By Jim Hollands
It was the year of the fashion rebellion. Topless swimsuits and dresses were being displayed in public, Carnaby Street was the centre of Universe, and two youth movements – Mods and Rockers- made up principally of young, mainly working class Britons with cash to spend, were making the headlines.
The year was 1964, it was early on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend. Throughout the week before the word had filtered from London’s Mecca Ballrooms and Soho record clubs that Hastings was the meeting place on the three-day Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of August. They began arriving on Saturday, black-jacketed Rockers in theirhundreds, parka-clad Mods, many complete with scooter, turned up in their thousands. By Sunday morning, Hastings swarmed with teenagers, girls in mini dresses and lads in their smart ‘latest designer fashion” clothes, now looking rather scruffy after a night on the beach. To add to the their misery, a light rain was falling.
Suddenly, the kids began running through town in packs, stopping traffic, banging on cars, chanting (“Up the Mods”), looking for trouble.
They raided cafes for dishes and glasses to throw, knives and forks to brandish, chased each other up the beaches and down the streets under a hail of rocks and crockery.
Along the promenade, noisy Rocker motorcycles and Vespas were doing battle, buzzing each other in hand-to-handlebar combat.
Inevitably the two gangs clashed. The 1964 Whitsun weekend violence in Brighton was famously dramatised in the film Quadrophenia (1979).
Police had to be flown into Hastings to break up fights between the two gangs.
Shaun Allen, now living in Sweden was right in the heart of the action. Steve writes ;-
“I remember as a young lad working on the sea front at Hastings as a deck chair attendant during this time, and being told by the police to move on, as I looked like a Mod!
Imagine my surprise when Steve Marriot, prior to the “Small Faces” came to our house to go out with my sister. He was, together with the “Who”, one of the first Mods in England.”
There were dozens injured, 66 arrested. “It is time,” said Hastings Magistrate Alfred Coote, “for Parliament to consider what measures they should take to crush this form of mass hooliganism.”
I was there with my camera taking the photographs printed in this article. I remember the massed charges through the streets and along the beach and saw the police carting off several of the total 66 arrested. I did not personally witness any fighting during the four hours I spent among the masses.
The police eventually rounded up the whole gang of Mods without scooters and marched them right out of Hastings.
Throughout the whole summer of 1964 Mods and Rockers ‘invaded’ seaside towns from Margate to Worthing, driving holiday makers from the beach in many instances. The fighting appears to have been confined to incidents where Mods and Rockers came together.
Surprisingly by 1966 the Mods had virtually disappeared. A new group arrived in the form of ‘Flower Power’. Hippies chose more remote spots for their gatherings. The Ystwyth Valley in Wales was one of their favoured venues. Here they did little to upset the locals, except throwing their drugs in the gardens of Pontrhydygroes just before the police search on the way to the Valley.
The beach at Hastings was back to normal with happy families enjoying their traditional holiday at the seaside without being pestered by hoards of charging youths.
Hastings Town February 2008
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