Sunday, September 14

All at sea on Bournemouth Pier

It's been a sad summer for English piers with both Weston-super-Mare and Fleetwood Piers being severely damaged by fire. Over the years, Brighton's formally splendid West Pier has slowly deteriorated from an elegantly wasted wreck to a bit of an eyesore. Meanwhile, Brighton's other pier, the Palace Pier, ‘rebranded’ itself as Brighton Pier. Of course, piers are inherently at risk given the large amount of wood on the premises but when closed or struggling piers and seaside funfairs burn down with regularity over the country various rumours surface.

On Thursday I paid a visit to Bournemouth's recently revamped main pier. It proved to be bit of an acquired taste, especially as you're required to stump up 50p for what at first wander seems to be a fairly mundane affair. The cafe at the end of the pier has moved upmarket considerably to become Key West Bar and Restaurant. A hoarding offered an all-day breakfast for £6.95, which I heard one lady point out as ‘a disgrace’. Later on in the warm and pleasant evening the largish restaurant had just two diners, and at least that many staff. An elderly couple peered in and muttered something about just wanting a cup of tea and that it all looked a bit posh (further menu item fact: cappuccino £2.50). I noticed that the cafe glitterball has inevitably disappeared in the makeover, although the ornate ceiling remains!

There are advantages to the low-key approach though. Much as I like the noisy Brighton Pier with Kylie blaring out of the sound system, you can forget that you're out at sea and the whole experience could be any old funfair, especially at night. Whereas on Bournemouth Pier there's no music, no slot machines, and in the near silence the noise of the waves takes over. And after dark, the underfloor lighting creates an eerie light show of changing colours.


Anonymous said...

I was with some friends on the Palace Pier yesterday (as a Brightonian, I can't quite bring myself to call it the Brighton pier). Aside from the experience on the pier itself, we noted how much different the view in front of you is, as you exit the pier. Everything's been 'dumbed down'. It's been cleaned up, too - but this has led to the baby being thrown out with the bath water. Buildings once vibrant and interesting are pale imitations of their former selves; you could be in any town. Unfortunately, this is occuring all over Brighton. Which is disappointing as I always thought I'd go back there one day.

As you say, some of the other piers around the UK are nicer. The West Pier always had the edge, anyway...

Paul Russell said...

Growing up in Sussex, Brighton seemed almost like a well-kept secret down the road. I wonder if now that it's been "discovered" and the celebs and developers have moved in, if it's in danger of destroying the atmosphere and sub-cultures that made it a bit different. It used to be a place where it was possible to live quite cheaply, for example; I don't think that's the case now!