The Frock Up Friday group on Facebook created by Susan Simms and Bev Francis in March 2020 is a wonderful group for people who love to dress-up. Of course, as I love dressing up, I joined as soon as I found out about the group, and then when the festival in Hastings was announced, I knew I just had to go. The group welcomes men who like to dress-up too but they are far outnumbered by the female ‘frockers’, which suited me fine as I much prefer the company of women and indeed I do have the hope of finding a lady partner one day, particularly one who loves to dress up as I do.
It was a long 220 mile drive to Hasting from my home in North Nottinghamshire. The Satnav said it would take just over 4 hours but with the numerous endless traffic jams, particularly on the M25, plus an eat and loo break, the journey took me over 5 hours. It was cold and there was drizzle when I left home so I was wearing multiple layers, but by the time I got to Hastings I was sweating as it was clear blue skies and very warm. I quickly stripped off when I finally got to my hotel room at about 4pm and as I did not want to waste time going out for an evening meal, I just had a pot noodle and biscuits in my room, whilst I got ready for the evening.
Most events over the weekend took place at St Mary in the Castle, which was just a short walk from my hotel along the sea front. It is fronted by café were everyone would meet and through the café is a passage way that actually leads up into the crypt of the ‘Castle’ that towers above. From the crypt is a winding staircase up into the ‘castle’ itself, though I’d hardly call it a castle as it is actually a former Georgian church with a large semi-circular auditorium with a very high domed roof.
On the Friday evening there was a fashion show and entertainment featuring several local performers, followed by an auction with the proceeds going to the MIND charity. This included an artwork and two dresses that had been worn by Paloma Faith in her videos. One of them was sold for a staggering £430. During the interval, we wandered around a number of trade stands in the crypt. A lady selling skin care products complimented me on my skin and asked what products did I use, but she was horrified when I said I did not use any and just used soap, water and wipes to wash off my make-up! She also could not believe my age. It was a most enjoyable evening, not least because I was making new friends with some lovely friendly people. There were even a few of my trans friends there.
I had deliberately booked ‘room-only’ at my hotel as next morning there was a ‘Meet the Frockers’ breakfast at the St Mary in the Castle café. As well as entertainment throughout the morning, it was a wonderful opportunity to make more friends. The BBC came and set up a camera for an interview with Suzie and Bevali (the organisers of the event) which was broadcast live on BBC Breakfast just before 10am. They asked all the rest of us to sit in the rear part of the café and keep quiet during the interview. I happened to be in shot behind Suzie and Bevali but unfortunately, I never got to see the broadcast.
After all this excitement, I wandered into town and bought a new pair of sandals that were a bit more glamorous than the ones I had been wearing. Then briefly back to my hotel before retuning to the café to catch the start of a procession at 1pm. This proceeded through the old town ending up in the Stade. I took a video of the parade three times by filming it from the side as it went past me then walking quickly up to the front again to capture it all again. Later I would edit the best bits from the three takes. At the Stade there were free performances by bands including Suzie and Bev on the open air stage for the rest of the afternoon. I made friends with Janet Swartz who was wearing the beautiful Paloma Faith dress she had bought in the action the previous night. I returned to my hotel mid afternoon to rest awhile and get ready for the evening without being rushed.
Saturday night was the FUF Ball. I had taken two outfits to give me a choice: my red slinky evening dress that was very nice, or my silvery white satin big ball gown that was a much more dramatic outfit. I wanted to wear the latter but I had concerns about the walk from my hotel to the venue on my own in the early evening wearing such a cumbersome dress. In the end, I chose to go for it and booked a taxi to get me to the ball. Sure enough, the reaction I had to the dress from everyone was as great as I had hoped. Several said I was the belle of the ball with the best dress of the night. It was a good feeling and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
When it was time to leave the ball, I fortunately was able to ask if I could walk back to my hotel with two other ladies who happened to be going back to their hotel very close to mine. I really appreciated their company and I was able to manage the walk through the streets by holding up the train of my long skirt in a bunch in my arm. Part way a young man with two ladies yelled at us to take photos of us by a fountain in the middle of a roundabout. It was all good-natured fun and we happily complied.
I was disappointed to miss out on the Sunday happenings. The programme said there would be cocktails at Twisted Bunny from 11am and entertainment at Oscar’s and Goat Ledge. As my car parking didn’t expire until 3pm, I wanted to join in with all this. I managed to check out of my hotel in good time and made the fairly long walk along the sea front to the specified locations which were actually in the adjoining town of St Leonards. Goat Ledge is an open air café on the sea front but there were no frockers there and a bit further along I found the Twisted Bunny bar but again I could not see anyone there at 11am. I could not find Oscar's so hung around at Goat Ledge for awhile before giving up and walking all the way back along the sea front to St Mary in the Castle in case any of the others were there. I had a light lunch there before returning to my car for my long drive home. It was only when I got home and checked the Frock Up Friday Facebook page to see lots of photos of many Frockers enjoying cocktails at Twisted Bunny, having fun at Goat Ledge and even having a frocked-up dip in the sea! It must have all happened after I had left – how I wish I’d hung on a little longer!
But despite missing the Sunday fun, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend and will certainly go again if the festival is repeated. I am sure it will be as it was such a resounding success. My thanks to Susan Simms and Bev Francis for providing such a wonderful occasion.
The video below is of the Frockers Procession on Saturday afternoon.