Events, Festivals and Exhibitions

Jack in the Green Festival, Hastings, Sussex

3 May - 6 May

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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.

Jack of the Green Hastings
The annual parade in Hastings

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.

Expect much Morris Dancing Hastings
Expect much Morris dancing

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

Activities typically include Morris dancing around the town, a traditional ceilidh, live music 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 2024 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.

This is not the only May Festival that epitomises England. Why not try the Alresford Watercress Festival, later on in the month just along the coast in Hampshire.

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.

All photos provided by Visit 1066 Country.


3 May
6 May


Hastings Old Town
Hastings,SussexTN34 3ARUnited Kingdom+ Google Map

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

Read more posts by Mark Bibby Jackson →

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