Road closures around the Claremont Hotel (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-191128-101757008

OUT IN THE FIELD: Claremont Hotel fire brought back memories of Eastbourne Pier blaze

I remember the day of the Eastbourne Pier fire. I ran up to the seafront from Herald Towers and as I rounded the top of Terminus Road, I saw the flames taking hold of the Blue Room and, like a lot of others, I sat on the beach and cried. I felt the same last Friday. This time I was on my bike and when I got to the junction of the seafront with Terminus Road and saw smoke billowing from the Claremont Hotel followed by flames, the memories of July 30 2014 came flooding back. Another piece of our heritage gone, wiped out in seconds. Thankfully nobody died or was seriously hurt and the firefighters did a fantastic job to control the fire and stop it spreading to the Burlington next door or Afton or Pier hotels, but there are people who have lost so much: I stood on the seafront with one couple who had been enjoying their Turkey and Tinsel break at the hotel and tucking into breakfast when the explosion happened. They were evacuated immediately and had only the clothes they were standing in. I wanted to hug them and take them home with me. They actually went to a nearby charity shop to buy some coats as it started to rain and they were heading to the Town Hall where the council had swung into action and opened it up as a rest centre with beds, hot food, drinks and wash kits. The people arriving there were hotel guests but also residents from Elms Avenue. Twenty people were placed in other hotels. Staff, some of them live-in, were also at the rest centre and have no doubt lost more than most: their belongings, their job and their home. A major campaign is now underway to get employment elsewhere for those who have lost their livelihoods through the fire. Then there is the clear-up. A lot of the roads outside the cordon are still littered with fire debris. And at the time of writing it looks very much like a large part of the Grade II listed building will have to be demolished before it falls down. It really is tragic. But the one thing Eastbourne is good at is rallying round when tragedy strikes and I always say there are more good and kind people out there than horrible, uncaring ones. I feel sad that all those visitors who were staying at the Claremont when the devastating fire broke out will have the wrong kind of memories of Eastbourne. With that in mind, and it will need some help from hoteliers, restaurant owners, business and charities, wouldn’t it be lovely to invite some of those guests back to our lovely town and treat them to one or two nights making better memories? Just a thought......

Robbie Scotcher SUS-190412-161014001

Eastbourne bred actor on stage in Blood Brothers

An actor who hails from Eastbourne – and trod the boards at the Congress in his youth while starring in Rattonians and EODS productions – returns to the theatre next week (Tuesday to Saturday December 10-14) as the narrator in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers.

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