Compiled by Anthony Wills
GREAT YARMOUTH Council, who own the WELLINGTON pier, has received a Townscape Initiative Award (funded via the National Lottery) towards the cost of rebuilding the demolished historic pier theatre as a “family amusement centre”. Neither the Theatres Trust nor the National Piers Society is happy with this award and the NPS has written to the Heritage Lottery Fund expressing its feelings.
PENARTH pier in South Wales has received a £50,000 Lottery grant towards the cost of a feasibility study into possible uses for its neglected Pier Pavilion. The grant has been criticised as a waste of money, as there has been plenty of correspondence in the local press with ideas for the building already. At one stage it was planned to use the pavilion as a cinema. It has been used for live shows and as a gymnasium in the past.
Two out of five men who jumped off CLACTON pier on 7 July died of their injuries. Cliff jumping or “tombstoning” is now a major problem according to the RNLI, whose lifeboats are frequently called out on rescue missions.
Activists went on hunger strike in late July to save the historic Queen’s pier in HONG KONG from demolition, to make way for a new by-pass. The pier was built in 1957 (the same year as Deal pier in this country) and used as the landing point for visiting dignitaries to the colony until China reclaimed it in 1999.
After an appalling couple of months of almost continuous rain the sun came out at the very end of July and resorts such as BOURNEMOUTH, BRIGHTON and SKEGNESS saw a welcome influx of visitors. Footfall at BRIGHTON was said to be up 20% on last year, and at WORTHING 12-13%.
Former Seaside Special producer Robert Marlowe signed copies of his new autobiography on CROMER pier on 27 August. The 400-page book Look Mummy, I’m Dancing, published by UMSO rrp £11.99, recounts Mr Marlowe’s professional debut as a dancer at the Folies Bergere in Paris and his creation of the classic end-of-the-pier concert party show under the aegis of promoter Dick Condon in 1983. Audiences for that first season were dreadful but Condon and Marlowe persevered, and Seaside Special has now become a national institution; indeed North Norfolk District Council have been obliged to enlarge the theatre to cope with the crowds. Once the show finishes its 2007 season on 22 September the Pavilion has a variety of one-night stands including Vince Hill on 27 September and Marty Wilde and the Wildcats on 30 September.
The annual pier to pier swimming race at LOWESTOFT took place on 2 September, after being postponed from a previously arranged date by rough seas.
Meanwhile neighbouring West Norfolk Council has commissioned a £50,000 study into how Hunstanton could be regenerated. The resort lost its pier in a gale in 1974.
The next hearing into the dispute between the owners of HASTINGS pier and Stylus Sports Ltd., who spent large sums of money on repairs to enable part of the structure to be reopened, has been fixed for late October.
The 29th BOGNOR Birdman Rally on the pier took place over the weekend of _ September in cool and blustery conditions. Steve Drew from Bursledon was the first winner of the Society’s Birdman Trophy for the the Leonardo da Vinci flight class (non-hang glider), achieving a distance of 8.5 metres before hitting the water. The overall winner was Ron Freeman in a hang glider, who achieved 72.7 metres, some 23 metres short of the 100 metres required to win the £25,000 prize. Anthony Wills, Neville Taylor and Tim Wardley helped man the Society’s stall in the grounds of the Royal Norfolk hotel and fielded a steady stream of enquiries.
The following weekend WORTHING held its second Pier Day on Sunday 9 September. Anthony Wills, Michael Bevis, David Cheshire and Robin Jones took turns to man the NPS stall halfway down the pier. The weather was perfect, with hot sunshine and a dead calm sea. An estimated 15,000 people came on to the pier to enjoy the varied attractions, which included a Craft Fair, Punch & Judy, Belly Dancing and a Children’s Fancy Dress Parade. The Citadel Salvation Army gave a concert in front of the pier in the mid-afternoon. The following morning p.s. Waverley docked at the pier to take passengers to YARMOUTH (IOW) and BOURNEMOUTH, with an optional trip to Lulworth Cove.
The same evening (Sunday 9 September) comedian Ken Dodd is believed to have set a record at WEYMOUTH Pavilion theatre by performing for five and a half hours, coming off stage at 12.35 a.m.!
DEAL, which is the venue for the 2008 AGM of the National Piers Society on Saturday 10 May, staged a Maritime Folk Festival on 14-16 September, and much of the daytime action took place on the Beach Street Entertainment Area directly facing the pier. There was also a Children’s Fishing Competition off the pier from 1100-1500 on Sunday 16 September.
Does anyone know anything about the Westovian Theatre Pier Pavilion in South Tyneside? Could this be our sixth surviving pier theatre in addition to BOURNEMOUTH, CROMER, GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA, WEYMOUTH and WORTHING?
Among the attractions on offer at BOURNEMOUTH pier theatre in the autumn was Theatre 2000’s amateur performance of Disney’s High School Musical.
An exhibition entitled Beside The Seaside ran at Portland Basin Museum, Ashton-under-Lyne until 27 September.
A survey by the Halifax Bank has revealed that house buyers are prepared to pay 3% or £5,000 more on the price of a typical property in order to live by the sea.
