Compiled by Anthony Wills & Tim Wardley
It was announced on 9 July that Peter Sedgwick, owner of BLACKPOOL NORTH pier, has purchased the CENTRAL and SOUTH piers for a sum in the region of £8 million.
A new owner for the Queen of the Welsh piers
LLANDUDNO pier has been purchased from Six Piers Ltd by local businessman Adam Williams, who runs a leisure company, Crown Entertainment Centres, in the area. Mr Williams, who paid the full asking price of £4.5 million, said: “I feel very privileged to be the owner of this wonderful attraction. I went to school in Llandudno and grew up looking at the pier… I will not dive in (sic) and start changing things. We will keep investing to secure its future.” The National Piers Society has sent Mr Williams its warm congratulations.
Balmoral sets sail at last!
Friday 19 June was a red letter day for supporters of mv Balmoral as she set sail at last from Bristol’s Cumberland Dock, where she has been undergoing repairs for three years, and headed down the Avon Channel. The following day, with Captain Steve Mallet and First Officer Rob Bassi at the helm, the ship began sailing between PENARTH and CLEVEDON piers, returning there throughout August. Ilfracombe, Minehead, Porthcawl and Swansea were also served. On 2 July she docked with 300 passengers on board at the newly restored landing stage at LLANDUDNO – a welcoming present indeed for its new owner! For the complete timetable visit www.heritagesteamers.co.uk
Bleak outlook for Colwyn Bay after lottery bid fails
The Heritage Lottery Fund has turned down a £9.6 million towards the restoration of COLWYN BAY VICTORIA pier. The bid was submitted by the Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust despite Conwy City Council’s stated wish to demolish the 115-year old structure (closed since 2008). Announcing the Fund’s decision, Chief Executive Carole Souter said: “We only support projects that we are confident can deliver long-term benefits. Unfortunately we have not had a clear enough indication of strong support from Conwy Council. In the light of this…. the application was deemed high risk”. The question of ownership of the pier has still not been resolved. Steve Hunt, who supported the Trust’s application, said he still believes Land Registry documents prove the pier belongs to him. He thinks the Council will be unable to seek to have the pier de-listed as it does not own it. The Trust has indicated that it will submit a second funding bid in November.
Bangor bid also unsuccessful
BANGOR City Council’s application for between £50 – 90,000 seed funding for additional kiosks and interpretative displays on its Grade II* listed pier has been turned down by the Heritage Lottery Fund on the grounds that its Welsh allocation had been oversubscribed. The newly formed Bangor Pier Appreciation Group expressed its disappointment; its spokesman said: “The group would like to thank everyone for all their support and continued love and appreciation for Bangor’s jewel. Every letter, message and picture that has been received or posted on the Facebook page has not been in vain”.
Birnbeck’s owner meets restoration campaigners
The owner of WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK has agreed to meet members of the newly-formed Birnbeck Regeneration Trust. Wahid Samady of CMN said, however, that he wants to see a fully-costed restoration plan first. The Trust’s project manager Richie Griffin said: “The Trust has produced a preliminary business plan with very rough estimates, which will need to be underpinned by a feasibility study. This will include civil and mechanical engineering surveys, cost studies and risk analysis, among other things”. The Trust has abandoned plans to ask North Somerset Council to obtain a Compulsory Purchase Order, but will instead hold a public meeting at which they can deliver a presentation and outline what they believe the future might hold. According to a report in the Sunday Express of 29 March former local resident John Cleese has added his support.
Southsea South Parade gears up for yachting event
The new owners of SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier have said they are hoping to have a court order barring public access to the deck lifted in time for the Americas World Cup yachting event taking place from 23 – 26 July. At the same time they have released artists’ impressions of their master plan for the structure, involving funfair rides, a zip wheel, a rooftop restaurant and moorings for visiting boats.
Bognor Pier Trust prepares HLF application
Following their highly successful 150th birthday celebrations at the beginning of May, the BOGNOR Pier Trust are working on their £5 million application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, to be submitted in November. The Friends of Bognor Regis Pier are appealing to their members to help man the new Pier Point exhibition centre at weekends, in order to maintain public interest in the project. They will also have a presence at major events in the area such as the Birdman Rally (18-19 July) and the South Downs Folk Festival (25-27 September). In other news, the pier’s Legends Bar over the entrance building, which opened in the spring of 2014, has been rebranded, with less emphasis on sporting heroes and more on showbiz icons such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. This is being followed by the redesign of Sheik’s Nightclub in the upper part of the pier’s former variety theatre. Care is being taken to preserve and enhance the appearance of the original dйcor, including the original proscenium arch.
