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Jack in the Green Festival, Hastings, Sussex
April 28 - May 1
The Jack in the Green Festival takes place in the Sussex coastal town of Hastings – 1066 and all that – traditionally over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend.
A festival steeped in English folklore it attracts thousands of people each year. According to the organisers, it is the largest festival of its ilk in the world.
What is Jack in the Green?
Jack in the Green, or Jack o’ the Green, is an English folk custom traditionally held on May Day. A pyramidal or conical wicker or wooden frame, decorated with leaves is worn by a person who is led in a procession accompanied by musicians.
The tradition started in the 17th century, from an earlier custom that involved decorating milkmaids with flowers.
The earliest reference to a Jack in the Green is in 1770 from an account of a London May Day procession. The tradition became associated with Chimney Sweeps in the 19th century, before dwindling in importance in the early 20th century, only to be revived later on that century.
For inspiration on what to do in and around Hastings, read Mark Bibby Jackson’s A 1066 Country Walk from Winchelsea to Hastings.
Jack in the Green Hastings Festival
Revived by Mad Jacks Morris Dancers in the 1980s, the Hastings festival combines Morris dancing, much merriment, a costumed parade and, naturally, the Green Man himself.
Music comes from local and surrounding bands, and there is family entertainment, as well as, according to organisers, sun.
When is the Festival?
It’s normally held over four days across the first Bank Holiday Monday in May.
Jack in the Green Hastings Programme
Acivites typically include morris dancing around the town, a traditional ceilidh, live musi and a sunrise ceremony on the Sunday. Bank holiday Monday will see the Grand Procession around Hastings Old Town and the slaying of Jack to release the spirit of summer.
Schedule of events for the 2023 will be found here.
Jack in the Green Parade
The parade or procession passes through the Old Town and concludes on the West Hill. Full details can be found here.
Artists will perform traditional folk dance and music throughout the afternoon, with the festival culminating with the slaying of Jack, in order to release the spirit of summer for this year around 4pm to 4:30pm.
Other Jack in the Green Festivals
There are similar festivals across the country from Kent to Devon, as well as in London. A list of the existing ones can be found here.
Hotels in Hastings
If you are looking for accommodation in Hastings, please fill in the form below. We scan all the main hotel providing websites so that you don’t have to.
Further Things to Do in Hastings
There is much more to do in 1066 Country than playing Jack. For further inspiration, as well as places to stay, and a list of festivals and walks, click here.
More information on Jack in the Green Hastings
Click here for all there is to know.
All photos provided by Visit 1066 Country.