Discovering one of Hastings best music events

Everyone knows that Hastings is a great place for music, nurturing lots of home-grown talent as well as a place for aging rock heroes to gather and “Keep on truckin”. After all, we have best Mardi Gras in the country (and possibly the whole of Europe).

Among this cornucopia of music, it’s easy to miss out on even the exceptional, and a night at the Grand Olde Opus was definitely something special. It got its first outing in July this year and Saturday 23rd November was the eagerly anticipated follow up – for those in the know. 

It was billed as: “a stage concert and variety show featuring the best performers we could wrangle … full of surprises and a guaranteed sell out.” 

The Grand Olde Opus Edition 2 fired off with Dr Savage ‘playing’ unplugged acoustic guitar; all performed in his own inimitable style – yet different with the backing of house band and engine room of the show, The Hastingers. After that storming opening it just didn’t stop.

From bona fide rock stars like Sarah Jane Morris (The Communards, The Republic), Kevin Armstrong (Bowie, Iggy Pop), and Earl Slick (Bowie, Yoko Ono) to 16-year-old wünderkind violinist Leon Sturdee, the show featured the best of Hastings’ own established and emerging music makers.

Caught up in the atmosphere of the event, each act appeared to be outdoing the previous one with performances: from local upstart band, Someone Anyone, true Hastings royalty acts like hit songwriter Blair Mackichan, award winning Chantelle Duncan, and blues legend Roger Hubbard to the stunning pseudo-operatic rendition of Patsy Cline’s classic Crazy from Thomasin Tresize … just too many to mention.

Kevin Armstrong summed up the atmosphere saying: “In the desolate age of the X Factor and other corporate productions, the Grand Ole Opus is like a Hastings version of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion – what proper home-grown community entertainment is all about.” (www.prairiehome.org/shows/59119.html)

The man behind it, well-known local Glenn Veness, had an old-style variety show in mind and teamed up with another recent arrival to Hastings the OFA* Mike Willis, not only a talented singer-songwriter but also an entertaining compere who helped maintain the wonderful relaxed atmosphere. 

Talking to others in the days after the show I was struck by how many Hastings people are unaware of what an amazing venue the Opus Theatre is – or even aware of what it is and where it is located. It can be accessed via the main entrance in Cambridge Road or His Place Community Church (part of the same building) in Robertson Street. Keep an eye out for future converts via www.opustheatre.co.uk/events

Local sponsors were Hooe Level Salt Marsh Farm and the Albion Pub; KiKu Songs even got in on the action with live advertisement spots.

The next Grand Olde Opus rambles onto the stage on the 28th of March with tickets set to go on sale in early December.

*OFA (Over from America)


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