by Olu Jenzen
On a typical British summer’s day the team pitched up Antiques roadshow style at the Clevedon Pier to talk to local residents who had memories of the pier. We were also keen to make digital copies of photographs or other memorabilia that people brought with them, in order to find out more about the pier’s post war history and to contribute to the organisation’s archive. We had an eventful day and spoke to some lovely people. We were carefully hopeful about being able to talk to someone who could tell us a bit more about the Nissen hut – the place for music and dancing at the end of the pier in the 1950s and 60s and as it turned out several people had fond memories of the Nissen hut and we could thereby corroborate some theories we had about its significance for the popular culture heritage of the pier. We heard many stories about local young people starting their Friday night evening in the cafes and ice-cream parlours along the seafront to then go on to dancing to music on the jukebox on the pier. A particular find was the story about how at one point, in a tiff over the choice of music the jukebox went over the pier railing!
We did some more extensive interviews with residents who came to see us at the pier shop as well as shorter interviews on the pier during the launch event of the community shares scheme. Some residents were keen to have their memories recorder and others preferred to write down a few anecdotes or recollections on one of the postcards we handed out for this purpose.
We also found that looking at some historical postcards from different eras helped participants to remember events that had connections to the pier and the surrounding area.
Throughout the day it became evident how many really do have special memories where the pier clearly features but also how it functions as a place for remembering in an important way, evident in the narratives about coming to the pier to remember as well as in the inscriptions on the wooden planks and benches that run the full length of the pier.
Before the sun set we also managed to capture the arrival of the pleasure steamer Balmoral, make an appearance on the local weather report and enjoy some sea shanties.