Eastbourne Pier fire: Update on ‘Forged by Flame’ sculpture
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On July 30 2014 a fire tore through Eastbourne Pier - destroying a third of the landmark. The main roof of the domed building was affected most and left behind a metal skeleton. The pier was evacuated and nobody was injured.
An electrical problem – started deliberately according to Sussex Police – sparked the fire which tore through the Blue Room and destroyed a number of shops. More than 80 firefighters worked through the night to tackle the blaze, which allegedly started in wood panelling in the walls of the games arcade.
In the months that followed the landmark was repaired although the Blue Room was never re-built. During the rebuilding, workman Stephen Penrice fell to his death and following a lengthy investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and police, two men and the company Mr Penrice worked for, MPN North West Ltd, were charged with gross negligence manslaughter.
It was decided a sculpture would be built as a lasting memorial for the fire. Several designs were submitted and the chosen piece was called Forged by Flame, an object made from materials reclaimed from the fire including thousands of charred two pence pieces. The cash to build it was allocated from a £2 million pot to boost tourism pledged by the then Prime Minister David Cameron, who visited the town in the hours after the tragedy. It was due to be finished by 2016 but the sculpture is still nowhere to be seen.
Back in 2019 Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) leader David Tutt said he was ‘determined as ever to see the work of art take its place on our seafront’.
Now eight years after the fire we’ve put the topic to EBC again. The council spokesperson said: “This sculpture is part of the planning for the new pedestrianised cultural area known as Victoria Place, which follows a successful Levelling Up Fund bid to the government. Discussions about the exact location of the sculpture are being held with stakeholders.”
The sea end of Terminus Road will be pedestrianised as part of a £7.6m scheme within the Levelling Up Fund. This should be done by early 2024.
EBC confirmed money remains earmarked for the sculpture. Now it’s a case of finding the right location so that the pedestrianisation can showcase the sculpture in the best way possible. The spokesperson confirmed this doesn’t mean the pedestrianisation project needs to be complete for the sculpture to go up, implying it will be erected before pedestrianisation is finished in early 2024.
When asked why it never went up years ago, the spokesperson said it was an issue of finding the right location. They said: “The location of the sculpture has always been of primary importance and the top of Terminus Road could provide the ideal area to showcase it. The planning for the pedestrianisation of this section of Terminus Road is progressing and the sculpture will be part of those discussions.”