Hastings Writers’ Group is one of the oldest established writers’ groups in the country, beginning as the Hastings and St Leonards Writers’ Circle in 1947, and changing its name on its 25th anniversary in 1972.
At the inaugural meeting the founding members recorded the group’s aim to ‘encourage all writers resident in the Hastings area to develop their skills and gain maximum benefit from the support of their fellow members’, and this aim continues to the present day.
Catherine Cookson, then still unpublished, was one of that founding group and remained an active member until 1968. She later became the group’s first Patron, after whom an annual short story competition is named: the Catherine Cookson Cup. Subsequent Patrons have included David Gemmell and Tamara McKinley, and the current Patron is award winning novelist and Booker Prize nominee Simon Mawer.
In 1971 the group began to award an annual Writer of the Year shield, based on a system of points accrued in our competitions throughout the year. These competitions, chosen annually by the membership, form the backbone of the group’s annual programme of events. Other activities include workshops and talks, manuscript evenings and writing exercises.
Since its inception many of the group’s members have gone on to become published authors of novels, non-fiction, short stories, poems, and articles, or have won national and international writing competitions and awards. Others have had success with TV, radio, and stage plays. In 2017, two of its members founded the Hastings Book Festival, which has become a firm favourite in the local festival calendar.
Hastings Writers Group produces an annual Anthology, three times winning the prestigious National Association of Writers’ Groups (NAWG) anthology competition, in 2014, 2019 and 2023.
2018 saw the establishment of Hastings Young Writers for authors aged 11-18, and in 2023 this was extended to the creation of Hastings Junior Writers for under-11s just setting off on their creative journey. The Patron of HYW and HJW is children’s author Kate O’Hearn.