I was really pleased, honoured, and emotional to be at the celebration event on the Pier yesterday to mark the achievements of the Learning & Education Team which has been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund for the past 5 years.
This is what I said:
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I want to talk about three things:
• The people
• The achievement (specifically of the heritage & learning programme)
• The future
The people = so many people, so much love, so much uncertainty and dogged determination to win through regardless. Individuals should be recognised and valued but we must also give credit to the power of numbers – that’s what it takes.
The achievement = the numbers, breadth, depth, diversity, and impact – all astounding. The legacy – in terms of archive and corporate memory – is precious and should be incorporated in the revitalisation of pier.
The future = Phase 2 of the People’s Pier
The project was always phased:
Phase 1 (renovation) – stable platform, stable ownership, interim business
Phase 2 (revitalisation) – commercialisation, intensive programme that focuses on footfall and dwell-time, with new infrastructure that enables visitor spend
Cohesion – the pier is our anchor, not just that everyone uses it but that everyone is involved in making it.
This great lump of metal and wood, as it heads towards its 150th birthday, represents:
• our courage and audacity in the face of the beautiful but ultimately hostile and threatening sea
• The ‘dead centre’ (or beating heart?) of our two towns of Hastings and St Leonards
• The ‘totem’ that we all belong to and belongs to all of us
I’ve brought some things which were kept for nostalgia as souvenirs.
Yet here we are again – campaigning to save Hastings Pier once more!
It has never been possible to walk away. I know, I tried!
What is happening now is just another threat in the long history of challenges the People’s Pier has faced
– from the Catch 22 at the start that if you didn’t have the money you couldn’t own it and if you didn’t own it you couldn’t get the money…
– to now where local people – working for free to protect the long term future of a critically important heritage, cultural and community asset – are treated as ‘just another bidder’ in a procurement exercise for a new guardian.
So let me finish by saying thank you:
1. to Heritage Lottery Fund for all their support – both in the beginning and while the pier is going through this crisis
2. to all the supporters, shareholders, funders and advisers, locally and across the country, and
3. most of all to the staff and volunteers who have given so much and who continue to keep the good ship sailing despite the weather!
Raise your glasses to the future of Hastings Pier.