Hastings has the biggest beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe, and its iconic Net Shops. Travel Begins at 40 chats with Stella Landau, Fish Festivals Organiser, about the sustainable Hastings Fish Brand and Hastings Stade.
How did you come up with the idea of the Hastings Fish brand? How has it helped sustain the fishing industry?
The premise of the Hastings fish brand is building on the Marine Stewardship Council certification programme. This promotes local/quality catches and we felt we could use this premise and the unique history of Hastings to build a strong brand focussing on locally, traditionally caught seasonal fish that also showcased some lesser-known fish and supported the wider fishing industry and supply chain.
The project went very well and we made sure to involve everyone connected the fishing industry in the town via consultation events. It included a website, social media, merchandise, industry peer training sessions, demonstrations, recipe cards, industry ‘discovery days’ – with the aim of developing new supply chains, all coming together to develop a well-known, recognisable brand. All Hastings fishmongers (and some out of Hastings) and ‘boys ashore’ huts were involved as were a substantial number of local restaurants and eateries.
How can visitors get involved – are there any trips out with fishermen, or cookery classes etc?
Part of the project was to offer cooking demos for the public in the Classroom on the Coast – hosted by CJ Jackson from the Billingsgate Seafood School. We offered eight of these over the course of a year on different seasonal fish. We also offered a similar thing to the food industry, like the Youngs Pub group who loved that small catch and provenance story so much they added it to their specials boards.
Hastings Net Shops
Hastings fishing stretches back more than 1,000 years. Hastings fishing huts, The Net Shops are approximately 50 tall black wooden sheds which were built to provide a weather-proof store for the fishing gear made from natural materials to prevent them from rotting in wet weather. The sheds were originally built on posts to allow the sea to go underneath, however more shingle has built up and the sea no longer reaches the huts. The beach area on which the Sheds stand built up after groynes were erected in 1834, however the limited space meant the sheds had to grow upwards, even though some sheds do have cellars. One is a museum.
How confident are you for the future of the Hastings Stade? What are the major challenges?
The Stade as a fishing beach has been in use for nearly 800 years, and Hastings was a fishing town for hundreds of years before that (the great storm of 1287 effectively closed our harbour – where our town centre now is – and the fishermen then relocated to the Stade). I have no doubt that it could continue for another 800 years, provided there are fish to catch and a market to sell them.
The Stade open space provides an ideal event arena, and Stade Hall and the classroom on the coast are also great indoor venues. In normal years they are all popular and, again, I cannot see the council, or the local community, allowing these to be built on or otherwise developed. I therefore think that these too will continue in some form or another for a very long time.
What festivals do you have planned for this year? Are they still going ahead?
The Covid pandemic has claimed many events in Hastings. The popular Hastings Seafood & Wine Festival scheduled for 19/20 September, and the classic car, classic motorbike, and classic commercial vehicles events on the Stade planned for Hastings Week in October have all been cancelled.
What are you future plans for the Hastings Fish brand?
Funding for the project has finished, but we planned the spend so the social media presence was still up and running to the end of this year. We are planning to share a promotional film about the project that we hope will keep the momentum going. The social media and content of the website, including recipe cards/’meet’ the fishermen/chef etc will be mainstreamed into the Visit 1066 Country website contributing towards the wider promotion of the area to visitors.
Hastings Fish Cookery Classes
If you would like to take a cookery class in Hastings, contact Webbe’s at Rockanore?
Hastings Fish and Chips
If you want to try some excellent and sustainable Hastings fish and chips rights on Hastings Stade, then try Maggie’s Fish and Chips Café – the rock eel was excellent.
Hastings Fisherman’s Museum
You might also wish to check out the Fishermen’s Museum.