It’s easy to see why Hastings is held in such low regard by both residents and non-residents alike. All the indicators are there in the statistics to show how poor this end-of-the-line run down seaside town is, compared to the rest of the South East. It has 27.2% of its residents in private rented accommodation compared the the average in England of 15.4%. It has the lowest average weekly take home pay in the South East.
Despite the obvious, there are other factors that make a town and that’s the people who live there. For such an impoverished area, Hastings has a vibrant culture. However, this is often dismissed by a lot of residents and those who’ve ‘made it out of the ghetto’ as they have often become blinkered to the reality of most of the towns in the South East (by choice or ignorance) and become fixated on Brighton and London as some promised land. The grass is always greener until your rent triples or quadruples and your salary doesn’t.
For me what makes a good town, is a fine balance between money and culture. To put it bluntly, if artists cannot afford to live in the town because the rich have driven them out, then it’s finished. Hastings needs more money and inward investment, not just investment class landlords and corporations sucking every last penny out of the place. However, artists can afford to live here and that’s why you have articles describing Hastings as Dalston-on-sea and the Shoreditch of Sussex. Brighton is cutting a fine balance but money seems to be winning out, so look for the certain cultural exodus that will follow in the next 5 years. London, I mean real London (Zones 1 & 2), has been conquered by money for two decades. What passes for culture these days are merchant bankers, oligarchs and sheiks plus their model trophy wives, picking at £250 main courses in restaurants where most people could not afford the bottled water. A sterile, culturally cleansed playground for the mega-rich, where artists day trip in from 60 miles away.
So what are the five towns in the South East that are worse than Hastings? Well life does exist outside the golden triangle of H-town, Brighton and London but some of it, you should not bother visiting or living in;
It maybe the birth place of motor racing, but it seems everyone under the age of 65 has used their motor vehicle to leave the place. Eastbourne just along the coast, has been described as ‘God’s waiting room’, well Bexhill is the place for those who can’t afford a seat in the grim reaper’s departure lounge and are loitering outside.
4. Royal Tunbridge Wells
A town entirely consisting of Reginald Perrins and retired Reginald Perrins in what is a London commuter dormitory. The rents are some of the highest outside London and Brighton for what is a decidedly mediocre if not moneyed town. If there is any culture, it gets turned off at 10pm before some meddlesome ratbag complains to the local environmental health department.
Like Hastings, Sheerness-on-sea is piss poor. Where the residents of Hastings make the town, the residents of Sheerness break it. A town so culturally moribund, there is no place like it in the south east. Neglected by Swale Borough Council like a ginger haired step child, Sheerness is the Clacton of Kent. The now defunct website ‘Sheppey Scum’ used to have a page for culture, that just said ‘No’.
Your typical high weald market town with money and what I can only describe as ‘nice’. The kind of place where the investment class slum landlords of Hastings live and send their kids to public schools like Benenden. All the aspiring AB1’s in Hastings and Rother, who would vote in a pig if it had a blue rosette on it, want to live there in semi-rural tranquillised mediocrity because the local comprehensive (their single buy-to-let hole in Hastings, doesn’t bring in enough to send their spawn to private school) has great ofsted stats.
Ah the festering cat turd in the Garden of England. Those who would swap 1066 country for Gravesham, have truly lost the plot. Other North Kent holes worse than Hastings are available, with a honorary mentions for Chatham, Gillingham, Strood and Sittingbourne. Yes kids, Hastings is bad, but it isn’t Medway.
OK, now you’ve seen the list and disagreed, give me your bile!