Hastings Carnival originated as a means of fund raising for the local hospitals in the 1920s, with a few similar events being held during the 19th century to raise funds for the infirmary. A meeting presided over by the Mayor, Alderman W. J. Fellows, JP. in 1926 voted to make the parade an annual event and set up a committee to run the event. The initial members of the committee were: Chairman, the Mayor; Vice-Chairman, Mr. A. Martin; Treasurer, Mr. John King; Secretary, Mr. C, W. Crocker. The general committee, consisting of a representative of each society taking part, was re-elected, Messrs. Steer, Stoakes and Willard were appointed on the executive committee. It was decided at this meeting to hold the event, which was styled initially as a 'fancy dress parade' during August, when the town would normally be full of visitors. The first such parade to be held on the 11th of August. All funds raised by means of donations were to go to the hospitals, but there would be prizes sponsored by local business and other donations for best costumes. Both pier companies were also to be contacted regarding the holding of dances in their ballrooms on the night of the carnival procession
In 1934, "Big Tom" the Carnival Cat appeared. This was a sixteen foot tall, twenty five foot long black cat that was to be the highlight of the 1934 Hastings Carnival, spending a week in the town. The cat Tom travelled all the way from Dublin, via Liverpool around the country to raise money for local Hospitals wherever he went.
Being suspended during WW2, there was some opposition to re-starting the festivities post-war due to a sentiment that the parade had been taken over by rowdy elements and could turn into a 'Revival of Hooliganism' to quote a sub-headline in reporting of a council meeting during 1948. The meeting went on to suggest that the event could tie in with the proposed 'Battle of Britain week' which was being advocated for by the Royal Air Force, and perhaps also tie in to the town's bonfire celebrations with something along the lines of a 'Conqueror Week'; Councillor Ryman reported that Brighton had a 'Regency Week' and for Hastings to hold a Conqueror's week could be entirely appropriate. The proposals were duly voted in, providing that any gambling and excesses were kept in check and Hastings thus re-commenced the Carnival celebrations.
During the 1960s and 1970s, it became traditional that a fireworks show would take place after the carnival, and a vessel from the Royal Navy would moor offshore and displays by the Red Arrows were incorporated.
1969 - Concorde
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 26 June 1926 Pg. 0003
- Hastings & St Leonards Observer 17 January 1948 pg. 1