Book reviews book shops Hastings

Give the spirit of summer for Christmas!

How many years of Jack in the Green?

On the back of Keith Leech’s superb and lavishly illustrated record of Hastings’ biggest annual festival, he writes “It is now 25 years since the revival of the Hastings Jack in the Green in May 1983”.

The back of the book, showing a photo of the old May Day parade, many years ago.

My daughter was a teenager, I think, when I first took her along, and we got all excited, following the procession that, back then, used to take over the whole seafront, and drum and whoop and shout its way through the town and up to the castle by the proper way in.

Pages of the book showing characters in the parade, and text 'what is Jack in the Green?'

I won’t say how old she is now but like many in Hastings, we have so many memories of how that unique festival day changed and grew – with the combined mayhem of the morris gathering, the three-day sing-around in the pubs, and the huge bikers’ rally culminating on the seafront in the middle of it all.

One of the many colour photo pages, this one showing Jack emerging at the start of the rally.

It’s been a joy, a benchmark of joy of what it was to bring up a family in Hastings and Leech’s book (which I bought a batch of over ten years ago!) is the very, very best memento of it all I have come across.

Page from the book showing photos of the rally and the text, the story of May Day

If you’re buying a Christmas gift for a Hastings lover, you can’t do better than buying them this – the Spirit of Summer under the Christmas tree.

One of the many photos from my family collection. Very green jack-in-the-green people in a pub garden
This one’s from our family photo collection – one of the many
Mayday pub garden gatherings.

Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green by Keith Leech, photography by Peter Stevens, is £7.95. I have around half a dozen copies left. I’m keeping one forever, but that leaves a few spare, so if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me to have a copy delivered to your door, post-free.