West Pier Trust October/November 2020

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The Symbolism of the West Pier  

As the most famous of British seaside piers, the West Pier has long been used as a symbol of the seaside more generally or even wider issues.
The guide to the South Bank Exhibition to the 1951 Festival of Britain illustrated the section on the British seaside with a photograph of a crowded West Pier, reopened after the Second World War.
Half a century earlier Edward Raymond Turner (1873-1903) the pioneering British inventor and cinematographer produced the world’s earliest known colour film: it included a panning shot of the unmistakable West Pier:
As a ruin the pier’s symbolism is even more acute. It was seized upon by the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion in Brighton protests on Saturday 29 August:
Kayakers hung a huge banner from the pier head skeleton reading ‘Climate Emergency: our house is on fire’. The pier head, in a state of active collapse, is an immensely dangerous structure.  
We would like to acquire photographs of Extinction Rebellion activities at the West Pier for our archive. If you have any and are happy for the trust to have copies, please send them to:
More mundanely, varied representations of the pier have been long been used for marketing. Crisp-maker Tyrrell is currently using a photograph of the West Pier (before it was ruined) as part of the seaside montage on its naked (unsalted) crisp packets.


West Pier Matters

Pier Views: West Pier Trust Online Talks
The trust recently launched a programme of online talks. In the first, ‘Two Centuries of Walking on Water’ Fred Gray and Michael Farthing are conversation about Fred’s new book The Architecture of British Seaside Piers. The talk is on YouTube:

Shoreline Exhibition at West Pier Centre

We're showing a new solo exhibition by photographer, John Brockliss featuring over 30 original colour and monochrome marine landscape photographs. The exhibition will run until January 2021 with prints available to buy. West Pier Centre is open Saturdays & Sundays, 11am-4.30pm West Pier Centre, 103-105 King’s Road Arches, BN1 2FN. These opening and closing times are weather dependent. The Centre won’t be opening if it’s pouring!

Rampion Visitor Centre

Rampion offshore wind farm has a newly opened visitor centre in the same stretch of arches as the West Pier Centre. The Rampion exhibition is fascinating and highly informative and well worth a visit. It includes a virtual reality trip up a wind turbine.  Rampion funded the Photoworks ‘Seas, Shoots and Shores’ project mentioned below. 

Seaside 100

Written by Kathryn Ferry – who has given a successful talk in the West Pier Centre - and published this year by Unicorn, this book is described as ‘a history of the British seaside in 100 objects.’

But how do you go about choosing 100 objects to provide a history of British seaside resorts? Kathryn’s approach is partly chronological. The first five objects are Scarborough Spa, Medical Dissertation (Brighton’s famous Dr Russell again), Modesty Hood, The Dipper and the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. The final five objects are Clevedon Pier, Blue Flag, Tate St Ives, Southwold Pier and Seafront Sculpture. In scale the objects range from Stick of Rock and Comic Postcard to Blackpool Tower and Midland Hotel.

One hundred objects is about the right number but I would have been tempted to add just a few more. As places of pleasure the seaside generates important memories. These are marked in various ways including commemorative benches and seats celebrating loved ones who enjoyed particular views or places and the grander more imposing war memorials found on many sea fronts. 

The book’s colourful cavalcade of seaside objects rightly highlights the popular – seaside things and seaside characters that we and our parents - and earlier generations  before them across almost three centuries - have enjoyed (or, as with Landlady and Knitted Swimsuit, sometimes endured). Kathryn wears her seaside knowledge lightly and her words combined with some great illustrations result in a lively, informative and accessible book. 

Seaside Delights

Pier lovers are delighted by the seaside more generally. Despite the unprecedented upheavals of the year so far, there have been some magnificent seaside resources posted online. Some of the best include:

Art UK

 The June newsletter for Art UK, the online home for the UK’s public art collections, was a themed issue called ‘We do like to be beside the seaside’. The many fascinating stories included:
· Art and the British seaside:  
The West Pier image used to sell Brighton, early 20th century Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The British Library

A British Library summer newsletter was about ‘Fun Beside the Sea’. The resources included an impressively brief and accurate account of the rise and fall of British seaside resorts beginning with two Brighton connections - Dr Russell and his famed A Dissertation on the Use of Sea-Water in the Diseases of the Glands (1752) and Sake Dean Mohamed, the Indian surgeon, who introduced shampoo baths to Britain and Brighton.


Photoworks, the only organisation with a national remit for photography in England, has partnered with the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham and the Marine Conservation Society to work with students and teachers from five West Sussex schools to produce an online exhibition about pollution in the sea and along the coast. ‘Seas, Shoots and Shores’ has a distinctive local flavour and is well worth a view:
Thanks go to Fred Gray who edited this issue of the newsletter.
Copyright ©2020 West Pier Trust, All rights reserved.
Brighton West Pier Trust · West Pier · King's Road · Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2FL · United Kingdom 
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Brighton West Pier Trust · West Pier · King's Road · Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2FL · United Kingdom

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