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Helen Walker, 150th anniversary events, BA i360 flies, WPT Board 
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Crashing waves around the West Pier
Mike Bruno recently captured the ferocity of high waves and strong winds bearing down on the West Pier in this dramatic shot.  British Airways i360 showed its mettle and kept its doors open and the pod flying, offering a crow's nest view of the elements in action.



Dr Helen Walker 
Independent policy and
planning consultant

If there is an ideal background for a West Pier trustee, then Dr Helen Walker's comes closer than most.  She blends professional and academic experience in urban planning with a desire to improve the built environment -  and a love of Brighton that began in 1974 when she started her undergraduate degree at the University of Sussex, later completing her master's and a doctorate.
 
“I think that makes me sound much more idealistic than I am,” she says.  “But I do care hugely about the city even though I'm not from here.  I had a great experience as a mature student at Sussex and have always appreciated the city’s level of tolerance, which is extremely interesting - it's the reason we have wonderful curiosities like the Pavilion and now the i360.  When I stopped commuting and as I’m locally-based, it seemed right to become more involved.”
 
'Involved' is an understatement.  As well as being on the board of the West Pier Trust, Helen is vice-chair of the Regency Society, a director of the Hippodrome community interest company, and a trustee and company secretary of the Fabrica gallery.  Professionally, she’s taken a couple of early retirements but seems to be easily persuaded to unretire again.  About four years ago, for example, a chance meeting with a former colleague led to her returning back into the academic world and she is now temporary course leader of the University of Brighton master's degree in town planning.
 
It is no wonder that Helen remains in demand.  She formerly worked for the Greater London Council, London Strategic Policy Unit, the Association of District Councils, and for the Chief Executive’s policy units of LB Lambeth and Brighton.  She has held academic posts at Westminster, Sussex, UCL, Leeds and Portsmouth and has published on a range of built environment topics.  Unsurprisingly, she has been a consultant or advisor to many other agencies and bodies here and abroad, many concerned with delivering sustainable communities.
 
“We need to work towards lifting the quality of the built environment locally and I’m pleased to participate in and belong to organisations working to achieve that end.  The Regency Society is very interested in progress, and in ensuring that the progress that results is positive.  And I would also put the West Pier Trust in that category.  For the Trust it’s about ensuring that whatever eventually replaces the pier is well-designed, successful and enhances the city - its economic viability depends on continuous renewal.  We should promote the need for good quality environmental improvements.”
 
By chance, in 2003 Helen was present at a key moment in the pier’s history.  “I was leading a student field trip from Westminster and we happened to be on the beach as it went up in flames.  We had our backs to it while one of the students was photographing the group and he suddenly said:  'The pier's on fire!'  
 
“The resilience of the structure is extraordinary and the ruin has become iconic in itself, on postcards and calendars.  We can't replicate the pier, but it would be good to create some modern intervention which would acknowledge the history of the West Pier and hopefully create a modern destination for tourists and locals to enjoy.  Of course it will have to be very carefully designed but I believe the project is a very worthwhile and positive ambition for the Trust - and one that I am keen to support.”
 

West Pier Trustees take their curtain call

The calibre of an organisation is determined by the people it comprises and the West Pier Trust has been lucky to have attracted some of Brighton's most distinguished figureheads across education, business and innovation and public service.  After their years of unstinting support, contributing professional advice and expertise, we bid a fond farewell to a number of board members who have been pivotal in maintaining a presence for the West Pier and weathering the highs and lows that fortune has thrown in the path of the Trust.  In no particular order, we'd like to say a heartfelt thank you.

Geoff Lockwood
A member for decades and over 10 years in the role of Chief Executive of the West Pier Trust, Geoff was behind the successful bid for Lottery funds to restore the pier that resulted in a £14 million grant, a feat requiring dogged tenacity and commitment beyond most of us.  His pedigree for the role was obvious with 35 years in the role of Administrative Chief Executive at the University of Sussex, a career only slightly eclipsed by his dominance of the campus racket ball courts.

