Compiled by Anthony Wills
The long-awaited Select Committee report on the future of RAMSEY (Isle of Man) QUEEN’S was discussed, and its proposals rejected, by the island’s Parliament on 22 June. The committee, chaired by Onchan MP Peter Karran, had recommended expenditure of £4.5 million on a three-year phased restoration using modern materials where necessary, but it also called for £500,000 to be raised by public appeal organised by a yet-to-be-formed charitable trust, which would ultimately be tasked with running the refurbished structure.
A deadline of 31 December 2008 was imposed for this sum to be raised, otherwise ownership would revert to the island’s department of Transport, which has mothballed the pier since it closed in 1991. According to the Isle of Man Examiner Ramsey MP Anne Craine was of the opinion that the Government should foot the entire bill. She said the pier is an all-island facility like the Laxey Wheel, which was also originally a working structure but was later allowed to deteriorate. It had subsequently been restored at taxpayers’ expense and was now one of the Isle of Man’s leading tourist attractions. After the House voted to reject the Select Committee’s recommendations the Friends of Queens pier asked the Environment Minister to ensure his department enforce its protection as a listed building. Meanwhile the Association for Industrial Archaeology is holding its 2006 conference on the island in early September and delegates are to be encouraged to visit the seemingly doomed pier (the 6th longest in Britain) and assess its viability. Demolition is not a cheap option.
The future of BOURNEMOUTH pier’s landing stages had been in doubt, but a meeting of interested parties held in the resort on 30 March saw the Council agreeing to undertake temporary repairs at a cost of £20,000 for the current season, with a pledge of a further £210,000 long-term. Assistance may be sought from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Fund, meanwhile, has awarded £565,000 to WEYMOUTH Borough Council for refurbishment of its historic Esplanade in time for the 2012 Sailing Olympics are staged in the town.
Outline plans to erect a 500ft viewing tower on the landward site of BRIGHTON WEST were unveiled to the press early in April. Architects Marks Byfield said the tower, which would be almost twice the height of the current tallest building in Sussex, would allow 100 people at a time to “walk on air” after ascending in a slimline pod high above the city, with panoramic views of the South Downs and the coast from Beachy Head to the Isle of Wight. The revenue generated by ticket sales is intended to allow the remains of the stricken pier to be properly assembled and displayed.
As expected, BLACKPOOL has made the shortlist of eight towns to house the single super casino permitted by the Government under its new gambling legislation. SOUTHAMPTON has not.
North Norfolk District Council, owners of CROMER pier, have valued the structure at just £1 in the first ever official stock-take of their assets, which also include 17 flagpoles, 16 telescopes, 32 car parks, 45 toilet blocks and 468 benches! The inventory does, however, reveal that the pier is insured for a massive £4.3 million, estimated as the cost of total replacement. The much-loved structure recently featured in the new short film Norfolk Coast starring The Stranglers’ bass player Jean Jacques Burnel alongside Susannah York and Nicholas Ball, and is now the inspiration for a series of stories penned by children’s writer Salena Dawson, with illustrations by James Munro. Clay The Cromer Crab and The Search for the Lost Seal Pup is the first of a series of adventure books set along the Norfolk coast.
A skating rink opened at Easter opposite the entrance to MUMBLES pier. Built on the site of a disused beer garden the rink measures 45 x 55 ft. and uses a synthetic substitute for frozen ice. Special skates can be hired for £4.50 (adults) or £3.50 (children), and there is a sledge apparatus suitable for disabled customers.
Regular fishing days for disabled people – normally the first Tuesday of the month – have been organised on SOUTHWOLD pier, thanks to a £1,000 donation from local brewers Adnams.
NPS Vice-President Tim Mickleburgh cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Waterfront bar on CLEETHORPES pier on 13 April. Radio 1 DJ Dave Pearce helped launch the revamped former Paradise Club, which has had a £35,000 makeover. The veranda outside the club is now heated and can accommodate 120 customers. Families are welcome until 9 p.m., thanks to the granting of a children’s licence. In addition, windows and French doors have been installed, enabling clubbers to view the North Sea from inside the pavilion. Less than a month later, however, the pier, which was sold by former owners Luminar Leisure in 2005 to a management buy-out team, was again under offer, this time to local promoter Kashor Pungi.
A 30-year old man sustained serious injuries when he fell from the roof of EASTBOURNE pier’s Atlantis nightclub on Easter Saturday. Earlier in the month a man was swept out to sea by a freak wave while eating a takeaway meal on the beach near BLACKPOOL NORTH pier in the early hours of the morning. His body was later recovered by a coastguard from the Lytham St Annes team. Another man jumped off the end of CROMER pier on 23 May in an apparent suicide attempt.
