Hastings Pier has had its heart ripped out

From: Jean Parham, Bembrook Road, Hastings

I started volunteering for Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust in 2010, working in the Pier Shop at Arthur Green’s. This was prior to the fire.

I was also invited to help out the committee members by taking minutes at their meetings. In this way I was informed of the developments of the process of getting the pier back into community hands and also the Heritage Lottery Fund application. I was able to chat to visitors to the shop and keep them informed of developments and explain the process of acquisition.

When the funding was awarded and a chief executive was appointed to oversee the rebuilding project, I had to leave due to ill health. I had a break of just over two years, had spinal surgery and made a full recovery from this.

When Hastings Pier Charity asked for volunteers I jumped at the chance. I had then been retired for over two years, my health was in much better shape. All volunteers had extensive training in health and safety, fire and evacuation and customer services and first aid. We also had training in the heritage of the pier and also how it came to be rebuilt.

On my first day, which was the “soft” opening, I worked in one of the huts selling pier mugs, t-shirts, fridge magnets and Hastings Lemon Ketchup.

The response was overwhelming and we did over £350 of sales in a morning!

From then on I worked in the visitor centre, mainly in the shop, but also showed visitors around the interactive displays.

Many people wanted to chat about their memories, others were interested how the money was raised for the project. We also acted as tourist guides for Hastings, giving directions, pointing out places of interest and recommending shops and services.

I also worked as an events volunteer on music festivals. We helped at the gates, scanning tickets and giving information. We also patrolled to back up the security officers. Volunteers and staff, together we made a brilliant cohesive team. We were the heart of the pier. And now that’s been lost.

I continued to volunteer from 2016 up to when the pier was sold to Mr Gulzar.

As volunteers we have not been contacted by Mr Gulzar or any of his associates. I am particularly angry about the way in which the paid staff were spoken to when they met on the night of the sale. I was not there, but I understand that they were rudely addressed.

They should have TUPE explained to them (that is that their jobs are safe and that they would continue under the same terms and conditions) .

To conclude, I feel that the very heart has been ripped out of the pier, it really is just a plank now, it needed us to bring it alive.

Yes I do agree that a load more needs to be done, but to chuck out all of the experience, knowledge and plain ordinary love – is criminal. I do hope that some of my friends and colleagues contact you with their thoughts. I keep on bumping into them aimlessly wandering around town. Sadness with underlying fury abounds.