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Jack in the Green Festival, Hastings, Sussex
April 30 - May 2
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 will include a morris dancing around the town, a traditional ceilidh and the sunrise ceremony on Sunday 1 May. Bank holiday Monday (2 May, 2022) will see the Grand Procession (see below).
Schedule of events for the 2022 festival include:
PUB SESSION, The Stag
29 April, 8pm to 11pm
Music and song at The Stag.
DANCING AROUND THE OLD TOWN
30 April, 12pm until 4:30pm
Mad Jack’s Morris and Hannah’s Cat start dancing at Winkle Island.
RATTLEBAG SING AROUND, The Stag
30 April, 2pm to 3pm
Local 5-piece female harmony group Rattlebag.
CEILIDH, St Mary in the Castle
30 April, 7:30pm to 11pm
Music by Pigeon Swing with Caller Baz Parkes.
DANCING AT DAWN, West Hill Cafe
1 May, 5am to 6:30am
Local morris dancing.
MORRIS DANCERS CHURCH SERVICE, All Saints Church
1 May, 10am to 11:15am
Annual celebration service.
DANCING AT THE STADE AND AROUND THE OLD TOWN, The Stade Open Space
1 May, 12pm to 4pm
Morris dancing around the Old Town.
CONCERT WITH THE COPPER FAMILY, St Clements Church
1 May, 4pm to 5pm
Afternoon concert with Sussex-based folk singers The Copper Family.
THE DRUM OFF,Butlers Gap
1 May, 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Section 5 and Sambalanco.
THE BIG SQUEEZE, The Prince Albert
1 May, 7:30pm to 10:30pm
Squeeze box players Alan, Goose and Trooper.
CONCERT WITH GARRY BLAKELEY, St Clements Church
1 May, 7:30pm to 11:30pm
Solo concert with violinist, singer songwriter Garry Blakeley.
JACK IS RELEASED, The Fishermen’s Museum
2 May, 10:15am to 10:20am
The release of Jack.
THE PROCESSION, Hastings Old Town
2 May, 10:20am to 12.25pm
Jack leads procession through the Old Town.
THE WEST HILL
2 May 12:30pm to 4pm
Live entrainment overlooking the Old Town.
SLAYING OF THE JACK, The West Hill
2 May, 4pm to 4:30pm
Jack is slain releasing the spirit of summer.
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.