Jack in the Green Festival, Hastings, Sussex
April 29 - 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. The 2021 Festival will be a virtual event due to COVID restictions.
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.
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
Unfortunately the 2021 programme of events will be virtual dur to Covid restictions. The next in person Jack in the Green Parade (see below) will be on the Monday 2 May, 2022.
Jack in the Green Parade
The parade or procession sets off at 11.45am passing through the Old Town and concluding on the West Hill.
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 5pm.
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
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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, as well as a video.
All photos provided by Visit 1066 Country.
Mark Bibby Jackson
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