The Hastings Pier Charity is leading the reconstruction of the 1872 Hastings pier following a £11.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £3m+ from various sources including the DCLG, Hastings Borough Council and the Coastal Communities Fund. A community share offer also raised in excess of £600,000 from over 3,000 subscribers, the majority of whom are local to the area.
The pier was closed in 2006 amid fears it was unsafe and it was severely damaged by fire in 2010. Restoration work is on-going and an official reopening is scheduled for the spring of 2016.
Dr Jenzen said: “The University of Brighton has since 2001 played a key part in the education-led regeneration of Hastings and, with one of its campuses located in Hastings, it is well placed for this research project. The project will also enable the University of Bristol to forge collaboration with the Clevedon Pier and the project’s focus on popular culture aims to help populate the new visitor centre.
“The primary aim is to develop an understanding of how seaside pleasure pier culture converges with, engenders and sometimes resists 21st century community-led approaches to the economic regeneration of British seaside resorts.
“Due to their exposure to seawater and storms our 19th century piers, with their iron and wood constructions, are often financial liabilities.
“It is important to gain an updated understanding of 21st century pier culture. This includes more in-depth knowledge about how seaside piers as popular culture and leisure spaces converge with new usages such as those introduced with the concept of the community pier.”
Dr Jenzen will be collaborating on the project with academics from the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh and Kent. She said: “We hope our research will show the strengths and challenges of running pleasure piers as community-ownership enterprises that other coastal communities who are looking to safeguard their piers from dereliction can benefit from.
“We hope to contribute to innovative ways of using pleasure piers as urban community spaces, and to establish how the community pier and its popular culture heritage can be utilised to build positive relationships across different groups and empower the community.”