Compiled by Anthony Wills
As reported elsewhere, the Heritage Lottery Fund has withdrawn its financial commitment towards restoring the Grade I Listed BRIGHTON WEST pier. This despite the supportive report issued by English Heritage last November.
Further to our report in PIERS 70, HYTHE pier reopened for business on 7 January. The 75 ft. breach was repaired in record time following a financial settlement between the pier owners and the company responsible for the dredger which crashed into the structure on 1 November 2003. On 19 March the 37-year old skipper of the vessel was jailed for eight months at Southampton Crown Court.
Demolition of FELIXSTOWE pier, long closed to visitors apart from the arcade at the entrance, has moved a step closer with the winding-up of the charitable trust formed five years ago to save it. The structure has been handed back to its owners Pier Amusements Ltd., who have applied to the local council to demolish it. A feasibility study into a new hi-tech pier incorporating a revolving restaurant and viewing deck will not go ahead, as the necessary £50,000 cost has not been raised.
The National Piers Society has made representations to the Isle of Man Government regarding the continuing delays in carrying out repairs to the island’s only pier, the QUEEN’S at RAMSEY, which has been closed on safety grounds for several years.A freak tide on 15 December 2003, the highest in the area for 20 years, destroyed 19 beach huts and damaged decking on SOUTHWOLD pier.
2004 came in with a bang at CROMER pier, where a 20-minute firework display was held after dark on New Year’s Day. Contractors Mowlems then began the task of altering and extending the theatre to provide extra seating, a new bar and foyer in time for the 2004 summer season. As a result the annual Folk Festival, normally held on the pier, will be staged at a greenfield site on Runton Road between May 6-9.
SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE saw plenty of activity during the winter months. In addition to a fortnightly Rock promotion in the Gaiety Bar on Tuesdays, a Psychic Fair was held on 24/25 January. The amusement arcade is well patronised and now boasts a cash machine. On a sadder note, a 28-year old man, Nathan Willoughby, died after diving off the pier shortly before 1.30 a.m. on 17 February. He and two friends had stripped naked after drinking heavily. His friends survived with minor injuries because they jumped off the pier feet first.
WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND, normally closed throughout the winter months, opened specially for half-term week in February and received quite a few visitors, thanks to sunny weather conditions. The pier celebrates its centenary this year. Its website www.grandpierwsm.com, which was rated bottom of the pile in a PIERS survey in 2002, has been totally redesigned.
WORTHING residents have voted to pay an extra 35p a week in Council Tax to keep the Pier Pavilion open for shows, as well as the Connaught theatre, Museum and Aquarena swimming complex. A less rosy future seems on the cards for BOURNEMOUTH pier theatre. Although plans to lease the pier to a private consortium appear to have stalled Bournemouth Borough Council is planning to mothball the building, concentrating its energies instead on the nearby Bournemouth International Centre, whose auditoria are to be enlarged.
The Annual General Meeting of the SOUTHEND Pier Museum Foundation was held on 9 March. The Board of Trustees are seeking compensation from Southend Borough Council for the lack of signage and restricted access during 2003, which resulted in the lowest number of visitors since the display opened in 1989. They also agreed to raise museum entrance fees from 60p to £1 in 2004. This year’s exhibition will be on the theme of Seaside Photographs.
The annual BOGNOR Birdman Rally will take place on Sunday 4 July. Its future had been in doubt after a poor response to appeals for sponsors to replace the funding supplied by Virgin Atlantic in 2003. The event, while attracting huge crowds and worldwide media interest, is costly to stage because of security and insurance requirements, with little direct revenue. Arun District Council has now agreed extra financial support.
CLEETHORPES would appear to have turned the corner according to local tourism chiefs, with talk of a new cinema complex, outdoor arena, gardens and even a new pier, all part of an Integrated Development Plan funded by Yorkshire Forward and the NELC.
This year’s SOUTHPORT Pier Extravaganza will take place on June 19 and 20.
A group of artists who operate collectively under the name of Talking Birds are aiming to visit 24 piers over the next two years, collecting people’s memories and opinions of them. Using audio and video equipment they will fictionalise the stories, fusing them into one cumulative story with 24 chapters, which will be displayed on their website. This piers odyssey begins in WORTHING in April.
MEDIAWATCH Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
The devastating news of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s withdrawal of its £14 million grant towards the restoration of BRIGHTON WEST was largely buried amidst the brouhaha of the Hutton report and resignations at the BBC, but The Times ran a prominent article on 29 January. The Guardian and The Independent also covered the story on the same day. On 4 March the Brighton Argus reported that the HLF had rejected an appeal against its decision. One reader suggested a boycott of the Palace Pier.
BBC-2’s Crafty Tricks Of War, screened on 6 January, featured wartime footage of WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK being used for trial experiments by the Royal Navy’s Dept. of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Makes a change from Weapons of Mass Destruction!
BBC East’s Inside Out on 12 January featured engineer Tim Hunkin, inventor of the Water Clock and other amusement machines installed on SOUTHWOLD pier.
One little known fact in the numerous tributes to comedian Bob Monkhouse, who died in December 2003, was that while barely a teenager he came second in a talent contest on WORTHING pier. The same pier featured in the 1987 film Wish You Were Here, starring Emily Lloyd and Tom Bell and shown on Channel 4 on 13 January.
BBC-1’s cheesy travel series Perfect Holiday kicked off on 14 January with the resident experts meeting singer Fiona on BLACKPOOL NORTH pier and deciding to send her and her best friend to California, where she also got to visit the pier on Venice beach.
Our new Pier Of The Year BLACKPOOL NORTH and its theatre were also prominently featured in Channel 5’s showbiz documentary Bad Boys of Comedy on 11 February. This edition was devoted to madcap entertainer Freddie Starr, who headlined on the pier in the 1973 summer season. He paid a nostalgic visit backstage with his third wife.
BRIGHTON was the destination of doomed adulterers Maurice and Sarah in the 1999 screen adaptation of Graham Greene’s wartime novel The End Of The Affair, starring Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore, and shown on Channel 4 on 14 February. The film contains plenty of shots of PALACE pier as well as the Royal Pavilion.
Budding photographer Kate Haddon chose LLANDUDNO pier for her entry in the “food & entertainment” section of the Times/Tabasco Young Photographer of The Year competition, which offers the winner a chance to be trained in all aspects of photo-journalism. Her amusing entry was pictured in the paper on 17 February.
The south coast received a blast of wintry weather at the end of February, captured by photographer Mike Simmonds in his dramatic shot of BOURNEMOUTH pier frozen in time, published in The Guardian on 28 February.
The National Piers Society is grateful to all those who contributed information to this section.