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Jack in the Green Hastings 2022

Jack is back! Hastings traditional Jack in the Green returns Friday 29th April – Monday 2nd May 2022

Jack in the Green, Hastings, East Sussex
Jack in the Green, Hastings

Jack in the Green in Hastings is a fun festival and one which locals look forward to for months. Finally, after a couple of year’s absence, Jack is back for 2022. The festival signifies that we’ve left winter behind, that summer’s on its way and we’re all ready for a bit of May Day madness.

Hastings Jack in the Green is one of the UK’s biggest and best. Read on to discover more about where the  tradition comes from and everything you need to know to attend.

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Ye Olde Pump House, Hastings old town
Ye Olde Pump House, Hastings Old Town

Jack in the Green, Hastings

If you head down to Hastings Old Town during Jack in the Green festival you’ll more than likely go home with a green nose. Hastings Jack in the Green, sometimes known as Jack o’ the Green legend, is a festival of fun, frolics and foliage which celebrates the coming of summer.

The Green Man festival in Hastings is a popular Sussex event and takes place over a four day period, usually during the first weekend in May. It culminates in a bizarre procession through the medievel lanes of Hastings old town on Bank Holiday Monday. 

Scroll down for this year’s dates and timings. 

Jack in the Green, Hastings
Hastings Jack in the Green Parade

A vague history of Jack in the Green

Jack is a traditional May Day character symbolising winter and is at the heart of the Jack in the Green festivities. A towering Jack leads the procession through the ancient lanes of Hastings old town flanked by his green bogies and the event has become part of Hastings history.

The custom originates from British folklore and started as part of English May Day celebrations in the 17th century. The townsfolk created a garlands of flowers and leaves which the maidens would wear whilst dancing around the Maypole. The garlands gradually became more and more elaborate with neighbouring villages trying to out-do each other.

Jack in the Green was first referenced in 1770 in an article of a London May Day procession. Later the tradition became associated with chimney sweeps. Some believe Jack goes back further and has more pagan connections. The garlands evolved and eventually ended up covering Jack from head to foot in foliage, hence Green Jack then became known as Jack in the Green.

The custom died out in the mid-1800s. The bawdy displays were frowned upon by prudish Victorians and Jack in the Green was replaced with the more demure Queen of the May. But not for long…

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Hastings Jack in the Green

In Hastings Jack is back – and with a vengeance! The Hastings Jack on the Green festival was revived in 1983 and is now one  of the most popular of Hastings festivals and has a part in Hastings history.

The green man parade kicks off with ‘the Gathering’ next to the tall black fishermen’s huts in the Stade in Hastings Old Town. It’s here that ‘the greening’ begins. Jack’s attendants, the green Bogies, bedecked in green rags and foliage start their drumming.

Jack in the Green, Hastings

The crowd cheers as Jack, a towering vision of vegetation with crown atop, is released into the town. The crown consists of red blue and gold flowers and ribbons which represent the colours of the Cinque Ports emblem.

Jack’s Green Bogies

Part man, part bush and big part alcohol the Green Bogie is Jack’s friend and minder. There are twelve in total. The Green Bogies, along with Black Sal, Jack’s consort, a fat man with a drum and many others accompany Jack through the town up to Hastings Castle on the West Hill.

If the bogies spot anyone on the way who isn’t green enough they’ll soon sort it with a dab of green face-paint to the nose. If you’re not so lucky you’ll get a face full. It’s best not to catch the gaze of the green bogey…

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Hastings Jack in the Green

Hastings Jack in the Green – The Morris Sides

Mad Jacks Morris - Jack in the Green
Mad Jacks Morris, Hastings

The Jack in the Green procession consists of many local Morris sides. Hastings Jack in the Green is said to be one of the largest annual gatherings of Morris dancers in the country. Mad Jack’s Morris is a local Morris side responsible for the revival of the current festival. Behind them the chimney sweeps, brushes held aloft are followed by Hannah’s Cat Morris, a womens’ side, dressed in purple and pink, who dance and flick their handkerchiefs as they go.

The Lovely Ladies and Gay Bogies are all dressed to impress and have some of the more elaborate costumes – a hat topped with a stuffed raven, a stag head dress and every shade of green. Some are quite folksy others more neo-pagan and slightly Goth. Various Morris Sides jingle along, clacking their sticks whilst musicians and drummers make up the rest of the parade. 

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The Hastings Giants

Following up the rear are the towering Mollies or Giants made from papier Mache and standing around 12-feet tall.  Each one represents a local town; the form of the giant depends on the town’s history and traits.

Mermaid Mollie at Jack in the Green

My first Jack in the Green and the day dawned bright and sunny. Crowds jostled, keen to get a good view. Everyone’s dressed in green, some with garlands in their hair others, like me, with green noses. Yes, the Bogies got me.

Music fills the air, infectious rhythms and beats weaving their magic through the crowds. The sunshine adds to the atmosphere together with anticipation of the summer after a long, dark winter. Buildings are decorated in garlands and the pubs open early – that’s a big part of what this Hastings folk festival is all about.

The Jack in the Green procession makes its way through the town with more than a few refreshment stops en-route. There’s plenty of time to catch a glimpse of the main players and colourful costumes during the breaks. Place yourself next to a good pub and you won’t be disappointed because that’s where they’ll stop for a break. 

