New Writing South is delighted to be working with the wonderful team behind High Street Tales, and especially proud to have commissioned Robin Pridy’s marvellous love story to Hastings – a town we too love and have been proud to be associated with for many years.
So many people and organisations have come together to celebrate our high streets through this project – in Hastings we’re grateful to Heart of Hastings and Yiayia’s Studio, to all the local people Robin talked to as she collected memories and stories of Hastings past, and to photographer Alice Hepple who captured Hastings present so beautifully. We’d also like to thank sonderbug for bringing all the stories to life through these podcasts, and our partners who drew together such a rich diversity of regional voices. We hope they do justice to Historic England’s thrilling vision, to breathe new life into Heritage Action Zones up and down the country.
Mostly though, we thank Robin for the energy and passion she has brought to this project, and for giving us Jackie Brigham and 55 evocative years of life in the vibrant America Ground.
About High Street Tales
Since last autumn, eight contemporary writers have worked with their local communities to explore the everyday magic of high streets, creating seven new short stories, or High Street Tales. Today the High Street Tales are published as an ebook which features an introduction by writer Andy Miller (author of The Year of Reading Books Dangerously), and is available via the Historic England website. The stories draw on local legend and memory to capture the everyday magic of the high street.
Above: Hastings through a window. Photo: Alice Hepple
The eight writers have also narrated each of their stories for a podcast series which will be released over the coming weeks, with the first episode launched on 10 February 2021 on Historic England’s website and all major podcast platforms. In Time and the Shoe Man, Celia Bryce explores North Shields high street in an evocative and otherworldly tale which follows a mysterious character on his journey down roads and through streets of the past to return a lost shoe to its home. Other stories include Woolwich Walls by Merrie Joy Williams, who has based her tale on Woolwich High Street, Flying by Maria Whatton (Wednesbury), Borrowed Ground by Robin Pridy (Hastings), All the Secret Postcards by Rod Duncan (Leicester), The Women of Number 11 by Rebecca Tantony (Weston-super-Mare) and Under the watchful eyes of seagulls by Ellie McKinlay-Khojinian and Ligia Macedo (Great Yarmouth).
Robin Pridy said:
‘High Street Tales has been a lot of fun. I feel like I’ve made some lasting connections with people who work and live in the Trinity Triangle area. I heard great stories from those with historical links to it and really enjoyed putting on the two workshops. This place has a rich history, and there is still so much to be explored. Keeping this place alive feels very important right now – it is not just somewhere to shop but is – and has always been – a place for people to grow up, to grow old, to learn and to work. It is a place of refuge, of joy, of political beliefs and hopes for the future. It is a helping hand and cool as can be while doing it.
I feel privileged to have heard so many heartfelt and original voices talking about their lives and memories in this place. It has sparked a group of people to carry on writing, and old colleagues have been in touch after a long time. I heard fantastic stories about life at the Hastings Observer, the greengrocers and the churches as well as several other shops that came and went. I was able to tour the interiors of the Observer Building, the Trinity Church and Tabernacle. There were anecdotes about exotic fruit and barbers, small fires and games of whist, and I managed to learn a rude song to boot!
I have so many people to thank for helping with this project, from those at New Writing South, Heart of Hastings and White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures Ltd to individual traders and those working at the Trinity Church and their just-opened food bank. The Facebook group ‘Historical Hastings’ was invaluable, as were chance conversations with people I knew already or met through this project. These included former print works employees, young students at the art school next door, solicitors and paper delivery boys. I wrote just one small story about this wonderful place, but there are many tales already told that are well worth finding. And I’m convinced there are so many more still to be written.’
About Robin Pridy
Robin Pridy is a journalist, editor and writer who lives in East Sussex with her husband, three children and unimpressed cat. She grew up on Canada’s west coast before moving to the UK. She has recently completed a novel, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS FAR AWAY and is working on a set of linking short stories.
For more information about Hastings Heritage Action Zone please contact Heart of Hastings
Photos of Hastings: Alice Hepple