Jack in the Green, May Day bike run, bank holiday, and sunshine; 4 key things to make the May bank holiday a day to jump on the train, with camera in hand. And this trip, and camera was to be an infrared kind of day. I won't give a synopsis of the Jack in the Green festival nor the May day bike run, as Google would be your friend here, and take too many words to describe, other than in good weather, in excess of 30000 bikes will turn up on the day that Jack is slain to welcome in the summer - I think that is brief enough.
So, arriving in Hastings mid morning, one is welcomed by the sounds of arriving motorbikes, of all sizes, heritage and condition. Concours custom rides, share pavement space next to vintage British bikes, and teenage mode of transport scooters. The car parks are full, the pavements are going the same way and the town centre is awash with trade stands, giant video screens and vendors selling all manner of foods.
Turning the corner onto the sea front proper one is greeted by a stiff sea breeze with the banners and bunting out straight...time to zip up one's jacket. Beautiful sunshine is what I needed for the photography this time, as infrared works best under very strong lighting, so although it was breezy with a chill to the air, the sun was being very cooperative. I kept the filter off the camera to start with, so we were running in full spectrum mode; all wavelengths of light from ultraviolet, through visible, and into the infrared.
I decided to avoid the bikes this time, and concentrate on the people milling around them, and the people here to celebrate Jack in the Green, and set up the camera accordingly. It's about 1/2 mile from the town centre into the Old Town of Hastings, and getting closer one sees more and more people with either a splash of green on the face, flowers in the hair or full on costumes of mainly greenery and flowers.
Nearing St.Clements church (see left) in Croft Road, drums, drums and more drums are singing out the beat to the Jack and the crowd of on-lookers. Fortunately, the procession had stopped for some liquid refreshment at a nearby hostelry, which gave me time to get in front of it, ready to snap away as it approached my position. Carefully slipping into a gap in the ever increasing crowd, I set the camera ready, carefully metering the available light and lens for the arrival of the procession.
Jack is escorted on the route by his bogeymen, and Black Sal his be-flowered consort. Morris dancers, drums troupes, Sweeps (from chimney sweeps), the newly crowned local May Queen, Lovely Ladies, Gay Bogies, and Giants follow on up past the church on their way to the West Hill.
Once the procession has passed the church and climbs Croft Road, the spectators take the steep stairs up towards the West Hill, and a biting wind - in the Old Town one is sheltered to an extent, but on the hill very much less so!
It is easy to see why the holiday makers and day trippers are awe inspired by what is happening in and around Hastings this bank holiday Monday. And their appreciation of the Hastings architecture stretching back into mediaeval times can leave one forgetting this is a sleepy 'forgotten' seaside town. Up on the West Hill we are treated firstly to a view across to the East Hill looking down at the Old Town from whence we'd come.
Greeted by the dulcet tones of the 4 piece a-capella folk group Now and Then, we finally make the brow of the hill, along with several other thousand, but sadly not the sun which had decided it had done its job leaving us with greying skies.
Keeping the mainly seated (on the grass) audience amused and warmed up, ha ha, yeah right, it's freezing up here you know! Now and Then performed beautiful harmonies, whilst the procession climbed the hill via the roads. The compere announced the arrival of Jack et al which was signified by the green 'smoke' approaching. He processed across the green to the waiting stage, and there the rest of the entourage passed him by, bowing and making obeisance on this his day. The crowds were advised of who was doing what and to whom, and for what purpose. Traditions eh, long may they last, even if the Victorians in their romantic way found this particular festival too violent ... well Jack is slain at the end after all.
The Wiki entry for this festival can be found here, for those wanting more history on it ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_in_the_Green
And for the local version, here is the Hastings page ~ https://www.hastingsjitg.co.uk/