies if he had seen Madness before. “Oh yeah, I’ve seen madness before,” he told me, “not the band Madness, but I’ve seen madness before – after all, this is Hastings.” I knew what he meant.

With no tickets for the evening gig (they sold out soon after going on sale) we climbed home to grab Hillbilly vittles and a little more raw moonshine. There was talk of staggering back down to the non-ticketed beach party but once the band struck up, their p.a. carried the music up the hill and directly into our fun room. There was nothing more to do other than crank open the windows, crack another bottle and suggest another round of Bonkers Bingo.

BTW, LFAWWH means Letter from a Wild West Hillbilly.