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Thursday 7 October 2010

Hastings Pier Memories.

Yes, i know that i've been talking, Tweeting, blogging and uploading videos about the fire on Hastings Pier quite a lot over the past few days.
But, i make no apology for that.

This is one of those momentous local stories that comes around, thankfully, very infrequently. It is also the first major local story, on this scale, to have happened since the advent of the social media tools that have enabled myself and others to comment in this way.

Everybody in the town and far beyond as well,, have their own perosnal memories of Hastings Pier and now we have a new way of actually recording our thoughts. We are also now able to share those thoughts and memories with anyone who might care to read, or listen to them.

One thing that has struck me over the past few days, has been the amount of comments, messages etc that i have received from people across the UK and beyond. All those people have their own personal memories of Hastings Pier, from when they have visited it themselves. Often as a child on holiday with their family.

That is one thing that sets this story apart from most others. The sense of genuine grief is felt and shared by people who live far away from Hastings itself. That, i feel, is quite unusual.

I read a blog post by another local blogger yesterday. In it they mentioned the fact, for many locals, Hastings Pier was just.....there.
It was an ever present landmark in our lives. Every Hastonian alive today will not have known a time in their lives when the pier was not....there.
It gave us all a sense of comfort seeing it there day, after day. Even if we didn't actually realise that at the time.

Obviously, we still don't know the final outcome and future of what is left of the pier. It may have to be demolished. It may rise again from the ashes. It might just be left as it is.

Ironically, this final option might make it a tourist attraction in it's own right. A bit like the similarly burned down West Pier, in Brighton. In that scenario, Hastings Pier might attract more visitors than when it was actually open. Death can be a good career move after all.
In some ways, that has already started to happen over the past few days. There has been a constant stream of people, both local and out of towners, coming to have a look at what's left of the pier.

But, whatever the final outcome. For many, myself included, it will just not be the same structure that we all associated with. The building in which all of our personal memories were lived out, is no more.

The Hastings Pier ballroom that played host to just about every major rock band, in it's time, is a ruin.
No future building could ever bring back those days and those memories.
The stage that i stood on when i helped to host Beatles Day, has gone and can never be replaced.

The amusement arcades have now been reduced to ashes.
Those same arcades that i remember taking my, then, young son to. We would spend happy afternoons bashing crabs heads with big mallets and working our way through the, especially collected, bags of 2p pieces in the various slot machines.
Those days can never be re-created.

And, i'm sure that every person, both local and from elsewhere, has their own similar happy memories of the time they spent on Hastings Pier.

And that, i think, is why the sense of grief and loss is so great for so many people.
We have witnessed the end of an era.
A part of our lives has been destroyed. A part of our lives that can never be rebuilt, or replaced.

Hastings Pier as we knew and loved it, is now consigned to history.

But, whatever the final outcome. We will always have those fond memories.
They will always be just....there.


  1. I love the old beach piers. The two in Brighton captured my imagination in the early 1980's - I thought they were magnificent! In the 1950's my family vacationed in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where there was a lovely, 700 foot long pier built of steel in 1898 with the Casino Ballroom at its seaward end. Fires & storms took their toll, and the Casino was finally destroyed in 1970. I genuinely feel your grief, Andy, but I know Hastings Pier will live in many hearts & minds forever.

  2. I did visit a couple of piers whilst i was in California & very good it was to see them there too.
    Brighton is unique in having had two piers & the now burned West Pier has become a tourist attraction in it's own right now.
    Piers do seem to have a special place in people's hearts don't they?