Eventually the procession makes its way up to the castle on the hill. As Jack arrives there “Twiggy”, aka a bundle of twigs, is hoisted to the top of the flagpole while the procession is drummed in by the Bogies.

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Sussex Morris Dancers

Up at the castle the Morris Sides take to the stage for a dance-off so each can showcase their signature dance. Look out for Mad Jacks Morris dancers.

Food stalls sell tasty snacks; a craft fair offers home-made goods and, of course, there’s the obligatory beer tent and family entertainment.

When the dance-off ends the Green Bogies march Green Jack to the stage. The drumming becomes louder, faster and more frenzied.

Finally, poor Jack, the symbol of winter, is slain by Mad Jack’s Morris Men and his foliage distributed to the crowd. The spirit of summer is released and we can all look forward to the good weather to come. Well we can live in hope…

See below for details of Jack in the Green 2022

jack-in-the-green-hastings

Looking for accommodation in Hastings? Check here for rates and availability

Jack in the Green, Hastings – Parade Timetable

Hastings Jack in the Green runs over a four day period beginning on Friday and ending on Bank Holiday Monday (May Day).

The timings below are for the main parade day on Monday Bank Holiday. These are approximate but should help you plan out your day.

7.30am to 9.00am – Breakfast – St. Mary Star of the Sea Church Crypt, The Bourne Hastings TN34 3BD. This is a ‘not for profit’ breakfast, with all proceeds going to the Two Towers Trust.

9.45am – The Gathering – Hastings Fishermen’s Museum, Rock-A-Nore Rd, Hastings TN34 3DW. This is where the characters taking part in the procession will be gathering to wait for Jack.

10.15am – Jack is Released – This is where the fun really begins. Jack first appears in his familiar giant green-leafed cloak and flower crown, accompanied by his Bogies. The Bogies are Jack’s protectors and their job is to keep him safe whilst he creates his mischief in Hastings. After dancing with ‘Mad Jack’s Women’, his next move is to start the procession by leading everyone along Rock-a-Nore Road and up the very narrow All Saints Street.

11.30am – Time for a pause in The High Street – Whilst everyone has the opportunity for dancing and some refreshments, Jack travels back through the procession to meet all of his followers. Once he’s ready, the procession re-gathers behind him so he can lead them up towards the West Hill at around midday.

11.45am – Entertainment for the crowd – This is a 45-minute slot where guest entertainers keep the crowd buzzing as the procession moves onwards towards the West Hill.

12.30pm – The procession winds its way up Croft Road and Collier Road in order to arrive at the Main Stage, West Hill – This is where the fun really starts. Throughout the afternoon, a range of musicians and folk groups along with Morris dancing and drummers performing on the stage. There is also an entertainment area for children, food stalls and refreshments tents with plenty of Real Ale from local brewers.

3.30pm – Slaying of the Jack – After all the merriments and the dancing, it’s time for the Bogies to parade Jack down to the main stage where he is symbolically slain. His demise signifies the release of the Spirit of Summer for the coming year.

Over the weekend there will be morris dancing around the town, bands, drummers, a traditional ceilidh and a sunrise ceremony to welcome the summer on Sunday 1st May. 

Hastings May Day Bike Run

Hastings also hosts thousands of bikers from the May Day run on bank holiday Monday on 02 May. The event involves thousands of motorbikes and scooters taking a 55-mile (89 km) trip on the A21 road from Locksbottom to Hastings seafront which coincides with the Jack-in-the-Green festival. May Day bank holiday in Hastings is quite an event!

However, because of this local roads and the A21 can get congested and car parking around the town is limited. The train might well be your best option. Check train times.

Find out more on Hastings Jack in the Green (HITG).

More places to visit in Sussex * A Sussex Walk – Seven Sisters Country Park * A weekend break in Rye, East Sussex * Eastbourne Trails and Coastal Walks * Battles and Bonfires in 1066 CountryRathfinny Wine Estate – Home of Sussex Sparkling 

Turkeywithstuffin

Wednesday 27th of February 2013

I would definitely say Jack has pagan roots and is just another guise of the green man. Last time I was in Hastings was.......oh my....10 years ago! I loved the old town, especially the antique shops.

sandysview

Monday 29th of October 2012

It's good they've spent some money giving Hastings a lick of paint. It looked so grim for so long after they British seaside holiday died a death. It actually doesn't look to bad on a sunny day if you stand in the right place

Travelbunny

Monday 29th of October 2012

Hastings Old Town is really quaint and lovely - lots of old fishing village character. It's very arty & quirky with some good restaurants nowadays. The new town - different story...

nithya (Life Out of a Suitcase)

Wednesday 1st of June 2011

this is so interesting! had no idea something like this even existed..and their costumes are so intricate!

Travelbunny

Wednesday 1st of June 2011

I heard about this and just had to see it for myself this year - I wasn't disappointed! The atmosphere was amazing and all just 15 mins down the road. You can travel the world but sometimes it's all happening on your doorstep...

Johanna Bradley

Tuesday 31st of May 2011

They're a bit strange in your part of the world, aren't they? Good time had by all, from the looks....nice mermaid!