The Wild Horn Fair

Illustration by Jane Bruce

From April to September 2020 Rosanna Lowe, writer and collector of stories, and researcher and writer Julie Gidlow invited others to help them research and develop a potential new musical The Wild Horn Fair (previously called Rock On, Rock Fair), exploring the history, myth and mystery of Fairs and Festivities in Hastings and beyond. The Wild Horn Fair was inspired by the Rock Fair, which took place annually in Hastings for at least four centuries, originally located on the White Rock and later moving to ‘Rock Fair Green’ and to the area now known as the America Ground or Hastings Trinity Triangle. Rock Fair was finally banned in 1853.

The story spans five centuries and follows the story of three Roses, whose lives are bookended by pandemics and marked by the struggle between propriety and societal norms and the wild abandon of the carnivalesque. It is set against a backdrop of the invention, growth, decline and re-invention of the travelling fair, the local market and Hastings’ High Streets. In three online creative writing workshops Rosanna, Julie and participants explored the whirligig world of the Fair and the carnivalesque, creating stories, poems and songs. Guests included local historians, folk experts and musicians.

In the summer of 2021, Rosanna wrote a further draft of the work and we held a preview of it in August of that year at Hastings’ Shipwreck Museum. The preview showcased the work developed by Rosanna, Jane and Julie for a small invited audience, ultimately resulting in a Wild Horn Fair video.

MSL & Hi3 Network – Development of The Wild Horn Fair

MSL is collaborating with Hi3 Network, led by London South Bank and Canterbury Christ Church universities, on the realisation of The Wild Horn Fair as a virtual production. The Hi3 Network is a cluster of industry specialists, researchers and businesses working across Kent, East Sussex and Essex. They explore emerging technologies in the moving image, and screen-based creative technologies through innovative research and development.

As a first step we will be preparing a short proof of concept film using green screen and VP (virtual production) techniques with access to Hi3 studio and technicians. This will provide MSL’s Wild Horn Fair creative team with the tools to test the idea of storytelling, using VP techniques which MSL can then use to storyboard current and future productions.

The Wild Horn Fair is funded by Arts Council England and East Sussex Arts Partnership.

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