BRIGHTON WEST PIER TRUST
Newsletter to Members
Constructive funding discussions continue to take place between the Trust, the Council and Marks Barfield. It has been widely recognised that the i360 will act as a catalyst to the regeneration of the seafront, not only creating many new jobs but also encouraging investment in the wider area and sending a message that the city is open for business. Once any formal proposals are agreed these will be published on the council’s website, with links from ours. i360 construction could begin in the spring and the attraction open in time for the 150th anniversary of the pier. At present we continue to support this process in any way that we can.
A New Sea-Based Development?
Those members who attended the AGM in November will remember the Chairman, Glynn Jones, told the meeting about the Board’s new Future Strategy sub-group. The group, chaired by Matt Carney, was set up to explore all future options for the sea-based site. The Board was recently presented with a draft preliminary paper outlining the status of the site and what might be the various feasible options for its future.
As Glynn explained, the Board will be seeking your views and opinions of what you think could be suitable and feasible future for the site. These views will be fed into the sub-group’s discussion and recommendations. At the time of the AGM we hoped that we would be consulting members early in 2014 however our partners, Marks Barfield and the Council, are currently deeply involved in the funding discussions for the i360 outlined above and we have decided that it would help all parties if we do not invite members’ views until the discussions are concluded. We will send another newsletter to members once the position is clearer.
Portakabin and Root End Decking
In my last newsletter I mentioned our plans to tidy up the root end decking. As you know, the area was closed to the public several years ago for safety reasons. The office was moved to my home and the Portakabin used for storage only. In 2012 the Rock Shop was dismantled, to be restored and reconstructed in due course as part of the i360 scheme. We hoped that the start of i360 construction would trigger the removal of the Portakabin as the project will involve the demolition and rebuilding of the existing structure. But sited in such an exposed position the unit has become an eyesore and we decided to wait no longer and arrange for its removal now. Unfortunately this has involved lengthy negotiations with Portakabin, from whom we rent the unit, in order to arrive at a scheme which is affordable to the Trust. By far the most economic method was to crane it to the lower esplanade which could only happen once Thorne’s (the contractor carrying out the arches work below) site office has been repositioned on the eastern side of the pier. This was scheduled to happen on 8th February. However, after a final inspection last week, Portakabin decided that the unit is too corroded to be craned and that demolition is the only option. This is frustrating as we had originally planned to demolish the unit in the autumn only to be persuaded by Portakabin to have it removed instead. The latest setback in the saga is that EDF refuses to disconnect the electricity supply! At the time of writing I’m doing all I can to arrange demolition of the unit on 8th February or soon after. Our apologies to Regency Square residents whom I know, would very much like the area to be Portakabin free. Meanwhile, locals will have noticed the trouble caused by the recent storms. On 27th December all the Heras fencing was blown over, many thanks are due to our tenant Lorraine Lewis who organised its (repeated!) reinstatement in my absence.
The Council has almost completed the restoration of the arches west of the pier. The work has been carried out to a very high standard and the units should be ready to rent as small independent retail outlets (no cafes or bars) from the spring. Work began in the autumn on the smaller eastern arches which will be restored as beach chalets. i360 construction will affect access to the arches but once the whole scheme is completed they will greatly enhance the area. With the completion of the i360 the units will have a chance of succeeding throughout the winter season trading upon the footfall that the i360 will bring during the leaner winter months. The Trust has been liaising with the Council and with Marks Barfield about these proposals.
Local composer Paul Lewis has a long association with the pier. His mother and aunt played in the West Pier orchestra and if you follow us on Facebook or read our blog you will have seen photographs of them in costume, carrying their instruments along the pier. To mark its 20th anniversary the Sussex Symphony Orchestra commissioned Paul to compose a piece which resulted in the beautiful and atmospheric ‘Sunken Ballroom’ premiered by the orchestra at Arundel Cathedral on 9th November. We’re hoping that before long it will be played by another local orchestra and recorded for a wider audience. If you are interested in sponsoring a performance of this important new work, please get in touch.
Patrick Hamilton’s ‘The West Pier’
Brighton writer Matt Thompson has written a stage adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s masterpiece. There will be a ‘literary salon’ event held at the County Cricket Ground in Hove on 30th May at 8pm (a Brighton Fringe event) where scenes will be played interspersed discussion and comment from a panel of experts. Trust historian, Professor Fred Gray, author of ‘Walking on Water’, will give the historical context of the work. It will be listed under ‘Literature’ in the Fringe brochure
Literary Cocktail salon at the Sussex County cricket ground exploring a classic Brighton crime novel and the life and times of its author.
Conman Ralph Gorse has Esther Downes and her cash in his sights. His weapons of choice: the Gin and It cocktail, his boyish charm and the mighty West Pier. How can she resist?
Scenes from the new stage version by Matt Thompson mingled with a panel discussion on Patrick Hamilton and his work, hypnotic Jazz from Edana Minghella and her band and strong liquor. https://www.facebook.com/PatrickHamiltonWestPier
I’m rarely on site at dusk these days but on the last few occasions I have, the starlings have been notable by their absence. I get frequent enquires about the murmuration which was such a significant feature of the pier through the winter in the 90s and early 00s. Please let me know if you have witnessed any this year, better still, send me a photo.
February 2014 Rachel Clark, Chief Executive
F: Official West Pier