Two teenagers aged 18 and 19 have been arrested on suspicion of arson after a massive fire almost totally destroyed Hastings Pier, the Victorian era seaside attraction that during the 90s hosted John Digweed’s legendary Bedrock parties.
Press reports described how a small fire was spotted in the pier’s ballroom just after 1am, which, fanned by fierce onshore winds, rapidly spread along the entire top floor wooden decking.
“There was a big plume of smoke and the last 200ft (61m) of the pier is pretty much ablaze and it's spreading quite quickly towards the beach,” Inspector Lee Lyons, from Sussex Police, told the Daily Mail as the fire took hold, “The entire ballroom at the end is a burning framework with bits dropping off into the sea.”
While vandalism was cited as a cause, numerous locals criticized the council for neglecting the 138 year old structure which had been shuttered since 2006 over fears it could collapse.
Hastings native John Digweed, who hosted numerous wildly popular Bedrock parties on the pier, described it as ‘one of biggest attractions in the town for many years’.
“This is a real shame and a major loss for Hastings,” John told Skrufff.
“Why it has been left to rot for years is beyond me. I am sure it will be a eyesore for years to come now,” he predicted.
Audiosushi producer/ DJ main-man Jeffrey Disastronaut watched the pier burning from the window of his seafront flat directly in front of the pier and posted Youtube clips the morning after of the huge and terrifying inferno.
“It was a total immolation - from the end to the very pavement... it was perhaps the saddest sight I've ever seen in Hastings - a 138 year old structure collapsing into the sea,” Jeffrey told Skrufff.
“Looking at it this morning there is just a charred iron skeleton left. And the sea has turned black. It’s 95% gone!’ he said.
Danny Howells, who also spent many years living in Hastings, was equally upset,
“I heard about on the radio while I was asleep, it woke me up,” Danny told Skrufff.
“I grew up on that place - from being taken to the pier as a kid for days out through to seeing my first live gig there, which believe it or not was Gary Glitter. And then obviously all the amazing parties I played there.”
The Rolling Stones, the Stranglers, Pink Floyd and the Who also performed at the pier in the past while in the early 90s John Digweed transformed it into one of the UK’s most influential and popular nightspots, booking virtually all the key DJs and acts of the era.
“Pretty much every DJ you can think of from that era played there,” said John, “plus we had all the major dance acts, including the Prodigy, Orbital and M People to name just a few.
“The Bedrock parties brought an influx of young people into Hastings from all over the UK and they boosted the local economy by spending money in hotels, restaurants and local bars before moving onto the events. The vibe in the main room was always great if a bit hot and sweaty but that always added to the atmosphere,” he recalled.
Danny Howells’ big break came when he was invited to be a resident at Bedrock, and began by opening for John and Radio 1 ‘s Pete Tong.
“John really pulled in so many amazing guests ... Fabio & Grooverider, Billy Nasty, the list is endless and he could tell you more,” Danny recalled.
“The location made it perfect. People were mangled (wasted) so you've wander off to the other areas on the pier and see them ‘off their knackers’ (even more wasted) trying to play the fruit machines etc. And when the weather was bad, the ballroom would literally sway from side to side.”
“When John stopped doing parties there I became a resident at a night called Pier Pressure which was back on the top deck - the last one must have been the late nineties. I'd need to check my flier collection to know exactly when,” he added.
Jeffrey Disastronaut also DJed on the pier at a different party and attended numerous raves there and two Bedrock events, he said,
“The parties were always amazing and felt "offshore", it always felt a little different and the ballroom was quite epic,” said Jeffrey.
“I loved it there and can't express my sadness about this fire enough. You felt like you were somehow boarding a pirate ship, I guess there was a feeling of lawlessness, and from my house you could hear in the summer the bass lines floating across the water.”
“My oddest memory of the pier is a little more recent,” Jeffrey added. “I regularly swam close to it and on the underside of the pier there are masses of tangled nets, fishing line and debris - now even more so - the sea has literally turned black out front - and the debris is washing up on the beach.”
“I loved the shapes and look of the underside of the pier and all of the things that got lost and tangled up in it,” he said.
John Digweed similarly reflected on the pier’s unexpected beneath the surface charms.
“At one sold out event once, somebody was so desperate to get in that they crawled along the underneath that happened to be all covered in slime and seaweed but they got stuck and had to be rescued,” he smiled. “We let him in for free but he stunk like Billingsgate fish market.”
Danny Howells’ also recalled numerous fond memories.
“As a kid going there was always a happy day out and as a DJ it was such an amazing and important part of my career too,” he recalled. “My oddest memory was my Nan (grandmother) saving my life as I was choking to death on a boiled sweet that I accidentally swallowed when I was three or four.”
“The pier has been a constant feature of my life here,” Jeffrey Disastronaut, the only one of the three DJs to remain in Hastings, concluded.
“I live almost opposite - like I did in Brighton when I lived opposite the West Pier which also burned down when I lived there, in a horrible coincidence,” he said.
“The pier was a real presence in Hastings' life and view - it ultimately represents the mismanagement of English seaside culture - and the dark network of ownership - it was owned by an offshore company Ravensclaw - based in Panama - and even now there is some speculation that they shouldn't have been sold the pier originally. Unfortunately the council let many things slip through and like Ramsgate, Margate - fires - and Brighton - this is another sad chapter in the decline of England and specifically England’s national treasures,” he said.
Article by: Jonty Skrufff (http://skrufff.com): Follow Jonty on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/djjontyskrufff