Compiled by Anthony Wills
Three piers receive Coastal Revival awards
The piers at BOGNOR REGIS, SWANAGE and SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE have received awards from the Government’s Coastal Revival scheme. All had been singled out by the NPS as deserving recipients of funds and it is to our credit that they were successful, given that there were three times the number of applicants as there were funds available.
At Bognor part of the award of £50,000 will enable the Pier Trust to employ professional experts to work on a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The remainder will go towards new decorative seafront lighting. Trust chairman Paul Wells commented: “We are delighted to have been awarded this funding. Generations of tourists remember visiting the pier when they came to Bognor for their seaside holiday. This funding will help us with our aim of restoring the pier so that future holidaymakers will have similar memories to share.” To keep abreast of developments or become a Friend visit www.bognorpiertrust.co.uk.
The Swanage Pier Trust has received £39,000. This wooden structure is currently at risk of collapse. as 41 timber piles need replacing. A Heritage Lottery Award of £805,000 has been provisionally reserved but the Trust must raise matching funding of £900,000 by August. For further information visitwww.swanagepiertrust.com where you can also sponsor a plank or become a member of the Friends.
Southsea South Parade pier received £50,000 towards immediate repairs.
Lowestoft Claremont next in line?
Another pier that would benefit from the Fund is LOWESTOFT CLAREMONT, but it is currently not eligible as it is in private hands. Owner David Scott has made substantial improvements to the seafront end (members attending the Southwold AGM visited in June 2013), but needs £2 million to restore the rest of the decking. He will be meeting with a new body called Lowestoft Rising in February and NPS Chairman Tim Wardley will be in attendance.
Official: Birnbeck among Top Ten Threatened Buildings
WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK has been included in the Victorian Society’s list of Top Ten Threatened Buildings. NPS Patron Timothy West has lent his support to the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust’s efforts to save the pier, saying that it would be a significant loss if the Grade II* listed structure were to collapse. He said: “We lived in Bristol during the War and used to come to Weston for our holidays. I’ve kept links with this area ever since….. partly because of the Campbell steamers which called here and went over to Cardiff and down to Ilfracombe. Lundy Island and so on. Long term I would like to see the whole pier and the island with the landing stage refurbished. It’s a very long term project but it could happen.” But on 30 December storm Frank took out a section of the gangway leading to the already damaged north jetty. Timothy’s fellow actor John Cleese is also supporting the campaign. A 2016 calendar entitled Weston At Its Finest has been produced by the Weston Mercury newspaper, with all sale proceeds going to the Trust. Visitwww.birnbeckregenerationtrust.org.uk for up to the minute news.
Bournemouth’s former theatre features in new UK passport
The former theatre on BOURNEMOUTH pier is one of many buildings that appear within the pages of the new UK passport, launched on 3 November. The 1960 theatre – now the Rock Reef adventure centre – was designed by Elisabeth Scott (1898-1972), who was also responsible for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Cleethorpes draws the crowds
Business at the newly reopened CLEETHORPES pier has exceeded all expectations since its reopening in the summer. This was despite the building firm working on the completion of the new boardwalk going into liquidation at the beginning of October. The pier hosted the World Seafood Congress in September and enjoyed an outstanding Christmas and New Year season. In fact such were the crowds that a generator had to be brought in to supplement the power supply! In the longer term a new electrical substation will have to be built, at an estimated cost of £100,000. Special events in February and March include a Yorkshire Pudding Day, Valentines Day, Bramley Apple Week, Easter celebrations, Mother’s Day and St Patrick’s Day. For further information call Amanda on 01472 602280.
Hurricane Abigail pounds Britain’s shores
Almost two years since the devastating storms of 2013 the coasts of Britain were ravaged by Hurricane Abigail at the beginning of November. As before Blackpool and Cromer were particularly badly hit but this time their piers survived intact. SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE, currently under repair, sustained minor damage.
Bishop “blesses” Eastbourne pier.
