After providing core funding of the town’s major arts festival, Coastal Currents, for the past 20 years, Hastings Borough Council (HBC) has decided that it can no longer afford to continue in 2019. The festival has been managed by Tina Morris over the past seven years, the last three through her marketing company Sweet and Dandy. She says that she was informed before Christmas by the Strategic Cultural Development Specialist at HBC, Polly Gifford, that no money would be forthcoming this year.

Morag Myerscough
PHOTOGRAPHY: Alexander Brattell 

A resumption of funding in 2020 may be feasible if HBC’s proposed arts consortium bid is successful. But Ms Morris points out that, even though the local authority may be referring to the merits of Coastal Currents in their pitch for governmental support, that won’t guarantee they will direct future funding accordingly.

The festival had been growing year on year under Sweet and Dandy’s promotion. In 2018 it amounted to a five-week-long celebration of multiple arts in Hastings and St Leonards; it comprised Open Studios trails and over 40 curated events, plus another 40 springing up from local venues and organisations. Ms Morris sees it as a live directory of the area’s cultural offering, creating a destination factor that extends the tourist season beyond the summer months. She is keen to stress the direct economic value of the festival.

“It’s well known that the funding landscape for the arts is extremely barren,” she says. “But it’s also super easy to see that the £20,000 given to the festival creates visible areas of regeneration, often concentrated on council-owned property or land, and often for the further promotion of the area. It makes the council money in parking, tourism and feeding the economy. The council would be hard pushed to create the sort of change seen in Bottle Alley or the West Hill Shelter, or the love given to Queens Road encouraged by the catalyst of a new mural on a 20k budget.”

PHOTOGRAPHY: Alexander Brattell 

“I’ve been proactively marketing this area for twelve years now, supporting many local artists and art organisations, as well as demonstrating that we have a much greater power when we pull together. That makes for a wider reach and a stronger message to the rest of the UK in terms of the high-quality artists and art that the 1066 area has to offer. We lead the way. We’re on the tip of everyone’s tongues – but it takes hard work to keep us there.”

Sweet and Dandy is a full-service marketing agency with external consultancy projects that provide Ms Morris with a living, including clients such as Barefoot Opera and De La Warr Pavilion. However, she has never taken any payment for herself from the limited budget of Coastal Currents, even though it is not formally a charity or not-for-profit enterprise, 

“I run this festival for the town on the basis that the council invests in culture – and I don’t take a wage for doing it,” says Ms Morris. “So I make five times the amount of money put in by the council and give it back to the town.” 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Alexander Brattell 

She says she was advised by Ms Gifford to apply for corporate funding sources or to change the funding model (i.e. find other funders). But while Coastal Currents has in previous years found money from a variety of sources, it has always relied upon core funding from HBC’s main ‘culture pot’. Ms Morris questions why it doesn’t deserve to continue in receipt of that funding, considering the amount of further cash she is able to leverage. She also wonders what other provision the pot will still pay for. “Moving focus away from Coastal Currents and the 1066 area at this time would be a great pity. We may never quite get it back.”

• Sweet and Dandy has set up a petition asking the council to reconsider funding the festival in 2019 – it can be signed at: 

Borough Wines
eat @ The Stade  
Goat Ledge 
The Crown
Wow and Flutter
Shipwreck Museum 
The White Rock Hotel

• You can also show the power of community interest in this project and contribute to seed funding which will help Coastal Currents apply for Arts Council funding here:
(If 1,000 people put in £20 each, it would be sufficient to guarantee a festival for 2019)

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