Nick Szczepanik, Memories of Hill & Co, BA i360 test flights, Fragments sale
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June storms over the West Pier
Max Langran is a professional photographer who has taken some of the most captivating shots of the West Pier.  He braved the recent storms when the sky was literally fizzing with electricity to capture the pier bathed in an eerie light, so tranquil against the ferocious climatic backdrop.  

Nick Szczepanik 
Sports Writer and West Pier Board member since 2014

Brighton and Hove run deep in the veins of Nick Szczepanik, a standard-bearing Albion disciple and card-carrying son of the city, he’s achieved that rare and enviable feat of turning a passion into a vocation and very successfully at that. Born and raised in the city, he was one of many residents who were somewhat ambivalent about the BA i360 development. When having a coffee one afternoon with his old school friend Chris Mortimer, long associated with the West Pier Trust, a throwaway remark about funding arrangements prompted Chris to put Nick right and invite him to channel his energies into getting involved. He has since become a valued Board member, contributing his formidable talents as a sports journalist and writer into supporting the Trust’s media and comms work and it gives us great pleasure to now turn the spotlight upon him.

After escaping from Russia with Anders’ Army and flying with the RAF, Nick’s Polish father settled in Britain and a chance meeting in Morecambe’s Winter Gardens with a young Yorkshire lass was to seal the future for the Szczepanik family. They relocated to the South coast and before long, Nick was brought home from Brighton Maternity hospital to a flat in Regency Square overlooking the West Pier. Relatives from his maternal side would visit regularly from Leeds and Nick and his cousins were unleashed on the seafront, a favourite destination being the pier which he remembers as much more family orientated than the hurly burly of eager day trippers seeking a good time on the Palace Pier. Nick particularly remembers the small, rickety and distinctly unscary ghost train and kicking a ball around under the boardwalk during the record low tides of summer 1975.

Nick was to attend Hove Grammar school, securing himself a place reading English at New College, Oxford where under the tutelage of the feted academic and husband to Iris Murdoch, John Bayley, he developed an enduring passion for the works of Shakespeare. Upon graduating, he moved into teaching for a number of years, then gravitating to work in the press office of Brighton Festival during the 1980’s and early 90’s.
Nick declares the 1990 World Cup to be a defining moment for English football and one that took it from the terraces to preoccupying the national psyche. He’d been contributing to fanzines for many years but friends and colleagues urged him to step up to professional sports writing and after numerous submissions, it came to be that he spent the next ten years as a staff sports writer for The Times, moving later to the Independent. Whilst covering the dramas, personalities and glitter of the Premier League, Nick was never to sway allegiance from his beloved Seagulls and his specialist knowledge was to amply equip him to collaborate with Dick Knight, marketing guru and chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion until 2009, on his autobiography.

Now freelance, Nick’s talents are still in high demand with life generally revolving around fixture lists but there is now room for involvement in theTrust. His teaching credentials instinctively lead him to advocate Brighton’s younger generations becoming actively engaged in the future plans of the Trust, drawing on the rich pool of creativity and talent the city has to offer. He would like to see a new pier and acknowledges there must be some commercial element to make it viable. But one thing he is adamant about is light. That filigree ironwork of the original structure invited the sun to shine through and literally set the pier aglow, so the sea island frames our most spectacular sunsets. ‘A new pier’ he says ‘must let the sun shine through’. We say ‘hallelujah to that’.

‘Mad Man: From the gutter to the stars, the Ad man who saved Brighton’ by Dick Knight is available from Amazon.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickSzczepanik

West Pier information leaflet

It won't look anything like these historic playbills from the 1930's (we're using any excuse to post them!) but the Trust will be producing an information leaflet explaining how it came to be, how the events after the pier's closure in 1975 have shaped our mission and our strategic aims for the future.

Much of the work of West Pier Trust is not well known and we'd like to engage local residents and visitors with our ambitions to keep the spirit of the West Pier alive.  It will detail how the partnership with the British Airways i360 works, our significant responsibilities required for managing the site and plans for the beautiful octagonal kiosk that once graced the pier to be restored as a heritage centre,  We'll be releasing the brochure sometime in late July so do keep an eye out.



Hill & Co: Memories of a West Pier Tobacconist and Barber

One of the most reproduced photographs of the West Pier dates from 1929. It shows the pier in all its glory and includes details such as a sand artist on the beach tempting pier promenaders above to throw coins of appreciation. The exterior detail of eastern toll booth is also revealed, in the guise of Hill and Company, cigar merchants, tobacconists and hairdressers.
In the late 1930s the shop’s proprietor was Mr Arthur Russell. His grandson, Robin Russell, has fascinating memories of the interior of the shop which he knew when six to seven years old. He writes:

As well as packets of cigarettes (Players, Craven A, Woodbines etc), the shop contained cigars, some very expensive for the wealthy guests at the Hotel Metropole, and loose tobacco of numerous blends for pipe smokers. There was a distinctive (and pleasant) aroma of fresh tobacco, and I remember that at the counter there was a constant gas-lit flame provided for customers to start a smoke.
‘Fancy goods’ on sale included tobacco pouches, ashtrays, cigarette cases, lighters and pipe racks. The counter was along the east side of the shop, and I remember a tub near the entrance containing walking sticks for sale.
The barbers’ salon was at the sea end of the shop. I am not certain whether it had a separate entrance. My grandfather employed 3 or 4 gentlemen's barbers. He died in 1939 and my uncle, Harry Russell, took over the business. He had a number of electric hair clippers, ‘cut throat’ razors and a Brylcreem dispenser for many years.
Fortunately, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War my uncle acquired premises at the Seven Dials which he named the Pipe Shop and this secured an income for the family when the pier was closed at the start of the war. The business at the Seven Dials was eventually taken over by his son, John, and finally closed in the early 1970s.


Inaugural test flights see the pod reach the full height of the BA i360 tower 

Huge excitement for the British Airways i360 team as the pod made its first full ascent up the tower this week. It's been two years since work began and the anticipation at seeing the fruition of their labour and incredible team spirit was palpable.  Architect and Director David Marks was interviewed by Latest TV after being one of the first of the team to take a ride in pod which he described as literally 'uplifting'.  Watch the interview by clicking on this link.  It won't be long until we can all experience this phenomenal attraction.


Final West Pier fragments sale 

We're giving our final fragments sale a big push! The tollbooth parts were found to be in too unstable a condition to be incorporated in the new building which will be used by the public and so sections of it can be offered to buy in a one-off sale on 2nd and 3rd July.

The original castings were used to make the beautiful exact replicas now nearing completion either side of the British Airways i360. They are pristine and stately. The western building will serve as a tollbooth, or ticket office, the eastern one will be The West Pier Tea Rooms.

The sale will take place at Mackley’s site at Henfield Rd, Small Dole, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9XQ on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd July 10am – 4pm.

Pieces include brackets measuring approximately 1100mm x 900mm and columns approximately 3100mm long. Certificates of authenticity will be issued with each purchase

It is thanks to Mackley’s generosity that the Trust is able to hold this sale from its site but please note all material must be removed from site on purchase, There can be no collections from the site after 4pm on Sunday 3rd July. Please ensure you bring a suitable vehicle to transport purchases. The Trust will be able to offer some help with lifting but all the pieces are heavy and require at least two people to carry. Payment by cash and cheques only (no cards).

Proceeds from the sale will go to the designated heritage and education fund and specifically towards the restoration of the kiosk.

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Brighton West Pier Trust · West Pier · King's Road · Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2FL · United Kingdom

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