Staff working on Hastings Pier took to social media yesterday to plead with administrators Smith and Williamson to take their time time to make sure they find the right buyer for the pier.
Some staff have voiced concern that a meeting earlier this week between the administrators and the Heritage Lottery Fund – which backed the restoration of the victorian structure after the devastating 2010 fire – sealed the pier’s fate and that a decision has already been made to sell the pier to a commercial buyer.
Staff say it would be wrong to sell the pier just as the peak summer months begin and they want administrators to recognise: “…it is vital that any change in ownership happens with respect and thoughtfulness given towards those who currently use and enjoy it.”
Staff say the events team, despite limited resources, has: “…just started to hit their stride.”
They add: “The team had to be highly resourceful and utilise their extensive connections and local knowledge to pull off these events – they simply would not have worked if the events weren’t an appealing prospect to local businesses, local entertainers and ultimately, to the locals and tourists who would be the audience.”
We re-publish the complete statement from staff here.
“We are writing this in the hope that you will consider our status, experience and knowledge as workers of the pier.
“Most of us have been here for some time, many since the pier’s reopening two years ago. We have witnessed its many ups and downs first hand and have a lot invested in its future. Obviously it employs us and pays our bills but, after all we have endured, we’ve developed an emotional bond to it and a strong appreciation for its function within our town and community.
“It has become both a home and a hub and we want to see it in safe hands.
“To get an important point out of the way first, we believe it could be a disaster to sell and hand over the pier during the current peak season. We understand that the sale is necessary but it must not go ahead without sensitivity and respect towards current staff, volunteers, shareholders and the community as a whole.
“Our catering department changed hands in early summer last year causing upset, financial waste and general chaos. All the expertise from the outgoing operation was lost… and staff who had stayed on through the changeover were alienated… . Most of these people left, taking their skills and talents with them. Unnecessary money was spent refitting the venues, buying stock that did not suit our clientele, and employing temporary staff.
“Catering steadily found its feet and identity over Winter, mostly thanks to the hard work, care, commercial wisdom and sheer common sense of our manager, Debbie Grant. Debbie listened to staff and customers and the catering offer is now varied yet sensibly streamlined. Our menu features a mix of classic favourites and forward thinking options that suit current trends towards sustainable, local ingredients and plant-based cooking. We had been looking forward to improving on and sharing this carefully crafted menu with more visitors over Summer but are now concerned we will not get the chance, instead getting a repeat of last year’s nightmare.
“Parallel to this, our events team have, despite lack of resources during the administration process, just started to hit their stride. The storming successes of the Automata exhibition, Pier Jam and May Day weekend aPiertite (street food) festival prove that the pier can be an engaging, entertaining attraction, with visitors more than willing to spend their time and money on its decking.
“The team had to be highly resourceful and utilise their extensive connections and local knowledge to pull off these events – they simply would not have worked if the events weren’t an appealing prospect to local businesses, local entertainers and ultimately, to the locals and tourists who would be the audience. Building on this should be the next step – there are some fantastic events lined up for the Summer – not starting from scratch.
“Our tiny but highly committed team of engineers, duty supervisors and duty assistants have unequalled understanding of the pier and its long history. They keep our pier safe and clean while welcoming and engaging with the public, promoting the pier on a daily basis. They are constantly getting comments from visitors about how is it is refreshing and unique to see such a modern, flexible take on traditional seaside architecture.
“Since its rebuild the pier has been evolving beautifully, sympathetic to both modern thinking and its rich heritage – it must be able to continue to do this for many years to come.
“Hastings Pier may be a tourist attraction but seasonality, unpredictable weather and a whole range of variables mean that we absolutely depend on the goodwill of the people of Hastings and its surrounding community. Our future relies upon understanding and complementing the complexities of our diverse and culturally rich town.
“The ‘People’s Pier’ has generated a lot of controversy, regularly gracing the pages of both local and national press. Naturally, some of this is hyperbolic opinion-baiting, but these intense debates and conversations happen because people genuinely care about the pier and want to see it succeed. It will always be impossible to please all audiences but any future business plan must keep the pier as inclusive and welcoming as possible, or it won’t even be given a chance.
“Hastings is filled with community activists – the very reason the pier was able to be saved and reopened in the first place – who will not be impressed if the pier ceases to be an open, accessible public space. If any private owner tries to turn the place into a self-indulgent folly, they should be prepared to face mass protests and boycotts.
“For these reasons, we believe it is vital that any change in ownership happens with respect and thoughtfulness given towards those who currently use and enjoy it – the staff, volunteers, dog walkers, fisherfolk, yoga practitioners, small business owners, runners and countless others who use it for various other activities.
“The pier does need investment, development and a new management structure to become commercially stable and viable, but this does not have to mean selling it off quickly to the highest bidder. It took the time, dedication and passion of hundreds of people to get it this far and it would be nonsensical to disregard all of these things and ignore the substantial achievements of the workers, volunteers and campaigners.
“We have worked under several CEOs and managers, with Hastings Pier Charity, Centerplate and administrators as our bosses. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, what our visitors expect and how our customers will spend. We are used to making the most of the quirks of our beautiful, award-winning venue, often with limited funds and staffing.
“We have the most at risk from the sale but our opinions aren’t grounded in fear – they come from our deep knowledge of our venue, our customers and our hometown. We urge you to take this into account when making your decision.”
The post was signed by the catering team that comprises
- Ann Starbuck, Catering Supervisor
- Daniel Crease, Sous Chef
- Daniel Trascejevs, Commis Chef
- Danielle Castelino, Catering Assistant Supervisor / Catering Marketing
- Deborah Rust, Kitchen Porter
- Dorothy Van Moppes, Catering Assistant
- Chloe Denne, Catering Assistant
- Finlay Paton, Catering Assistant
- Izzy Mooney, Catering Assistant
- Jaymie Fletcher, Commis Chef
- Josh Wright, Catering Supervisor
- Kasie Rust, Catering Supervisor
- Max Daniel, Catering Assistant
- Megan Maplesden, Catering Assistant
- Natasha Monaghan, Catered Events Manager
- Nathan Eason, Junior Sous Chef
- Paul Noble, Head Chef
- Poppy Howe, Catering Assistant
- Sanna El Yamani, Catering Assistant
- Sian Hilder, Catering Supervisor
- Siobhan Fowkes, Catering Assistant
- Slavcho Kolev, Commis Chef
Meanwhile the Crowdfunder campaign seems to have stalled. Monies committed to the campaign climbed above the £70,000 mark on Wednesday but since then only a further £2,600 has ben raised. It means that to achieve the £500,000 target by next Friday more than £71,000 has to be pledged every day.
Hastings In Focus understands that announcements relating to bigger donors may be made in the next few days.
To make your contribution towards keeping Hastings Pier in community ownership follow this link…