Hastings May bank holiday events under threat from change of date

A move by the Government to replace the Monday bank holiday on May 4 with a Friday bank holiday for VE Day on May 8 has thrown plans for the popular annual celebration into doubt.

Friday, 14th June 2019, 8:00 am
May Day Protest SUS-190613-061708001
May Day Protest SUS-190613-061708001

Monday is always the date for the big procession through the Old Town and the colourful finale of the four day festival. It sees thousands of people lining the streets and people come from miles around to take part.

People involved with Jack in the Green say they have no problem with a bank holiday to celebrate the anniversary of VE Day, but insist it should be an extra bank holiday with the Monday holiday retained.

Road closures for the Monday of next year’s Jack in the Green have already been approved and paid for and bands booked for the event.

May Day Protest SUS-190613-061708001

It will also affect accommodation bookings for the many people who arrive in Hastings and book year on year.

One of the ‘Green men’ in the procession flies from Canada each year to attend and has already booked for next year.

Now local people have launched a Government petition calling for the holiday to be retained

The change in date will also affect other traditional May Day celebrations, including the popular Sweeps Festival in Rochester, Kent.

Bikers in Hastings. 5/5/14 Please credit Frank Copper. SUS-140605-100530001

A nation-wide social media group has been formed and Morris Dancers from across the country are planning to demonstrate at Parliament later this year In 2011 Hastings people were involved in a successful demonstration in London when the Government was threatening to get rid of the early May bank holiday.

The planned change will also affect the May Day motorcycle run, which sees thousands of bikers making the journey to Hastings.

Organiser Howard Martin, in an open letter to Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “We are very pleased and proud that the Government have decided to dedicate a Bank Holiday to the 75th anniversary celebrations of VE day on May 8th 2020. However as stakeholders in the massive success of May Day Bank Holiday Mondays in Hastings we have very serious concerns about the social and economic impact of merely moving the Monday holiday to Friday rather than dedicating the Friday 8th as a VE Day Holiday while retaining the traditional Monday as the May Day Bank Holiday.

“Over the past decade Hastings on May Day has become one of the biggest free to attend none political May Day events in Europe. Up to 40,000 motorcycle enthusiasts visit the town to celebrate the welcome of the spring alongside the amazing spectacle of the traditional Jack in the Green folk festival and celebrations. The diverse and peculiar mix of motorcycles and Maypoles, green giants and Morris Men (and women) has turned Hastings into a unique May Day destination that now attracts visitors from around the globe.

Jack in the Green 2016. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160305-064417001

“To suddenly disrupt the very successful pattern of management of the events at such short notice or to add another level of VE day events into the mix if Jack in the Green and the motorcycles were to move their events to the holiday of May 8th could catastrophically overstretch the resources of event organisers, police, council and other services.”

Jack in the Green 2019. Video still by Justin Lycett SUS-190905-071946001