Staff at CLEVEDON have been celebrating the sale of the 9,000th brass plate on the pier during the late spring Bank Holiday at the end of May. The milestone was reached when a man who had emigrated from Clevedon to America with his family when he was 12 years old returned to his native town to propose to his girlfriend. Early in June members of the John Betjeman Society also paid for a plaque commemorating his role in helping to save the Grade I listed structure from being demolished. There is still plenty of room to install more plaques (the National Piers Society has two!).
A half-mile section of the promenade at TORQUAY has had to be fenced off due to subsidence. The cost of shoring up the prom, which was originally built on reclaimed land, is estimated at £1 million.
The winner of the design competition for the revamp of the pier head cafeteria at DEAL, with up to £480,000 available to carry out the project, is Niall McLaughlin Architects. Their design is said to focus on user comfort and enjoyment, while minimising energy use and limiting the environmental impact. The competition was organised by the RIBA on behalf of pier owners Dover District Council. The jury panel selected this entry from four finalist designs, which were put on display in the Visitor Information Centre at the Landmark Centre and attracted over 950 responses from members of the public. Work is expected to start in October.
SOUTHSEA Town Council has awarded £500 towards installing artwork on the toilet block at CLARENCE pier. SOUTH PARADE pier just under a mile away is holding its annual talent show Search For A Star with heats from 6 July to 24 August. Contestants are asked to perform three songs or a 10 – 15 minute spot in the case of speciality acts. Cash prizes are awarded at every heat with a £1,000 prize for the overall winner at the Grand Final, to be held on Thursday 14 September.
Its famous pier may be temporarily wounded, but SOUTHEND has been voted the best place to retire to in a survey organised by Yours magazine. Its relative flatness, coupled with lower-than-average Council Tax and crime statistics, made it first choice for pensioners. Regional winners in other areas included LLANDUDNO, BLACKPOOL and WORTHING.
As part of the Prime Minister’s “bloodbath” reshuffle on 5 May Shaun Woodward (MP for St Helens South) took over from James Purnell as Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism.
BOGNOR’s End Of The Pier International Film Festival (2-6 May) included screenings in the Club Vision nightclub on the pier as well as the town’s historic Picturedrome cinema.
p.s. Waverley cruised between PENARTH and CLEVEDON piers on 8 June as part of the three week Severn Wonders Festival celebrating the Estuary.
The Friends of Blairmore Pier Trust in Scotland held a Pier Day on 10 June, including visits from a Tall Ship, a naval air/sea rescue demonstration, speedboat trips, an art exhibition, barbecue and ceilidh. The pier is situated at the foot of Loch Long on the Cowal peninsula of Argyll. Originally constructed in 1855, it fell into disuse in the latter part of the 20th century when the heavy passenger, commercial and tourist trade on the Clyde estuary declined. It has now been restored with the aid of grants and is used by fishermen and visited by p.s.Waverley in the summer.
The Friends of SALTBURN pier met on 13 June to discuss the way ahead following the sad death of Norman Bainbridge at the end of last year. It has been decided to provide a seat in Norman’s memory somewhere along the seafront.
WESTON GRAND staged a Pier Party on 21 June, starting at 7.30 p.m. and running into the early hours. A £20 ticket bought a Fish & Chip supper, free rides and dancing to live bands, plus a chance to win a car in a sports auction. A highlight of the evening, organised in association with the Weston Mercury in aid of the Weston Super Kids Appeal, was a firework display off the end of the pier.
The annual Save Britain’s Heritage Book Fair took place within the context of the London Architecture Biennale on 22 June. The NPS had its usual stand at the Fair, held at The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1.
A new coffee table compendium, England In Particular, by Sue Clifford and Angela King, who work for the charity Common Ground, includes sections on beach huts, harbours and piers. It is described as “a celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive”. The lavishly illustrated 512-page volume is published by Hodder & Stoughton, rrp £30.
m.v. Balmoral will be sailing from CLACTON, HARWICH and GREAT YARMOUTH in late June. On 7 July it sailed from Douglas (IOM) past the closed QUEENS pier at RAMSEY, before basing itself at LLANDUDNO from July 12 – 18 inclusive. Its sister ship p.s. Waverley will be based on the South Coast from 1 – 21 September, visiting WEYMOUTH, SWANAGE, BOURNEMOUTH, YARMOUTH (IOW), PORTSMOUTH, WORTHING and DOVER on a variety of circuits.
Photographer Sean Clark organised a Paddle Round The Pier event at BRIGHTON on 2 July, in aid of various charities including the RNLI and Surfaid.
SALTBURN pier is the venue on 15 July for a musical evening with the Marske Fishermen’s Choir starting at 7 p.m.
GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA has a range of star shows in its theatre this summer including The Drifters (20 July), Abba – The Show (Tuesdays from 25 July – 5 September), Basil Brush (Wednesdays from 26 July – 30 August), Cannon & Ball (Fridays from 28 July – 1 September), Freddie Starr (31 July and 28 August), Joe Pasquale (3 and 24 August), Richard Digance (7 and 21 August), Jim Davidson (12 and 19 August) and Chubby Brown (14 September).
