Compiled by Anthony Wills
The Department of Culture Media & Sport launched an Icons of England competition on 9 January, aiming to raise public interest in heritage. Early suggestions included Alice in Wonderland, the King James Bible, FA Cup, Routemaster double-deck buses, a cup of tea, fish and chips, stately homes, red phone boxes, Stonehenge, The Angel of the North sculpture, the Spitfire aircraft, the steamship Empire Windrush, Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII and the hymn Jerusalem. The inclusion of Punch & Judy as a (politically incorrect?) icon made it unlikely that Seaside Piers would make it on to the list.

Blackpool-based Leisure Parcs Ltd. have undergone internal restructuring, as a result of which their piers at BLACKPOOL, EASTBOURNE, LLANDUDNO and SOUTHSEA have been hived off to a separate company Six Piers Ltd., in conjunction with chairman Trevor Hemmings’ private company Cuerden Leisure. Worryingly, the recently refurbished BLACKPOOL NORTH pier theatre will stay dark this summer, reducing the number of active pier theatres around the country to just five. One of these, BOURNEMOUTH, has now agreed a 25-year lease with Openwide International Ltd. Openwide, who have been successfully producing shows at CROMER pier pavilion for some years and are also taking over the seafront Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe, have pledged to re-fit the entrance kiosks, revamp the café, enlarge the theatre foyer and create an integrated bar for theatre patrons, as well as installing a “landmark attraction” at the end of the pier (possibly a Big Wheel). The Pier Showbar has been leased to another company, Gamegrid, under a separate deal, which is likely to see it being converted into an Asian-style catering outlet. The future of the pier’s landing stages had been in doubt, but a meeting of interested parties held on 30 March saw the Council agreeing to undertake temporary repairs at a cost of £20,000 for the forthcoming season, with a pledge of a further £210,000 long-term. Assistance may be sought from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

BLACKPOOL tourism chiefs have unveiled a bid to obtain UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the town by designating it as the first working-class mass seaside resort. This will take up to five years to achieve and might involve the establishment of a National Seaside Centre to celebrate Blackpool’s place in popular heritage and showcase the resort’s history. On a more prosaic level, there was uproar from the town’s anglers after Leisure Parcs announced they would be barring anglers from fishing off the CENTRAL pier.

Another Leisure Parcs pier, SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE, has had its front canopy completely reglazed and new floodlighting installed on both sides of the pier. In March South Parade hosted a conference organized by the Home Office and its Gaiety Suite (scene of our AGM last summer) is increasingly being booked for wedding ceremonies.

The BRIGHTON WEST Pier Trust held its 25th Annual General Meeting on 31 March. This was also the occasion of the reconvened 24th AGM, which had been declared inquorate on 28 October 2005. The Noble Organisation, owners of neighbouring PALACE pier, have been keeping up their strong opposition to the structure’s restoration. The two sides held a meeting on 24 January to try to reach a “non-competitive” agreement and forestall the need for a public enquiry regarding the Harbour Revision Order. No agreement was reached as Nobles insisted on being told the identity of potential private sector partners, which the Trust said would be a breach of commercial confidentiality. The public enquiry therefore went ahead on 28 February and 1 March, and the Inspector’s report to the Secretary of State is awaited. Meanwhile the stricken pier continues to present a danger to the public. On 1 February two men climbed over safety fencing and on to the remains of the pier. Police were called and arrested the men, who appeared to be intoxicated. Outline plans to erect a 500ft viewing tower at the pier entrance were unveiled to the press early in April.

North-East Lincolnshire Council has secured £500,000 worth of funding from Yorkshire Forward to improve tourism facilities in CLEETHORPES. There will be a 10,000 seat outdoor arena on a site next to Pleasure Island, the Cleethorpes Light Railway will be extended by 900 metres and the Discovery Centre will be revamped. The Winter Gardens, however, are to be demolished and replaced by luxury flats.