Another survey, this time by the National Consumer Council, has compared the costs of a week’s holiday in BLACKPOOL and Barcelona. The Catalan capital comes out on top on almost every count, being £35 cheaper (£518) than the Lancashire resort (£553), partly because of inexpensive flights from the UK (whereas Blackpool airport has just lost most of its domestic air services). This is not counting the weather. Entrance fees to Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral, for example, are £5.50 for a family of four, compared with £51.80 for Blackpool Tower. Lunch averages out at £4.70 per head for a set meal in Spain, compared with £5.50 for fish and chips on the Golden Mile. But although it is a major port there are no seaside piers in Barcelona! VisitBritain said “What we need to remind people is that Britain does offer value and service”.
Finally, BRIGHTON PALACE pier has come seventh in the ranking of Top Ten Most Disappointing UK Attractions, in a survey of 1,276 tourists conducted by Virgin Media this summer.
Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
BBC1’s peaktime series The Big Day kicked off on 5 July with a couple working in a Blackpool casino whose friends and relatives helped raise £40,000 to give them a classy white wedding. Much of the programme was filmed in the heritage gallery next to BLACKPOOL NORTH pier theatre.
Director Sidney J. Furie’s downbeat movie The Leather Boys, made in Black & White Cinemascope in 1962 and shown on 10 August as part of BBC2’s summer season of British films, was considered daring at the time, but now looks laughably quaint. It included a seaside outing sequence shot on BOGNOR REGIS seafront at a time when the pier was still 1,000ft long and had a small pavilion at its head (this disappeared in a storm in 1965). This was a couple of years after Tony Hancock’s The Punch & Judy Man, also shot on that resort’s seafront.
Britain’s Favourite View, ITV1’s peak hour offering shown on 12 August, featured David Dickinson raving about BLACKPOOL and showing the view of the Golden Mile as seen from the NORTH pier. A superb picture of the North pier by night taken by Joe Cornish appeared in that week’s issue of Radio Times. Another celebrity, the Welsh chanteuse Katherine Jenkins, spoke warmly of MUMBLES pier and was seen chatting to owner Stan Bollom, but eventually plumped for the Gower Peninsula. Another four episodes of the series were scheduled, ending in a “viewers’ vote”.
An interview with the actress Dame Helen Mirren in the Daily Mail of 13 August revealed that she fell in love with the theatre after being taken to a summer show on SOUTHEND pier featuring Terry Scott in 1952. Her heart was initially set on becoming a dancer but in fact she trained as an actress.
In the same paper on 17 August there was an analysis of the results of the Virgin Media survey on Britain’s most disappointing tourist attractions, in which BRIGHTON PALACE pier came seventh.
The Sunday Times of 19 August carried a prominent article by Robert Booth on the construction of apartments on piers as a way of raising revenue, with comments from Anthony Wills, citing SOUTHWOLD, FLEETWOOD and WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK as the potential (and in fact, only) examples. A follow-up reader’s letter in the issue of 26 August expressed amazement at the idea in view of global warming and rising sea levels.
The Sunday Telegraph of the same date featured an article on BLACKPOOL written by two young girls, with a mention of the resort’s piers.
EastEnders on BBC1 was on location at BRIGHTON during the week of 21 August (repeated in the omnibus edition on 26 August) as “Dawn” and “Gary” had an illicit liaison there – though not on or under either of the piers!
The Times of 27 August had a full-page article by Lucy Bannerman extolling the delights of “Hampstead-on-Sea”, better know as SOUTHWOLD, and, in particular, its pier. The town had been voted Quintessential British Seaside Resort in a survey commissioned by Teletext Holidays. Newquay came second, Scarborough third, BOURNEMOUTH fourth and BRIGHTON fifth. BLACKPOOL was sixth and SKEGNESS seventh. Piers, amusement arcades and sticks of rock were named as important items in the make-up of a resort, and the disappearance of donkey rides and Punch & Judy was regretted.
The following day (28 August) a major Sunday Times feature Save Me Quick! written by James Collard with photographs by John Carey focussed on the problems currently facing BLACKPOOL. TV presenter and designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has been engaged by the local Council to revamp the world famous Illuminations.
The Portsmouth Evening News issue dated 30 August began a series of memories of SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier in its glory days with performances of Shakespeare in the pier theatre and dancing to top bands in the ballroom. The previous weekend the pier had played host to concerts forming part of the Southsea Folk Festival.
A strongly worded letter in the Evening Argus on 31 August took the owners of BRIGHTON PALACE pier, the Noble Organisation, to task for their “rip-off prices, walls of fruit machines, underlying bad attitude to staff and customers, unhealthy food, arrogant effort to rename it Brighton Pier, a campaign to stop the West Pier rebuilding and absolutely no support or sponsorship of community events”.
A Channel 4 ident shown this summer features the cast of Seaside Special making a “4” formation in front of CROMER pier pavilion theatre. The pier came first in a list of Top Ten Norfolk attractions published in the Eastern Daily Press on 4 September.
(Thanks to Michael Bevis, David Cheshire, Tim & Anne Mickleburgh and Steve Wilkinson for their contributions)