Today, I have a treat for those among you who, like me, are fascinated by time travel stories. What I mostly love about them is the transition that places undergo through time. In this post, I’ll attempt to take you all with me on a virtual journey through time to one of my favorite places: the seafront at Brighton, England – the infamous seaside town where the legendary West Pier once stood. The Pier, that was opened in 1866, has always fascinated me; hence, it’s no surprise that I wound up writing a romantic trilogy, The Lady of the Pier, telling its story while utilizing the Pier itself as the ultimate symbol of wistfulness, nostalgia, and lost opportunities.
But, don’t let me get all misty. We have an exciting journey ahead of us and time is pressing for us all. For our first stop, let me take you to April 1997 . . . this is when I made my first trip to Brighton on a weekend break (at the time, I was working in Northamptonshire, England). Back then, albeit derelict and out of reach, the West Pier still stood and so, these photos, the only ones I have of the Pier and me in the same frame are precious to me like gold.
(Click on any image to enlarge)
Here are more pictures from that short break I had in Brighton; except for the one picture of the Royal Pavilion and its sublime minarets, all the rest are from the seafront. I hardly wandered away from there throughout my stay in town. You can also see the Brighton Pier, which still stands today, being more recent than the West Pier, and which back then was called Palace Pier.
(Click on any image to enlarge)
I took the following photo with two takes on an old film camera and then glued them together, so excuse the ugly seam (and poor resolution for that matter!). Still, I hope it gives you a good idea of how the seafront looked from the site of the West Pier back in 1997. You can see the Brighton Pier in the distance and the historical Metropole Hotel (big brown building) in the foreground.
I was lucky to return once more to Brighton, in New Year’s Eve in 1999, to see The West Pier, more or less, in the same condition. Sadly, I never returned after that. Since the arson attacks and the devastating storms that took place between then and now, all that remains of the West Pier today is a skeletal ruin of its once magnificent theatre (the Pavilion) at the pier head.
(Below image provided courtesy of Ben Nuttall)
The remnant of the theatre is commonly referred to now by the locals as The Old Lady of Brighton, or The Grand Old Lady of Brighton. When I first heard the names a few months ago on Twitter, they brought shivers down my spine since my trilogy is about a spirit attached to the Pier, called The Lady of the Pier. This peculiar coincidence made the story in my head become more real, somehow.
But, let’s forget the past and return to the present time for a while, before I propel us all into the future, shall we?
As I said earlier, the last time I visited Brighton was in 1999, so I was a bit stuck trying to find free images of Brighton’s seafront to post on this site. On the spur of the moment, I visited Twitter and searched for the hashtags #WestPier and #Brighton. I spoke to a few amateur photographers who posted stunning photos of the seafront, and two of them were happy to let me present them on this blog and post their images. One of them is a local of Brighton, Ben Nuttall, the other, as chance would have it, is a fellow Greek called Barbara Mama, visiting Brighton on a holiday break.
Without further ado, I’m delighted to present to you Barbara Mama, an engineer from Athens, and the wonderful photos she took of Brighton’s seafront during her recent holiday in this historical, British town.
(Click on any image to enlarge – following images provided courtesy of Barbara Mama)
Stunning huh? I was delighted to see the Brighton Pier is as popular as ever and that there’s also a big ferris wheel standing on the seafront now. Fantastic!
Before I press my magic buttons to offer you all a glimpse of the future, I must tell you this: the West Pier, or rather what’s left of it, is owned by the West Pier Trust, which nowadays looks to the future with bright hopes. Why? Well, an exciting landmark is being constructed as I write these lines in the same place where the entrance to the West Pier once stood. It’s a revolving, observation tower called i360. Its architects are the same people who brought the world the infamous London Eye. The purpose of the i360 is to give tourists a bird’s eye view of Brighton’s seafront while celebrating the West Pier and keeping its memory alive. The i360 opens in 2016 – not long now!
Here follows a short introduction of Ben Nuttall in his own words. Ben has been kind enough to include in the photos he sent me, a few from the construction of the i360. You’ll be amazed to know that when Ben doesn’t get approached by weird Greek authors pestering him for his photos, he has the BBC itself emailing him to ask for his latest video of Brighton’s extreme weather! No kidding!
My name is Ben Nuttall. I’m 26 years old and live in Hove with my partner and our two cats Chester and Maggie. I moved here 4 years ago for work from Canterbury in Kent and love the vibrancy of Brighton & Hove. Everyone is very chilled out and there’s always something to do. I’m very much an amateur photographer. All the pictures you see here were taken on my iPhone 6 Plus, while out and about during my daily life. I use an app called VSCOcam to capture most of these pictures and add slight edits to them. You can view more of my photos on my Instagram page: Instagram.com/irbenji or on my Twitter: twitter.com/irbenji
And now, here are Ben Nuttall’s amazing photos! Check out that artistic black & white one of the stormy sea. Is it me, or does it resemble a painting? Stunning!
(All images provided courtesy of Ben Nuttall)
Before I go, to say I’ve had a bit of exciting news from Brighton recently. The Chief Executive of the West Pier Trust, Rachel Clark, bought a copy of The Ebb, book 1 in The Lady of the Pier trilogy, and posted about it on the news page of the West Pier Trust website, recommending it to its members! Yippee! You should have seen me bouncing about like a kangaroo the day she emailed me to let me know. To find out more about the West Pier’s history, to see old photos of its heyday, and to hear the latest on the i360, visit the West Pier Trust site. If you love stories about the past, it will fascinate you! To keep up with the progress of the i360, follow these great Twitter accounts or check out these hashtags:
#Brightoni360 #i360 #westpier #Brightonbeach #Brightonpier #Brightonwheel #Brighton
Last but not least, here is a shout out, with heaps of gratitude on my part for the two amazing photographers who made this post possible today. Thank you, Ben and Barbara, Barbara and Ben!
#SO #WW These wonderful tweeps!
Do you love Brighton? Would you enjoy reading about the West Pier’s history through WWII?
Check out The Lady of the Pier trilogy today!
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND FREE EXCERPTS GO HERE