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This report is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Black Huts and Unlikely Collisions Ken Edwards

The Black Huts Festival, Hastings,
1–3 November 2013

The iconic image of Hastings is not the charred ruin of the pier, thankfully, but the so-called ‘net shops’ on the Stade (the fishermen’s beach): black, tarry (towery) structures wherein the nets of Europe’s largest surviving beach-launched fishing fleet used to be hung vertically to dry. They give their name to Etruscan Books’ ‘Black Huts’ festival of poetry, music and film – although nobody has ever called them that.

It is a tribute to the imagination and doggedness of Etruscan’s grey eminence, Nicholas Johnson, that a festival dedicated at its heart to what most people would regard as obscure and fugitive poetry survives a second year in this quirky, down-at-heel outpost on the south coast of England. Last year there was an unlikely celebration of Ed Dorn. This year there’s actually a local connection, because the poet being remembered, Andrew Crozier (d. 2008), grew up in Hastings. At the Beacon, an oasis at the end of a muddy path tucked into the West Hill, where the weekend begins, his brother, the painter Philip Crozier, reminisces about the launch of the Hastings lifeboat, the Old Town as it was in the 1950s (‘children shouting at the infrequent cars, feral cats and spinsters’), about their grandfather, a sign-painter, engraver and printer in the era of Robert Tressell, about illuminations on the seafront, pinball machines on the then-standing pier, and about listening to Big Bill Broonzy in a record shop in the Old Town’s High Street, ...

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