www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Photo: Russell Jacobs.

Photo: Russell Jacobs.

The £14 million ‘plank’ where croissants and quiche conquer cockles and candyfloss

Mail Online, the world’s most popular newspaper website, with around 200 million visitors every month, sent a reporter to look at the new Hastings Pier. He didn’t like what he found. Toby Sargent reviews the Mail Online review.

The fact that you’re reading this – a local online newspaper, and it’s the ‘online’ bit that is pertinent here – means that you’ve almost certainly come across the big daddy of all internet news providers, Mail Online. Its combination of news and current affairs – gossip around characters like the Kardashian family and the Duchess of Cambridge; a build ’em up, then knock ’em down approach to minor celebrities; and an all-pervading tone of self-righteousness and irritation at changing moral standards – have made it an internet juggernaut that politicians and PR people ignore at their peril.  But my goodness, it really pulls the readers in.

Minimalist pier shocks

DM WebSo when, earlier this month, they ran a story headlined You spent £14 million on THIS? Hastings’ new minimalist pier shocks locals after reopening as a bare boardwalk, a shudder must have gone down the collective spine of our tourist promoters and local businesses, anxious to make the most of the new attraction to Hastings and St Leonards.  A new pier in a seaside town needs to attract visitors and, having drawn them in, it has to delight them.  A bad review from a big hitter in the theatre world can close a show down, and the same applies in the highly competitive – some might say cut-throat – visitor attraction arena.

The author of the piece, Josh White, paints a slightly confusing picture though.  He writes that, “locals . . have – not unkindly – taken to calling the quirky-looking project The Plank,” and that “other visitors refer to the massive empty boardwalk as ‘haunting’ and ‘bare’.” This then develops into a lament that fishing off the pier is banned and that “croissants stand in for candy floss and slices of quiche for cockles and whelks, while free-to-access touch screen table top computers replace rows of slot machines.”


Maintaining his love of alliteration, our Josh is also disappointed that “perennially popular’ bingo has made way for an open air ‘cinema season.” Oh dear.

But wait. Before you can say “over-written opening,” he scrunches his critical gearstick and throws his review into reverse. We learn that the pier’s “slightly divisive appearance is linked to the unlikely recent rise of Hastings as a cultural mecca, attracting artists and musicians priced out of the London property market” and that “the town has been compared to east London as a centre of coolness.” A ‘coolness’ that comes along with a stunning seascape and fabulous countryside, as he forgets to mention.

“I don’t know why they bothered”

And those quotes at the top of the story? The reference to it being known as ‘the plank’ turns out to have come from that saviour of the hack in a hurry: an anonymous passer-by who may, or may not, have said: “We call it the plank because it’s useless, isn’t it; there’s not much on it apart from a bar and a cafe – I don’t know why they bothered.”

Pier planks

And as for the “haunting” and “bare” quotes, well, they do come from real named people. But Josh has been a trifle cavalier in how he’s used their words. So it is that we find, much further down the piece, that the full quote in the first example reads, “We thought it looked quite haunting at first, but then we realised how nice it was,” while the second runs, “It’s a bit bare . . at the moment, but they will have different things going on in the future.” Not the most damning indictments when viewed in context, you might conclude.

So it’s a shame about the headline, and it’s a double shame about the way the story has been slanted. But that’s the way the commentator’s cookie crumbles, as Mr White might say.

Virtual fish and chip paper

But before this all gets forgotten and turned into the virtual equivalent of fish and chip paper, let’s just pick up on the two criticisms of substance: the absence of bingo and slot machines and the fishing ban. Me, I’m perfectly happy about both, to be honest.

Gambling, even at the ‘soft’ end represented by amusement arcades and so on, is far too prevalent in our towns and cities. And it’s all the more depressing that the current boom, egged on by successive governments with equal vigour, coincides with the current austere economic climate and that, all too often, it is the most vulnerable in society – the people least able to cope with its cost – who are most hurt by it.

Cigarette in the wind and drizzle

Like the in-patients you see outside hospital doors in their dressing gowns having a desperate cigarette in the wind and the drizzle, it’s all very dispiriting. So I think Hastings Pier is absolutely right to keep things clean, simple, modern and interesting. And it’s not as if there’s any shortage elsewhere in the town of places where the aptly-named one-armed bandits can be found.

As for fishing, well . . . I’ve never especially liked the idea of fishing with rods, to be honest, but I completely accept that it is a popular pastime and people have a perfect right to do it. But equally well, public leisure spaces need to be managed – regulated, if you prefer, so that everyone can enjoy them. Fishermen and women, when gathered together in pursuit of their pleasure, with all the paraphernalia that they bring with them, create an exclusion zone around themselves which, though it may not be at all intentional, reduces the non-fishing majority’s legitimate freedom to enjoy the place as they might wish.

So there you have it. Airy generalisations and poorly marshalled arguments – I’ll be giving Josh White a run for his money before you know it.



Posted 18:15 Thursday, May 19, 2016 In: HOT Blogs


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Janet

    Sorry about the shocking spelling – shouldn’t post without reading glasses :-)
    We love it, it’s modern and right for Hastings, long may it prosper!

    Comment by Janet — Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 19:02

  2. Janet

    What an idiot Josh White is – we live ve it, it’s modern and right for Hadtings, long may it prosper.

    Comment by Janet — Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 19:00

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