In the 1980s, when I was co-ordinating a project aimed at increasing family attendances at football matches, I was invited to visit Mel Park, home of the legendary ‘Roy of the Rovers’.
The artist’s impression of my comic strip character was actually quite flattering, but although the famous Roy Race introduced me to Rovers fans as John Maiden, founder of SAFE – ‘Soccer As Family Entertainment’ – a disclaimer in the small print implied that anyone appearing in this popular comic automatically became a fictitious character!
At the time this simply struck me as being mildly amusing, but in recent years, especially when participating in meetings of one sort or another, it comforts me to imagine that all those present, including myself, are fictitious characters following a film script.
This notion is emphasised at town council meetings when at least one camera is invariably on hand to record proceedings.
On these occasions, it helps me to ‘keep calm’ if I pretend we are rehearsing for a sequel to ‘Barnacle Bill’, later released as ‘All at Sea’, because this very last Ealing comedy, soon to appear once again on the big screen at the Princess Theatre, was filmed in Hunstanton and features our famous pier as it was in 1957.
A brief history of Victorian pier was on the agenda last Wednesday when I addressed the Minister for Coastal Communities, Penny Mordaunt, accompanied by my very good friend David Jones and Henry Bellingham MP, who had set up this meeting in Westminster. However, the Minister was more interested in plans for a future pier than in a history lesson, and made it clear that from her own personal experience, proposals for a new pier would be more likely to attract partners and funds than a scheme intended primarily to relocate the ‘non-pier’, in order to leave the whole of The Green as public open space in line with Henry le Strange’s vision for his new town.
Perhaps this is where a sequel to ‘Barnacle Bill’ could be successful in turning fiction into fact.
Yes, there will be plenty of sceptics out there who will suggest that, in common with Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army, I could be getting into the realms of fantasy!
But just as ‘Barnacle Bill’ came close to predicting the future when the fictional pier was torn apart, perhaps a film sequel describing how one of the ‘Coastal Teams,’ envisaged by Penny Mordaunt, succeeds in raising sufficient funds to build the new pier.
It was promised in the Conservative manifesto for the local elections in 2007; but which, according to West Norfolk Borough Council leader, Nick Daubney, had to be put on hold the following year, because of the recession.
For some reason, yet to be explained, the recession affected Hunstanton much more than King’s Lynn, where there appears to be no problem at all when it comes to funding one regeneration project after another.