Rock On, Rock Fair

1811 Rock Fair by PS Munn, image courtesy of Steve Peak

A Motley Musical of Raggle-Taggle Folkery with Curious Characters, Rollicking Rides and Heart-breaking, Soul-shaking Songs

From April to September, as part of the Dot Dash programme, Rosanna Lowe, writer and collector of stories, and researcher and writer, Julie Gidlow, have been inviting others to help create Rock On, Rock Fair.

The focus of the work is the historic Rock Fairs that took place over centuries in, or close to, the Trinity Triangle in Hastings, and how fairs are represented in Sussex folklore and folksong. Some of the research and development process was conducted online as Salons or creative writing and song writing workshops, with the ultimate aim to create a work that can be performed by community participants in the town centre.

From May to July Rosanna led three Salon sessions. One of the sessions was an exploration of the music in fairs and was held with two regionally-based folk duos Lunatraktors and Rokurokubi. To find out more about the Salons go to the Salons page.

As well as the three Salons Rosanna offered three free online creative writing workshops. 

Workshop 1: Creative writing: ordinary extraordinary, Saturday 6 June, 10am-12pm for MSL Projects

In 2019, Rosanna was commissioned by MSL to create Ordinary Extraordinary, a collection of performance poems celebrating the lives of ‘ordinary’ people in Hastings who had something a little ‘extraordinary’ about them. 

In this workshop, we explored how our ‘ordinary’ lives have become ‘extraordinary’ under lockdown, what ‘ordinary’ things or what little ‘miracles’ have seen us through, and the stories of people who have done extraordinary things to get themselves or others through these troubled times, creating short pieces of writing.

SALONSInstagram Workshop #2

In this workshop, we explored the whirligig world of the fair and the carnivalesque, its sights, sounds and smells and its colourful characters, as inspiration for our own short pieces of writing.

SALONSInstagram Workshop #3

Working with two folk duos, Lunatraktors and Rokurokubi, Rosanna has been exploring and creating Fair-inspired folksongs.

In this workshop, we looked at themes, characters and stories within traditional folksong and original song inspired by the fair in order to create our own song or poem.

Photo of Rosanna Lowe for Rock Fair project

Rosanna is a storyteller, theatre-maker and writer. She searches for stories in strange places – rubbish dumps round the world or wartime Guatemala. Writing includes travel articles for national newspapers and sketches for Horrible Histories. Her plays have been performed in locations from the West Yorkshire Playhouse to on board an ice-breaking ship. For more information about Rosanna, go to:

Photo of Julie Gidlow for the Rock Fair project

Julie is a historical researcher who has worked for one of the world’s leading costumiers, Angels; for Hampton Court Palace and The Tower of London (social history, government, politics and court life); and in the archives of Hastings Reference Library. She has also researched into: architectural reconstruction and archaeological drawing; local and family history online and in libraries on behalf of historians and the general public; historic buildings; and illustrations for publication.

While working on Rock On, Rock Fair Julie has been writing some blogs which you can read on our Blog page.

Rock On, Rock Fair is funded by Arts Council England and East Sussex Arts Partnership.

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