Eastbourne pier damaged CCTV footage restored
Police investigating the causes of the fire that destroyed the 1920s Funtasia Pavilion (former Ballroom) on EASTBOURNE pier have now been able to view CCTV footage damaged in the blaze of 30 July last year. Forensic experts had been brought in to restore the damaged hard drives, but no clear conclusions have been reached. Meanwhile the remains of the pavilion have been removed and the pier’s substructure strengthened before new decking was laid. The owners then applied for planning permission to install temporary fairground rides on the site, but this was turned down by the Council on noise grounds. In other news a 20-year old local man, Conor McHugh, who is studying at Norwich University of the Arts, has designed a Flaming Pier whisky bottle inspired by the Grade II* listed structure.
Hastings pier to reopen next March
The HASTINGS Pier Charity has decided to postpone the reopening of the town’s pier to March 2016, but has promised that there will be opportunities to go onto it before then. The delay has been caused by the storms in February 2014, which pushed back the timescale of the restoration work by more than three months. It became necessary to bring in a jack-up barge from Holland to support the demolition of the ballroom, as storm damage had made the pier itself too dangerous to be used as the platform. Work on the new Visitors Centre began recently with the installation of six new piles needed to support the 600 ton building. A steelwork structure has been erected on the piles. Work is expected to be completed by October, but the Charity has decided to wait until 21 March next year rather than reopen the pier in the winter months. There will, however, be Christmas events. Meanwhile, an online campaign to rename the pier “Birch Pier” after the former Leader of Hastings Council Jeremy Birch, who died recently, has been met with mixed feelings. The pier was one of 14 designed by Eugenius Birch (1818-84).
CLEVEDON pier’s popular pier mistress Linda Strong has resigned after a row over new terms of employment. She opted for redundancy and left ten years to the day after taking charge of the Grade I listed structure, which is managed on behalf of North Somerset Council by the Clevedon Pier Trust. Linda was very involved in the planning for the new Visitor Centre due to open later this year. She was also tireless in her fund-raising efforts, introducing Lifeboat Days and an annual carol service.
She worked overtime during the season when PS Waverley and MV Balmoral docked at the pier. She also recently oversaw the shooting of the pop group One Direction’s video, which brought the pier worldwide attention and attracted thousands more visitors. Linda has now joined Heritage Steamers Ltd., the company that operates the newly restored MV Balmoral.
SOUTHPORT pier’s tram has been withdrawn from service and replaced by a land train. Sefton Council, which owns the pier, said the closure was due to budget cuts and the cost of structural repairs caused by the tram’s weight.
An advertisement for 50 new staff to work at the newly restored CLEETHORPES pier received around 800 responses. The positions range from Head Chef (working under the supervision of TV celebrity Nigel Short) to Caretaker. Shortlisted candidates were interviewed in May and June. The pier’s Managing Director Simon Huxford said: “It has been overwhelming to see how far and wide the pier message has reached already, and to realise how important the creation of new jobs is to the local community.” The pier is scheduled to reopen in August.
BLACKPOOL’s promenade closed during the week of 5 May to enable scenes to be shot for director Tim Burton’s latest project Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Chris Dowd, Terence Stamp and Rupert Everett. The filming involved stunts at the Tower and on the NORTH pier. The following month saw Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz, supported by hundreds of local residents as extras, filming in TEIGNMOUTH around the GRAND pier. The story centres around local yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, who died in mysterious circumstances during the 1968 Round The World race. He had sent reports that falsified his location in order to appear to be in pole position. The story is well documented in the town’s museum opposite the station.
The 150th anniversary of the opening of the railway line from Port Glasgow to Wemyss Bay was celebrated on 16 May. Passengers arriving from Glasgow can take the short ferry crossing to ROTHESAY pier on the opposite side of the river Clyde. When the new station and pier opened in 1903 Wemyss Bay was recognised as the finest in Britain, and is now a Grade A listed structure. Although passenger traffic these days is much reduced and the station’s extensive accommodation for staff and public services is no longer required, it still has a cafй, bar, toilets and staffed ticket office.
Elsewhere in Scotland plans have been put forward to erect a new pier at PORTOBELLO near Edinburgh. The modernistic designs have been prepared by Smith Scott Mullan Architects in association with the Big Things On The Beach Arts Trust, which said the pier could include a multi-purpose space for performances and conferences. A spokesman for the Trust said they wanted to “start a conversation” with local residents. The town’s first pier was designed by Thomas Bouch, who also built the Tay Bridge; it cost £10,000 and opened in 1871. It was demolished after storm damage in 1917. Various proposals to replace it were mooted from the mid-1920s and a sum of £45,000 was allocated in 1939, only to be scuppered by the outbreak of war.
A teenager out for a stroll with her friends on BRIGHTON PALACE pier on 17 May tripped on a broken decking plank, causing her leg to go through up to the knee. Megan Wood suffered nerve damage but no broken bones. The pier’s General Manager, Anne Martin, said: “We are waiting to hear how we can resolve this unfortunate accident. Our Health & Safety consultant has provided us with a report and we are satisfied that this was an isolated incident”.
