Hastings: celebrating the spirit of ‘independents’

America Ground / Trinity Triangle
Saturday 7th July // 10am – 6pm

If you think about the different towns and villages you visit and all the quirky, cool little shops you discover while you’re there, it’s the indie retailers that make it special.

Just a short walk from Hastings Station lies an area known as America Ground and Trinity Triangle – arguably Hastings’ newest cultural destination.

Hastings library's new upgraded facade

Image of the newly renovated Hastings Library

The small streets that curve around an assortment of architectural shapes are home to an array of creative businesses and independent retailers. Situated off the beaten track, the area is a stone’s throw from the sea, but tucked away from the main thoroughfare along the seafront linking the Old Town and St. Leonards, it’s sometimes overlooked.

Photo of Trinity WholeFood's great produce

Image of Trinity Wholefoods, Trinity Street, Claremont

One person’s loss is another’s gain. America Ground is an oasis of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce, and this is what makes the experience for the curious passers-by and the lovers of discoveries all the more enjoyable. America Ground is where things get interesting.

A look inside Wow and Flutter record shop, with great wall art and neon sign.

Image of Wow and Flutter, Trinity Street, Claremont

Behind the calm exteriors lies a hive of inspiration and creativity. The indie shops here are not just retail outlets; wine shops are bookshops, pop-up restaurants and underground music venues; comic stores are record shops, coffee shops and in-store performance spaces. The area doesn’t close down at night either, as the clubs and bars offer an eclectic programme well into the night, nurturing and facilitating debate and celebrating the town’s vibrant music scene.

Enjoy a coffee in the America Ground area, buy gifts and relax.

When visiting America Ground, you need to give yourself time to browse and to take a leisurely stroll around this urban oasis. Take a seat in the most enticing cafes and restaurants, sample a tasty vegan delight, pick up a book or rummage through vinyl, while you enjoy a delicious coffee or refreshing craft beer. Leave time and space to find yourself in conversation with the owners over a Negroni cocktail or a slice of cake.

Outside Cake Room's premises, decorated lovingly with green plants

Image of Cake Room, Robertson Street

America Ground has a rich history of independence dating back to the early 1800s, when in the midst of rapid growth, rents were rising and people were struggling to get by. Over time, an area of land behind a shingle bank, once sea, became firm and a band of Hastings’ radicals realising that this new strip of land did not fall under the crown’s ownership set up home there, rent free. Enterprising rope-makers made bridges to this new plot and a small community was created. Ramshackle houses, warehouses and new businesses sprung up and America Ground was born.

Image of the America Ground courtesy of Ken Brooks

Image of the America Ground courtesy of Ken Brooks

Today, this independent spirit lives on embodied in the area’s urban fabric and memory. But, like all artistic areas in any town or city in the UK, faced with the upturn in regeneration, it’s an ongoing challenge to find affordable retail space and survive economically as a business when costs are rising.

‘We wunt be druv” is the unofficial county motto of Sussex, a Sussex dialect phrase meaning “we will not be driven”. And, in order to survive against the odds, these local enterprises work together. They know that without this grassroots support network, it could crush the creative spirit. They share a love for their community and want to protect their creative independence, and rightly so. To help prevent this valuable business community from becoming endangered, the Destination America Ground/White Rock campaign is helping to promote this culturally significant area and crucial part of the community.

Independents Day is an annual event run by the businesses themselves, celebrating everything indie that defines the area’s distinct character. It’s a day of pop-up events, music, street food, in-store exclusives, table top sales and a host of other creative happenings all around the America Ground (Claremont, Trinity Street, Robertson Street and Gotham Alley).

Main poster for Hastings America Ground Independents Day, 07/07/2018

The event is an integral part of attracting footfall and encouraging locals and tourists to celebrate and support these unique independent traders, as well as another way of showing appreciation for the artists and creatives who live and work there.

Destination America Ground & White Rock Hastings Poster

The event shines a spotlight on the important role smaller, local, independent shops and creative businesses play in the community they serve. Indie retailers bring variation and vitality to our town centres and high streets, keeping money circulating in local economies and maintaining a sense of community.

Research carried out by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that for every £1 spent locally, 50-70p recirculates back into the local economy. In contrast, only 5p of every £1 spent out of town finds its way back to the local community.

Grassroots creativity is vital to any town or city, driving its social, cultural and economic success, and allowing emerging and established talent to collaborate and support one another. So, in a world where everything is becoming increasingly similar, places with one-of-a-kind businesses have an advantage. By shopping at an independent, you’re helping to protect what makes the place you love so special and unlike anywhere else.

Note: Image of the America Ground courtesy of Ken Brooks. See his book Hastings Then & Now, Published in 2002 by S.B. Publications and available at the Tourist Information Centre, Hastings.

Photos courtesy of Caitlin Lock for Destination America Ground & White Rock 

Cover image of Ali and Nina, HiStore




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