Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Nabucco at the White Rock, Hastings - Loved it!

Just a quick note about a bit of local culture.... at the weekend we went to see Nabucco at the White Rock Theatre, put on by Opera South East.  Heaven knows, I have been to enough operas, and in my experience, they often have a couple of dramatic moments and a few big songs punctuated by longeurs.... in this case, I loved every minute of it, and so did the Philosopher.  Nabucco only has one big song - the chorus of the Hebrew slaves, and a ridiculous plot, but it made no difference to our enjoyment. I don't know what it was - a smaller and more intimate theatre than we were used to in the big city? A slightly less stuffy atmosphere? Or maybe the performance was just plain good.  It was set in WW2 Holocaust Europe rather than ancient Babylon, which worked very well.  Staging, minimalist, but very effective.  Orchestra - excellent.

The guy that played Zaccaria, the high priest had a fabulously sonorous bass voice and very impressive dramatic impact - I read in the programme that he had been a Greek Orthodox priest in a previous life - his services must have been teeth rattling.  Abigail, the villainess, was a cross between Miss Whiplash, Rosa Klebb and Mrs Thatcher - I was almost sorry she came to a bad end - poison, as usual.  Nabucco himself could have been a bit madder we felt.

Anyway, the same lot are doing Orpheus in the Underworld in November - we will be there.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Those funny lamp posts on the Stade open space...

Does anyone else find those big wooden lamp posts on the Stade open space really unsympathetic? 
     The Philosopher and I were having coffee in the Eat cafe on the Stade this morning - a blustery grey day.  I am sure that space looks great in the summer when there are lots of happy people plus a few craft stalls and a bit of morris dancing, but now it just looks...bleak.  Although the dark wood seats and the lamps are no doubt full of artistic merit, resonances of the net huts etc., the posts make us think of search lights around a concentration camp, and the seats look like large wooden wheelie bins.  How about a few flower beds or a grassy bank between the edge of the concrete and the miniature railway track?

The Philosopher said I needed to make this blog posting more positive.  Maybe I am in a worse mood because I am on a diet.  Progress around Hastings and St Leonard's should be measured by stops for food and drink - Jempsons doughnuts, cakes from the Post Office Tearooms, eggs Benedict from Smiths, scones from the Garden Centre,  fish and chips, cheese souffle in the Land of Green Ginger, macaroons from Judges, pints in the FILO.... lots more, but listing them makes me feel too hungry.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Half-term blues....

Now we have moved to the seaside, our grand-daughter wants to come down from Brum and stay.... all very well in the summer, but possibly not so great in the February half-term. 
     In fact, Hastings and St Leonard's are quite badly off when it comes to play facilities, especially near the
Chilly on Hastings Beach?
sea front.  We went down to the Old Town Amusement Park - most of the rides were closed, and then we froze about on the beach for a bit, collecting magic stones. 

We know of only one local indoor play centre - Clambers.  When we went, it was totally heaving, and so noisy that I'm surprised the staff don't have to wear ear defenders.  For those who don't have to look after kids, these play centres are warehouse places with lots of play equipment in a big cage, full of unbelievable screaming, with a pounding rock soundtrack and frequent public address announcements in the background to add to the pleasure.  Jaded mums crowd round plastic tables with watery cups of tea.  The Clambers outside play area was closed, although it was a fine day and the kids could have usefully let off steam running about.

I know there is some Council consultation exercise on local play facilities - I think there was something in the shopping centre last week - we couldn't look - Eve wouldn't stay still for long enough.

Then we went to the Muppets movie - again, the cinema was absolutely heaving, with queues outside.  All of us enjoyed it though - nostalgia for us oldsters, new delights for the young.

We know Brighton well - on Hove seafront, they have a great play area with sand, a big paddling pool, and lots of play equipment.  It is well supervised and fenced off from dogs.  Yes, I know no one is going to be in a pool in February - mind you, Eve used to stay in that pool until she was actually blue.... Anyway, Hastings could do with something like that.  It is all very well us having the new 'Lido' project with minimalist bars in shipping containers or whatever....

