“There are battles you think you’ve won, only to discover you need to fight them all over again” – Jonathan Freedland, Guardian 28/4/18
At first, when the Hastings Pier Charity was put into administration in November 2017, it seemed terrible and tragic and tipped me over the edge. Strangely, it now feels like an opportunity. It’s a bit like the Fire in 2010 – the worst thing imaginable but still, in the smouldering, a chance of renewal. Are we going round in circles or are we making progress towards some kind of destiny??! Maybe both!
Friends of Hastings Pier was set up (again) on 3rd February 2018 to give shareholders and supporters a voice. We were working towards a big meeting, preferably with the Administrators and HLF. At the end of March we were suddenly told we had until 12th April to put in a bid. We went ahead – proposing a split of the ‘top’ (above deck) and ‘bottom’ (structure), and developed an indicative business plan to show that, with Phase 2 investment and operated commercially, the top could make enough money to pay a rent to a community trust freeholder that would be responsible for the bottom forever. This model of separation is operated by several piers nationally, including Bournemouth and Cromer.
It’s crucial to remember that the pier project was always phased. Phase 1 (mainly HLF-funded) aimed for stable ownership, a stable platform, and an interim business plan that would tick over while investment was found for Phase 2 which would fully revitalise the pier. Phase 1 has created a beautifully renovated, Stirling prize-winning pier. Phase 2 appeared to have been forgotten, but is now fully back on the agenda.
We developed those ideas further, with input from the fabulous Adam Wide and exquisite initial designs provided by dRMM. Then we were told that if we didn’t have cash funds our bid would not be considered. So we went ahead with seeking pledges and quickly set up a Crowdfunder page. WHICH IS LIVE & URGENT & NEEDS YOUR ATTENTION RIGHT NOW!
Then the Administrators asked:
“Are the Friends of Hastings Pier comfortable that if we were given ownership of the pier next month, or even in the next two months, we would have the confidence and capability to :-
Continue to keep the pier open
Take over the loss-making operation
Sustain those losses for 2 years
Pay for maintenance and insurance @ £30,000 a month
Pay for any storm damage not covered by insurance
Design and ‘spec’. new buildings
Get planning permission for new buildings
Supervise and oversee the building of new buildings
Lease or Operate all aspects of operating the new buildings
Lease out or Operate the Entertainment Programme and F & B content
Ensure stability for the next two years
Build up the numbers of visitors over the next 2 -3 years
……. to finally generate profit”.
We’ve begun to answer that challenge in our transition plan, which argues:
“As community entrepreneurs, we disagree with the idea that the new owner is to ‘take over the loss-making operation and sustain that for 2 years’. That is a negative and narrow view. Our plan is to make radical changes from Day 1 to bring the pier into genuine community ownership and massively increase the breadth and depth of local and visitor usage, while implementing Phase 2 development and aiming towards a destination pier from Year 4 onwards.
We are confident in our ability to take on the pier. We were never asked if we wanted to give it up.”
The creative ideas for the long term, developed by Adam Wide with Friends of Hastings Pier can be seen here:
The emerging designs by dRMM can be seen here:
The discussion draft of the Transition Plan is here:
Some people get immediately why Hastings Pier is so important, for others it take longer to get under their skin. Most importantly, it’s a totemic asset – a totem is something that belongs to everyone and everyone belongs to.
On Monday 23rd April 500 people came to the public meeting and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Five spokespeople were elected, including me. We deliberately don’t have a committee, whoever comes and is active and constructive can have a say and make stuff happen.
On Thursday night we launched the Crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fohp2018/? with a target of £500k. We’ll be working to match that with a grant (calling all grant funders and foundations…?!) so we can show we have financial muscle as well as moral right and the best plans.
I’ve been writing to everyone I know to ask for 3 things:
- Dig deep and soon.If we don’t get to £500k by 31 May we’re sunk and really we need as much as possible by 11th May when a couple of us are meeting with the Administrators. Don’t hold back, be a saint and pledge whatever you can afford.
- Spread far and wide. We have lots of great volunteers in Hastings (more always welcome) but this needs to be pushed way beyond Hastings, and especially to people with a bit more money who can pledge in the £thousands. Share the crowdfunder link + @FOHP2018 + #YourPier. Talk to your friends; talk to everyone you meet – are they helping Hastings Pier?!
- Lend your skills, time, credibility, and networks. Alex de Rijke and his colleagues at dRMM have donated £60,000 of fees to help bring Phase 2 to planning permission. Adam Wide brings 40 years experience as a creative director in tourism & entertainment. Craig Cohon is lending his business weight. Please think about what you personally could do for Hastings Pier…
And lastly, let’s help make hope possible rather than despair convincing. We have to try… this money and momentum is what keeps alive the possibility of long-term community ownership of the People’s Pier (and in any case the money all goes back to the donors if we don’t raise the target or our bid gets rejected).
Go to Crowdfunder now and make my day…
The game is on… are you in?