I have penned more lines about the abandoned West peir than any other structure and it still looms large in my imagination.
Closed in the 1970’s due to fairly minor structural issues, it slowly decayed until storm and arson left it completely destroyed by 2003. The last remnant of a once grand Victorian pleasure palace now being the eerie steel skeleton of her music hall, standing as it does some hundred foot out into the English channel.
My home city is a place famed for 24/7 activities—Clubs, bars, two universities and every entertainment above and below the counter—but the West pier provides a counter point of calm. The seafront is a sort of public garden and she remains a magnet for those enjoying the light, air and expanding horizons if the shoreline.
Passers-by are drawn to her instinctively, stopping as you might before a ruined church’s walls. Partly to stare in curiosity, yet also perhaps appreciating that such broken objects signal to depths daily life can not.
The West Pier in her prolonged state of decay, has become an emblem for wanderers, a visual reminder of past centuries and the fate awaiting our own. I think of her a relic of a some greater object, the smallest part now remaining, but becoming more potent in meaning through her scarcity, as each new winter storm threatens to take one more rusted limb to the sea bed.
Personally speaking, Brighton and Hove’s beaches are places of regeneration, with the pier at that holistic apex. Whether after a draining day at work or work out, or in those moments when you need the world to step back, it inspires a recentering and renewal within. Rarely if ever do I find myself alone there, the steep shale banks and the wide windswept promenade even in the worst of weathers welcoming many more than just I.
Brighton is a city of stowaways, sanctuary to outcasts and dreamers alike. They come from all over the UK and the world, with each new arrival likely to make their own introduction to the lost pier, nurturing their own unique familiarity.
She is a talismanic and therapeutic reminder of home, both to those like myself—Brighton born and bred—and the thousands more recently rooted and far from their own.
I wrote and filmed this tribute to Brighton’s iconic West Pier last year.
More information about her past and destruction can be found on The West Pier Wikipedia page below. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Pier
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