Or how about cycle hire? Skate hire?

We managed to avoid taking her to the Smugglers wretched caves (she has been twice already), or to the Blue Reef. OK the caves might be better now they are refurbished, but the prices of the two attractions are eye-watering for really very small doses of entertainment.

She likes the lift railways, but neither were working.....

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Saving Hastings Pier - is the project dead in the water?

 ‘Everyone Loves the Pier’ proclaim the few faded, dog-eared notices left around the town.  Maybe, but love won’t last without communication or any evidence of positive action.

     As a newcomer to Hastings, I can’t understand how the town is willing to put up with such a terrible, depressing eyesore of burnt out wreckage dominating the sea-front.   

     To me, a seaside resort needs a pier, and I was initially delighted with the apparent enthusiasm and energy of the HPWRT, and with the news about the initial grant of lottery money.  We visited the Pier shop many times, and donated goods and money to help the cause.

     I was surprised to read that the Council only issued a Compulsory Purchase Order for the Pier just before Christmas, when the Lottery money had been awarded back in August.  How did anyone expect the Lottery money to be used if ownership had not been sorted out?

     Now, however, the campaign to fundraise and save the Pier now seems to be totally dormant. 

     The Pier shop has closed – a very bad move, I believe, as it provided a focus for fundraising, volunteering, action and information for local people and visitors.  The tatty notices on the Pier gates are months out-of-date.  How are visitors now expected to find out what is going on?

     The HPWRT website is also out-of-date – it still refers enquiries to the Pier shop.  No new publicity or fund-raising events are advertised, the photography competition finished in August, there is no news on the Business initiative launched back in September, and the content feels old and stale.

    The only publicity that has appeared recently from HPWRT concerns the appointment of its new Chief Executive, and now the recruitment of his assistant.  As someone who has spent her working life in the public and not-for-profit sectors, I am filled with foreboding.  So often I have seen grant money frittered away on staff salaries, overheads and meaningless business plans, while the original project falls by the wayside.  Many people make good careers in the voluntary sector moving from project to project without actually achieving anything....  However busy the new CEO is, he needs to find time for the essentials. 

    I assume the HPWRT has a Board of Trustees? They can’t now just sit back and trust that the new CEO will fix everything. The Board is still in charge, needs to drive the project forward, and needs to demonstrate its accountability to the people of Hastings.

    In order for any further Lottery money to be awarded, the HPWRT must demonstrate that local people are kept informed, are actively involved in the project, and have a genuine desire to see their Pier restored.  They must also demonstrate success in fundraising within the community – even if sums raised are small, they will go some way to match Lottery grant.

   What happened to the work done to collect ideas for the ‘People’s Pier’ back in the summer (or was it the summer before?). That seems to have died, as does the initiative supported by ‘Coast’ magazine for people to visit every pier in the country to raise funds. 

   The ‘Buy a Plank’ scheme still seems to be current, but has had no recent publicity.

   What support is the Council giving to the HPWRT?   

    Burnt out piers can be rebuilt successfully – look at Weston-Super-Mare.

    This is not good enough!  We either need to see evidence of an energetic campaign to get the pier up and running, or else it needs to be demolished and cleared away for good. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snowy Hastings

Snow, snow, snow.... Grey leaden sky looks set for more, too.  Best sights on our outing today - a 4 x 4 forging up Harold Road pulling two young girls, shrieking with delight, on a sledge behind it.  Looked great fun but none too safe.  As were not the next lot - a sledge, again loaded with kids, being pulled by two dogs down the Old London Road. 
     Then there were the young men making the snow people, complete with dog, bone and bowl, outside the  Italian Way.  Their sign said Poor and Hungry - we put some money in their bucket. From the West Hill, the East Hill looked like a Breughel painting - little dot people sledging in the snow.  The West Hill Cafe was like a steamy Alpine ski lodge.  How people love the snow - everyone talking to everyone else - dogs rushing round like mad things....