Consultation is taking place over the possibility of building a super-casino on the site of SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL pier. The pier, which dates from 1833, has been derelict for over nine years.

SOUTHEND Council, owners of the world’s longest pleasure pier, have installed a web camera on its viewing platform just over one mile from the pier entrance which gives a view of the devastation caused by last October’s fire. The promised restoration work on the pier head has been delayed pending the insurance company’s report on the fire. Meanwhile the Council has set up an Adopt-A-Plank scheme to raise money for projects that would not be achievable using its present resources. The cost is £50 for an individual donation or £250 for a commercial sponsor. All donors will receive a certificate and have their name included on the Roll of Honour board in the North train station.

A plan has been unveiled to build a massive harbour wall at HUNSTANTON. The wall would encircle the site of the former pier, which was demolished in 1978 and replaced by an amusement arcade. The town’s 5,000 residents have been asked for their views on the project, which might include a lido and moorings for leisure and working craft, and a Wash Heritage & Environmental Centre. If sufficient support is forthcoming a feasibility study will be commissioned and funding possibilities from national and European sources explored.

Spiralling costs have led to a rethink over the grandiose plans for redeveloping the WEYMOUTH harbour area. After chosen developer Howard Holdings increased its project estimate by one-third to £107m Weymouth & Portland Council considered a number of savings, including reducing the cost of the replacement Pavilion theatre by cutting its capacity from 1,000 to just 400 seats. This would save £5.7 million. Another option would be to retain the present theatre building and simply strip it out and rebuild, entailing the closure of the building for 14 months.

Dover District Council have organised a design competition, in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects, for a revamp of the pier head cafeteria at DEAL, with up to £480,000 available to carry out the project. This represents the final stage in the £2 million restoration of the pier and it is aimed to have the project completed in time for the structure’s 50th anniversary in 2007.

CROMER pier has a new General Manager. Ian Hall worked as a policeman in his native Durham before switching to the leisure industry. He has previously worked at Thorpe Park and various Sea Life centres.

The 8th Annual Lantern Pier Walk from BRIGHTON PALACE to WORTHING pier takes place on Sunday 4 June, starting at 1100. It raises money for the Chestnut Tree Children’s Hospice in Poling and St Barnabas’ Hospice in Durrington, West Sussex.

SOUTHWOLD pier will be the venue on 15, 17 and 18 June for the world premiere of a 60-minute opera forming part of this year’s Aldeburgh Music Festival. The Original Chinese Conjuror, with music by Raymond Yiu and text by Lee Warren, tells the true story of William Robinson, whose onstage death at the Wood Green Odeon in 1918 brought to an end a brilliant magic career in which he posed as a Chinaman. The Thursday performance is at 9.30 p.m., the Saturday one at 12 noon and the Sunday at 9.45 p.m. The Sunday performance will be preceded at 8.15 p.m. by an illustrated talk on Piers & The Arts given by NPS President Gavin Henderson.

m.v. Balmoral will be operating from SOUTHWOLD pier on Tuesday 20 June (evening pleasure cruise) and Wednesday 21 June to Tower Bridge non-stop. There will be no sailings from SOUTHEND pier until further notice because of fire damage; passengers will be conveyed by coach to Tilbury.

LOWESTOFT seafront will host an Air Festival, sponsored by Birds Eye, on 27 and 28 July.

The BOGNOR Birdman Rally is being held at a later date in the season this year – over the weekend of September 9 and 10, to take advantage of high tides. In contrast the annual Sands Of Time Festival, usually held in September, is moving to 17/18 June. Over 70 flight enquiries have already been received by the organisers, Bognor Birdman Trust, and a fund-raising event featuring a trad jazz band was held in the town on 25 March. A further event on the pier itself is scheduled for May 15.

