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Breath of life at last for thriving Southend Pier
2:00pm Tuesday 21st August 2012 in News
AFTER seven years in the doldrums, Southend’s pier is finally booming once again – and council chiefs are determined to capitalise on the feelgood factor.
Just a week after a free music festival attracted more than 8,000 visitors to the end of the structure, bosses at Southend Council have revealed a packed and varied schedule for the pier’s new £3million cultural centre.
Everything from art exhibitions to scary films are due to grace the end of the 1.3 mile-long landmark over the coming months.
Chiefs believe the momentum created by the initial public enthusiasm for the new centre will morph into a regular demand for fresh events.
Scott Dolling, the council’s group manager of enterprise and tourism, said: “We’ve obviously put a lot of effort into ensuring there was plenty of stuff on at the centre over its first few months, but I think after that we will see more and more people coming to us with their own ideas for what they want to organise. We’re entirely open to suggestions.
“As long as it is legal and licensable, we’re willing to consider it.”
The cultural centre, which has taken more than two years to arrive since the idea for it was first publicised, was officially opened to the public last month.
The 350 sqm building, which has a cafe and toilets as well as a performance space, became the first structure to be added to the pierhead since 2000.
It also ended a seven-year wait for a new attraction after a 2005 fire destroyed its pub, shell shop and ice-cream stall.
Visitor numbers to the pier have suffered in recent years as a result, but council chiefs are now confident it will become a new symbol for the town – and not just a seasonal one.
“Previously, the pier has been a very summer-orientated attraction,” Mr Dolling said. “But because the new cultural centre is weather-proof, we can now keep events running throughout the year.”
THE new cultural centre got off to roaring start with the inaugural Wave Comedy Festival.
Hundreds of people travelled to the pierhead to watch stand-up comics or take part in workshops over four days last month.
Its success was followed by a jazz concert at the end of July, with local performers, trumpeter Digby Fairweather and singer Tina May.
Then, on August 11 and 12, music fans flocked to a two-day celebration of Southend’s best bands, including the Jim Jones Revue, Lucky Strikes and Cusack.
Fiona Siggins, who helped to organise the festival, said: “We worked closely with the pier team and Southend Council to host a truly unique event on our stunning, iconic landmark.”