The Pier Theatre at BOURNEMOUTH, now under the control of Openwide International, began its summer season with a four play repertory season presented by Charles Vance. From 20 June We’ll Meet Again alternates with The Good Olde Days (not Mondays or Sundays, which are devoted to Abba/Bee Gees/Beach Boys tribute shows).
A reminder that the International Birdman Rally takes place on BOGNOR REGIS pier over the weekend of 9/10 September.
WORTHING is planning a Pier Day on Sunday 17 September to mark its award of Pier of The Year 2006. It is hoped that Ken Dodd, who is appearing at the Pavilion Theatre the previous evening, may stay on to launch the event, which will include displays and musical entertainment.
Art On The Pier. Until the end of September artist Derek Barran, who owns Totland Bay pier, is opening his studio at the pier head and staging a one-man exhibition of local landscapes in oils, contemporary works, sculptures and video installations. This is the first time for many years that visitors have been permitted to venture beyond the pier entrance café. Admission is £1 per head with all proceeds going towards the restoration of this beautifully located pier. The opening hours are 1000-1700 on Thursdays – Sundays.
The Victorian Society is organising a Study Day on The Victorian & Edwardian Seaside at the Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR on Saturday 11 November. The seminar includes talks on The Englishness of the Victorian Seaside, Entertaining The Victorian Holidaymaker, Bathing Huts & Bungalows, Public Health & Sanitation in Resorts and The Transformation of Coastlines. Tickets, which include a sandwich lunch, are £40.
(Thanks to Tim Mickleburgh, David Cheshire, Daphne Lewis, Steve Wilkinson and Ken Wisdom for their contributions)
MEDIAWATCH Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
The closure of BLACKPOOL NORTH’s pier theatre this summer was mentioned in the News of The World on 9 April and comprehensively covered in a full-page Guardian article the next day, which commented that it could be difficult for the resort to get its reputation as the Capital of Fun back. By coincidence the Blackpool-based thriller series Funland was repeated on BBC2 on Sunday evenings in May and June.
The Sunday Times magazine feature Who Killed Our Seaside? published on 23 April struck an unremittingly bleak note in its ten pages, handsomely illustrated by images of BOURNEMOUTH, SOUTHEND and BLACKPOOL. Writer Richard Girling concentrated on Southend pier, which he visited on a bleak February day. The NPS provided assistance in compiling his report.
The same paper’s Travel Quiz Where Was I? sent readers on a piers quest on both May 7 and 21. Plenty of clues made it easy for a piers enthusiast to identify CLACTON and WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE in the first instance and HERNE BAY and MARGATE in the second. The prizes on offer were, not a wet weekend in Southend, but a week’s holiday for two in Provence and La Manga!
SOUTHWOLD was recommended as a “bolt hole” in both The Sunday Times of 7 May and The Times of 15 May, but whereas the former piece (by Simon Hacker) eschewed any mention of the town’s pier, the latter had Stephen Gardiner rhapsodising over the structure (though he seemed to think it was still owned by Chris Iredale).
BBC2’s thoroughly enjoyable late April archive series The Lost World of Friese-Green, featuring 1924 colour footage of a motoring trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats, had presenter Dan Cruickshank on the beach at WESTON-SUPER-MARE comparing the GRAND pier now and then, and a tiny glimpse of PLYMOUTH HOE pier, demolished in 1953.
BRIGHTON PALACE cropped up in several shots on Would You Buy A House With A Stranger? shown on BBC3 and BBC1 in April, focussing on A & E nurse Ian’s attempts to find a compatible co-purchaser of a terrace house in Kemp Town.
The makers of Flora Pro-Activ spread used a full-page image of BRIGHTON PALACE to promote their countrywide free blood pressure and cholesterol checks in the national press including The Times and Radio Times during April.
SWANAGE was the only pier to rate a mention in Which? magazine’s list of ten favourite seaside resorts, published in May. Another of their Top Ten towns, Tenby, boasted a pier until 1953, and the Scottish resort of Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, is served by p.s. Waverley in early summer.
BRIGHTON’s piers got a double mention on BBC Radio 4, first in a series of playlets set in beach huts (broadcast 15-19 May) and the following week in short stories broadcast under the generic title Brighton Rocks (22-27 May).
Madam Cyn’s Home Movies, shown on Channel 4 on 31 May, featured a brief sequence of former brothel keeper Cynthia Payne on the beach near the pier at BOGNOR, where she was born.
Channel 4’s provocative drama series Sugar Rush (based on characters created by Julie Burchill) has had a further series commissioned, which began transmission on 15 June. The series is set in BRIGHTON and features numerous shots of both the resort’s piers.
One of the many songs written to mark the Football World Cup was Embrace’s World At Your Feet, the video of which featured shots of BRIGHTON PALACE pier.