Compiled by Anthony Wills

Plenty of media focus on piers this summer

What must be the finest ever piers article published in a national newspaper appeared in the Travel section of the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 22 August. Reporter Sophie Campbell paid an overnight visit to SALTBURN (the Society’s current Pier of the Year) and wrote a two-page piece outlining the structure’s chequered history and current glory. She was assisted by NPS members Tony and Cath Lynn, who in June collected the POTY certificate from our President Gavin Henderson on behalf of Redcar & Cleveland Council at the Penarth AGM. Also illustrated in the piece, which made generous mention of the Society’s 30th anniversary, were CLEVEDON, CROMER and SOUTHEND piers. For details of other media coverage see below.

Eastbourne off the market

EASTBOURNE pier was taken off the market in late September after having failed to find a buyer. The Grade II* listed structure will continue to be owned and operated by Six Piers Ltd., who have recently been carrying out some structural repairs. The pier has had its best ever season. The Sunday Express of 21 June had reported that the sale (at an asking price of £5 million) was generating a considerable amount of interest, but no deal was concluded. The Grade II* listed WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK pier is also reported to be up for sale. TOTLAND BAY failed to reach its reserve price last year and LOWESTOFT CLAREMONT was also withdrawn after failing to attract buyers at a guide price of £2 million.

Birdman triumph – nearly but not quite

This year’s Birdman Rally, held in 82 degree temperatures on WORTHING pier over the weekend of 22/23 August, saw a record-breaking flight of 99.87 metres – inches away from the £30,000 prize – by Steve Elkins. The winner out of nine contestants in the Leonardo da Vinci category was, for the second year running, Dr Bill Brooks, who was presented with the NPS trophy by Vice-Chairman Tim Wardley. The Rally was covered by various newspapers including the Independent on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph and Times. There were rumours in the local press that the event might move back to BOGNOR REGIS next year, but Worthing has already set aside the weekend of 14/15 August for it.

Hastings on the March

The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust are inviting the local community and anyone else interested to join them in a peaceful protest to save Hastings pier. The aim is to persuade the local Council to begin Compulsory Purchase Order proceedings. Anyone who wishes to join in should be in front of the pier at noon on Saturday 17 October, for a march to the Town Hall. Dress colourfully if possible!

Southend picks a winner

SOUTHEND Borough Council has announced that the Swedish-based landscape architecture firm White Arkitekter has won its pier head design competition with a design entitled Sculpted by Wind and Wave. It was chosen from 73 local and international entries for the competition, which was organised on behalf of the Council by the Landscape Institute. But its execution depends on the Council gaining a substantial award from the Government’s rapidly depleting Sea Change scheme. In other developments, there was embarrassment on 16 September when the train carrying the town’s Mayor derailed on its way down to the opening ceremony of the new pier head station. The Mayor’s party ended up travelling on the lifeboat crew’s buggy. The pier, meanwhile, is to have a new sprinkler system installed to combat any future conflagrations such as the one in October 2005.

Other news

  • 47 years after the idea was first mooted, films are coming to BOURNEMOUTH pier theatre. The local Odeon has supplied a screen and a DVD projector is to be purchased. The programme of theatrical presentations will not be affected. The only other pier venue to show occasional films is the Pavilion at WORTHING.

  • Bournemouth Borough Council has been awarded £455,000 of Government Sea Change funding to enhance the area linking the newly restored BOSCOMBE pier with the seafront precinct. An invitation to artists and architects to design beach huts with disabled access attracted 173 entries, from which a shortlist of eight has been drawn up. Meanwhile a “Friends of Boscombe Pier” organisation has been set up and charged with helping to organize displays and events on the pier. These have so far included Sunday art exhibitions and musical performances. The Friends held their first AGM on 4 October.

  • SOUTHWOLD’s owner Stephen Bournes has installed disabled toilets at the pier head and persuaded the local authority not to shut the ones near the pier entrance.

