I was disappointed by the negative tone of the report in the Daily Mail on May 3, on the reopened Hastings Pier.
I took the opportunity to visit it for the first time on June 21, a glorious mid-summer’s evening.
As the last rays of the mid-summer sun fell onto the pier, over 200 yoga enthusiasts from the area were busily going through their sun salutation sequences. They occupied a relatively small area of the entire pier, such is the space this massive structure offers.
One hundred years ago people would have come to the pier to promenade and enjoy a range of entertainments provided in purpose-built indoor spaces. How times have changed.
Today the demand is for recreational spaces that are flexible in nature. Fixed seating is only of use for spectating, whereas the modern requirement is for space where people can participate in the way that our massed yogis were.
As I climbed the steps of the elevated structure in the middle of the pier, I had a feeling of being on a cross channel ferry, as the sea lapped all around. This central structure provides great views in all directions, as well as doubling up as a tiered seating area for any performances taking place on the landward end of the pier.
Moving seaward I entered a vast space created for the benefit of pop-up functions. These could easily be the sort of side-shows Victorian piers were once famous for – fortune-tellers, candyfloss purveyors and coconut shies.
Alternatively it could be quickly transformed into a space for mass participation such as a rock concert, ice-rink or wheel-chair basketball courts.
As I turned to look landward, the glorious summer sun was dipping behind the rising cliffs of Hastings, casting its brilliance upon the crests of waves as they arced up the gentle sandy beach.
Before me was a mixture of building styles from Victorian to modern-day. A quaint mix of fading boarding houses, towering modern flats and the clean lines of the White Rock Theatre. On the beach fishermen were keeping a keen eye on their lines, young people were riding their bicycles on the firm orange sand and local dog owners were encouraging their dogs to splash lustily through the shallow waters of the English Channel.
Nature is cyclic. As times change, so places and people have to change to. The Victorian seaside past of Hastings gave way to the 20th Century demand for cheap foreign holidays and with it the pier became a ghost. At the dawn of the 21st Century this renewed and re-invigorated relict of a bygone age has been reinvented and will provide a focus for the reinvigoration of this forgotten corner of Britain, hidden deep in the High Weald of East Sussex.
From the article appearing in The Daily Mail, in which most of the comments came from a rather judgemental older generation, it is apparent that it is not the mouthpiece of the forward-looking younger generations, many of whom were to be seen on or roundabout this iconic structure as it thrust seaward towards a bright and optimistic future for Hastings.
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