EASTBOURNE pier was officially “blessed” by the Bishop of Lewes in a ceremony held on 6 December. After carol singing and a performance by the Stix Drummers the Bishop spoke of the pier’s importance as a community asset. He asked for its new owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar and its team to use their resources and wisdom in the coming months and years. Less happy are the fishermen on the pier, who were told that their lease would not be renewed when it expired in February. Mr Gulzar said that this was for health and safety reasons and that he would be carrying out extensive restoration at the pier head where they have been fishing, with the aim of restoring the landing stage. He also said he was going to ask for the £2 million promised by David Cameron when he visited the pier the day after the fire last July.
Windsurfer completes amazing 2,200 mile journey around Britain’s coast
A 41-year old windsurfer completed a three month solo circumnavigation of Britain’s coastline at CLACTON pier on 12 September, just under three months from leaving there in June. Jono Dunnett was raising money for two charities, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and Supporting Tanzanian Orphans & Widows, which educates children who have been orphaned by Aids. He had no support team so carried all his own gear and slept in a makeshift tent made from his sail, though on occasions he was given a bed by people who took pity on him when he was pitching his tent in the cold and rain. The longest stretch he covered in a single day was 100 miles along the south coast, Mr Dunnett said: “Doing something like this, you appreciate the fundamental niceness of people.” But he added: “There are parts of the journey, like Lands End, that I would never do again.”
Long term Cromer supporter moves on
A passionate supporter of CROMER pier has moved out of the area. For over 20 years Richard Batson has reviewed the shows at the Pavilion Theatre for the Eastern Daily Press. In a warm hearted valedictory article published on 23 September he wrote: “Ever since I came to Cromer 23 years ago the pier has been an integral part of my life.” Another film has used the pier, this time a Bollywood extravaganza called Housefull 3. Pier visitors in early October watched with fascination as singers and dancers mimed and moved to a pre-recorded soundtrack.
Southport’s Golden Gallopers to be relocated?
Herbert Silcock’s carousel on the forecourt of SOUTHPORT pier could be moved if a recommendation by the town’s Development Committee Strategy Committee is acted upon. The report says: “This attraction currently blocks the view from Nevill Street to the pier, leaving visitors who are not familiar with the area unaware that the pier is behind it. The carousel could be moved immediately to the left without causing too much disruption to its operators.” The Golden Gallopers were built over a century ago by Savages of Kings Lynn. Silcock’s Leisure purchased it in 1989 and restored it over three years. It weighs 18 tons and has 33 horses and three cockerels, which are the originals dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
Wemyss Bay closure affects ferry services
Ferry services along the Clyde have been disrupted due to the closure of WEMYSS BAY pier for major refurbishment since the end of September. Until mid-March the ferries from ROTHESAY will be sailing to and from Gourock.
Clevedon marks Remembrance Day
The tradition of firing a maroon from Clevedon Pier to mark the beginning and end of the two minutes’ silence on Remembrance Sunday was revived by Clevedon Pier’s newly appointed Business Manager, Nicole Laken. At 11 am Sunday 8 November a maroon was fired from the pier head by a specialist team from local firm Precision Energetics. The Royal British Legion was in attendance and a collection was taken for the Clevedon contingent of the Somerset Army Cadet Force, who provided a small guard of honour. The Pier’s Community Share application scheme closed on 14 January.
Weston Grand supports Children In Need
WESTON-SUPER-MARE’s GRAND pier backed the BBC’s Children In Need on 21 November by inviting local schools to take part in a colouring-in competition. Entrants paid a minimum of £1 to take part and the winners in each category received a Grand Pier goody bag. The competition raised £171 which the pier owners boosted to £300. In the following month the pier staged a spectacular Christmas show, Circle de Noel, which was enthusiastically received by audiences.
Oh Yes It Is!
