Photography by Steve Painter

No doubt it seemed like a great idea at the time. But the best-laid acid house plans and all that… On May 6, Marky Souter left his home in Cornwall at 5am to catch an early morning flight out of Newquay to Gatwick. From there, he took the train to Hastings, where he spent the daytime cavorting with friends around the Pagan jamboree Jack in the Green. From there he decamped to West St Leonards and the Marina Fountain’s final blowout – the appropriately named Last Orders. 

Spreads designed by Richard Robinson. This article was featured in Issue #6 Summer ’24 of Get Hastings Magazine available from the Get Hastings Shop.

Along with 200 or so like-minded committed partygoers – all to a man and woman old enough to know better – he got stuck right into a soundtrack of ecstatic, forward-thinking, electronic body music (courtesy of adopted local hero Radioactive Man, David Holmes, Sean Johnston, Bill Brewster and more) until the early hours of the morning. From there, Marky got a few hours kip in a friend’s beach hut, before getting a cab up to Gatwick with Holmes and Brewster. Alas, pre-flight libations caused him to miss his afternoon departure and he had to shell out for another flight. It was, all told, an epic and emotional 36 hours or so – it also includes flat tires, AA call-outs, train strikes and an understandably peeved wife waiting back in Cornwall, but that’s another tale. And all for the closing party of a pub on the other side of the country? It must have been a special pub…

There are myriad ways of looking at Rupert (Roo) Walton and Jess Scarratt’s colourful reign of the Marina Fountain. It was unfortunately short. Their stewardship lasted a little over five years. And to that end it was beset by difficulties almost from day one. The torturous and ridiculous saga of Brexit welcomed the pair and in turn this was followed by Covid, the global energy crisis and the cost of living emergency. More so than many industries, hospitality was constantly hammered from all sides. 

Flyers designed by Richard Robinson over the years.

The pair took a nondescript boozer on the edge of town and transformed into a nationwide talking point; a pub that bands and DJs with global renown actively wanted to play at. 

“I’m from Hastings,” says Roo…Community has always been massive in my mind.

“It was pretty near impossible to keep going,” Roo concedes today, just over a month after the pub shut its doors for the final time. “We weren’t really paying ourselves by the end and fear led to less risks being taken. We had to pull a few nights, because we knew we would never be able to pay for them even out of our own pockets.”

And yet, while Roo and Jess relinquishing the venue will always be a source of regret for them in particular, not to mention for Hastings and St Leonards and the wider musical and gastronomic community, ultimately, their five-year story is one of joy and celebration. The pair took a nondescript boozer on the edge of town and transformed into a nationwide talking point; a pub that bands and DJs with global renown actively wanted to play at. 

Ask anyone that partied at the Marina Fountain – danced to DJs like Andrew Weatherall, Nancy Noise, Optimo, Ivan Smagghe and the aforementioned David Holmes and Sean Johnston – or were fortunate to try one of Roo’s culinary masterpieces and the look of wonder that takes over their faces is proof enough. George Orwell might not have recognised many of the Marina Fountain’s attributes when he was listing his ideal pub (the fictitious Moon Under Water) but we – the residents of Hastings and St Leonards – know. We know what we witnessed, how we came together and should count ourselves fortunate to have lived through such marvelous times. 

“My other half Michael who worked with Andrew, will get wistful and bang on about us having our generation’s Miles Davis on that weekend.

Central to this was the notion of community. Pubs, clubs, restaurants (the Marina Fountain was, at various times, all three and in actual fact more much)… the entire hospitality sector relies upon the goodwill of a community. The best communities evolve organically, people come together attracted by a shared passion and need. This was the Marina Fountain in microcosm. The demographic of a town is always shifting and evolving – certainly, Hastings and St Leonards have in the last 10-15 years. The pub catered for and reflected these changing trends. It wasn’t merely a venue for the former hipsters taking the journey down the A21 from the capital (the contentious FILTH – Failed in London, try Hastings – cadre), it was also indicative of Hastings and St Leonards’ well-established artistic, creative and bohemian enclaves.

The best communities evolve organically, people come together attracted by a shared passion and need. 

“I’m from Hastings,” says Roo proudly, “this town takes care of its own and welcomes in strangers. Community has always been massive in my mind. Before we opened the pub we were doing some decorating and each morning I would walk there thinking, ‘Holy shit! I own a pub in my home town!’ The idea that people will have memories of this place that will go into Hastings folklore couldn’t make me prouder.”

The pub became part of an informal and revitalised Balearic Network – a collection of venues up and down and across the UK (see also: the Golden Lion in Todmorden, Banana Block in Belfast and King Street Social Club in North Shields) – where ex-ravers and their enlightened progeny would trip the light fantastic once more and demonstrate that dancing like everyone is watching is a virtue that should never be allowed to grow old.

 “I guess we just appealed to misspent youth,” beams Roo. “An opportunity to go crazy again but in a pub in St Leonards!”

Highlights? They’ve been a few. Roo says putting on The Wave Pictures and the DJs Optimo were two moments to savour. “I’d always loved both of them and dreamt I would put on a gig of theirs. I’d achieved what I set out to do, everything after was a gift.”

What sealed their tenure though was having Andrew Weatherall play in late-2019, just a matter of months before his unfortunate passing. If post-acid house leftfield dance/electronic music had a totemic figure it was always Weatherall. He played across a memorable weekend, firstly on the Saturday night and then again for a Sunday afternoon session that morphed into an unforgettable eight-hour set.

“I just remember my brother hugging me saying, ‘You made this’,” recalls Roo, whilst also confiding that one of the producers of Primal Scream’s epochal Screamadelica album wanted Coco Pops for breakfast. As for Jess, that Sunday set is the highlight of her five years.

“Regardless of knowing what we know now about that gig being one of his last, it was an incredible weekend,” she reflects. “My other half Michael who worked with Andrew, will get wistful and bang on about us having our generation’s Miles Davis on that weekend. It was rammed to the rafters on the Saturday, and Sunday afternoon was busy enough, but only a handful of us remained on the dancefloor into the Sunday night and it was magic what he created. He could take you to some very deep places. He was the best.” 

And what about the magic created at Last Orders? The hangovers – brutal as they were – have now faded. Only the memories remain.

“It was bittersweet,” says Roo poignantly. “You want everyone to be there, but people will inevitably miss out. Then everyone who is there keeps telling you how good it is, how good it was, how much you’ll be missed and then it all just sinks in, it’s over. About a week after the party when I’d eventually peeled myself off the sofa I went in to pack away the DJ booth. There was a perfect rectangle of varnish left on the floorboards, the rest of the room was dull, which I assumed was dirt. On that last day we’d actually danced the varnish off the fucking floorboards! That’s a proper fucking party! And that makes me smile always.”

It wasn’t here for a long time, but the Marina Fountain was always here for a good time. That will never be forgotten by anyone that sailed alongside her. Just ask Marky Souter.

Roo and Jess bid their fond farewell
Jess and Roo bid a fond farewell…
Illustration by Roo’s Dad, Stewart Walton

Note: since we went to print the Marina Fountain pub has reopened and Get Hastings would like to wish the new owners all the best too.