By Nick Pelling

“There is so much talent in this town it’s unbelievable.” The words of a woman who is a living embodiment of her own view. Annalize Senol is in many ways a brilliant contradiction: she’s the driving force behind the Clean Up Hastings group – a woman not afraid to get down on the dirty streets – while also being a versatile and glitzy fashion designer. Her new business, Secret Bridal Boutique, aims to clothe Hastings’ brides in high-end elegance and French lace. To be queen of grime and glamour takes some doing, but that dynamism is what makes her contribution to Hastings so special. 

CREDIT: Orhan Senol

Annalize trained as a fashion designer in her homeland of South Africa. She came to London in 1997 and established a prestigious bridal wear shop there, having trained with Elbeth Gillis, the bridal couture firm that redefined the luxury nuptial gown. Coming down to Hastings in 2017 intending to carry on her work, she was subsequently thrown into domestic doldrums by the pandemic, like so many others. But rather than be demoralised, she decided to address issues immediately around her – which was the catalyst for Clean Up Hastings.

So successful has this been, that it now has over 300 members working with numerous other groups such as Tidy Up St Leonards, Rubbish Buddies and even Love Where You Live. What makes Annalize different to those who might be happy to just womble the streets with a black bin bag and yellow marigold gloves is that she’s prepared to take on the complacent authorities such as the County Council, who are often happy with a blind eye policy. Her letters to East Sussex County Council read like a relentless epistolary assault on the smug grandees that allow the town to be awash with rubbish and riddled with potholes. (She believes there’s a solution to the latter and is working on a campaign to use a compound of tarmac and plastic). But Annalize has now found allies in the Council, and it seems, ‘a change is gonna come’. In fact, much has already happened, such as the extraordinarily successful eight-week volunteer campaign to clean up Ore Station. Even the One-Stop Tesco shop outside the station was persuaded to put out some shiny new bins. 

She’s also taking up arms against East Sussex County Council’s persistence in spraying the streets of Hastings with the toxic herbicide Glyphosate. Clean Up Hastings are helping persuade local people to pull up weeds in their own streets and letting the council know about this initiative. The Borough Council are supportive of this campaign and Annalize hopes to build this into a re-wilding programme to foster greater biodiversity. At present the County Council is stubbornly refusing to change its policy, which it defends as affordable and effective. This despite a 2015 a World Health Organisation report saying Glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic in humans”. Cancer seems a sinister price for so-called cheap solutions, but we can be absolutely sure Ms Senol will not let this one go. 

Whether it be waging such weighty political struggles or just creating rotas of litter-pickers, Annalize has discovered a talent for organised activism: a gift for orchestrating the Hastings awkward squad. And yet the other side of Annalize, as a gifted fashion designer with skills quite literally at her fingertips, is in some ways even more impressive and surprising. With her husband, Orhan, a brilliant photographer, they make a formidable pair. 

There is a much over-used phrase that people should ‘be the change’ they want, but in Annalize’s case it seems spot on. The glitz and the garbage may sit at an odd angle to each other, but in another way it’s an eccentric, but oh so chic combo that is just so, well… Hastings.

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