  • The Times of 4 July had a special 12 page insert on British beaches and their attractions, including a piers article by Tom Dyckhoff which drew heavily on the Society’s website. The same paper on 11 July had a two page business report on the future of BLACKPOOL, where the Winter Gardens complex (once home to party political conferences) is reportedly in danger of closure. And in an architectural feature on 25 July Tom Dyckhoff praised the new pier head café pavilion at DEAL.

  • The cast of Seaside Special, CROMER’s record-breaking end of the pier show (now in its 32nd year) helped launch a special train named after it on 10 July at Norwich station. The train company National Express East Anglia was offering two seats for the price of one to anyone arriving at the Pavilion Theatre box office with valid rail tickets. Similar deals were offered by local bus companies.

  • An attempt to break the world record for the largest bikini photoshoot, held on SOUTHEND beach on 2 August, failed when only 42 women turned up in chilly conditions – somewhat short of the 1,923 on the Riviera beach in the Russian resort of Sochi last July!

  • Two Spanish exchange students who jumped off WORTHING pier on 3 August had to be rescued by coastguards and were taken to hospital for a check-up before being discharged with a warning.

  • CROMER pier forecourt was the scene on 16 August of the town’s Carnival Waiters and Waitresses Race to the Bath House Hotel and back, carrying a full tray of drinks. Another annual charity race, held on 11 October, had to be renamed BLACKPOOL to FLEETWOOD 10 following the demolition of Fleetwood pier last year.

  • 200,000 people were left bitterly disappointed after a firework event held in between BOURNEMOUTH and BOSCOMBE piers on the evening of 20 August lasted just six and a half seconds. Many were then trapped in traffic for three hours as they tried to get home. Further east, an end of the pier firework display held at BOGNOR REGIS on August Bank Holiday Monday, was affected by heavy rain.

  • The Times of 24 August had a two page spread on the Isle of Wight, which attracts over 2.6 million tourists every year. Over 28% of the population, however, are retired, and unemployment is high, especially in the winter. There are four piers left on the island, at RYDE, SANDOWN, YARMOUTH and TOTLAND BAY, which is closed.

  • The winner of the Times’ Out And About photographic competition, announced in the paper on 29 August, was Patrick Ferguson, with his attractive shot of BANGOR pier looking towards the Menai Straits.

  • A major colour feature entitled Shifting Sands in the Sunday Times magazine of 30 August looked at the future for tourism in TORQUAY, where local officials were hoping that the summer of 2009 would reverse the continuing downward trend in visitor numbers. Ed Caesar’s report began in the café at the end of the resort’s PRINCESS pier.

  • BBC Radio 5 Live devoted its August Bank Holiday Monday (31 August) drivetime programme to piers, with reports from HASTINGS and BLACKPOOL SOUTH plus comments from a representative of VisitEngland and a range of speakers in the studio, including Anthony Wills on the behalf the Society. Anthony also appeared on the BBC South East regional TV news bulletin to talk about the Society’s list of Top Ten Piers at Risk, and BBC Radio Bristol, with particular emphasis on the fate of WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK, which is rumoured to have been sold.

  • HERNE BAY pier was the subject of a BBC Radio Kent feature on the morning of 2 September. Jean Herwin of the Herne Bay Hotels and Leisure Association was interviewed by a reporter in front of the pier, followed by a studio discussion with Anthony Wills.

  • Channel 5 looked at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in one of the country’s most popular resorts for its series BRIGHTON Beach Patrol, which debuted on 4 September. The second programme focussed on the annual Pier to Pier swimming race which was held in adverse conditions against the beach patrol’s advice.

  • BBC Radio 2 was out and about in BLACKPOOL for the switch-on of the Illuminations on 4 September (comedian Alan Carr did the honours). The Chris Evans Show came live from NORTH pier, though Evans himself remained in his studio in London!

