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We are proud to offer engagement and learning opportunities for visitors of all ages through our exciting and expansive public programme. This runs in two seasons, Autumn / Winter and Spring / Summer, in three strands: Adult Classes, Art Shoal for 5-10 year olds, Young Artists Lab for 11-16 year olds.

We are also working on a Young Ambassador scheme for 16-26 year olds. Please contact if you or someone you know would be interested in this.

Alongside our public programme we run an annual schools programme, Pearls of the Sea (see below) and an award winning digital outreach scheme via our telepresence robot (also see below), which allows remote guided and self-guided to the gallery. See below for more information.

Pearls of the Sea

Pearls of the Sea is Hastings Contemporary’s flagship local schools engagement programme.

Since its launch in 2015, Pearls of the Sea has given thousands of local children the opportunity to respond to modern and contemporary artworks, explore their creativity through a wide variety of mediums in our learning studio, and get inspired by seeing their art displayed alongside work by internationally renowned artists.

Throughout the academic year, children from eight Hastings and St. Leonards schools work with local artists during a series of gallery visits, school visits and workshops to produce their own art pieces that are then exhibited at Hastings Contemporary. Teachers are provided with Career Personal Development sessions to enhance their arts delivery skills. The participants and their families are then invited to celebrate their exhibition.

The 2022/2023 programme – the first cycle since the COVID pandemic – has been developed as a partnership between the Hastings Contemporary Public Programme Team and artist Lorna Hamilton-Brown RCA MBE, curator of and participant in the exhibition We Out Here. Lorna set the artist facilitators the brief Making Your Mark to compliment the We Out Here themes: Race, Heritage, Resistance and Climate Change. The responses cover a variety of forms, from Kimmy Cantrell inspired African masks, cross stitch panels, capoeira inspired drawings to Aboriginal-style dot work collaborative banners.

The participating schools in 2022/2023 are:

  • Ark Castledown: Year 3, working with Emmanuel MacDonald
  • Baird Primary Academy: Year 5, working with Emmanuel MacDonald
  • Christ Church C of E Primary and Nursery Academy : Year 3, working with Gilda Flores
  • Dudley Infant Academy: Year 2, working with Cathy Dart
  • Hollington Primary Academy Key Stage 1: working with Yemii Haastrup
  • Ore Village Primary: Year 4, working with Cathy Dart
  • Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School: Year 1, working with Janey Moffat
  • Saxon Mount School: Year 9, working with Lee Henry

Robot Tours

Hastings Contemporary made headlines during the first national lockdown in 2020 when we began using a telepresence robot to run robot tours, offering a chance to visit the gallery remotely. Passengers on the tours were able to join a member of gallery staff to see The Age of Turmoil and Anne Ryan’s Garden of Earthly Delites as well as Sir Quentin Blake’s mural The Taxi Driver. In 2021 we have shared Stephen Chambers’s The Court of Redonda, Sir Quentin’s We Live in Worrying Times and Lakwena’s Homeplace with visitors. Robot Tours featured in BBC News, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Art Newspaper, and the Daily Mail.

The telepresence robot, developed by Double Robotics, is an innovative tool that helps arts organisations such as Hastings Contemporary work to overcome barriers of isolation and exclusion. We are delighted that, with the robot, we can give visitors an opportunity to experience the gallery in a new way. We believe that the robot also helps to provide an insight into the lived experiences of disabled people in a creative and collaborative manner.

We are grateful to Esther Fox, Hastings Contemporary Trustee and researcher on the D4D project as part of her role as Head of the Accentuate Programme, and to Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor for Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, for their practical and technical facilitation of this project. We are also grateful to Hastings Contemporary Trustee Nicholas Maclean for the considerable help he has given with the tours.

Being Here: Accessible tours and workshops

We are excited to announce we have now secured funds through the Accentuate Programme to offer Robot Tours to groups and individuals in the local area who may be unable to travel to the gallery. The tours will provide the opportunity for people to visit exhibitions from the comfort of their home or community centre, reducing accessibility issues, logistical hurdles and Covid-19 concerns.

During the Covid-19 lockdowns, Hastings Contemporary pioneered the use of telepresence robot technology to provide gallery tours for audiences to visit the gallery remotely, from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Now, in partnership with the Accentuate Programme and Robotics For Good C.I.C., we want to take these tours one step further and reach out to those who continue to face difficulties visiting exhibitions and provide creative activities as well as tours. We will facilitate eight sessions for those who identify as disabled and/or have long term health conditions, to come together via the robot, to take part in a gallery tour followed by artist led creative sessions. You just need access to a laptop or mobile phone with internet connection and we will explain the rest!

For more information or to book a tour email or call 01424 728377.

Comments from some of our robot tour passengers:

“Unfortunately we are unable to visit Hastings – or anywhere – at the moment, so it is really lovely to have a tour. It was very interesting and informative.”

“Many thanks once again for an excellent experience. I can really see the benefit of this type of tour, beyond the pandemic, for people who are unable to attend the gallery for whatever reason. I certainly wouldn’t have seen this exhibition otherwise. I look forward to visiting in the future.”