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This report is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

Hawks, Owls and Hastings: The Black Huts Festival Patrick McGuinness
One way you can tell Hastings still has a fishing fleet is the thriving untidiness of the beach. The trawlers are dragged up the pebble slopes and the black huts where the fishermen store their equipment are surrounded by a flap of buckets, plastic bags, bits of string – it’s a great messy bastion against gentrification. As the gulls tear up the sky and dive for scraps on land in the same way they do at sea, some huts have stalls where you can buy the day’s catch direct from the fishermen. The smell of fish, fresh, turning, and turned, is heady.

The night we arrive is Hallowe’en, and the streets are aheave with people of all ages dressed up in ghoulish or simply crazy clothes. All ages, all kinds, from the shop-bought Frankenstein outfit to the complicated and home-made surreal. Arriving in Hastings by train, you emerge into what they call the New Town, the bit where Hastings looks like everywhere else: a main drag of monolith, identikit High Street, which, as it sidles up to the sea, becomes more edgily dilapidated, before becoming classily dilapidated as you enter the ‘Old Town’, with its pubs, antique shops and second-hand bookshop-cafés. It’s a hipster-bingo: craft beer? Check. Sourdough-specialist bakery? Check. Restaurant selling stuff from the beach twenty yards away for twenty times more? Check. Shop signs where the word ‘vintage’ has replaced the word ‘old’? Check. By the time you’ve walked ten yards, you have a full house.

The Black Huts festival has ...

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