BRIGHTON’s Festival came to an end a week later with a dazzling beach display watched by thousands along the seafront. The closing show, called Fleeting, saw a sea of torches light up the beach, with fireworks mimicking starlings on the remains of the WEST pier. Once it started, just after 9pm, memories of the pier were played over loudspeakers, while a group of actors mimicked the city’s famous starling murmurations with models of birds on poles. Fireworks angled on poles resembled birds flying towards the pier. The whole event mirrored the Festival’s theme of Flight.
A small fire broke out on WORTHING pier on the evening of 13 June. Fire fighters attended and the Shoreham lifeboat was launched to help extinguish the blaze. Investigations revealed that the blaze was caused by a discarded cigarette. The Southern Pavilion, which was hosting a private event at the time, was safely evacuated.
CROMER’S annual summer show Seaside Special kicked off its three month season on 20 June with a gala performance attended by local dignitaries and representatives from Openwide International and North Norfolk District Council, which owns the structure. The show is once again headlined by comedian Paul Eastwood, who went down so well with audiences last year. Another familiar face is ukulele player Andy Eastwood, a mainstay of variety performances throughout the country. At the end of the performance the National Piers Society’s Chairman Tim Wardley presented the Pier Of The Year award for 2015 to the Council’s Chairman, Annie Clausen-Reynolds. He said: “The Society’s members well remember the devastation of the storms in December 2013 and recognize the enormous amount of work by both NNDC and Openwide to ensure that the show went on.” There will be an Open Day on the pier on Saturday 8 August to which everyone is invited.
The Friends of HERNE BAY pier were kept busy when the town’s annual Classic Car Show was held on the promenade on 28 June. They are now recruiting helpers for the Air Show on 15 August. The Friends have had to step up security following vandalism on the structure.
SKEGNESS’s 134-year old pier has won a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality. The award is based on outstanding customer reviews. The same company’s newly compiled list of Top Ten UK Places To Visit puts LLANDUDNO in third place (after London and Edinburgh), TORQUAY in fifth and BLACKPOOL in sixth.
The owners of WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND pier have spent £250,000 on brand new coin-operated games and rides, some of which cater specifically for younger children. A new deal aimed at students and teenagers has been introduced to mitigate the effects of the pier toll. The pier was recently given a Coach Tourism Award. Meanwhile the town’s Weston Gardens Pavilion, opened in 1927, has been sold to Weston College for just £1, ending an 85-year tradition of seafront entertainment.
CLEVEDON pier has its very own Gromit! The three foot high “Jacques Gromit” is named after the legendary French diver Jacques Cousteau, and is decorated with an underwater pattern. It has been loaned to the pier by Bristol-based Keith Rodgerson.
A former member of the Human League pop group has joined forces with the National Trust to encourage people to capture the sounds of the British seaside. Martyn Ware has been busy recording the cacophony of noise to be heard on the busy PALACE pier at BRIGHTON for uploading onto a British Library website.
(With thanks to Anya Chapman, Tim Mickleburgh and Tim Wardley for their contributions.)
The Independent and its sister paper The “i” have carried major features on BLACKPOOL and BOURNEMOUTH respectively. The Indie, headlining its 14 March report No stags, no hens and definitely no mankinis, pointed out that Blackpool is the country’s sixth most deprived community and the poorest of the larger English seaside resorts. A local businessman bemoaned the lack of quality hotel accommodation and a retired teacher said there had been no Plan B when the Casino bid failed in 2007. The “i”’s 18 April headline was Fish and Microchips at Silicon Beach, its reporter pointing out that Bournemouth’s digital economy is booming and that the revival of its football club’s fortunes and opening of the Rock Reef and Zip Wire attractions on the pier had provided a welcome shot in the bows.
Panorama on BBC1 (27 April) featured presenter Richard Bacon taking US statistician Nate Silver around the country to see if he could predict the outcome of the General Election. Among their stops was SKEGNESS pier. He couldn’t!
The May issue of the Railway Magazine contained a comprehensively illustrated feature on pier railways by the former editor of PIERS, Richard Riding.
The opening episode in BBC2’s three part series Demolition: The Wrecking Crew, shown on 17 May, followed contractors working to demolish the burnt out remains of the former ballroom on HASTINGS pier. The programme contained stunning aerial footage that demonstrated the immense amount of detailed planning involved, as well as the risks taken by the workers.
Media Relations Officer Anthony Wills appeared on BBC Radio Sussex on 11 June commenting on EASTBOURNE Council’s decision to turn down the application to install temporary rides on the pier after the destruction of the Funtasia pavilion by fire in July last year. Anthony also had a letter published in The Stage issue of 18 June concerning the decline in the number of seaside shows, with the honourable exception of CROMER’s Seaside Special. The paper ran a special feature on the Cromer show two weeks later.
The Mail Online reported on 18 June that TV personality Piers Morgan had been filming a commercial for Camelot’s National Lottery on Camber Sands near Hastings. The campaign was called Piers’ Piers.
A poster campaign by First Great Western on the London Underground in June invited rail travellers to become “Great Westerners”. It featured a picture of the newly restored MUMBLES pier in South Wales.