News from Down Under: the historic kiosk on ST KILDA pier in Victoria state, Australia, which was destroyed in an arson attack in 2003, has been rebuilt to its original 1903 design, with a new café offering light snacks and meals. The roof of the café is now copper rather than corrugated iron and is accessible to the public, providing 360 degree views from the end of the pier. The kiosk was originally known as Parer’s Pavilion until the Kirby family took it over in the 1930s. New security measures such as smoke alarms and sprinkler systems have been incorporated into the new structure. The kiosk was formally reopened on 7 January by the state’s acting premier John Thwaites, and the pier was the starting point for the Commonwealth Games triathlon in March.

Euro-MPs have approved stricter cleanliness standards for Europe’s beaches, to come into force in 2015. From that date the updated Bathing Water Directive will rank coastal waters in three categories: excellent, good and sufficient, and an annual bathing water quality league table will be published by the European Commission.

(CORRECTION: We wrongly reported that a man had jumped off CLEVEDON pier in October and been killed. In fact the man fell from railings on the seafront close to the pier, and died of his injuries a week later. We apologize for any distress this error may have caused.)

The Daily Mail of 15 December 2005 featured a two-page pictorial spread of pictures taken from a new coffee table book Victorian Britain & Ireland in Colour by Janice Anderson and Reinhard Schultz (published by Carlton, RRP £25). The Mail’s selection included striking images of CLACTON pier past and present.

BBC-1’s Countryfile, screened on 8 January, was presented by John Craven from CLEVEDON pier and looked back on the Year Of The Sea. In the same programme Ben Fogle anticipated the centenary this year of the birth of Sir John Betjeman (which will be marked in the summer issue of the Society’s journal).

The Brits Awards hosted by Chris Evans and Kate Thornton and held in front of 3,900 guests at Earls Court on 15 January (plus an audience of millions on television) apparently had an “end of the pier” theme. Did anyone tape the show?

NPS Chairman Anthony Wills was interviewed in late January by BBC Radio Kent and commercial station Kent FM regarding the design competition for the replacement café on DEAL pier.

SKEGNESS pier was featured in the edition of BBC-2’s dictionary series Balderdash & Piffle broadcast on 6 February. Presenter Victoria Coren visited the resort in a feature on “Bingo Lingo”.

Radio 4’s Afternoon Play on 23 February, made by Pier Productions, was Einstein In Cromer – inspired by Albert Einstein’s secret sojourn in a Norfolk beach chalet in the run-up to the Second World War. This allegedly included a visit to the matinee performance at CROMER pier pavilion.

The Sunday Express led a campaign in February, supported by keen angler and TV presenter Chris Tarrant (who called it “Bureaucracy gone mad”), to reverse Leisure Parcs’ decision (on health and safety grounds) to ban fishermen from the CENTRAL pier.

The Times of 6 March carried a brief report on Leisure Parcs decision to keep BLACKPOOL NORTH Pier theatre “dark” this summer. The story was fully covered in The Stage newspaper on 16 March.

Outspoken chef Gordon Ramsay tackled the failing Clubway 41 restaurant in BLACKPOOL in Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Channel 4, 7 March) – cue for the inevitable moody shots of NORTH pier.

Piers have been included – very much on a “blink and you’ll miss ‘em” basis – in recent TV adverts for Shreddies (BOGNOR) and the Renault Clio (BLACKPOOL NORTH).

Pop group Kubb’s song Grow, which reached the charts, was filmed against a backdrop of BRIGHTON’s two piers. The band appeared at the town’s Concorde 2 Club on 23 March.

Pier Of The Year WORTHING was the backdrop to the 24 March edition of BBC-2’s popular auction series Flog It! with Paul Martin.

Fancy That! According to a Feather Report in The Times of 31 December there is a twitcher called Nimmo’s Pier. Does anyone know the origin of that name?

Which pier is featured on the cover of Peter James’ new thriller Dead Simple, published by Pan Macmillan?

(Thanks to David Cheshire, Louise Foster, Tim Mickleburgh and Steve Wilkindon for supplying information.)