‘Because we are mobile and want a fine time. For the sake of remnants and traces. To be prepared and spontaneous and happy whenever we need to be. And because we are prepared to be spontaneous. Right now…’ – A Sardine Street Box of Tricks, Exeter: Crab Man and Signpost, Relics and Processions, 2011
The plan is to travel to seaside piers in Britain, every last one of them. A self-guided pilgrimage to places engineered for pleasure, platforms supporting the act of seeing, bridges to nowhere. I expect, at a minimum, to travel to all of the surviving pleasure piers that still ring the land, constructing my own ghost-train route between them all. Will I conjure funhouse images, have fortunes told, find ‘pleasure’, undertake ‘amusement’? All remains to be seen – journeys like this have no preconceptions.
And maybe I will find the mythical Last Pier. At this stage I do not have any clear idea as to what the Last Pier is, or why. I may have read about it, or dreamed of some absolute structure, haunting the sea. Was there a scary black-and-white TV series in the 60s, with scenes on forlorn seafronts, a detective disguised as a Pierrot, and Richard ‘Mr Pastry’ Hearne playing against type as a sinister arch-villain? The plot involving some concept of piers as a type of sea-defence, a ring of fading genius loci maintaining the possibility of happiness in the realm? Probably not, but elusive memories of that kind may provide some clue. Hopefully I’ll know the Last Pier when I see it.
So off I go again. I’m interested in the actual surviving piers; the sites of former piers; virtual piers; piers planned but not built; pier-like mirages and fictional piers – fictional places with piers, or real places that have had fictional piers added to them. If I can find a real pier in a fictional place I will be particularly delighted.
‘But often the ruin has put on, in its catastrophic tipsy chaos, a bizarre new charm.’ – Pleasure of Ruins, Rose Macaulay, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1953