Another Christmas show, Cinderella in WORTHING pier’s Pavilion Theatre, was a complete sell-out. It starred Strictly Come Dancing’s Camilla Dallerup as the Fairy Godmother, with Dancing On Ice star Matt Evens as Prince Charming. Cromer favourites Simmons & Simmons not only appeared as Baron Hardup and his sidekick but also wrote and directed the show. It was Keith Simmons’ 46th pantomime!
The former Chinese restaurant on WEYMOUTH PIER BANDSTAND has now become the Al Molo fine dining Italian establishment and is receiving excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. Check out its website www.almolo.co.uk and reserve your table on 01305 839888.
The Friends of HERNE BAY Pier have been holding regular quiz nights to raise money for ongoing activities. The next one is on Saturday 12 March. For further information visit www.hernebaypier.org.uk.
BRIGHTON PALACE PIER is one of the most snapped places in the UK outside London by users of the online site Instagram. Stonehenge came second and the Reading pop festival third.
Pier Of The Year wins Loo Of The Year!
CROMER pier’s new toilets have topped the leader board in the beaches category of the National Loo Of The Year awards. The toilets are judged on signage, décor, fixtures, fittings, cleanliness and overall management and customer care. Cromer’s toilets were refurbished by the pier’s owners North Norfolk District Council after the devastating storms of December 2013. They feature energy saving lighting and – surely a first for pier loos – dementia friendly signage.
Timeshift: The People’s Liners, shown on BBC4 on 20 October, contained a wealth of archive footage, shot mainly around the Bristol Channel and on the Clyde, showing P & A Campbell’s fleet of paddlesteamers and steamships. The programme ended with the relaunch of mv Balmoral in June last year. Contributions came from past and present passengers, skippers, crew and volunteers. Sadly, however, there were very few actual shots of piers.
The National Piers Society’s Media Relations Officer Anthony Wills appeared on BBC Radio Sussex and ITV Meridian News on 22 October to comment on the sale of EASTBOURNE pier.
The British Film Institute gave railway travellers the opportunity to view just a tiny part of its rich archive by mounting large screens at major stations in late October/early November. These included a 1904 film of holidaymakers on the VICTORIA pier in BLACKPOOL (now known as the SOUTH pier).
An amusing and cleverly made advert for the energy company SSE, shown in Vue cinemas during the winter months, featured a chimpanzee enjoying the fun of the fair on CLACTON pier.
BRIGHTON PALACE pier got headline billing in the 4 November episode of Cuffs, the latest police drama series on BBC1. The programme began with a frantic chase down the pier with two officers eventually confronting a crazed drug dealer and Tasering him. There were many moody shots of the pier during the rest of the episode. Cuffs has not been recommissioned for a second series.
The Independent’s issue of 8 November had a major article on EASTBOURNE pier including an interview with its flamboyant new owner Sheik Abid Gulzar, who hails from India and is not a real sheik… but is at least able to call his new acquisition Sheik’s Pier! Mr Gulzar is committed to restoring the pier, including its landing stage, but hinted that he may need to introduce a nominal entrance toll to help meet the estimated £5 million cost of restoration. Six other piers currently charge admission.
The Sunday Times’ Home supplement, also published on 8 November, recommended ten towns in which to take a winter break (and possibly consider buying a second home). These included LLANDUDNO, CROMER, SOUTHWOLD, DEAL and SWANAGE.
The Brighton-based Evening Argus turned the spotlight on Sussex piers in its 2 December issue, with quotes from NPS Media Relations Officer Anthony Wills. On the same day The Times featured a stunning photograph of starlings murmurating at the end of BLACKPOOL NORTH pier.
What A Performance!, BBC4’s three part series on the history of light entertainment, featured presenters Frank Skinner and Suzy Klein standing in front of BRIGHTON PALACE pier. Frank also talked to members of the Max Miller Appreciation Society (Miller lived in the resort). The programme aired on 17 December.
This is my final edition of Piers News/Mediawatch, which I have been compiling since 1995. I would like to thank all those who have contributed items down the years. Please send them to our Chairman Tim Wardley from now on.