John Wells-Thorpe
Architect and leading exponent of the modernist school of design, John is the genius behind the iconic Hove Town Hall.  His specialisms prioritise the needs of the people using and populating structures which has helped carve the Trust's strategy of honouring tradition and heritage of the seaside.

Audrey Simpson
Hotelier, food writer, academic and cultural ambassador, there isn't a committee that hasn't asked Audrey to become a member and contribute her irrepressible energy.  Thankfully the West Pier was one of the first with their foot in the door and she has been our longest-serving trustee and her effortless glamour will be sorely missed from the board table.

Matt Carney
Matt has spearheaded the Trust's public consultation process on the feasibility of a new pier and been critical in the analysis of results that have shaped the future strategy of the Trust.

They will stand down in the autumn but will continue to advise the Trust on their respective areas of specialism and we very much look forward to their continued support and friendship.



West Pier celebrates its 150th anniversary with a series of events and talks

On Saturday 6th October 1866, thousands of people gathered on the sea front for the ceremony and celebrations marking the opening of Brighton's new pier.  The Chief Constable, two bands, 50 coastguards with drawn cutlasses, the contractors' workmen carrying banners along with the Mayor of Brighton and Members of Parliament walked from the pier head to the promenade entrance where Mr Henry Moore, the Chairman of the West Pier Company, declared the pier open.  The Royal Standard was hoisted from the pier head flagstaff and a gun detachment of the Coast Guard saluted it with 21 guns, fired from a couple of 9-pounders on the centre of the pier.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Trust is organising a series of talks from those with a special interest or knowledge of the pier and the British coastline and our national love of the seaside. Events can be booked through the West Pier Trust website from  early September. 

Mon 10th October, 6.30pm
Breathing new life into the
West Pier site

David Marks & Julia Barfield, the team behind the i360, on their 11-year journey from concept to construction.  In conversation with Professor Fred Gray
BA i360, £12/£10 

Wed 23rd November, 7.30pm 
Oh! What a Lovely War

Richard Attenborough's provocative WW1 anti-war musical filmed and filmed on the West Pier will be screened with an introductory talk by Frank Gray (Cinecity, South East Film Archive)
Attenborough Centre,
University of Sussex, £8/£6 


Mon 28th November, 6.30pm
Coast, Our Island Story
Drawing on his travels and best-selling book, Nick Crane will share insights and stories from one of the most diverse, dynamic and beautiful coastlines in the world. The talk will be illustrated with photographs taken during Nick’s ten years presenting the BBC series Coast.
BA i360, £12/10

Further talks including those by Joan Bakewell and author Peter James are scheduled for 2017 and will be announced in coming months.



BA i360 opens for business. 

After years of planning, negotiation, crushing uncertainty and courageous resilience on the part of so many involved in the building of BA i360, it finally opened its pod doors to the public on 4th August. The celebrations didn't quite employ the extravagant Victorian pomp of those held for the West Pier in 1866, but was no less attended by the great and good of the City and speeches from David Marks, Mayor Pete West and Council leader Warren Morgan. With remarkably few glitches given the scale of the project, the weather has mostly proved fine for the first crowds experiencing the stupendous views across the South Downs, the landmark-studded city of Brighton and Hove and the endless vistas of the sea. Thanks to Louise Yates for sending us this spectacular photo of the fireworks over the pier which provided an appropriately heraldic fanfare. 

West Pier Trust member, Len Goldman, celebrates his 100th birthday on BA i360 

In last month's newsletter we paid tribute to our oldest West Pier Trust member, Len Goldman, who turned 100 on 7th August.  One of the most special moments to take place during the opening events were a celebratory flight for Len and his family courtesy of BA i360 and filmed by Latest TV.  It's poignant beyond words to get a sense of Len's loss of his spiritual boyhood haunt, but inspiring to see him cross cultural generations and at the forefront of 21st century innovation.  Watch Latest TV's footage of Len's flight here..  

 
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