Dismay over damage to Hastings winkle

Damage at Winkle Island

Damage at Winkle Island

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A QUIRKY emblem of Old Town culture has been damaged by youngsters cutting loose on Pirate Day.

The winkle on Winkle Island, symbol of 110-year-old Hastings charity the Winkle Club, was cracked after a group of children used the concrete sculpture as a launch pad to jump on and off.

Polo Piatti, club spokesman, condemned the damage, but revealed the club expects its new winkle, commissioned earlier this year, to be ready for April 1, 2012.

The current winkle has stood beside The Stade since 1974.

Speaking of Friday’s damage, Polo said: “It’s disappointing, because parents are seeing their children do this, but they don’t do anything. Now it’s up to us to repair this damage ourselves.”

Metalworker Leigh Dyer, of West Street, who made the sea beasties and railings in Butler’s Gap, is currently working on a new winkle, made of steel, after designs for the £8,000 sculpture were approved. The Observer revealed in February how the club was bowled over after hitting its fundraising target for The Big Winkle, as it is known, in just three weeks.

A tripod of local fish form the base for the winkle shell, which will have a slot in the top to act as a money collecting pot.

The Hastings fishing fleet has promised a boat bell, which will be installed inside the winkle, to ring each time a coin is dropped in.

Polo said: “I’m very excited. Our new winkle will have several interesting features, including symbols reflecting the history of the club.”

Hastings Winkle Club president Admiral Lord Michael Boyce will officially bless the new winkle next April while the original, now slightly-battered winkle will remain in Hastings, in the garden of one of the members.

Borough councillor for Old Town ward Richard Stevens, Winkle Club vice-chairman, said: “Any damage is upsetting. Many hours of volunteering go into making that island presentable.”

Cllr Stevens praised Leigh’s new design, saying it was part of an ongoing effort to smarten Winkle Island.

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• BBC radio presenter Alex Lester scooped £100 in the Winkle Club’s recent raffle. The Radio 2 broadcaster, who lives in Hastings and is a long-time member of the club, was presented with his winnings at Winkle Island on Pirate Day. He donated half to the club, and half to the SAFE Foundation charity.