  • NPS Chairman Tim Phillips gave a talk on 5 September as part of the SeaFest in PAIGNTON before proceeding to TEIGNMOUTH, where he met with the Brenner family, owners of the pier. A huge pop concert featuring up and coming local band Muse was taking place on the Green in front of the pier.

  • The popular BBC2 series Flog It! came from WESTON-SUPER-MARE on 7 September and included a lengthy feature on the GRAND pier featuring NPS Committee member and local resident Mike Davies. Mike was interviewed both on the pier and in the town museum, where a sad exhibition of charred remains from last summer’s conflagration was on display.

  • Squalid student digs in BOGNOR REGIS were the focus of Kim and Aggie’s attention in Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House? shown on 10 September and featuring attractive shots of the resort’s pier.

  • HASTINGS Pier Trust held a fund-raising Quiz Night on 3 July. The Trust has erected banners bearing the legend You Can Save It!! along the sides of the ailing structure. BBC Radio Sussex interviewed NPS archivist Martin Easdown in July and a Hastings Councillor on 1 September. Martin and his partner Linda also attended the Great British Seaside Picture Postcard Fair in London at the beginning of September and visited the Isle of Man early in October, where they viewed RAMSEY QUEEN’S Pier and undertook research on the lost piers of the island’s capital DOUGLAS.

  • The summer issue of This England included a detailed history of BLACKPOOL NORTH pier. And Coast magazine’s October issue had a stunning 1950s black and white family shot taken on SOUTHEND pier as its Flash Bang Wallop! classic seaside photo of the month.

  • The Liberal Democrats held their 2009 conference from 19-23 September in BOURNEMOUTH, followed by the Labour Party in BRIGHTON. The Conservatives were in Manchester from 5-9 October. All of the parties deserted BLACKPOOL in 2007.

  • NPS Chairman Tim Phillips was interviewed by Chris Ledgard for a BBC Radio 4 feature entitled Weston’s New Pier, aired on 9 October.

  • A 3 ft. section of pillar belonging to the former HUNSTANTON pier (demolished in 1978), which was uncovered in April due to shifting beach levels, has been preserved by the town’s Civic Society and put on display on the Lower Green together with a commemorative plaque. It was officially opened by the Mayor of Hunstanton on 21 July. Meanwhile a rift has developed between the resort’s Town Council and Waveney D.C. over a proposed Deed of Variation to the 1935 lease, amending the present clause, whereby the operators of the amusement arcade are technically obliged to “maintain” the lost pier, to one enforcing maintenance of any replacement structure which they “at (their) sole discretion” might build in the future

  • VisitBritain has apologised for including a picture of a long disappeared pier in a promotion for VENTNOR published in the Isle of Wight’s Yellow Pages. The resort’s pier was gutted by fire in 1983 and demolished in 1992.

  • Practical Caravanning magazine has a two page piers feature, with help from the Society, in its November issue.

  • A new magazine, Old Theatres, contains an illustrated theatre on BRIGHTON PALACE theatre, which disappeared in 1986.

  • The digital TV channel Virgin 1 is preparing a six part series, The Great British Holiday Show, for screening at the beginning of 2010. It features Dragons Den entrepreneur Duncan Ballantyne visiting six struggling seaside resorts (including FELIXSTOWE) to promote stay-at-home breaks. 60 year-old Mr Ballantyne spends much of his own spare time at his luxury villa outside Cannes!

  • A new magazine, Old Theatres, contains an illustrated feature on BRIGHTON PALACE theatre, which disappeared in 1986.

  • One for fans of The Archers! Is Ambridge’s nearest pier at WESTON-SUPER-MARE? In the episode of 13 August Fallon’s father Wayne was reminiscing about a family day trip to the resort, and mentioned the fire at the GRAND.

(Thanks to Margaret Burgoine, David Cheshire, Dick Eburne, Paul Hooker, Tim and Anne Mickleburgh, Steve Wilkinson, Ken Wisdom and Mike Woods for their contributions)