IT’S been a long time in the planning, building – and even embarking on its own maritime voyage – but the final work is taking place on Southend’s newest cultural venue.

Now an exciting programme of events has already been lined up.

The Pier Cultural Centre is set to open its doors to the public for the first time on July 6, when the Olympic torch arrives in the town. People can take a peek inside the swanky new set up and have a look at how it’s unfolding.

Once work is complete, events over the summer will include Southend’s first comedy festival, a jazz event and a Polish arts festival.

Taking us for a look at how it’s all shaping up at the moment, Derek Jarvis – councillor for culture and tourism – shares some of the plans for the venture, which is now in situe at the end of the pier after its journey by sea from Tilbury where it was built.

“We had it built off site because we couldn’t really be sure of the weather down here,” says Mr Jarvis as we board the train – sweltering in the sunshine – and chug our way down the pier.

“I watched it come together, a little bit like a Lego set or Meccano, and then it was lifted off the ground and on to a barge and finally almost 200 tonnes of it arrived here.”

As we step off at the other end, the centre is still very much a building site – and a hive of activity despite the heat.

Glass panels have gone in and Mr Jarvis points out where the steps will come down to the decking and how the interior ceiling and walls will curve in keeping with the building’s wave design.

“On July 6, just for the day, when the torch is here, we want to open the centre,” he explains.

“That’s our target. A lot of people will arrive in Southend early in the morning and, hopefully, many will stay here for a few hours afterwards because there’s a lot going on.

“We hope some of them will come down here for the preview opening. It will give them a feel for what it’s like.”

The centre will then ease itself into official duties gently, as it hosts some of the Polish Arts Festival events, including an exhibition of sculptures, and having a hand in the dance event Polonaise on the Pier.

Its first big opening, though, will be the upcoming comedy event, the Wave Comedy festival, taking place between July 19 and 21.

Organised by Malcolm Clark, Lee Tearell and comedian Sadie Hasler, it will see a visit from top-notch comic Terry Alderton, the premier of some of Sadie’s new work, sets from popular local groups and stages hosted by the Joker Comedy Club, as well as workshops for people to get involved in.

“There will be free events and some ticketed ones,” says Mr Jarvis. “As well as a charity evening and workshops.”

It will be followed up by Jazz on the Pier on July 28, which will see music from topflight musicians, including soloists Digby Fairweather and Tina May along with Alec Dankworth, Julian Marc Stringle and compere Ken Barnes, who produced for greats including Peggy Lee, Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby.

“That will be a ticketed event,” says Mr Jarvis. “But there will be free jazz on the walkway as there has been most years.”

Other planned events for the summer, include a puppet festival between August 3 and 5 with a free Punch and Judy exhibition in the cultural centre, and a barge memorabilia exhibition to accompany the annual barge match on August 26.

Mr Jarvis says: “Those are the organised things. On top of that will be the things people want to do for themselves. For example, Southend Arts Council might want to do something, or White Bus Cinema may want show films.

“The centre will be very adaptable . You can show films on the walls, it can be a performing arts theatre for drama, used for art exhibitions or for a conference or a wedding.”

Seeing it in its final stages of development is an exciting time for Mr Jarvis.

He says: “I have been kept excited by different strands of it from when I knew it was going to happen to watching the construction and now watching the final things happening.”

For details on all events, visit