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Frock up Fridays First Festival.

When Susan Simms and I started this facebook group never did we expect for it to grow to nearly Fifteen thousand members and go global.

The group keeps us busy with up to fours hours a day on admin time and sometimes we have been working through the night to support our wonderful Frockers. It’s really become an obsession we love our Frockers so much.

We made a book after the first Lockdown because we had collected so many gorgeous photos and then planed a book launch to sell it.

We organised a book launch which we were hoping would be a time for Frockers to meet but alas a second lockdown meant we had to go ahead on a much smaller scale than we had planned, although it was small, It turned out to be a wonderful socially distanced event.

However the event left us feeling that we wanted to gather lots of Frockers together in one place and really connect. The FUF team decided a grand ball would be a great way to gather people together but we never make our lives easy and what started as small idea escalated into a full scale festival simply because we had wanted to give back to the community that had supported the making of the beautiful book.

We had already thought of the shopping trail to involve all the local shops, bars and restaurants who had shown their belief in us by sponsoring the making of the book and we had already designed the leaflets for the big book launch that never happened ! Along with the trail we thought a fashion show would be a great way to advertise the wonderful independent shops of Hastings and St Leonard’s and because we wanted an evening of entertainment decided a fashion show with a cabaret was the way to go

The fashion show took months from conception to the final evening. Three weeks before the event we had actually begun to worry we had taken on much too much. The ball was easier as we had all experienced running some sizeable parties and weddings in the past, so we could use our experience to put together an evening of entertainment. The fashion show however was proving more tricky, Andrew and I had had the experience of working at London fashion week and put on our own fashion shows, show casing my millinery collections but a whole fashion show is a bigger deal. I had helped put on a massive fashion show at the Hackney Empire thirty years before and I do remember it being an awful lot of work but the end result had been so fabulous I had felt we could somehow pull this off but panic was starting rise!

Then along came offers of help , amazing help !

John Bowness of #lovehastings offered us window in the now empty Debenhams to advertise the event , Martin the manager of Debenhams building proved to be invaluable, helping us with the window and then decorating St Mary for the ball.

Then along came Adam Daly and Adam Wide two people with a lot of know how , offered us help that was off the scale .They helped with publicity which we had worked at fruitlessly for months , they managed to get us on local radio, news programs and national news . They helped organise a publicity stunt of epic fun involving all the Frockers.

Adam introduced to a stage manager whose help was invaluable. We finally slept at night once we knew the shows were in safe hands. We were introduced to the lovely Charles who is making a small film about the event for future use. If that wasn’t enough Adam Daly helped us sort out lighting and sound for both nights. Our budget was very limited and their help has been utterly amazing.

Our live zoom stream was co ordinated by Dan Mathews from the brilliant Hasting Isolation station stepped to run the world wide live zoom and I know this meant so much to the Frockers who couldn’t be with us , it’s a shame the participants were limited in numbers as I know some of you would’ve loved to join. I hope people will support Isolation station because they have supported FUF many times and do brilliant work for the Hastings community and would be young film makers.

The DJs for the ball were phenomenal, we chose Remi because he’s one of those people who understands his crowd and will keep the dance floor filled. Rebecca Booker a fellow Frocker sent us a wonderful promo tape of tunes and her DJ credentials blew us away it was no brainier we wanted her to DJ for us.

We had so much help from all of the shops and acts that took part and their professionalism truly helped us out.

Christopher Dodwell a fellow Frocker did a sterling job as compere at the fashion show and was also responsible for shifting mannequins from Debenhams to the hall and being an invaluable part of the decorating team. Chris ran the charity auction for MIND with gusto , we raised £890 for the charity.

We should also mention Tina Morris from Coastal Currents who allowed us to take over the Audio Trope stage to put on on our outside band events. Our first meeting with Tina was done way back in Lockdown we had to meet outside and stand on freezing cold hill to talk about how we could work together , this was done while snow came down ! Our lives are truly glamorous 😂

The parade to the Stade open space led by Doctor Savage and the first line band was kept safe with the two Adams doubling up as stewards alongside some volunteer Frockers. We even had the Mayor of Hastings join us in all his finery the sun shone and the parade was so much fun. Next year we anticipate getting more bands involved in the parade so the Frockers can dance all the way to the back of the parade.

Sun glasses Sunday was the day Susan and I could really let our hair down and the sunglasses hid our now bedraggled eyes. The sun shone all day and the cocktails and dancing on the prom was perfect.

Next year if we are lucky and the weather is good we shall be asking Emma Claughton to organise a FUF sequin swim so that many more people can join in , it wasn’t official part of the festival but I know many people who would’ve loved to have joined in.

It was the small offers of help that we will are also thankful for the local window cleaner Mark Hardwick and his son Eddie deciding Debenhams window needed a clean and without charge cleaned them . Mark then came to rescue with his wonderful 1950s pick up truck and delivered us to the door of the ball before rushing off to play a gig else where.

We were also bowled over by the generosity of our friends Jennie Strickland for organising the market stalls, Jenny Power for manning our merchandise stall ,Gill Sutton for meeting and Greeting and all the Frockers who took part in the fashion show and came along to Debenhams window.

This event took so much to organise and I can honestly say everyone did it for frocking love . The FUF team are truly honoured to have had everyone help out and armed with experience and learning from mistakes, we hope that next year we can produce something equally special if not better and perhaps this time we will be able to secure a bit of backing behind us so that we aren’t creating something on a wing and prayer.

Susan, Andrew and I are now planning our next moves to keep the FUF ball rolling and keep FUF relevant as we move into a post lockdown life. ❤️❤️❤️ #frockupfriday #bevalifrancis #susansimms #frockupfridayfestival #andrewfrancis

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