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Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Friday, 29 October 2010 17:52 UK
Reclaiming the seafront: How to save Hastings pier
Firefighters at Hastings Pier Oct 2010
On 5 October, Hastings woke up to see its pier alight

By Jan Melrose
BBC Sussex

The burnt hulk of Hastings Pier looms on the horizon like a war-torn building perched on spindly metal matchsticks.

It is a stark reminder of the October morning when people woke up to the pungent smell of burning.

Even after rushing to their windows and witnessing the flames first hand some could still not believe it.

As parts of the structure succumbed to the fire and crashed into the sea, it looked as if all hopes of ever saving it were now truly dashed.

Resilient

But Hastings is a place where people do not give up easily. Defeat is not part of its vocabulary.

A recent BBC report found it to be one of the most resilient places in the South East, ready to adapt and change and fight.

Efforts are now underway to pay for its restoration, providing a structural survey carried out in the next few weeks says it can be saved.

To protect it through the Winter £250,000 is needed. The task of raising the money has been taken on by the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust - a company with ten trustees who have been fighting to rescue and restore the pier since it closed in 2006.

The first parts of the pier to be demolished are due to be pulled down in early November. Debris will be cleared to make way for surveyors.

I only wish people had been more galvanised when it was first closed down
David Francis, ukulele player

One man ensuring the pier will not be forgotten is David Francis, a local ukulele player, who has been working at the Trust shop since the middle of August.

He is planning a weekly "ukulele stroll" every Sunday, from St Leonard's along a stretch of seafront known as Bottle Alley, to Hastings Pier.

"The seafront used to be a glamorous place with cafes on it but there's not much there now apart from a burnt out pier.

"I wanted to draw attention to the situation and reclaim the seafront for something enjoyable, fun and frivolous."

Weekly pint

For the first stroll, on 31 October, he will be joined by other ukulele players and plans to dress up in a "pink stripey blazer or a holiday camp type of outfit".

Hastings pier
Firefighters were called to the pier after the alarm was raised at 1am

Along the way they will collect money to add to the pot. It is one of several activities being organised in the town to raise money, under the collective banner "Not The End Of The Pier".

He added: "People are really rallying around, if they are despondent then one of my roles in the shop is to get them to be optimistic.

"It was always going to be a challenge but it is a feasible challenge. It has galvanised people but they are angry and determined.

"I only wish people had been more galvanised when it was first closed down."

If the listed metal sub-structure can be saved, Hastings Council say they will press ahead with plans forcing the pier's owners to sell it to them. Then ownership will be transferred to the Trust.

'Amazing'

Lesley Davis has been coordinating the Trust's fundraising efforts. Donations have come from as far afield as New Zealand and Australia.

Another man wrote to the Trust to tell them he had given up a weekly pint in the pub and donated the £3 to the pier fund instead.

Hastings pier
The pier had been closed since 2006 because of fears it was unsafe

Shops in the town have collecting pots for customers to make donations and several events are planned throughout October and November.

But the biggest hope for funding is from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Trust is applying for more than £5 million.

"We'd been working on the application for that money for months and months. We've had to change the application a bit but we'll get it in by the end of November and they should let us know the result by April.

"I've been at the pier for the last two weekends, it's amazing how many people have come along to say hello and tell their stories.

"There is so much history to it. One boy was about 14 and the pier had been a part of his father and his grandfather's history as well as his."

Since the fire she says about 100 people have joined the Trust. Lesley is also hoping as well as donating money people will volunteer to collect it.

"The fire has made people realise they do want a pier," she added.

"It's the people's pier, it should never belong to one person, it should belong to the community."




SEE ALSO
Major fire destroys Hastings Pier
05 Oct 10 |  Sussex
Can the big society save Hastings pier?
02 Aug 10 |  Newsnight
Council could buy Hastings Pier
20 May 10 |  Sussex
Bad weather damages pier struts
13 Mar 08 |  Sussex
Pier owner fined over unsafe site
01 Nov 07 |  Sussex
Last traders leave troubled pier
03 Nov 06 |  Southern Counties


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